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Saturday, 12 July 2014

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Cumbrian plans boss’s caravan site ‘unauthorised’

The man in-charge of enforcing a council’s building regulations has been running a “unauthorised” caravan site for nearly two decades.

Paul Shankland photo
Paul Shankland

Paul Shankland, who oversees the building control team in Allerdale, has been in breach of planning laws for 17 years – with no enforcement action taken against him.

Officers from another of the departments at the council he works for wrote to him earlier this year to demand that he apply for a certificate of lawful use for Limestone Lodges in Bothel, which he has now done.

But the council only did so after it was prompted by a “third party” which had raised a number of questions about the planning status of the static holiday lodges run by Mr Shankland and his wife Diane as a private business.

That application is now working its way through the planning process.

James Sheppard of planning consultants GVA, representing Mr Shankland, wrote to the council to say: “The existing caravan site is considered to be an unauthorised development and has never been lawfully implemented under any planning permission.”

He added: “The purchase of the first caravan was completed in October 1994, with first occupation on April 17 1995. The change of use therefore commenced without the discharge of pre-commencement conditions. As such planning permission was never lawfully implemented and the development, i.e. change of use of the land, was as such in breach of planning control.”

Details of the planning breach have, however, raised a concern.

Tim Heslop, Allerdale Council’s Conservative group leader, said: “Obviously it doesn’t put the right image out. People get hauled over the coals for doing it in a private capacity and he is supposed to be setting an example.

“In that sort of situation you have to be whiter than white.”

Planning permission for a static caravan site had been granted in 1989 subject to a number of conditions, several of which had not been met.

Mr Shankland was originally told that the caravans could only be occupied between March 1 and November 14 but it is understood that caravans had been used for winter holiday lets since 1998.

At least one caravan was brought on to the site in May 2006, more than a year after planning permission for a variation of conditions had expired. Based on aerial photographs of he site, the council understands that at least two caravans placed on the site after 2000 “would appear to be unauthorised”.

The council also claimed in the letter to Mr Shankland that a number of access conditions have not been met. A site visit carried out in November of last year by Cumbria County Council highways department revealed that the access arrangements were not as conditioned.

When the News & Star asked the council why it had taken so long to act, a spokeswoman said: “Planning processes of 20 years ago were not as focused on compliance with planning conditions in the way that the council is today, but were reliant on complaints for contraventions to be investigated.

“It would not be appropriate for the council to comment further on the details of the application until the matter has been determined.”

The News & Star also contacted Mr Shankland at the council offices to ask for an explanation but he declined to comment.

In an email he said: “I confirmed when you called my office that I would appreciate it if you did not contact me about private business matters at my workplace.”

But when an attempt was made to reach him at home, his wife said she knew “nothing” about the issues raised.

Mr Sheppard has quoted planning law to argue that “no enforcement action may be taken” after the end of the period of 10 years beginning with the date of the initial breach.

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