The freehold owner of a farm which has for years been used as a dumping ground for derelict vehicles, machines and general rubbish in violation of planning control has been warned by a High Court that she could face imprisonment if she does not take action to clean it up.
In appealing against an injunction, granted at the behest of planning authorities and requiring removal of unauthorised equipment and materials from the farm, the woman argued that, despite her legal ownership of the property, it was her ex-husband and others who he had allowed to occupy the property that were responsible for its unauthorised use.
Her lawyers submitted that she was anxious to see an end to breaches of planning control that went back more than 15 years. Against a background of marital violence, it was submitted that she was so scared of provoking her ex-husband that she rarely went to the property and was powerless to enforce compliance with the injunction.
The court allowed her appeal in part, making amendments to legal costs orders and overturning that part of the injunction which related to an adjoining area of woodland which the woman did not own. However, the injunction was otherwise upheld and the woman was warned that, if she did not take steps to restore the farm to a fit state, she would be ‘at risk’ of being committed to prison for contempt of court.
It was submitted that the injunction amounted to a violation of the woman’s human right to respect for her privacy and family life. However, the court observed that, as freehold owner of the farm, there were steps that the woman could take, including selling it to a third party, transferring it to her adult children, or taking legal action against its occupiers.