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Planning hit by test case on Human Rights legislation

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The planning system was thrown into disarray last week when the builder of a house that broke planning rules used the new Human Rights Act to prevent its demolition. New Forest District Council officials will meet barristers within days to discuss appealing the decision in the courts.

Ken Duffy was told to tear down his house near Lyndhurst last summer for building it bigger than the permission allowed. But the inspector hearing Duffy's appeal agreed that the council's decision should take second place to his right to a 'private and family life, his home and correspondence' enshrined in Article 8 of the Human Rights Act.

'We think the inspector got it wrong; but if he's right, the implications for the planning system are tremendous, ' said Chris Elliot, head of development control at the council. 'If someone can break all the rules, where does that leave the system? We have an obligation to challenge this in the courts.'

Permission was granted for a small bungalow in 1995, after which foundations were laid. Duffy bought the site three years later and continued building, but only after destroying part of the original foundations, altering the orientation of the house and increasing its size. Importantly, the house was meant to serve as accommodation for workers on a farm, although agricultural activity ceased when Duffy bought the land in 1997.

'The sheer size and scale of the works represent a significant departure from the original plans, ' said Elliot. 'We'd been giving Duffy advice for more than a year, but he continued arguing with us. Few people would ignore such clear advice.'

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