PUBLISHED: 11:40 01 September 2006 | UPDATED: 19:47 01 June 2010
A LONG running planning row took a dramatic twist this week as bulldozers crushed an illegal barn at the centre of the controversy. Fenland District Council ordered the demolition, stating that it had no choice after the owner had consistently flouted the
A LONG running planning row took a dramatic twist this week as bulldozers crushed an illegal barn at the centre of the controversy.
Fenland District Council ordered the demolition, stating that it had no choice after the owner had consistently flouted the law after being given more than a year to remove the barn himself.
Councillor Fred Yeulett, the council's portfolio holder for enforcement, said: "It is not acceptable for people to flout the law. Building dwellings without permission is a flagrant breach of law and we will not allow it.
"All breaches will be pursued with vigour in order to protect the environment and other residents who may be affected by unlawful developments."
But the Wisbech businessman who owns the barn says Tuesday's action was wilful criminal damage.
Leonard Fulcher said: "I am a nervous wreck. They have destroyed everything and acted like vandals. They have just completely blitzed the site, I asked them to have compassion but it was no good. I will be taking legal advice to see where I go from here."
His agent, Peter Humphrey, said: "I am just gobsmacked by the council's attitude. They have been heavy handed and arrogant.
"They were out on a crusade to get
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him and have used him as an example. The poor bloke nearly had a breakdown."
Councillor Simon King, a Fenland councillor who recently met Mr Fulcher to help resolve the issue, said: "Lack of communication has been a feature of this whole long-running saga, I am just very, very sorry it came to this."
Contractors turned up at the barn, on a smallholding in Bedford Row, Foul Anchor, early on Tuesday, despite Mr Fulcher claiming he had already begun demolishing it himself.
He says he had already started dismantling the barn with a view to erecting it on another site. He was staggered to receive a call from a neighbour telling him the bulldozers were moving on to his land.
Mr Fulcher originally planned to live in the converted barn and claimed it had been re-assessed for domestic use and he was even paying council tax.
But he was accused of breaching planning consent and ended up in court where he was fined £2,500 and ordered to pay the same again in costs after failing to comply with two enforcement notices.
Last October he hoped to bring planners back to the negotiating table by returning the three-acre site to its 1930s use - a pig farm. The pigs were happy but the council was not.
Mr Fulcher said at the time: "I am going to make Fenland District Council wish they had never heard of me."
The council is unrepentant about its enforcement and said Tuesday's action came after a four-year battle to get the barn removed.
A council spokesman said the 'barn' resembled a house, complete with windows and doors.
In 2002 the council issued enforcement notices requiring Mr Fulcher to stop developing the site for residential, domestic and hobby purposes. It said all buildings, structures and containers should be removed. He was given one month to comply - but refused and was prosecuted twice.
In July last year the council was given approval to take action and was given the go-ahead to demolish the buildings and clear the site.
Mr Fulcher thought the council was aware of his intention to dismantle the barn following a recent meeting between council officials, Councillor King and planning consultant Mr Humphrey.
Mr Humphrey said: "We were told one of the options would be that Mr Fulcher could take the barn down himself and he had already started to do that. The council said it would be monitoring the situation so they must have known Mr Fulcher had already taken half the roof off.
Cllr Simon King said: "The council had been authorised by the planning committee to take enforcement action several months ago. I am very sorry this has happened but it underlines the importance of people getting planning permission before putting up buildings."
Cllr King said Mr Fulcher should have informed the council he was in the process of taking down the barn.