A KEIGHLEY businessman has been fined £10,000 for failing to put right unauthorised engineering works at a rural site that began in 2017.

David Wallbank appeared at Bradford and Keighley Magistrates' Court on Thursday charged with being in contravention of an enforcement notice issued by Bradford Council in 2019.

He admitted the charge, which related to a large amount of soil deposited at the former Wicken Cragg Quarry site off Halifax Road, Cross Roads.

At the time the enforcement notice was issued, Wallbank, 62, of Higher Springhead, Oakworth, was director of Keighley Tree Services, based on the site.

The notice noted “excavated material” had been deposited on the site to form an embankment, and noted that the embankment was a “prominent and incongruous feature” in the area and would likely have an “indirect effect on the Sugden End Local Wildlife Site.

The court was told that the breaches had been ongoing for several years, and it was only when the Council began this prosecution that a retrospective planning application for the work was submitted.

Ruksana Kosser, prosecuting on behalf of the Council, said: “On December 15 the Council received a query about unauthorised work to land around Keighley Tree Services.

“In January 2018, a letter was sent to the owners explaining there was no record of any application for engineering works on the site.

“They would have to either show planning had been obtained, put in a retrospective application or address the breach by removing the unauthorised engineering works and restoring the land.”

Mrs Kosser said: “On January 25, officers visited and engineering works were still ongoing.

“Throughout 2018 to October 2019 numerous visits were made and each time it was obvious the engineering works were still in place.”

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Bradford and Keighley Magistrates CourtBradford and Keighley Magistrates Court (Image: newsquest)

Wallbank was served an enforcement notice in October 2019, giving him until early 2021 to restore the site.

She told Magistrates “The breach is still outstanding, and because of this failure to comply a prosecution was authorised.”

A retrospective application was submitted in 2021 for “the deposition of spoil, together with formation and use of areas for the storage of timber and ancillary activities.”

Planners refused that application over concerns it “will have an unacceptable adverse landscape” and over a lack of information into the work.

A new retrospective application was submitted to the Council after the prosecution proceedings began. It removes any reference to using the area to store timber, and is instead for “excavation of Wicken Crag quarry in order to remove land instability and deposition of resultant spoil onto ground.”

Mrs Kosser said: “Mr Wallbank is hoping this application will address the issues. It has been submitted, but that is not a confirmation that it will be granted. If the application is granted then the issue will be sorted, if not the breach remains outstanding and will have to be rectified.

“It is five years down the road and the issue is still outstanding. It took a prosecution for him to put another application in.”

Shemuel Sheikh, representing Wallbank, told the court: “The reason he moved this soil in the first place was because a landslip had damaged the property.

“There was water running into a substation. That was the reason the soil was moved, to secure the land.

“It was not a breach done deliberately without planning, it was for safety reasons.”

He said the work had cost Wallbank around £30,000, with Mr Sheikh adding: “If he didn’t move this soil it would damage his property.

“Rather than being an offence he benefitted from, it is one that has cost him a significant amount of money.”

The sawmill building on the site could have been “buried” if the work was not done, the court was told.

Mr Sheikh added: “Retrospective planning is not necessarily encouraged, but it is not unlawful. The new application will resolve all the issues raised in the previous refusal.

“Rather than deliberate breaches, he has pro-actively sought to resolve this matter through the planning process.”

He said there was “no evidence” the work had harmed wildlife.

When asked to reveal his income, a normal part of court proceedings so Magistrates can decide an appropriate fine, Mr Sheikh informed the court that his client was a “man of means” and would be able to pay any fine the court would impose.

He was handed a £10,000 fine and ordered to pay £2,685 in costs to the Council and a £190 surcharge.