High Court grants council injunction against man for unlawful works on green belt site

The High Court has granted an injunction against a man in relation to unauthorised works carried at a site in the Buckinghamshire green belt, but the court has refused to grant an injunction to prevent further planning breaches at the site by "persons unknown" because the council had not provided evidence that the threat was "real and imminent".

Buckinghamshire Council had sought three linked injunctions in relation to illegal works carried out at a green belt site in London Road, Beaconsfield. This included the installation of hardstanding, a track, and a 1.5 metre high bund along the northern boundary of the site.

The authority applied for an interim injunction in May 2023. This sought an order against Jimmy Barrett requiring him to undo past planning breaches at the site, an order against Barrett preventing him from carrying out further breaches at the site, and an order against 'persons unknown' preventing them from carrying out further breaches at the site.

In considering whether to grant the injunction, Dexter Dias KC said in his judgment that the way the works had been carried out on the site had "the imprint of a carefully timed and strategic breach", amounting to a "flagrant" breach of planning control.

The judge found that Barrett "has a history of non-compliance with planning control" and has "played the system".

"With this track record of non-compliance, I judge it necessary to compel him to remove the structures to protect and preserve the openness of the green belt and its purposes. I note ... that bringing the caravan onto the site was not per se a breach, but there was an associated breach by the laying of the hardstanding," the judgement said.

The judge granted the two orders against Barrett.

However, in consideration of the order against "persons unknown", the judge noted that a recent Supreme Court ruling in a case that focused on the use of such injunctions, also known as "newcomer injunctions", had set out guidance on the use of such injunctions.

The judge noted that the Supreme Court had stated that "any local authority applying for an injunction against persons unknown .. must satisfy the court by full and detailed evidence that there is a compelling justification for the order sought...There must be a strong probability that a tort or breach of planning control or other aspect of public law is to be committed and that this will cause real harm. Further, the threat must be real and imminent."
The judge said he was not satisfied there was "full and detailed evidence" of "compelling need".

"The claimant has not demonstrated that there is a 'strong probability that a tort or breach of planning control or other aspect of public law is to be committed and that this will cause real harm'. I have been provided with no evidence that the threat is 'real and imminent'."

Refusing to grant the order against persons unknown, the judgment concluded: "When the [council] speaks in mere 'possibilities' and not higher degrees of likelihood [of further breaches], the court cannot grant an injunction against persons unknown. The risk is too indistinct, uncertain and conjectural."

Read the full judgement here: Buckinghamshire Council v Barrett & Ors [2024] EWHC 140 (KB)

This is a version of an article that originally appeared on ENDS' sister title Planning Magazine