What can happen if planning control is breached?
A breach of planning control can consist of one of the following:
- The carrying out of development without the required planning permission;
- Failing to comply with any condition or limitation subject to which planning permission has been granted;
- Contravening limitations or conditions attached to permitted development rights.
Any of the above can result in the possibility of enforcement action being taken by the Local Planning Authority (LPA).
Will a LPA always take enforcement action?
The Local Planning Authorities have discretion to take enforcement action when they regard it as expedient to do so, having regard to the development plan and any other material considerations. It is not therefore obliged to commence enforcement action.
Paragraph 207 of the National Planning Policy Framework states: “Enforcement action is discretionary, and Local Planning Authorities should act proportionally in responding to suspected breaches of planning control. Local Planning Authorities should consider publishing a local enforcement plan to manage enforcement proactively in a way that is appropriate to their area”.
However, it is important to note that even though a Local Planning Authority may decide not to take enforcement action a breach of planning control can create problems in any sale or mortgage of land or any interest in it.
What are the most usual options available to Local Planning Authorities to tackle possible breaches of planning control?
Local Planning Authorities have a range of powers including Enforcement Notices, Planning Contravention Notices, Planning Enforcement Orders, Stop Notices, Breach of Condition Notices, injunctions and rights of entry.
What is an Enforcement Notice?
An Enforcement Notice is a Notice the Local Planning Authority can issue if it is satisfied that it is expedient to do so and there has been a breach of planning control. It is a note which sets out exactly what the Local Planning Authority consider is the breach of planning control and the steps the Local Planning Authority require to be taken to remedy the breach.
Can I appeal against an enforcement notice?
Yes – An appeal can be made within the statutory time limits (usually at least 28 days from the date of issue of the Enforcement Notice as stated on the Notice) if an appeal is lodged the Enforcement Notice is held in abeyance until the appeal has been determined.
What are the grounds for appealing against an Enforcement Notice?
These include the following:
- Planning permission ought to be granted or the conditions or limitation concerned ought to be discharged;
- That the matter stated in the Enforcement Notice has not occurred;
- That the matter stated in the Enforcement Notice (if they occurred) do not constitute the breach of planning control;
- At the date when the Notice was issued no enforcement action could be taken;
- Copies of the Enforcement Notice were not served properly;
- The steps required by the Notice to be taken are excessive;
- The period specified in the Notice falls short of what should reasonably be allowed.
What happens if an Enforcement Notice takes effect and is not complied with?
It is a criminal offence not to comply with an Enforcement Notice once the period for compliance has elapsed and there is no outstanding appeal.
What is a Planning Contravention Notice?
This is a Notice which can be used by the Local Planning Authority to require any information they want for enforcement purposes to be provided. Failure to comply with a Planning Contravention Notice within 21 days is a criminal offence as is the provision of false or misleading information.
What is a Stop Notice?
A Stop Notice can be served by a Planning Authority to prohibit any or all of the activities which comprise the alleged breach of planning control specified in a related Enforcement Notice. A Stop Notice cannot be served independently of an Enforcement Notice. Non-compliance of a Stop Notice is a criminal offence.
Could the Local Planning Authority be liable for compensation as a result of serving a Stop Notice?
Yes – Where the associated Enforcement Notice is quashed, varied or withdrawn or the Stop Notice is withdrawn, compensation may be payable in certain circumstances and subject to various limitation.
Does the Local Planning Authority have any rights of entry where a breach of planning control is suspected?
Yes – The Local Planning Authority does have statutory rights of entry in certain circumstances and it is an offence to wilfully obstruct an authorised person acting in exercise of a right of entry.
Are there any time limits for taking enforcement action?
Yes – Development becomes immune from enforcement if no action is taken:
- within 4 years of substantial completion a breach of planning control consisting of operational development;
- within 4 years for an unauthorised change of use to a single dwelling house;
- within 10 years for any other breach of planning control (essentially other change).