Landowner faces jail as judge rejects claims his ‘hoarding disorder’ made it ‘impossible’ for him to tidy illegal dumping ground in Kent beauty spot
- Langley Beck, 59, is accused of ruining the 36-acre site at Boxley Wood, Kent
- High Court heard he could be given a jail sentence for breaching court orders
A landowner is facing up to two years in jail for turning his home in an area of outstanding natural beauty into a rubbish-strewn tip after a judge rejected his claims of a ‘hoarding disorder’.
Langley Beck, 59, has been locked in a decade-long dispute with a local council over his dumping ground of old vehicles and other items on his land in an ancient woodland which is part of a protected national beauty spot of the North Downs, Kent.
He is accused of ruining the 36-acre site at Boxley Wood – in the heart of the Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Maidstone Borough Council claimed it could take years for the natural environment to recover even after the items have been removed.
Now at the High Court, Mr Justice Sweeting has rejected Mr Beck’s claims that his ‘hoarding disorder’ made it ‘virtually impossible’ for him to tidy up the site, meaning he could now be jailed for up to two years for breaching court orders.
Langley Beck is accused of ruining the 36-acre site at Boxley Wood (pictured from above) – in the heart of the Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty
Mr Beck has been using the site as a dumping ground of old vehicles and other items
Langley Beck (pictured outside the High Court today), 59, could face up to two years in jail
The court heard that in April 2021, Mr Beck, who first moved there in 1984, was ordered to start clearing the land and move away, but had continued his dumping of waste.
Council barrister Scott Stemp said it had secured an injunction aimed at getting Mr Beck to clear up the land, which was covered in vehicles and vehicle bodies, tractors, tyres, wood, scrap, windows, caravans, portacabins and trailers.
But he failed to do so and instead dumped more items. He also lived in a mobile home – which was in breach of the court injunction.
‘The site is part of the Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, a designation which in planning terms attributes the highest level of protection,’ Mr Stemp told the judge.
‘It sits alongside the National Parks. There is also a tree preservation order and an ancient woodland designation.
‘It is not only a large area, but an increasing area over time which has been despoiled by Mr Beck and his activities.
‘There is a significant impact on what should be an area of outstanding natural beauty and woodland in terms of the harm being caused to the environment.’
Although some of the clutter had been moved since the 2021 order, Mr Beck admitted he was in breach by continuing to live there, by laying extra hardstanding and spreading more waste.
But he denied that he could be held in contempt of court, claiming his ‘hoarding disorder’ meant it was ‘near impossible’ for him to comply.
His barrister Rachel Sullivan said it was agreed that Mr Beck meets the criteria for a ‘hoarding disorder’ and ‘schizotypal personality disorder.’
The conditions mean he has a ‘rigid and paranoid way of thinking’ and is ‘not amenable to reason in respect of complying with the order,’ she said.
‘The effect of his hoarding disorder is that consideration of clearing the site also causes him agitation, and doing so would cause him considerable psychological distress, to the point at which he would be unable to do so without support,’ she added.
‘Hoarding disorders, by definition, include an inability by the individual to see their behaviours as problematic and difficulty discarding possessions due to the acute distress this causes.’
Mr Beck, who first moved to the site (pictured) in 1984, was ordered to start clearing the land and move away, but had continued his dumping of waste
The land was covered in vehicles and vehicle bodies, tractors, tyres, wood, scrap, windows, caravans, portacabins and trailers
Pictured here is the site from above
But Mr Stemp said that the council had got a second opinion from another medical expert, who agreed that Mr Beck is a hoarder, but said that was not the reason for his failure to clear the site.
‘The council submits that Mr Beck is not impeded in complying with the mandatory elements of the order by his hoarding disorder or any other matter, but simply that he believes he is entitled to do as he wishes with the land,’ Mr Stemp continued.
‘The breaches all occur because…Mr Beck does not believe he is accountable to the relevant authorities and believes he should be allowed to live how he wishes, regardless of the impact on others.’
Following a hearing at the High Court, Mr Justice Sweeting said he preferred the evidence of the council and found that Mr Beck’s condition did not prevent him complying with the order.
He found him in contempt of court, but said he would give his detailed reasons for doing so in a written ruling at a late date.
Sentencing was adjourned until June.
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