In a typically British piece of bureaucratic theatre, a six year battle to force a Surrey farmer to demolish the home of his dreams appears to have been won by Councillors at a final appeal hearing at the Planning Inspectorate.
The case for the prosecution is that, in 2001, Farmer Bob secretly built his dream castle, complete with ramparts and castellated turrets, behind a 40 foot high shield of hay bales and under a huge tarpaulin. Farmer Bob and his wife then kept the new, luxury four-bedroom detached hidden for a period of five years but nonetheless lived in it, all of which was done entirely without planning permission. The council subsequently refused to grant retrospective planning permission for this unauthorised green belt construction and ordered it to be demolished.
The case for the defence is that Farmer Bob argues, because he and his family had been living in the building for more than four years and nobody had objected to its existence during that time, the castle was therefore immune from any planning rules and regulations. The fact that the castle was built behind a screen and then remained hidden for five years was not relevant, says Bob the Builder.
Sadly, as a result of the Inspectorate’s decision the castle has been condemned to be reduced to mere rubble, and following demolition, will no doubt head off to that even greater castle in the sky. But Farmer Bob has one last throw of the dice. His prize bull may be champing at the bit to bulldoze over anyone that tries to lay a single finger on his master’s home but a far more unpredictable beast is being lined up to do the job – The Human Rights Act 1998. In a nutshell:
- The Act came into force in the United Kingdom in October 2000.
- It incorporated the protections in the European Convention on Human Rights into UK law.
- All public bodies including courts, police, local government, hospitals, publicly funded schools, have to comply with the Convention rights.
- Human rights cases can now be heard in domestic courts.
The fundamental rights and freedoms that individuals in the UK have under the Act are:
- Right to life
- Freedom from torture and inhuman or degrading treatment
- Right to liberty and security
- Freedom from slavery and forced labour
- Right to a fair trial
- No punishment without law
- Respect for your private and family life, home and correspondence
- Freedom of thought, belief and religion
- Freedom of expression
- Freedom of assembly and association
- Right to marry and start a family
- Protection from discrimination in respect of these rights and freedoms
- Right to peaceful enjoyment of your property
- Right to education
- Right to participate in free elections
The Act potentially impacts in employment situations in relation to issues of privacy (eg CCTV), fairness (eg disciplinary proceedings) and all aspects of discrimination, amongst others.
Qdos will be able to help will all enquiries on the relevance of the Act and its consequences for your business. Unless that is, you want to erect a new extension to your premises behind some old wooden pallets or a big sheet of plastic without telling your local council.
In those circumstances, you’re on your own, although, like Farmer Bob, you will probably be able to get something done at a knock down price, if you try hard enough! Bob the builder – can he fix it?