The owners of a Warwickshire chicken processing plant have been hit with fines totalling almost £250,000 following a disputed planning case.
The Summers family, which runs Summers Poultry Products of Tanworth in Arden near Solihull, had previously pleaded guilty before Leamington magistrates on charges of failing to comply with a planning enforcement notice.
But at a sentencing hearing before Warwickshire Crown Court in early October, fines of £27,000 plus costs of £69,000 were levied against the family’s land owning company, Summers Holdings.
Unusually for a planning dispute, the court also added a confiscation order of £129,000 under the Proceeds of Crime Act. This is because the court ruled that the company had benefited from illegal activity.
The court heard the dispute began in 2007, when Summers Holdings erected two new buildings – a lairage and a chilling unit – adjacent to the chicken slaughterhouse. The family argued that they needed to do this to modernise the plant and make it conform to current hygiene standards.
But local authority planners objected to the new buildings, saying they were on green belt land and did not have the correct planning permissions.
Evidence was given that enforcement orders were issued, but they were not complied with. Two local public enquires were held over the issue. It is understood the two buildings have now been dismantled.
Confirming the level of fines, Mr Recorder Bright said: “This has been a serious and persistent breach of the necessary compliance with the enforcement notice over a sustained period of time – 302 days. The abuse of planning process was deliberate, with the aim of retaining the structure for the maximum period possible.”
Following the ruling, company directors declined to comment further.