Published: 06:00, 19 April 2021
| Updated: 15:55, 19 April 2021
A seven-year battle to stop a beauty spot being used as a dump for vehicles and industrial waste has resulted in the owner being ordered to clear the site by the High Court.
Maidstone Borough Council (MBC) has secured a full injunction which orders Langley Beck to clear the 14-hectare site, in Bell Lane, Boxley, within six months.
The council says the site, which is in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, has been blighted by Mr Beck and has been littered with commercial and industrial waste for many years. This has left the area contaminated as a result of illegal dumping and burning.
As part of the order all activities on the site must cease immediately and no one, including Mr Beck, can live there now.
If Mr Beck does not comply he can be prosecuted through the High Court.
The area is also in a designated ancient woodland but about 14 acres has been cleared to make way for the dump.
Efforts to restore the land, which is also covered by a tree preservation order, have been going on since 2014, and the council says it has tried to resolve the situation with Mr Beck over many years, to no avail.
In 2014, an enforcement notice was served on Mr Beck, which required that the land should not be used for residential purposes, stationing of caravans, the storage of motor vehicle/vehicle parts, storage of building materials and waste, highways equipment and domestic items should be removed from the land.
Earlier this year MBC obtained an interim injunction, to seek compliance with the notice and also stopping Mr Beck from processing waste, enlarging the area, burning any materials and chopping down trees.
The full injunction was signed on April 1.
James Bailey, MBC planning and development manager, said: "He's just totally ignored the council each time. That's why the council has had to take serious steps, because he will just not stop.
“MBC has taken this action as it was clear that the unlawful site was expanding and there was a continued threat of further harm to the area.
The area is being used to store vehicles and waste
“The council has tried to resolve the situation with the landowner over many years, but he has chosen to ignore the enforcement notice and the High Court made the decision that the harm to the site could not continue any longer."
Over the years nearby residents have complained of a burning "acrid smell" coming from the site, caused, Mr Bailey says, by Mr Beck burning waste dropped off by other vehicles. This waste is then spread around the site.
"He has everything there, portacabins, there are lorries, lorry trailers, burnt out cars, car parts, all sorts of builders' rubbish," Mr Bailey said.
He added that the site has expanded "three or four-fold" since he first visited in 2016.
It's not possible to know how many vehicles visit to drop off their waste a day, but Mr Bailey says they receive constant reports from residents.
Officers from MBC’s Planning Enforcement, Community Protection and Waste Crime Teams, the Environment Agency, Kent Fire and Rescue Service and Kent Police visited the site on several occasions which resulted in a decision being taken by the council to seek the initial interim injunction to seek compliance with the terms of the Enforcement Notice and to take further action with the full injunction.
When deciding to take legal action, MBC took into account policies in the 2017 local plan, which aim to enhance the AONB and protect habitat such as ancient woodlands, the authority says.
Mr Bailey added: “This outcome hopefully sends a clear message that this type of illegal dumping of waste will not be tolerated."
Mr Beck has also been ordered to pay MBC’s legal costs of the legal summarily assessed at £10,000 within 28 days of the date of the order.
In February, 2019, Mr Beck was found guilty of keeping dogs and ducks in such appalling conditions that some had to be put down. He was disqualified for keeping any animals for life.