Receiving a Planning Enforcement Notice through the letterbox may seem like a reason to panic, but it needn’t be according to Samuel Okoronkwo. Once you understand exactly what the planning enforcement notice is about and how to respond, you can deal with it appropriately.
A Planning Enforcement Notice is a formal notice issued by your local council requiring specific action be taken to remedy a breach of planning control. It is usually issued where development has taken place on land or property without the correct planning permission. However, this is not the only way that planning laws can be broken; as even if you do have planning permission for a certain structure but then build it contrary to the permitted plans, your local council will issue a Planning Enforcement Notice to rectify it. This is usually referred to as a ‘breach of condition’. If you change the use of a property without planning permission, this is deemed ‘unauthorised change of use’.
Contact by the council
You can expect contact by the local council to be made before the Planning Enforcement Notice is issued, so it should not come as a surprise. An enforcement officer will usually visit the property or send a letter if you have been refused planning permission and ignored it. For example, they may have rejected a planning extension and you have gone ahead anyway. When writing, they may include a ‘Planning Contravention Notice’. This will ask you questions about the suspected breach of planning regulations such as the date of construction; and what it is being used for. If you don’t reply or don’t tell the truth, sanctions including fines and putting the property back in its original state, can follow.
Retrospective planning applications
Should the local council investigate and the breach of planning be confirmed, Samuel Okoronkwo’s advice is that they may recommend that you apply for a retrospective planning application, particularly where a planning application has been refused. If this is approved, no further action will be taken. It is unlikely that they will suggest this if they do not consider that retrospective planning permission will be granted, however this is only determined on a case by case and council by council basis. Whilst your retrospective application is in place, enforcement action should be postponed.
Planning Enforcement Notice details
This Planning Enforcement Notice will ask that you take certain action such as alter or remove a building; reinstate a demolished building; or cease activity due to not having planning permission. Certain time limits apply to these enforcement notices. Construction/alterations of a building or change of use to a house have a 4-year window and all other breaches 10 years.
Appealing a Planning Enforcement Notice
If you wish to make a planning appeal, this must be done within 28 days. Grounds for appeal include, but are not limited to the following:
- Planning permission should be granted for the ‘breach’
- The breach did not occur
- The event occurred but it is not a breach
- The enforcement notice was served outside of the time limit
- The enforcement notice has not been served correctly
- The steps detailed to remedy the breach exceed those required by planning control
- The time allowed to comply is insufficient
- Failure to appeal will cause the enforcement notice to take effect. If you do not then comply with it, you will be committing a criminal offence.
What to do next
When dealing with a Planning Enforcement Notice, always seek professional legal help from a planning solicitor, or a planning barrister. By ignoring the notice and hoping it will go away, your legal position will be far more precarious.
Contact us for further legal advice on this matter.