Man, 88, who knocked down wall he built in the 70s threatened with prison after removing part of it without consent

Somerset Council claimed it was a historic wall in a conservation area and ordered the man to rebuild the wall
Somerset Council claimed it was a historic wall in a conservation area (Image credit: Google)

A grandfather claims he may be forced to sell his home after spending thousands in a dispute over removing a wall. 

Ron Knight, 88, has spent six years in a planning permission legal battle over some farmland in the village of Milborne Port, Somerset. 

Now he has vowed to “die in prison” after four court appearances and £3,200 in fines.

What is the planning dispute?

Mr Knight and his two brothers sold off Cannon Court Farm in 1990 but a small parcel of land stayed within in their ownership, and they were therefore responsible for its upkeep. 

Access to the parcel of land via existing roads was blocked off after the property's new owner extended the farm and its buildings, so Mr Knight removed a section of the boundary wall, which he built in the 70s, in October 2017 so he could use mowers and hedge trimmers to maintain the land, without knowing it required planning permission.

He was then sent an enforcement notice, which he did not respond to, and subsequently appeared in court, incurring thousands in fines.

Why was planning permission needed to remove the wall?

Somerset Council claimed it was a historic wall in a conservation area and he needed planning permission to knock it down. 

A spokesperson told Homebuilding & Renovating: "The property is within a Conservation Area where there are tighter controls over what development needs planning permission.

“We consider that the creation of the access, necessitating the demolition or removal of a wide section of the historic stonewall and associated engineering work to the land behind, fails to safeguard the established character of the conservation area and has caused unjustified harm to a designated heritage asset.”

The whole of Milborne Port was made a conservation area, areas of special architectural or historic interest, in 1988.

The village of Milbourne Port nestled amongst fields of crops and pasture in south Somerset, England

Somerset Council said the removal of the wall required planning permission as Milborne Port is a conservation area and the removal "caused unjustified harm to a designated heritage asset” (Image credit: Getty Images)

'Prepared to go to jail' rather than pay fines

After three court appearances, Mr Knight submitted a planning application seeking retrospective planning permission for changes to be made to the boundary wall but the council said he could not apply for planning permission while still under enforcement action. 

According to Section 70C of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, local councils have the legal right to decline making a decision on any application when the property is under enforcement action. 

The council spokesperson added: “The retrospective planning application was asking for the same requirements as the enforcement notice. We have applied the expediency test and public interest test to each step of this case.

In October, Ron was told by a judge that he would face 45 days in prison unless he rebuilt the wall and repaid all fines. But Ron told the MailOnline: “Standing up for myself and being prepared to go to jail is the only way I can see to get anyone to see sense.

“If going to prison is the last thing I do on this earth, I will do it to stop this madness.”

Sam Webb

Sam is based in Coventry and has been a news reporter for nearly 20 years. His work has featured in the Mirror, The Sun, MailOnline, the Independent, and news outlets throughout the world.  As a copywriter, he has written for clients as diverse as Saint-Gobain, Michelin, Halfords Autocentre, Great British Heating, and Irwin Industrial Tools. During the pandemic, he converted a van into a mini-camper and is currently planning to convert his shed into an office and Star Wars shrine.