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.