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North West council secures court order for removal of caravans from Green Belt site

Cheshire East Council has secured a High Court order requiring families to remove their caravans from a Green Belt site in the borough.

The local authority had obtained an interim injunction in August 2020, preventing the siting of further caravans on a privately-owned field off Broadoak Lane, in Mobberley.

That order also prevented the construction of a hardstanding, the importing of materials and erection of buildings and other structures without planning permission. “But despite the court order, additional caravans were brought on to the site and additional works continued in breach of the injunction,” Cheshire East said.

The council therefore commenced proceedings for contempt of court against several defendants who had been involved in the breaches.

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In Cheshire East Borough Council v Maloney & Ors [2021] EWHC 350 (QB) Mr Justice Turner has, following a three-day trial in Manchester, granted in principle a five-year injunction restraining further development on site and limiting the number of caravans to eight, pending the outcome of a planning appeal. 

The council said ten allegations of contempt of court, made against a Mr Moloney, were proven, following his breaches of interim injunctions. 

The court heard that the defendant is currently detained in HM Prison Altcourse for unrelated matters and was unable to attend the hearing, although he did attend a recent trial via video link. He will be sentenced at a later date.   

Admissions of contempt were made along with apologies to the court by various contractors. All agreed to contribute towards council costs. 

Mr Justice Turner said there were significant arguments in favour of allowing all 13 caravans presently on site to remain there. Of particular importance was the interests of the children, he said. The council had also "realistically" conceded that an injunction limiting the occupation of the site would have an adverse impact on the interests of the children presently occupying caravans nine to thirteen.

A further relevant feature was the admitted failure of the council to meet the assessed need of travellers in accorance with Local Plan Strategy Policy SC7 'Gypsies and Travellers and Travelling Showpeople'. "For very many years the number of pitches available has fallen far short of those for which there is a need. This is a matter of real concern at both a national and local level."

Mr Justice Turner QC said: "However, nothwithstanding these features, to which I pay full regard in accordance with the decided cases, I am entirely satisfied that it would be wrong to countenance the continued presence of the five additional caravans.

"There is a strong public interest in ensuring that orders of the court are obeyed and that, all other things being equal, disobedience to such orders are not thereafter deployed to forensic advantage. If Mr Maloney had denied access to the five caravans in obedience to the order then the likely consequence would have been that the court would thereafter have sought to preserve that status quo. By allowing the additional caravans on his land, I am sure that his intention was cynically to shift the goal posts."

Cllr Toni Fox, Cheshire East Council cabinet member for planning, said: “I am extremely pleased with the outcome of the trial and the decisive way the judge has reached his verdict on both the contempt of court but also his conclusion to grant the final injunction.”

“Council officers responded quickly to local residents concerns in August in securing the injunction. Since then, officers have worked tirelessly to prepare the legal case against the defendants, which has now been rewarded. It also provides some degree of comfort for local residents that the legal process cannot just be ignored.”

Cllr Charlotte Leach, ward member for Mobberley, said: “I am very pleased with [this] outcome. I want to thank every resident who took the time to send me evidence of the breaches of the High Court Order. I would also like to thank Cheshire East Council’s legal and planning enforcement teams who have worked hard on this case.”

The Broadoak Lane site remains subject to separate planning enforcement action, with an appeal hearing to be set by the Planning Inspectorate.   

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