‘Health hazard’ land to be cleared after 12-year battle


LAND littered with building materials, vehicles and white goods will be cleared after a council’s 12-year battle with an Oving landowner.

Chichester District Council’s (CDC) development control commitee unanimously voted in favour of enforcement action today in relation to land in Decoy Lane.

CDC issued enforcement notices in 2005 for the clearance of land and demolition of unauthorised buildings – but no action had been taken by landowner Malcolm Smith to clear the site.

Mr Smith believes the council could have done more to negotiate.

Committee chairman Bob Hayes said: “No decision is taken lightly. In recent years it is the first one and given that the site is on the railway line as you go by, it is not a good representation of Chichester.

“The commmunity has been complaining since 2003 and we have tried to negotiate very hard with the landowner.

“We have gone to appeal, we have had a public inquiry and had two prosecutions, all of which the landowner has lost.”

The saga started in 2003, after complaints were received over the use of the agricultural land.

CDC judged the land was being used for storage – not farming – while buildings had been constructed without planning permission.

Mr Smith challenged the issuing of enforcement notices at a public inquiry in 2006 but lost.

The authority took him to court for failing to comply with the notices in 2008 and March this year, with action still not taken.

Contractors will now forcibly clear the site, following the committee’s decision.

Councillors read a representation from a neighbour of Mr Smith, who described the site as an ‘eyesore’.

They said: “There are three vehicles at the top of the drive and rubbish in black bags or carrier bags.

“The land is an eyesore, fire risk and health hazard.”

Mr Smith told the Observer he had unsuccessfully applied for planning permission last year to complete the buildings, which would have enabled him to tidy up the land.

He said the council had not done enough to agree with him what items were needed for agricultural purposes and which needed to be cleared.

“There is blame on both sides,” he said.

“There is never a clear-cut thing. There are probably some items I could have got rid of earlier.

“I will fight it but will also be clearing stuff. That is what my intention has been for several months.”

Mr Smith, who has suffered from a series of health problems, still hopes to gain permission for the buildings and farm again.

A council report states items found on the land included vehicles, vehicle parts, building materials, wood, metal, wheels, scaffolding, lorry and van bodies, a freezer, plastic piping, wire caging, tyres, plastic crates and buckets, trailer bodies dismantled wooden structures, a forklift trick, flatbed lorry, horse box, skip, rubble and metal angle posts.

Mr Smith will have a chance to remove any items before contractors move in.