James is a Partner and Head of the Dispute Resolution team and primarily handles commercial…View Profile View all
Our litigation team has recently assisted a company which was served with a Notice under s.43 of the Antisocial Behaviour, Crime & Policing Act 2014. The Notice, served by Kirklees Council, alleged that land owned by the company was, “defaced by refuse so as to have a detrimental effect, of a persistent or continuing nature, on the quality of life of those in the locality.” The company owns old mill premises which are let to a variety of tenants including two engineering businesses. The complaint was about material which had been placed on the edge of the mill carpark.
The carpark was completely hidden from the view of any houses in the area; it was in an elevated position and surrounded by trees. The nearest houses which could be seen from the carpark were some half a kilometre away across a valley. The only people who could see the material were people who parked their vehicles on the carpark and either worked at the mill, or were visiting the mill. No one had complained to the company.
The company appealed against the Notice under s.46 of the Act arguing that the placing of material on the edge of the carpark did not have a detrimental effect on the quality of life of those in the locality, was not of a persistent or continuing nature, was not unreasonable conduct or use of the land and in any event the time specified for compliance with the Notice was unreasonable.
The material consisted largely of rubble which had been taken from the company’s premises during maintenance work, vegetation and the resultant chippings which were used by the company’s gardener on its grounds and safety barriers which were used from time to time when maintenance woks were being undertaken at the site.
The Council initially refused to withdraw the Notice when approached by Schofield Sweeney who then lodged an appeal with Kirklees Magistrates’ Court. After the case was set down for trial, the Council withdrew the Notice.
The company’s principal argument was that there was no detriment to the quality of life of those in the community because of the nature of the position in which the material was placed and the use made of the carpark. Home Office guidelines provide before issuing such a Notice, officers should speak to members of the community to gain a proper understanding of the harm which was being caused to individuals and the community. The guidelines also stated that, “agencies should have sufficient evidence to satisfy themselves that the behaviour in question is genuinely having a detrimental effect on others’ quality of life, in terms of nuisance or harm that has been caused to others, rather than being behaviour that others may just find annoying.”
If a Community Protection Notice is served and not complied with, a criminal offence is committed which can lead to prosecution and a fine, which in the case of the company can be up to £20,000. The Local Authority can enter upon the land to clear the offending material and make a charge to the owner/occupier for that work.
If you are served with such a Notice, you should act quickly, as any appeal to the Magistrates must be lodged within 21 days of receipt of the Notice.