The hotelier facing a £135,000 bill after being found guilty of damaging a protected conservation site on Pevensey Levels has lodged an appeal.
Sheikh Abid Gulzar, chair of the Lions Hotels group, was taken to court by Natural England following the discovery of a series of damaging activities carried out on his land – none of which had been given consent. He was fined £45,000 and ordered to pay £90,000 costs after being found guilty.
Under law he had 21 days to appeal, and he confirmed this week that an appeal has now been lodged at Lewes Crown Court.
Mr Gulzar said, “I remain very shocked, saddened and disappointed by the decision to land me with a bill of such a massive amount. I have taken legal advice and I believe it to be in the best interests of natural justice to make an appeal. Of course, I have no idea what the outcome of the appeal will be, but I have great faith in the justice system.”
Mr Gulzar, 68, says he was particularly upset because he was unwell at the time of the case going ahead, and hoped that providing a sick note would ensure the case was adjourned until he was better.
“We made every effort to comply with Natural England, but at the end of the day I was found guilty. The fine was £45,000 and the costs a whopping £90,000, and it’s that figure which I find particularly distressing. How can the costs be that high? I am at a loss and seeking an explanation.”
Mr Gulzar employs around 170 staff at his four hotels locally and children’s nursery along the seafront, and also supports local charities.
“I have had amazing support in terms of letters, emails and phone calls from the community following the court case,” he said.
“I took that on the chin, that’s life, and I am a firm believer in justice. I have lived in this country for 48 years ever since I was 20 and I believe that I have done a lot for this town, and indeed for the wider community.
“Some of the letters have been very moving. This is not a frivolous appeal, I am very serious about this. I have never been convicted of anything before, and it’s very sad that it has come to this. Now I must fight to be cleared.”
A date has yet to be set for the appeal.