A director of North Herts Farmers has been fined more than £44,000 and given a curfew for breaching planning laws.

William Ashley was fined £44,263.62 at St Albans Crown Court, having admitted to making a false or misleading statement to gain an established use certificate for the building, and for failing to comply with a breach of a condition notice.

The 63-year-old must pay £10,000 in three months and then at a rate of £1,000 a month, as well as being placed under an electronically-monitored curfew between 6.30pm and 3.30am.

In 2011, he was granted permission by East Herts Council to construct six units for shared living and working spaces at Monks Green Farm in Brickendon, but tenancy agreements from 2013 showed they had been used only as single dwelling houses.

"Mr Ashley knows the planning system well," said prosecutor Andrew Johnson. 

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"He was a councillor on East Hertfordshire Council and served as chairman of development management committee. Planning laws were not alien to him."

Christian Jowett, defending, said Ashley's parents had purchased the farm in the 1950s and it was run as a family business, with the money obtained from the residential lettings only contributing to a modest income.

"He has exemplary character reference and has served his local community well," he continued.

"He has been a director of North Herts Farmers for 35 years, served 28 years as a parish and district councillor, and 25 years as a magistrate."

Summing up, recorder Talwinder Buttar added: "You lost your good reputation today. You knew how planning worked. You knew what you were doing was wrong.

"There is harm to public confidence when the system in place that ensure regulations of units is not adhered to."