An illegal airport car park in Copthorne for around 800 vehicles has left two Crawley men having to find more than £50,000.
According to a Mid Sussex District Council statement, in 2014 the Directors of Airport Parking Limited, Mr Imran Shahid and Mr Tariq Wasi, converted land at Lower Hollow Copse in Copthorne into an unauthorised car park.
The land was used to store the cars of holiday-makers travelling from nearby Gatwick Airport but Mr Shahid and Mr Wasi failed to apply for the necessary planning permission.
Following complaints from the public, Mid Sussex District Council’s Planning Enforcement Team issued them with a Stop Notice but they failed to comply and continued to trade at the site. As a result the local authority took the decision to pursue the matter through the courts.
Mid Sussex District Council worked in partnership with Surrey County Council Trading Standards team to prosecute Airport Parking Limited and pursue a Confiscation Order under the Proceeds of Crime Act.
On February 13 at Worthing Magistrates’ Court, Mr Shahid and Mr Wasi pleaded guilty to failing to comply with Mid Sussex District Council’s Stop Notice. They were sentenced at Chichester Crown Court last week where they each received a fine of £3,000,
Airport Parking Limited was fined a nominal sum of £100 and a Victim Surcharge of £120 was imposed. The Judge also ordered the men to pay Mid Sussex District Council’s costs of £9,500.
The Council also sought a Confiscation Order under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002. The defendants accepted that they had benefitted to the tune of £34,578 by ignoring the Stop Notice and continuing to run the car park for a further 11 days. The Crown Court Judge ordered that the full amount be confiscated.
The council statement adds that this is not the first time Airport Parking Ltd has been in trouble with the authorities. In August 2015 the company pleaded guilty to eight offences under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations, having stated on their website that customers’ cars would be parked securely when they were actually left unlocked in fields. A fine of £6,000 was imposed by Crawley Magistrates Court for the offences.
“This is the first time that we have used the Proceeds of Crime Act and it has sent a clear message: you will not be able to profit from ignoring planning regulations,” said Councillor Andrew MacNaughton, Cabinet Member for Planning.
“Planning laws are in place for a reason; they protect the local environment from inappropriate development and give the people who will be affected by the scheme a chance to have their say. I hope this prosecution shows that if you try to bypass the planning system we will take action and pursue the matter through the courts if necessary.”
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