Landowner who defied council and court jailed for 28 days

A POWYS landowner will spend Christmas behind bars after he was jailed for 28 days by magistrates in Merthyr Tydfil on Wednesday.

Eddie McIntosh, 54, was led away in handcuffs after refusing to pay an £850 fine in relation to a 2019 crown court conviction. Mr McIntosh was found guilty after trial in February 2019 of 15 charges of breaking planning laws by failing to comply with planning enforcement notices served on him by Powys County Council.

He was convicted at Merthyr Crown Court and ordered to pay £850 within 12 months or face 28 days in prison. Facing a charge of non-payment of fine, he was jailed by magistrates on Wednesday and will serve his sentence at HMP Cardiff.

Mr McIntosh told the court: “Firstly, this fine is unaffordable to me. I am at the end of a seven-year legal battle that has severely disadvantaged my life, marriage and business.

“Secondly, accepting this fine would be tantamount to accepting criminality for making a firepit, a recycling point, even a wooden footbridge over a ditch, on a farm that I own.

“The council’s overreach and gross misrepresentation of the Town and Country Planning Act should not be regularised as acceptable behaviour.

“I feel compelled not to accept this fine because it is in fact a paradox of law. The fine creates an impossible contradiction. Powys County Council prosecuted me for not demolishing various structures. Yet just a few weeks later, with no change to the farm, they granted all structures full planning permission.

“How can I be guilty and innocent of the same charge at the same time?”

Mr McIntosh, who owns Mellowcroft, a smallholding in Llandegley, near Llandrindod Wells, was fully prepared for a custodial sentence – saying on Tuesday that his “bags are packed”. He refused point black to pay the fine having subsequently received retrospective planning permission on the property in July 2019 and seeing a further application to convert and change the use of a welfare cabin into a rural enterprise dwelling ratified in January of this year.

The council said the planning permission only related to buildings used for agricultural use but Mr McIntosh argued the July 2019 verdict included all associated works, covering everything previously enforced upon him by the local authority.

County Times:

The tree house folly built solely from recycled/donated materials on Mr McIntosh’s premises. It has since been demolished.

He refused to pay the outstanding amount out of principal, claiming receiving the green light annulled the original offence, and should mean his fines are quashed.

He contacted the council on the morning of his hearing, requesting they pay his fine for him, but it is believed they refused.

The council are also believed to have already spent in excess of £60,000 in legal fees and enforcement action against Mr McIntosh.

“I’m fully expecting to be jailed on Wednesday and my bags are packed,” Mr McIntosh told the County Times on the eve of his case.

“I tried to stand my ground from the start and I’m fully prepared to stand up for what I believe in.

“I’m divorced from my wife, this put an incredible amount of pressure on us, it financially stripped us, but I couldn’t walk away, it made me sick.

“I know that prison will cost the taxpayer even more money, and I regret this. But I cannot morally condone the fine and accept criminal charges. And if standing up for what is right means going to prison, I’ll face the consequences.”

Eco-entrepreneur Mr McIntosh bought Mellowcroft, a smallholding formerly known as Rowton Farm, via auction in 2006, following on from a documentary programme he had been part of which restored derelict properties.

He planned to restore the Radnorshire property and transform it into a natural holistic retreat – initially making changes such as building a recycling point, a firepit and a pallet footbridge across a ditch.

The council served its first enforcement notice in December 2013 and at a 2015 public inquiry, the planning inspectorate reached a split decision on Mellowcroft’s 18 alleged breaches of planning – which included a compost loo, wooden stock fencing and a wind turbine the size of a Range Rover wheel. Three of the 18 charges were removed at the 2019 trial.

In January 2016, Mr McIntosh was told the site could be used for agricultural purposes but the inspectorate ruled the development did not have permission for recreational use, including use as a retreat, or for residential purposes.

His 2019 trial heard the defendant had built wooden structures to create a rural retreat at Mellowcroft which did not have planning permission.

County Times | Llandrindod Wells & Rhayader