OPERATORS of a former animal rescue centre in Weymouth have been fined for breaching enforcement notices after a long-running dispute over land they own.

Father and son John and Darren Hunt, who operated Pirates Cove Birds of Prey and Animal Rescue Centre in Wyke Regis appeared at Weymouth Magistrates Court.

Both pleaded guilty earlier this month to breaching a notice issued on March 2, 2011, by West Dorset District Council that involved failing to stop using the land as a rescue centre.

As part of this notice, both men were asked to stop using the land for keeping birds of prey and to remove the structures holding them by December 25, 2012.

They were also required to stop using the land for residential occupation, to remove caravans from the land and any furnishings installed inside the barn.

In addition to this charge, John Hunt pleaded guilty to breaching another enforcement notice issued on the same date.

He admitted to failing to remove a timber building from the land, as well as dismantling and removing a wind turbine.

Helen Gardner, representing West Dorset District Council, provided district judge Stephen Nicholls with photos of the site.

She said: “It’s been more than 15 months since the site should have been cleared.”

Ms Gardner said the council had been unable to resolve the matter ‘informally’ and that the defendants had shown a lack of cooperation with the council during its investigation.

The pair appeared at court unrepresented.

Darren Hunt told he the court he knew he had ‘done wrong’ but suggested legal advice in the past had persuaded him not to act.

He said: “Obviously the advice I did get now I see was wrong.”

He added that the timber building and wind turbine were in the process of being removed and that the land was no longer being used as a place of residence.

Before sentencing, district judge Stephen Nicholls said this was a case that had gone for on for a number of years and had gone through various stages of the legal process. Both men were each given a £250 fine and ordered to pay costs of £300 towards the prosecution with regards to the first breach.

A victim surcharge of £25 was also issued.

Meanwhile, John Hunt received a £100 fine for the second enforcement notice he breached.

Summing up, Mr Nicholls said: “I considered these fines in respect of your financial situation.”