A South Normanton parish councillor claims there is a 'political vendetta' against him after a court ordered him to remove a high fence from his property.
BNP member Brian Edwards (61), of Carr Lane, appeared before Derby Magistrates' Court last Thursday after an enforcement order was issued by Bolsover District Council. Appearing in front of Judge Caroline Golbourn, Edwards admitted failing to remove a two-metre high steel palisade fence from his Market Street house in South Normanton.
The long running feud began in April 2007 when the fence's height came to the attention of the council's planning officers who said it breached town and country planning laws. Legislation states that a development must have planning permission if the height of any gate or fence adjacent to a vehicular highway exceeds one metre above ground level. An enforcement notice ordered Edwards to either remove the fence or cut it down to one metre and the appeal he then lodged was dismissed by a planning inspector in April.
Edwards failed to adhere to the notice and in June, the council wrote to him threatening him with legal action if he did not comply –– but the parish councillor ignored the final warning.
Prosecutor Kevin Shillitto told the court that Edwards had broken town and country planning laws and showed Judge Golbourn photographs of the fence. Said Judge Golbourn: "I am going to impose a fine, I am not here to negotiate with you because this has been going on too long and Bolsover District Council has been more than fair."
Edwards was fined £500, ordered to pay the council's courts costs of £550 and a £15 victim surcharge. But speaking after last Thursday's ruling, Edwards says he has been discriminated against for his political beliefs.
"I think there is a political vendetta against myself –– my political beliefs have nothing to do with the way I should be treated by Bolsover District Council. I have a friend on the council who says the ruling is because they vote for a different political party to me."
Edwards says there are other fences in South Normanton exceeding the one-metre height limit and the law should apply to everyone.
"I offered to move the fence back a metre, but the council said no –– I was told to put it up after advice from the police because the original fence was knocked down in a car crash," he said.
Edwards works as a handyman and inherited the house which he rents out as a source of income.
"Thousands of people in Derbyshire are breaking the law every week and I would like Bolsover District Council to tell people of these rules," he added. "I have no objection to moving the fence but if the law is to work, it has to apply to everyone."
But a spokesman for Bolsover District Council says the enforcement order has nothing to do with Edwards' political beliefs and was a simple breach of regulations.
"This is an instance where there has been blatant disregard for the law," he said. "We gave the defendant every opportunity to remove or rectify the fence, but he chose not to, so we had no option but to take him to court so we can preserve and protect the local environment."