Farmer hit with £59k ‘proceeds of crime’ order for storing caravans
A TARLETON farmer who continued to store caravans on his land without planning permission has been told he must pay back £59,000 under a ‘Proceeds of Crime’ order.
West Lancashire Borough Council took the unusual action against father of two Timothy Edwards, of Bannister House Farm on The Marshes Lane after being found guilty in February of failing to comply with planning enforcement notices.
The Council served enforcement notices on the 55-year-old cattle farmer and his wife, but Mr Edwards, who says that he is following government policy by ‘diversifying’, believes he should be allowed to store the caravans to raise income to support his family, including his 23 year old daughter, who suffers from Asperger's Syndrome.
Mr Edwards was ordered to pay £59,000 under the Proceeds of Crime Act as well as a £3,500 fine and £6,000 prosecution costs, while Mrs Edwards must pay a £500 fine. They have until May 23 to pay – or he could face up to 304 days in jail.
The Proceeds of Crime Act is used to recoup money raised through criminal activity against assets belonging to individual criminals – but a furious Mr Edwards believes the act is not applicable to him as the family were running their business, Bannister Caravan Storage from the site - and he claims the Proceeds of Crime Act can’t be used against what he claims is a business.
He told The Champion: “If, in planning terms, you've done something for a number of years, it becomes legal. I've been storing static caravans for 10 years. They can't be seen and I've had no complaints from any neighbours. The council have decided to use me as an example and it's ridiculous.
“The government has advised farmers to diversify to survive - but the council is doing everything in it's power to stop me. By fining us such a huge amount, I will have to sell assets, like land, to pay - they are taking the tools of my trade.
“We will appeal the decision.”
A spokesman for West Lancs Borough Council said: “Mr Edwards pleaded guilty to planning offences brought by the Council and was represented at the Proceeds of Crime hearing by a barrister.
“The proceedings were brought against Mr Edwards as an individual.
Councillor Ian Moran, Leader of West Lancashire Borough Council, said: “This case sends out a strong warning that the Council takes breaches of planning control very seriously.
“This is the first criminal confiscation order under the Proceeds of Crime Act that the Council has obtained and this should deter other land owners and businesses from seeking to profit from breaches of planning control.
“The Council will take the strongest possible action against people who break the law.”