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Council could serve enforcement notice over unauthorised change of use of farmland for residential use in Selsted

Councillors will decide if an enforcement notice is necessary to order the removal of caravans and mobile homes from green land.

A report from Folkestone and Hythe District Council (FHDC) states that the erection of the homes, plus laying of hardsurfacing, alterations to access and erection of fencing, were not authorised for the plot off Canterbury Road, in Selsted, near Folkestone.

Some work has already been carried out on the plot. All pictures: FHDC planning documents
Some work has already been carried out on the plot. All pictures: FHDC planning documents

The literature says that, following complaints, a council officer visited the land, which is within the Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, in June 2020.

The owner of the land was on site, plus a caravan, a digger, piles of hardcore and soil, and a two metre high fence had been erected at the entrance.

The officer advised that work should cease immediately and that no more should be carried out on the field until any necessary planning permission had been granted.

During the visit the officer was informed by the site owner that that the intention was to build four houses on the land.

In the following days, more caravans were placed on the site.

If granted, the enforcement notice would mean all caravans would have to be removed from the land
If granted, the enforcement notice would mean all caravans would have to be removed from the land

A Temporary Stop Notice was served on June 30 requiring the use of the land for residential purposes and all works associated with the construction of the hardstanding to cease with immediate effect.

The next month, following an application to the County Court, FHDC was granted an injunction preventing them from carrying out any further development on the land without planning permission and forbidding the stationing of more caravans/mobile homes, erecting any structure/building, importing or depositing any material (including hardcore) or excavating/digging up the land or undertaking any engineering works.

That injunction remained in force until July 30 when a further court hearing took place. At that hearing a second injunction was granted to the council prohibiting the same development as the first and that injunction has effect until August 2022.

They were also ordered to pay the council’s costs of £4,834.80.

In August, a planning application was submitted to FHDC for the 'change of use of the land to use as a residential caravan site for four gypsy families'.

The entrance to the site
The entrance to the site

But the application was invalid as it was missing a number of documents required to enable the application to be properly assessed.

More information was requested from the applicant by the council, but it never came, and the application was returned as invalid on December 4.

Now, the case is to be heard by FHDC's planning committee on Tuesday, who will vote on whether an enforcement notice should be served.

It would require the 'cessation of the residential use, the removal of the caravans/mobile homes, hardcore and fencing, the reinstatement of the previous access and the reinstatement of the grass and hedgerow'.

If granted, this must be carried out within 12 months of the notice.

The literature adds: "The lawful use of the site is agriculture and there are no permitted development rights for the change of use to residential caravan site, therefore the change of use requires planning permission.

"There are no permitted development rights for the hard surfacing that has been laid, therefore this requires planning permission.

"The material widening of the access onto a classified road does not constitute permitted development.

"The fencing that has been erected either side of the access creates an obstruction to the view of persons using the highway and is also over 1 metre in height adjacent to a highway.

"The gates that have been installed are also over 1 metre high and are part and parcel of the alterations to the access neither the gates or the fencing are permitted development.

"Therefore, all of the development referred to above constitute a breach of planning control for which no planning permission has been granted."

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