Planning Enforcement Investigations

With a fall in the number of new planning applications, enforcement offers are starting to concentrate on enforcement investigations

Following a reduction in the number of new planning applications, Council planning enforcement officers, who would normally be dealing with these applications, are turning their attention to other activity.

There has been a notable increase in planning enforcement investigations with even the most minor breaches now being pursued vehemently.

Planning enforcement is not a simple or easily understood process and there are a number of potential enforcement options open to councils. There is an example of this in our enews section.

The fall in the number of new applications has resulted in a noticeable increase in planning enforcement investigations in many areas. Even the most minor breaches are being pursued vehemently, including conditions that deal with the location and collection times of waste bins at pubs/restaurants. Planning enforcement is not a simple, easily understood process and there are several potential enforcement options open to Councils. Examples of these include:

Planning Contravention Notice (PCN)

Councils can serve a PCN in order to force you to provide key information about an alleged or suspected breach of planning. This is usually undertaken where the Council does not have sufficient information and can be used to "flush out" information in order to assess whether or not further enforcement action should follow. Beware - there are financial penalties for failure to provide the information.

Enforcement Notice (EN)

The power for a Council to issue an EN is discretionary and the Council must always assess whether or not it is expedient and reasonable to pursue enforcement action. An EN will explain the alleged breach and set out the remedial steps they consider necessary for rectifying the breach. There is a right of appeal against an EN but the timescale to appeal is very tight (often only 28 days).

Stop Notice (SN)

This quite draconian power can be used in certain circumstances to accompany an EN and is intended to be used where the breach of planning control is causing such harm that it should cease immediately. Again, a failure to comply and cease the breach could lead to prosecution and a considerable fine. There is no right of appeal against an SN and it can only be challenged through a judicial review to the High Court.

Breach of Condition Notice (BCN)

This is used to enforce requirements of planning conditions. Importantly, there is no right of appeal against a BCN. BCNs can be used both instead of, and as well as, Enforcement Notices. Once again, failure to comply with a BCN can lead to prosecution and a fine.

If you are investigated by a planning enforcement officer or served with any of the above notices you should seek professional advice immediately, as this enforcement arena is complex to navigate, however an amicable resolution is not impossible!