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Milford Haven: Gardener may appeal over shed on wheels verdict

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A MILFORD HAVEN gardener who fitted wheels to his garden shed in a bid to circumvent planning law, has lost his legal battle in the magistrates court – but says he may appeal to the crown court.

James Kershaw of Pill Priory, Lower Priory runs Top Notch Gardening. He tried to claim that, by adding the wheels, the shed was no longer a building and therefore not subject to planning regulations. Last Friday (Jun 14), he was convicted of not complying with an Enforcement Notice issued by Pembrokeshire County Council and fined £700.

Delivering his reserved verdict at Llanelli Magistrates Court, District Judge Chris James found for the Council on all arguments, including that the defendant had added the wheels after the Enforcement Notice’s compliance period. He added he was also satisfied that it remained a building. Judge James said he did not believe the argument advanced on behalf of Kershaw that the shed was intended to be moved around the yard nor that it would be possible to actually do so.

He further found that the Enforcement Notice was valid with the defendant clearly understanding what he was required to do and that the addition of the wheels was an attempt to evade planning authority control. Judge James was delivering his judgement following an earlier hearing at Haverfordwest Magistrates Court.

It was stated then that in 2015 Kershaw had erected the wooden shed on his land at Pill Priory without planning permission. The County Council served Kershaw with an Enforcement Notice requiring the shed to be demolished on the basis of harm to the adjacent Priory ruins – a Scheduled Ancient Monument and Grade 2 Listed Building. Subsequently, the court heard, Kershaw appealed but this was dismissed by a planning inspector and the Notice upheld. Following a period of non-compliance, the County Council instigated legal proceedings and Kershaw later denied one offence of failure to comply with the Notice.

At the Haverfordwest trial, Kershaw produced pictures of the shed showing that wheels had been added and that therefore it was no longer a building but a chattel placed on land. The trial was then adjourned for skeleton arguments to be filed.

The skeleton argument filed on behalf of the defendant alleged that: the wheels had been added prior to the period of the charge – therefore before February 2018; compliance with the Enforcement Notice (which refers to a building) was impossible as, by February 2018, the shed had already ceased to be a building but was now a chattel placed on land and the Enforcement Notice was a nullity as it referred to a building, or alternatively, that by converting the shed from being a building the defendant had done all he could to comply with the Notice.

The County Council claimed that Kershaw had not added the wheels to the shed until after the charge period. The Authority also contended that in any event the Town and Country Planning Act prohibited the defendant from raising as a defence in criminal proceedings something that he could have (and did) raise by way of appeal and, despite the alterations, the shed as a matter of fact and degree, remained a building.

In mitigation for the defendant, barrister Matthew Graham Paul said that his client had made a deliberate decision to test the legal position; that his actions were not for personal gain and that most people were entitled to a garden shed – he needed it to store his business tools.

Delivering his judgement, Judge James said that there was an element of deliberate defiance by the defendant for his own benefit. The Judge referred to the words of the planning inspector who called the shed a “clumsy and monolithic addition” and a significant visual intrusion which failed to preserve the setting of the Listed building. However, Judge James said he considered the harm caused could be rectified and noted that the defendant had no previous record of failing to comply with planning law.

Kershaw was also ordered to pay a £70 victim’s surcharge and costs of £2,244.04 were awarded to Pembrokeshire County Council.

Speaking to The Pembrokeshire Herald after the case Kershaw said: “I am considering appealing the verdict to Swansea Crown Court as I believe the judge erred in his verdict in this case.”

Community

Consider the benefits of living in a community-led housing scheme

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NO one could have missed the Extinction Rebellion protests around the world in recent months, but a little-known low-impact eco-community in Pembrokeshire is also working hard to spread the sustainability message.

The Brithdir Mawr community grow their own food, generate their own electricity and provide low cost rented housing, as well as sharing ideas, resources and skills with people who want to learn more.

More than 100 people have lived there over the past quarter of a century and the current residents have an innovative way of living.

One such resident is Lea Trainer. He moved here a few months ago and feels the move has changed his family’s life for the better after he left his job as a project manager in London: “My wife Kirsty and children Brianna and Frankie have been here since June but the community has been around for more than 25 years. My wife brought the children here last year for an educational trip and they were texting me about birds and insect-spotting and I had a bit of an epiphany.

“Our life is incomparable to before. We now live a lower impact life and have reduced our footprint on the Earth. I’m learning all the time about nature, renewable energy. It’s fantastic to be part of a community contributing towards the development of a regenerative culture, farming using organic methods and preserving and increasing biodiversity.

Living at Brithdir Mawr has also brought personal benefits to Lea: “Now I can spend quality time with my children and my wife. I’ve already noticed a real difference in the children. They have really developed their personalities and freedom of expression. They know much more about nature and have really come out of their shells in the time that we’ve been here.”

“Each day is different here. We do all meet as a community at 11 for coffee and then again for dinner. Some people have part-time jobs, others will tend to the garden and our children are home-schooled. We have a community day each week where we do activities together, like apple-picking.”

Brithdir Mawr is being supported by the Wales Co-operative Centre, which has been supporting and championing the growth of co-operative and community-led housing since 2012. In April this year, it launched its Communities Creating Homes programme which aims to stimulate demand for community-led housing throughout Wales. The programme is funded by the Nationwide Foundation and Welsh Government.

With more than 30 schemes already in place across Wales, communities can be created for various purposes and shared visions. Where some schemes have been created to make housing more affordable for residents, others have been developed for people who want improved eco-friendly lifestyles.

Meanwhile, Brithdir Mawr community is planning for the future. It has been there for 25 years but wants to make sure it’ll be there for future generations and continue the message of sustainability by purchasing the lease for the 80-acre site. The residents have launched a crowdfunding campaign to try and raise funds to buy the land they live on and are hoping to raise £1million to purchase the site.

Go to www.crowdfunder.co.uk/save-brithdir-mawr for more information and how you can support Brithdir Mawr. Visit https://wales.coop/co-operative-community-led-housing/ for more information on community-led housing schemes and how they work.

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Firefighters tackle blaze at St Clears

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A FIRE broke out in a commercial garage at Lower St Clears this morning (Monday).

Firefighters were called to the fire in Bridge Street at around 8.18am. Crews from Carmarthen, Whitland, Tenby, Crymych and Pembroke Dock attended to tackle the blaze.

A spokesperson for the Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service, said: “Firefighters extinguished the fire using four breathing apparatus, two hose reel jets, two thermal imaging cameras and one safety jet. Two environmental kits and small gear were also used by crews during the incident.

“The police, ambulance service and Western Power were also in attendance. The fire service left the incident at 11.33am.”

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Haverfordwest man accused of robbing a teenage boy

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A HAVERFORDWEST man is to stand trial accused of trying to rob a 13-year-old boy.

Ry Robert Williams, aged 27, was before Judge Keith Thomas at Swansea Crown Court today via a video link with the city’s prison where he is being held on remand.

Williams, of Peregrine Close, denied attempting to rob the youth of an unspecified amount of money on July 5. Judge Thomas said on Friday (Nov 15) that his trial would begin on January 30 and Williams was further remanded in custody.

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