A man living in a horsebox on private land faces an uncertain future as the battle continues to keep him off the streets.
Steve Tremmel has been living in a converted horsebox on private land in Coolham for nearly six years.
The 52-year-old has permission to stay on the land by owner Mike Corby however, Horsham District Council has served Mr Corby an enforcement notice for the unauthorised stationing of a vehicle for residential purposes.
After years of battling the notice Mr Corby was taken to court and on Friday Magistrates ruled that he had not complied with the notice.
However, despite the ruling no further direction was given by the court or the council on what will happen next, plunging Mr Tremmel’s future into doubt.
Speaking after the hearing Mr Tremmel said: “I’m somewhat perplexed really. I don’t fully understand what’s happened actually. The outcome looks like I am going to be homeless.
“I am worried because I have nowhere to go.”
Mr Corby added: “The big question now is what is going to happen to Steve? Do the council want him to go and live on the streets? If they don’t, and they should be ashamed of themselves even if they were to consider it, they should now be contacting both of us and working out a solution.”
During the hearing the court heard how Mr Corby had given permission for Mr Tremmel to live on his land six years ago.
An agreement was made between the pair that Mr Tremmel would be allowed to stay if he looked after Mr Corby’s sheep and cattle as well as act as security for the manor.
Mr Corby told the court: “Since he has been there I have had one break-in instead of the four or five robberies I had previously.”
The court heard an enforcement notice to remove the horsebox from the land and to cease its occupation was served by the council in July 2016.
Helen Sissons, principal planning officer for Horsham District Council said the action was taken against Mr Corby as he was the landowner. The court also heard Mr Corby now owned the horsebox after buying it from Mr Tremmel to give him money to visit his dying father.
After receiving the notice an appeal was made by Mr Corby to the planning inspectorate and inspectors carried out a visit to the site. In August 2017 the inspector ruled in the favour of the council and Mr Corby was given six months to comply with the notice.
Mr Corby argued Miss Sissons had called Mr Tremmel at the beginning of the process and stated there was a ‘grey area in the law’. He said they were told if the horsebox was moved further up the track it would be acceptable for him to stay.
He said: “You left him a telephone message which we all heard and in it you said this was a grey area where the law was concerned and where planning was concerned.”
No message was played in court and Miss Sissons said the conversation was two years ago and she had could not recall what had been said.
However, she said meetings had been held with the pair where they had discussed moving the horsebox closer to the manor.
She said: “We had discussions that if it was moved up right to the house it might be a suitable resolution.”
However, she added a planning application would also be needed for the use of the vehicle as a dwelling which so far hadn’t been submitted.
Mr Corby also argued the horsebox was situated on land he classed as his garden and thought it was acceptable to keep the horsebox on his residential curtilage.
Miss Sissons said there had been discussions that this would ‘possibly be acceptable’ however the land where the horsebox was currently located was not recognised in planning terms as his residential curtilage.
The notice stated Mr Corby had to remove the horsebox from his land and cease it occupation by February last year.
He argued he couldn’t remove Mr Tremmel in February as the district was struck by the extremely cold weather brought on by the ‘beast from the east’ and no accommodation had been found for him.
He said no alternative accommodation had yet been found and although he had looked into taking further action to evict him from the site he did not want to leave Mr Tremmel on the streets.
He added: “I have been trying to comply with everything. I might not be complying with the enforcement order but how could anybody want to leave him on the streets.”
A tearful Mr Tremmel told the court he had been talking to the council about getting accommodation since the notice was first issued.
He explained he worked as a carer looking after vulnerable adults with dementia and he was worried there was no accommodation nearby that he could afford to allow him to keep doing his job.
He said: “I don’t want to lose my job. I am good at my job and I like the clients I work for.”
Magistrates said they sympathised with Mr Tremmel’s situation but found Mr Corby had ‘not taken all the reasonable steps’ to comply with the order.
They said the maximum sentence they could give Mr Corby was a £20,000 fine but he was given a conditional discharge for 12 months and ordered to pay £520 in court costs.
Speaking after the hearing Mr Corby said: “Obviously I am very very disappointed. I can understand their ruling that I was guilty because the enforcement order was not obliged or complied with.
“All I have been trying to do is to help somebody get through life and it seems pointless even thinking about being a good samaritan as all you do by trying to help is get fined and get enforcement orders thrown at your door.”
Mr Tremmel added: “I just want to continue living in peace in my current situation.
“I am sad because I do look at it from a humanitarian position. Logic could have prevailed in all of this.”