Constanze Bell, acting for Doncaster Metropolitan Borough Council, successfully resisted an appeal against sentence in the Court of Appeal (Regina v Roderick Bloor  EWCA Crim 402, 2020 WL 01290364). Killian Garvey acted for Doncaster Metropolitan Borough Council in the Crown Court sentencing proceedings. Constanze and Killian were instructed by Neil Concannon of Doncaster Council Legal Services.
The appeal concerned the amount of a fine imposed for failing to comply with an enforcement notice to take down a building extension for which planning permission had been refused. The appellant, Roderick Bloor, contended that a fine of £15,000 that was imposed on him by HHJ Kelson QC at the Sheffield Crown Court for that offence was manifestly excessive. The Court of Appeal held that the fine was not wrong in principle or manifestly excessive and dismissed the appeal.
The development the subject of the enforcement notice was a first-floor extension to an end-of-terrace house in a village. A planning application for the development was refused, the enforcement notice was served and an appeal against the enforcement notice was dismissed. The appellant committed an offence contrary to s.179(1) of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 when he did not remove the extension within the period for compliance set out in the enforcement notice. He did not complete the work until some 20 months after he should have done so. He was in breach of the enforcement notice for 1 year and 8 months.
There is no statutory maximum for the fine that can be imposed for an offence contrary to s.179(1) of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990. There is no statutory minimum. There is no offence- specific guideline for this offence. A judge, as the Court of Appeal observed, is required to follow the approach required by the Sentencing Council's General Guideline on over-arching principles but within the general principles set out therein has “a broad sentencing canvass” (at ).
The Court of Appeal set out the process the judge had to follow under the Sentencing Council's General Guidelines:
10…That required that he first had regard to the statutory maximum and, if appropriate, minimum sentence when reaching a provisional sentence: see step 1 of that Guideline. In practise here that simply meant that the appropriate sentence would be a fine; but the breadth of statutory powers did not provide assistance in setting the level of the fine.
Finally, the Court of Appeal observed, the judge was required by the Sentencing Guideline on over-arching principles and by s.164 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 to take account of the financial circumstances of the appellant. A victim surcharge order was also required by statute (see s.161A of the Criminal Justice Act 2003).
The Court of Appeal’s observations regarding financial benefit will be of particular interest to practitioners:
Whilst there is a temptation, given the broad sentencing canvas for this offence and absence of offence specific guidance to seize on this case as a benchmark, the Court of Appeal stressed that the decision in Bloor in no way “sets a tariff for other cases” (at ). An offence/ sentence under s.179(1) of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 will always be highly fact-specific.
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