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Milford Haven: Legal battle over shed on wheels in court

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THE OWNER and occupier of the residence known as Pill Priory, in Lower Priory, Milford Haven was in court last week (May 9) to argue that a shed that he built without planning permission was not a building, but a movable object.

The argument is that by putting it on wheels, James Kershaw had created a chatel and not a property subject to planning rules.

At Haverfordwest Magistrates’ Court representatives from the Council said: “Pill Priory is a medieval priory. It is a highly sensitive. It is designated as a Grade 2* listed building and a Scheduled Ancient Monument. These designations denote that the property is nationally important.”

Kershaw, 39, who runs a gardening business, is accused of the offence of breaching the Enforcement Notice dated 26 September 2016 contrary to section 179 (2) of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990.

In court, both parties agree that in 2015 the defendant constructed a shed in the garden at Pill Priory without the benefit of planning permission.

When the Council became aware of the shed, they said, they asked him to remove it. He refused. In these circumstances, the Council had little choice, they say, but to serve the notice to require the removal of the shed.

The court heard that Kershaw then appealed the notice. He argued that the notice ought to be quashed as the shed is not a building and so the breach of planning control has been mis-described on the face of the notice; and that he ought to be granted planning permission retrospectively for it.

But the council said it suspects that the defendant made the adaptions to the shed after the first appearance in the Magistrates’ Court “when he realised the serious legal position in which he found himself.”

This is something that Kershaw denied in court, supported by a witness, Mr Dai Garland, who said that he assisted in the alterations long before the legal proceedings had commenced.

In its skeleton argument, barrister for the Council, Jack Smyth of No.5 chambers wrote: “The fact that the shed is lightweight (made of plywood and ship lap) and no larger than the average static caravan is neither here nor there. Not all buildings need be big. Lots of buildings are small (such as a modest greenhouse or wendy-house). It is denied that the adaptation of the shed transforms it from a building to a chattel.

Defiant: James Kershaw

He went on: “Even if the defendant is right that the shed is no longer a building, the fact that it was a building when the notice was served and scrutinised by the Inspector does not render the notice a nullity. Whatever label one attaches to it (“shed
“building”; “structure”; “hut”), we are talking about the same wooden “thing”.

“The label does not constitute a deficiency sufficiently serious to make a notice bad on its face.

“Even if the defendant is right that the shed is no longer a building, he could have demolished it as required by the notice. It is not accepted that this action was impossible.

The Council barrister went on in his report to say: “The Court may be impressed by the creativity and imagination displayed by the
defendant (and those acting on his behalf).

“But, in truth, the legal argument advanced by him is little more than semantic sophistry. It provides no defence to the summons. If he had simply removed the shed as he was required to do, we would not find ourselves here.

“Whatever the legal “gloss” placed on the defendant’s argument, it is contrived and unconvincing. The Court is invited to dismiss the argument and find the charge proven.”

THE DEFENCE

In his submissions, barrister for the defence Mr Matthew Graham Paul of Civitas Chambers wrote: “Where a unit is designed to be mobile, and in particular where it has its own wheels, the Courts have tended to find it lacks permanence. In Measor v. Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions, Robin Purchas QC (a specialist in planning law) citing Barvis and Elitestone found there were ample grounds for his conclusion that the caravans which were the subject of the case did not constitute ‘buildings’ within [planning law].

“In the event that the Court disagrees that the adaptation of the shed so that it is not a building discharges the defendant’s obligations in complying with the notice (i.e. that it does not amount to ‘demolition’), it should nevertheless dismiss the charge because the Enforcement Notice is a nullity as it refers to a ‘building’.

“Secondly, if the shed was not a building on 12th February 2018 James Kershaw was in no position to demolish a building, as the Enforcement Notice purported to require. The action required by the EN was impossible, which has also been held to constitute a defence to failing to comply with the requirements of an Enforcement Notice by rendering it a nullity.”

Following lengthy legal submissions the judge decided to reserve judgement until next month.

The case was adjourned until 14th June 2019 for District Judge Chris James to deliver his judgement at Llanelli Magistrates’ Court.

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‘Reach out to friends and family’ says Council Leader

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THIS week’s update from Cllr David Simpson, Leader of Pembrokeshire County Council:

‘Hello everyone, I hope you are all keeping well and safe.

‘I’d like to highlight that this week is Mental Health Awareness Week.

‘I’m very aware that the last 15 months has had a huge impact on our lives and, in some cases, our wellbeing.

‘Mental Health can be a hidden issue and we all need to be aware that some people may need some extra support.

‘On a personal level the lockdown restrictions have reminded me of the importance to talk to people and to ensure people are supported.

‘Supporting your friends and family can be as simple as a phone call to say hello. A quick hello can ensure people are ok and managing and can give someone a huge uplift.

“Our communities have done a fantastic job of supporting each other so please, Team Pembrokeshire, continue these efforts.

‘I urge you all to pick up the phone and say hello to your friends and family, as we all need to play our role in everyone’s wellbeing – talking about issues does make a difference.

‘If you are suffering from Mental Health or general wellbeing issues please reach out, do not struggle on your own, your friends and family can help and make a difference.

‘Please also take the opportunity to also view the website at https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/campaigns/mental-health-awareness-week which has much more information and support.

‘I now want to take this opportunity to thank everyone involved in last week’s elections.

‘Elections take a phenomenal amount of organisation at the best of times but even more so in a pandemic situation.

‘To all those who ensured the smooth running of the elections process, thank you.

‘Congratulations to all the successful candidates and I look forward to working with them to further improve the lives of Pembrokeshire people.

‘We have now had further updates from Welsh Government and the next phase of the unlocking road map has been unveiled.

‘From Monday, 17th May, indoor hospitality can re-open.

‘Up to six people from six different households will be able to meet indoors in pubs, cafes and restaurants.

‘We have so many fantastic hospitality venues in Pembrokeshire who we know will be giving their customers a big welcome after so long away.

‘The opening of indoor hospitality will be a major landmark in our emergence from the pandemic and towards recovery.

‘While out and about please remember social distancing rules are still in pace, consider your actions on others, remember your footprint has an impact on our communities, so please tread lightly.

‘When you go home, leave with a smile – enjoy your days out, enjoy seeing your families and most importantly enjoy our beautiful county and please support us in keeping Pembrokeshire special – play your part and please be responsible.

‘I want to wish you all a lovely weekend and I look forward to talking to you all again next week through my update.

‘Thank you everyone.’

You can keep up to date with all the Council’s press releases here: https://www.pembrokeshire.gov.uk/newsroom

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Plan to rescue rare butterfly from extinction in Pembrokeshire

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THE PEMBROKESHIRE Coast National Park Authority is stepping up efforts to save the marsh fritillary butterfly, which was once widespread in Wales but is now close to extinction in Pembrokeshire.

Funded by the Pembrokeshire Nature Partnership, the new landscape scale strategy aims to improve the fortunes of the rare species, which relies on networks of flower rich marshy grasslands across the landscape.

Much of this habitat, which is home to the favourite food of its larva – the devil’s bit scabious (succisa pratensis), has been lost due to drainage, inappropriate tree planting and the neglect of traditional management of grasslands through light grazing with heavy animals such as cattle.

National Park AuthorityBiodiversity Officer, Sarah Mellor said: “The marsh fritillary in Pembrokeshire is now in a very precarious position. We think it has already become extinct in a number of areas in its former range and it has not been seen on the St Davids Peninsula since 2013. The population around Keeston and Tiers Cross is also now thought to be extinct.

“We must find a way to make space for wildlife in our landscape to ensure that nature can thrive for future generations. It is quite sobering to think this species could disappear from Pembrokeshire in my lifetime. We have a responsibility not to let this happen on our watch.

“Even in those areas where it remains we have seen dramatic declines, for example around Mychanchlogddu it used to be recorded from 32 sites, but since 2015 it has only been seen at seven sites.”

The National Park Authority has already stepped up its action to rescue the rare butterfly by assisting landowners to bring sites into suitable management through grant aid and providing suitable grazing animals through the Pembrokeshire Grazing Network and the Conserving the Park Scheme.

The new strategy will include mobilising Park Authority staff and volunteers to undertake targeted surveys at sites across the county, as well as helping landowners to manage their land in a sensitive way to help ensure the future of this rare butterfly.

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Santander turns away customers due to nationwide computer glitch

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CUSTOMERS of Santander in Haverfordwest were being turned away this morning by branch staff saying that they were unable to make transactions due to a computer glitch. It is understood that branches use the same computer systems which run the bank’s other systems.

Problems arouse last night when computer updates which the bank was implementing did not go to plan.

Some Herald readers contacted the news room to speak of their surprise that they were not able to access their funds.

One reader, who had gone to the bank to withdraw funds to pay rent on his home was told that there was nothing that could be done.

Website and App transactions are also being affected at the high street bank, and card transactions are being declined

The head of money at consumer magazine Which?, Gareth Shaw, said many customers will be stressed, “with people reporting that they have been unable to make online payments or in some cases purchase food in their local supermarket”.

“Customers can incur fines, penalties and fees when they’re not able to access their finances, so the bank must offer compensation to all those who have been impacted in this way”.

Santander told customers they can “access cash from other banks’ ATMs, at the Post Office and can get cashback where that’s available”.

A service status page on its website said planned maintenance was due to be performed on the Santander mobile banking app overnight on Friday. It is not known whether this prompted Saturday’s problems.

On Twitter, a Santander spokesperson said: “We’re sorry that a technical problem is affecting our services, our teams are working hard to fix it.

“You can access cash from other banks’ ATMs. Please check back here for further updates.”

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