“Disgraced former councillor seeks to make Ottery St Mary farm house lawful – after a decade breaching planning condition”

The article below has just been put on line by the Express & Echo and outlines an application by former councillor, Graham Brown, to be heard later this month by Ottery Town Council.

Graham BrownIt seems that every twist and turn of the planning process is known to this planning consultant.

A disgraced former councillor is seeking a ‘certificate of lawfulness’ for his Ottery St Mary farm house – after breaching a planning condition for more than a decade.

Graham Brown, who is also a past chairman of the controversial East Devon Business Forum, is applying on the basis he has not been using the house to conduct agriculture from – a condition of the original planning permission.

In March last year, former Feniton and Buckerell councillor Mr Brown resigned his seat after he was caught on camera boasting that he could secure planning permission as part of his professional work as a planning consultant.

It is not illegal for councillors to work as paid consultants.

At the time, Cllr Brown defended making his controversial comments on camera, claiming he was speaking to reporters – who were posing as workers for an overseas investment company – in his role as a planning consultant, not as a councillor.

But the council’s Conservative leader Paul Diviani said Cllr Brown had “brought himself, the party and council into disrepute with his comments”.

As well as being suspended from the East Devon Conservative Party, he was removed as the council’s member champion for business and tourism.

At Monday’s meeting of Ottery St Mary Town Council Planning Committee, an application by Mr Brown for a certificate of lawfulness “for the occupation of an existing dwelling in breach of a restrictive condition for a period in excess of 10 years” was discussed.

Having bought Ware Farm some years prior and converting several outhouses into properties and selling them, in 2000 Mr Brown applied to build a new farm house to live in.

But East Devon District Council only granted permission if the home was to be occupied by a person “solely or mainly” working in agriculture.

However in documents attached to the certificate of lawfulness application, Mr Brown seeks to prove that he did not in fact use the house for agricultural business and therefore is in breach of the condition he was originally granted approval.

Under Local Government legislation, if an applicant can prove that they have been living in breach of the condition for more than 10 years, the breach can be used to support an application for permission for continued noncompliance.

And where there has been a breach of planning control, no enforcement action may be taken after the end of 10 years beginning with the date of the breach.

The accompanying report to the application states that “in the years immediately following the erection of the consented farmhouse, Mr Brown’s farming activities diminished as his other activities and commercial interests took precedence”.

The application is due to be discussed by Ottery St Mary Town Council later this month.

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3 Responses to “Disgraced former councillor seeks to make Ottery St Mary farm house lawful – after a decade breaching planning condition”

  1. Sandra Semple says:

    Described himselt as a farmer on his Register of Interests at EDDC, represented the National Farmers Union on the East Devon Business Forum. As the Inspector at the EDDC secrecy hearing said of the reports of the “embedded officer/consultant” whose reports had front and back sheets of the consultancy company but were claimed as the work of a so-called embedded officer: “It walked like a duck, it quacked like a duck – what did members think it was?”. Unfortunately, EDDC’s barrister stopped their man from responding!

  2. Paul says:

    Perhaps most importantly, Graham Brown declared to EDDC in 2012 in his official Register of Interests (a document required by law – possible perjury if he lied?) at http://www.eastdevon.gov.uk/roi_graham_brown_2012.pdf that he was a farmer.

  3. Paul says:

    P.S. It seems to me that EDDC should now:

    1. Refuse his request for a certificate of lawfulness on the grounds that he has previously declared to EDDC in 2012 that he was a farmer, and so it has not been 10 years (or even 4 years) since he was a farmer.

    2. Force him to sell his house to an agricultural worker as he is declared no longer an agricultural worker and therefore no longer qualifies to live there.

    3. Report him to the police for fraud. He can’t have it both ways – either his RoI declaration was a lie or his application for a certificate of lawfulness was a lie.

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