I planned to start a new life with my partner and our two children when in 1984 we purchased a property called ‘The Bungalow’ in Warren Lane, Nr Lydden, Dover.
The timber-framed bungalow, which had two bedrooms, lounge, kitchen and bathroom was an existing dwelling in lawful residential use. It had been neglected for some years and was in need of some tlc so upon moving in on the 15th June I began renovating it and making cosmetic changes. The existing timber frame was retained, the walls re-clad, new windows fitted and it was re-roofed. No extensions were added thus the size of the original footprint remained the same.
Sworn statements are available which confirm the renovation works and can be viewed by clicking here.
Within days of purchasing the bungalow, Dover District Council falsely stated that I had ‘erected a new dwelling’ and ordered me to demolish it. They acted as if I had erected a new dwelling on a virgin site and chose to ignore the existing lawful residential status of the bungalow.
I purchased my bungalow on the 15th June 1984 yet just 6 days later, at a planning meeting on 21st June 1984, the Planning Committee discussed ‘Works at The Bungalow, Warren Lane, Lydden’ and resolved to hold a site meeting on 7th August 1984.
The date for the site meeting coincided with an important Hearing at Canterbury Court where I was seeking an order for access to my two children as their Mother was refusing me visiting rights. I rushed back home as soon as the Hearing ended, just as Council Members were leaving my garden. I tried to explain why I was late and emphasised the importance of the Court appointment and the fact that my children took priority. The Council Members ignored me and the Planning Officer told me they viewed my absence as a snub and were irritated.
At a meeting dated 9th August 1984, the Planning Committee again discussed ‘Building and ancillary works at The Bungalow, Warren Lane, Lydden’. The Director of Planning, David Sturt, reported on the views expressed by Members viewing the site and “on the response made by the owner of the site to the Council’s invitation to him to be present at the site meeting”.
They resolved to destroy my bungalow a few weeks after I purchased it and I believe that Council Members set out to punish rather than comply with the correct planning regulations. To this day, 34 years later, they have refused to communicate with me.
Their unlawful decision was made based solely on incorrect and misleading information presented by the paid officials and without considering any representation from me.
An enforcement notice was wrongfully issued and we lived under the threat of demolition for five years, until 1989 when the Council came along one morning with a mechanical digger and smashed the bungalow to pieces whilst we were still living there with our two children. Following this the Council stated that they were not obliged to provide accommodation for us because we had ‘made ourselves homeless’. This was pre Human Rights days of course.
The council served the wrong notice because the breach they allege I committed did not occur. The Town & Country Planning Act states that an enforcement notice shall specify that steps be taken to restore the land to its condition before the breach took place. In other words, put the bungalow back to as it was before I carried out the cosmetic changes.
The unlawful demolition of my bungalow took place because Council officials deceived the Planning Committee by claiming that the residential use had been abandoned. This false statement was made despite the Council’s own Head of Legal Services confirming that the use had not been abandoned.
In R. v Canterbury City Council ex parte Springimage JPL 1993 it was Held that a decision is void if it is based on information put before a committee that is not correct or is incomplete.
The original decision to demolish my home was wrong and therefore it follows that every action that the council has taken against me since, must be wrong. A public authority owes as great, if not a greater obligation, to comply with the law as any individual and I have sufficient evidence to show the Council acted unlawfully not only in demolishing my home in the first instance but also in all acts of enforcement action that have followed. There is case law to support this assertion, as does the Town & Country Planning Act, which is very clear and precise on this matter.
Every person is entitled to procedural fairness, but that will always depend on the integrity of the authority responsible for such procedures.
There is clear evidence that Dover Council have deprived me of my right to procedural fairness throughout the duration of this dispute but particularly so when they took the decision to demolish my home.
I did not establish a home without planning permission because that already lawfully existed and had done so for 56 years. Prior to the demolition I placed a mobile home adjacent to the bungalow so continuing, uninterrupted, the lawful residential use of the land.
Soon after Dover Council had demolished my home they erroneously took action to remove the mobile home that was legally sited. Subsequently they wrongfully issued an enforcement notice on the 27 February 1990, ordering its removal.
Due to the years of stress and extreme disruption to my family’s life leading up to the demolition of our home and the ongoing harassment and threat of litigation from the Council after the demolition, my family broke up. After my partner left I gave up the fight and moved away from the site. Up until that time I had neither the knowledge nor financial ability to fight the unlawful action that had been taken against me and it is now apparent the Council preyed on that fact.
Residential rating assessments continued to be issued until this day.
In my absence the site of my former home became a local rubbish tip and scrap vehicles accumulated on the land. It became an eyesore, an annoyance to local residents and the subject of further enforcement action, which required me as owner of the site to clear it even though this situation was a direct result of the council demolishing my home.
The property had been in continuous residential use for over 60 years when the Council demolished it and reduced the land to a rubbish tip. Tim Flisher from the Council’s planning department has since confirmed that residential use is the only lawful use ever ascribed to my property.
On 15th July 2002 I moved back to the site and began clearing all the scrap vehicles and the tons of rubbish that had accumulated, before restoring it to an attractive garden once more. I have continued to live there in a mobile home ever since with the full support of my neighbours but not the Council who are again wrongfully taking enforcement action against me.
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