Wendi Batteson of Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council sets out some of the lessons learned from a recent planning enforcement case.
Being Bold and Going Beyond are two of the core values at Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council. These were exhibited recently in relation to two problematic sites where travellers have bought land, moved on tons of hardcore and set up home. Legal and Planning Enforcement officers:
- immediately produced legal paperwork seking an injunction
- attended the Royal Courts of Justice and successfully obtained an urgent injunction
- returned to the site with numerous laminated copies of the injunction which were affixed to posts on fences, entrances, and stakes into the ground.
Dealing with such incursions quickly has proved to be very important and consequently the hearings afterwards to obtain a final injunction have changed the law because we could show the land was not lived on and therefore the subsequent applications to vary the injunction have failed. We also learnt along the way, that:
- engagement with the local community is very important
- community based evidence as opposed to officer evidence carries more weight at the court
- local knowledge on the smallest of things can have a big impact. Like whether or not a field floods, even though it is not in a flood zone.
- local residents were able to provide photographs of the site in flood and as importantly, what it actually looked like before all the hardcore went down.
Collaborative working by the council's teams and local residents:
- achieved an outcome we all wanted
- enhanced the sense of achievement
- meant residents who attended court could see the process in action
- gave residents a greater appreciation of the hard work required and that there is no such thing as an instant magic wand.
- saw officers learn the value of local knowledge in obtaining the injuction
- helped officers forge a bond between the council and the community it serves each having an important part in achieving an end result that was desired by the council for its community
- changed the law along the way.
Most importantly the council made a difference to the lives in that local area and the incident reinforced why we work for a local authority. It helps fulfill my motivation of working for the benefit of others.
Wendi Batteson is Principal Solicitor for Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council.