Teignbridge Council has found itself in the unusual position of having to fend off what appears, at first glance, to be an imperial invasion of the A38 in Devon. The AT-ST Scout Walker, most famously used by the ground forces of the Galactic Empire in the battle for Endor, appeared in a field alongside the A38 just outside of Ashburton a couple of weeks ago.
Unfortunately, the owner of the field did not obtain planning permission for the installation, and the Council's planning enforcement team are now involved. Although taking on Scout Walkers is a role usually reserved for Ewoks, in the event that the breach of planning control is not rectified, the Town & Country Planning Act 1990 could serve just as well.
The Scout Walker would have required planning permission either for the construction of a permanent structure, or (alternatively), for the change of use of the field on which it was sited- provided that it was kept in place for more than 21 days - which certainly seems to be the Owner, Paul Parker's, intention.
In a comment, which I am proposing to nominate for 'best Council response of the year', a spokesperson from Teignbridge Council is reported to have said*
"We’ve checked with our planning senators and it appears that something may have been lost in translation through our communication with Mr Parker.
“The enforcement notice is not strong with this and has definitely not been issued. However, we have given written advice on options available to Mr Parker.”
Presumably one of these options was to apply for retrospective planning permission for the model. Hopefully, the application will be successful, so that Imperial Forces can continue to threaten passing vehicles for many years to come.
In other (less entertaining) news, the Welsh Planning Court has issued an extremely helpful ruling on the scope of amendments to planning conditions that can be made under s.73 of the Town & Country Planning Act 1990.
In Finney v Ministers & Others**, the Planning Court confirmed that " a variation pursuant to section 73 can be lawful notwithstanding that it may necessitate a variation to the terms of the planning permission which preceded the section 73 application."*^ provided that the variation does not create a fundamental alteration to the original permission. In this case the amendment would have required a change to the description of development on the original planning permission; as the tip height of the wind turbines at the centre of the case were to increase from 100m metres to 125 metres.
The case has been widely reported (hence it only being a foot note in this post), but the judgment is definitely worth reading in full, not least as I suspect it will be very heavily relied on in appeals for quite some time.
* to I-News - article can be found here: https://inews.co.uk/news/star-wars-at-st-walker-model-teignbridge-council-devon-removal/
** EWHC 3073 (Admin) - full judgment can be found here: https://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Admin/2018/3073.html
*^ para 39
Paul Parker has installed a model of an Imperial scout walker.... by the side of the A38 a mile outside Ashburton, Devon. But Teignbridge Council has given him 21 days to tear the £12,000 model down - and people aren't happy. Paul put the AT-ST there two weeks ago to create a local landmark and talking point similar to the Willow Man statue beside the M5 in Somerset, and to create interest in the market town. But he received a letter from Teignbridge District Council saying he had 21 days to remove it because he didn’t have planning permission. More than 850 people have now signed a petition telling Teignbridge council this is not the droid they're looking for.