Permanent injunction denied in green belt breach

A group of travellers who had occupied land in the Chelmsford green belt succeeded in preventing the local planning authority from securing a permanent injunction which would have required them to leave the site.

Planning permission had been granted to allow stables, a track, yard and fencing to be constructed to enable the site to be used for horses. In 2018 the respondents applied for permission to site mobile homes for occupation by four families. The planning application was refused, the council citing its conflict with green belt policy which outweighed the personal circumstances of the families and needs of the children. The council also stated that the need for more traveller sites could be met outside the green belt.

The respondents advised the court that a planning consultant had confirmed that an appeal against the council’s decision had a good prospect of success and that they were entitled to occupy the land until that process had concluded. An appeal was lodged and the respondents occupied the site, which led the council to secure an interim injunction restraining further development. The council argued that a permanent injunction requiring the land to be restored to its former condition by the removal of the unauthorised development was required in the public interest and to maintain the integrity of green belt policy.

Mr Justice Dight stated that the court had to avoid reaching its own view on the merits of the case and instead had to consider whether a permanent injunction would be just and proportionate taking into account the hardship to the respondents balanced against the need to enforce planning control. The judge noted that the respondents had complied with the interim injunction. The planning appeal was likely to be heard within 12 months and he placed weight on the fact that the respondents had relied on inaccurate advice that they would not be in breach of planning control while the appeal process was underway. On this basis he refused to grant a permanent injunction pending the outcome of the planning appeal.

Chelmsford City Council v Lee

Date: 5 February 2019

Ref: [2019] 2 WLUK 126

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