Retired butcher takes first step in fight for enforcement home case

RETIRED butcher John Gawthorp headed into court on Wednesday claiming to be “the little man fighting the sharks” as he began a legal battle against Fenland District Council.

Mr Gawthorp and his wife Elaine are protesting over a �7,000 bill from the council who ordered their dream home to be burned to the ground. They claim the work could have been carried out for just �250.

The Gawthorps want a massive reduction in the bill and further compensation for devaluation of the land which they claim was poisoned by toxic waste from the fire.

Three years after bailiffs destroyed their wooden stable home at Bedlam Bridge near March, the couple believe they are a step nearer getting justice after a first appearance before a district judge at Peterborough County Court.

Before entering court Mr Gawthorp said: “I am feeling fairly confident about this but the council are clever people and I am only the little man fighting the sharks. When people found out how much the council had charged us they thought it was just a joke.”

Mr and Mrs Gawthorp said they were determined to fight to the end to get some closure over the bitter legal wrangle which began when the council accused the Gawthorps of not having the necessary planning permission to live in the stables.

Mr Gawthorp told District Judge Farquhar that one company told him they could have carried out the demolition and cleared the site for �250. He said he also had a report on the soil toxicity supporting his claims of land devaluation.

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The couple have since sold the land which Mr Gawthorp paid �35,000 for and agreed to sell for �25,000 and a car in lieu of payment.

Ian Hunt, legal services manager for Fenland Council, called for a full disclosure of the chemical test report and the conveyancing file covering the sale of the land. Judge Farquhar said it may be necessary for an up to date examination of the land to be carried out.

Mr Hunt said: “There could be a counter argument that because it didn’t have planning permission for any residential accommodation and there was the enforcement followed by direct action that the devaluation could have been ‘loss of hope’ value.”

Both parties will return to court in six weeks time.

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