Councillor continues his appeal against his own council
The appeal began in the last week of July and ran for four days, but had to be adjourned until this week in order to hear all the evidence. It began on Tuesday and continued through today (Wednesday).
Cllr Vaudry has consistently argued that the wedding events he has been holding at the property are “private” functions and not commercial ventures. In evidence in July he said that they were designed to prepare the way for commercial functions, but Gary Grant, the lawyer representing the district council, said the “private party tag was, and is, a fiction”.
At today's hearing Ray Perry, representing Dorsington Residents’ Association and Dorsington Parish Council, said Cllr Vaudry had used The Moat House to hold commercial activities on a number of occasions.
Mr Perry said Cllr Vaudry had extensively promoted his venue at The Moat House and subsequently held wedding breakfasts there. He said Cllr Vaudry also set up a company – The Moat House Ltd – and launched a website publicising the company.
“The appellant [Cllr Vaudry] did both of these things prior to making an application for a change of use to his residential property to hold such events,” said Mr Perry.
Mr Perry said Cllr Vaudry had continued to operate a business from The Moat House despite not having obtained planning approval to do so, and that the business he was running continued to cause harm to the residents of Dorsington.
At Tuesday’s hearing Alison Ogley, the lawyer representing Cllr Vaudry, challenged Roger Thatcher, the district council’s planning enforcement officer, about the validity of the enforcement notice. But Mr Thatcher said: “I was told that if a wedding event had taken place it was a breach of planning.”
Today, in a wide-ranging cross-examination of Richard Gardner, the district council planning official who took the decision to issue the enforcement notice, Ms Ogley asked: “A local authority can’t serve an enforcement notice because it thinks there will be a breach in the future, can it? Mr Gardner replied: “No.”
Ms Ogley said: “The council’s case rests upon an event that never took place.” She added: “You are putting two and two together and making six.”
And then she said: “Functions which are lawful have taken place. There is no evidence to suggest a breach.” But Mr Gardner replied: “There was plenty of evidence.”
Ms Ogley responded: “There is absolutely no evidence to justify any consideration by the council that unlawful functions had taken place on this site before the enforcement notice was served.”
The inspector, Paul Dignan, will announce his decision on the appeal in due course.