Challenge to polo pony ban at Easebourne fails in the High Court

Nick Clarke
Nick Clarke
Have your say

THE PATRON of a top-class polo team has failed in a High Court challenge to a decision which banned him from training polo ponies at Easebourne.

Nick Clarke’s high-goal team Salkeld is a regular at the prestigious Veuve Clicquot Gold Cup tournament at Cowdray Park.

Now he has been hit with a legal bill of £4,000 towards the government’s legal costs of defending the decision to ban his polo ponies.

Mr Justice Supperstone, sitting at the London court, refused Mr Clarke permission to appeal against a government planning inspector’s decision to uphold an enforcement notice issued against him by Chichester District Council on behalf of the South Downs National Park Authority.

The judge ruled Mr Clarke did not have an arguable case with which to challenge the enforcement notice, which alleged an unlawful change of use of a field at Brackenwood, Telegraph Hill.

The notice ordered him to discontinue the use of the land for the keeping and training of ponies, and to remove stable buildings, fencing, a horse walker and other structures.

The inspector rejected 
Mr Clarke’s appeal in January, but extended the deadline for compliance from three months to six months.

Peter Village QC had argued the mixed use had been going on at 
the site for more than ten years, and so had become immune from planning control.

He claimed the inspector had erred in his handling of the case and failed to apply the correct test when assessing the intensification of use on the site.

But, dismissing the case, the judge said: “In my view, it is not arguable that the inspector adopted the wrong approach.”

He backed the inspector’s finding that there had been an intensification of activities 
on the site following works 
carried out in 2005, and that this constituted a material change 
of use.

He said that the inspector had found that the works had resulted in a ‘significant change in the character and use of the land thereafter’.

He continued: “In my view 
this was a conclusion the 
inspector was entitled to reach on the evidence in the exercise of his judgment. This appeal is not arguable.”

“Having regard to the evidence before me, and comparing 
the nature of the field before 
and after these groundworks, I conclude they resulted in a significant and material change 
in the character of the use of 
the land.

“At this point there was a step change which was more than just an increase in the number of horses.

“The very nature of the land was radically altered to facilitate the keeping, riding and exercising of polo horses the number of which has risen markedly from the 
pre-autumn 2005 situation.