Dorset landowner prosecuted for building in conservation area

Dorset landowner prosecuted for building in conservation area

Published by Maria Greenwood at 11:31am 16th January 2020.

A Dorset landowner has been prosecuted and fined for failing to comply with a planning enforcement notice within the Dorset Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty .

69-year-old Thomas William Gibbs of Willow Farm, Longbarrow Lane, Stoke Abbot, Beaminster pleaded guilty at Weymouth Magistrates Court to an offence contrary to Section 179 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990.

weymouth magistrates court

Planning Officers first served notice to Mr Gibbs in April 2008 after discovering he had built an unauthorised dwelling at Willow Farm, a protected area of countryside within the Dorset Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

The notice required Mr Gibbs to stop using the land as a place of residence, demolish and then remove the structure.

He appealed the original notice and was granted temporary permission for the dwelling, under the condition it would be removed by February 2012.

Court Legal

'He then built a barn'

But, Mr Gibbs built a second unauthorised  barn-like structure which was deemed harmful to the scenic beauty of the AONB. 

Mr Gibbs applied for planning permission to retain the dwelling and barn but this was refused in September 2012. 

A second enforcement notice was issued requiring residential use of the land to cease and the demolition and removal of the unauthorised buildings by June 2014.

Mr Gibbs appealed again, but this was rejected, requiring him to comply by 23rd January 2015.

Follow up investigations in 2017, 2018 and 2019 found the dwelling was still occupying the site. 

Bechstein's bat

'Bat roost discovered'

Finally, after a court summons in April 2019, Mr Gibbs took steps to comply but, demolition has yet to take place due to a bat roost in the roof space of the building, which requires a special kind of demolition that will protect the bats.

The work's now expected to take place in the spring.


Mr Gibbs was fined £1000 and ordered to pay the full amount of the Council's prosecution costs in the sum of £1,480. In addition a victim surcharge of £100 was ordered to be paid. The fines have to be paid within 28 days of the sentence being passed.

Mr Gibbs was told by the sentencing court that he could be prosecuted by Dorset Council again if he did not demolish the building as promised.

Dorset Council Cabinet Member for Planning, Cllr David Walsh said:

"I would like thank our officers for bringing this long running case to a successful conclusion. We have a duty to protect land which is part of an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

"This case in particular shows how we use court proceedings as a last resort and where possible we will try to work with landowners to ensure planning law is respected and complied with.

"That said, we will not allow the integrity of the planning system to be undermined. We will take appropriate action to ensure that Mr Gibbs does not allow the demolition of the building to drift and delay."