News release from 31/05/2018

Planning breaches lead to almost £60,000 of fines for Smithy Fen landlords and tenants

Almost £60,000 in fines has been handed to 18 people at Smithy Fen Travellers’ site after they were prosecuted for breaching planning conditions.

South Cambridgeshire District Council successfully prosecuted the 18 people for 33 offences in a series of cases heard from January until May at Cambridge Magistrates’ Court.

The cases followed the Council issuing breach of planning condition legal notices to landlords and occupants of 23 pitches at Smithy Fen in July last year.

This was due to the presence of excess caravans or static homes, or pitches being rented to a non-Traveller – only Gypsies and Travellers can live in the homes there.

The legal notices issued gave 28 days for each of these pitches to be brought back into line with planning rules.

Following this half of the plots complied and the Council began legal action to prosecute landlords or tenants who own or live on pitches that remained in breach.

There are 49 approved pitches at Smithy Fen – each one generally consists of one static caravan and a touring caravan.

The Council’s investigation last year found that 56 occupants were living on affected pitches at Smithy Fen. However, after the action last July the Council confirmed that 34 of them had left the site.

Cllr Nick Wright, local member for Caxton and Papworth who began the legal action when he was deputy leader, said: “Our officers’ investigation and action last year was effective in bringing half of the illegal pitches back in line with planning rules. This was a great start and the success we have now had in court shows we take these breaches seriously.”

Cllr Tumi Hawkins, South Cambridgeshire District Council’s Cabinet Member for Planning, said: “These are clear planning breaches and it is right that we take all the necessary steps to bring this back within planning rules. As the new Council administration, we are equally committed to resolving this situation and taking a firm line against those people who have ignored the breach of planning condition legal notices, and not engaged with our officers.

“Almost £60,000 in fines shows the courts have taken these breaches seriously and we will pursue all legal avenues that are necessary until the situation is fully resolved.”

The fines against the 18 people totals £58,600. The Council was also awarded £9,180.25 in costs and £3,780 was levied in victim surcharges.