Essex council gains interim injunction to prevent caravan park or travellers' camp on site

Brentwood Borough Council in Essex has taken preemptive High Court action to block development of land that it fears could become an unauthorised caravan park or traveller site.

Since purchasing land in the village of Blackmore in 2018, Jack Thursting has twice unsuccessfully applied for planning permission to build a bungalow. Having "conscientiously and carefully" taken specialist planning advice, he says his current plan is to develop the land as a holiday caravan site.

If he obtains a certificate in respect of the land from an exempted organisation, such a use would be automatically permitted. There is, however, no such certificate currently extant and the council fears that static caravans may be stationed on the land.

Those concerns prompted the council to seek an injunction against Thursting to prevent an "apprehended breach of planning control". And, granting the order sought, Mr Justice Fordham ruled that the council had established a strong arguable case.

Thursting says his intentions are entirely benign, that he has no intention of breaching planning control and that no injunction was necessary.

But the judge said the council has "serious concerns as to what precisely is in mind and is being pursued, and may be the outcome", adding: "There has been no transparency between Mr Thursting and the council so far as this description of his intentions and steps is concerned. I have been shown no document which involved him describing to the local planning authority what he is doing, or on what basis."

In the absence of an extant certificate, "putting caravans on the land, as things stand, would not be a benign and compliant act", he said.

A septic tank had been installed which, on the face of it, required planning consent, and the council said a mini-digger and cable-laying activity had been seen on the site.

The judge ruled that justice and the public interest "comes down firmly in favour of taking clear and decisive injunctive action".

The interim injunction, issued against Thursting and persons unknown, will remain in place pending a full trial of the council's claim. It prevents, amongst other things, caravans being brought onto the land or "developing the land into what is called a 'gypsy travellers' site'." It also bans a list of works, including bringing hardcore or tree removal machinery onto the land and installation of utilities.

The judge acknowledged that some of the forbidden activities would not, in themselves, amount to breaches of planning control. The council had, however, put forward "clear and cogent reasons" why the widely drawn injunction was "necessary, justified and appropriate".

Advising Thursting on the way forward, the judge said it was open to him to "approach, transparently, the local planning authority in relation to what he is doing and why he is doing it, so that the benign and compliant nature of that conduct can be evaluated".

He added that Thursting may apply to discharge or vary the injunction at any time if the situation changes.

Brentwood Borough Council v Thursting. Case Number: QB-2020-002520

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