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Enforcement for Unlawful Planning: Understanding the Changes

Planning enforcement plays a crucial role in ensuring that development in the UK follows the appropriate regulations and permissions. Over the years, there have been significant changes and developments in planning enforcement practices, reflecting the evolving needs of communities and the legal landscape. In this article, we will explore the key aspects of planning enforcement, the powers and limitations of local authorities, and the recent changes that have taken place in the UK.

 

1. Introduction

Planning enforcement is an essential aspect of the UK’s planning system. It ensures that development adheres to the necessary regulations and permissions, protecting the interests of both individuals and communities. Local authorities have the responsibility to monitor and address any unauthorised development, taking appropriate action to rectify any breaches. In recent years, there have been notable changes in planning enforcement practices, reflecting the increasing demand for effective regulation and the evolving legal landscape.

2. What is Planning Enforcement?

Definition and Purpose

Planning enforcement refers to the process through which local authorities monitor, investigate, and take action against unauthorised development. It involves ensuring that development complies with planning permissions, building regulations, and other relevant legislation. The primary purpose of planning enforcement is to safeguard the integrity of the planning system, protect the interests of communities, and maintain the overall quality of the built environment.

Discretionary Powers

Local authorities have discretionary powers when it comes to planning enforcement. This means that enforcement actions are not mandatory and are to be used judiciously, based on the particular circumstances of each case. The degree to which an unauthorised development exceeds the permitted development allowance is an important consideration for determining the appropriate action. The discretionary nature of enforcement powers allows for flexibility in addressing different types and levels of breaches.

Prioritising Enforcement Actions

Due to the high volume of planning enforcement requests, local authorities must prioritize their actions. The workload associated with planning enforcement has increased significantly in recent years, necessitating the careful allocation of resources. When assessing a breach of planning regulations, authorities consider factors such as associated risks to the public, impact on neighbouring individuals or businesses, effect on the general amenity of the area, and the impact on the highway network. Prioritisation ensures that enforcement efforts focus on addressing the most significant breaches first.

3. Types of Unauthorized Development

Planning enforcement covers a wide range of unauthorised developments and breaches of planning regulations. Local authorities are responsible for investigating and taking appropriate action against various types of unauthorised development. Some of the common types of unauthorised development include:

Unauthorised Building and Engineering Works

Unauthorised building and engineering works refer to construction activities carried out without the necessary planning permissions. This can include the erection of structures, alteration or extension of existing buildings, or engineering works that impact the built environment. Local authorities have the power to investigate and take action to rectify such unauthorised works.

Unauthorised Changes of Use

Changes of use without the appropriate planning permissions are also subject to planning enforcement. This includes situations where a property or land is used for purposes different from its designated use under planning regulations. Local authorities have the discretion to investigate and address such unauthorised changes of use.

Unauthorised Advertisements

Unauthorised advertisements are displays or signs that do not comply with the regulations outlined in the Town and Country Planning (Control of Advertisements) Regulations. Local authorities have the power to investigate and take enforcement action against unauthorised advertisements, ensuring compliance with the regulations.

Unauthorised Works to Listed Buildings

Listed buildings are protected by law due to their historical, architectural, or cultural significance. Any works carried out on listed buildings without the necessary listed building consent may be subject to planning enforcement. Local authorities have the responsibility to investigate and take appropriate action against unauthorised works to listed buildings.

Unauthorised Demolition

Demolition of buildings without the necessary planning permissions is considered unauthorised and subject to planning enforcement. Local authorities have the power to investigate and take enforcement action against unauthorised demolitions, ensuring compliance with planning regulations.

Unauthorised Traveller and Roadside Encampments

Unauthorised traveller and roadside encampments fall under the purview of planning enforcement. Local authorities have discretionary powers to investigate and take action against encampments that do not have the necessary planning permissions.

Untidy Sites

Untidy sites that harm the amenity of the neighbourhood are also subject to planning enforcement. Local authorities have the power to investigate and take appropriate action against untidy sites, ensuring that they are brought into compliance with planning regulations.

Non-Compliance with Planning Permissions

Non-compliance with planning permissions, including the failure to adhere to approved plans or conditions imposed on planning permissions, is subject to planning enforcement. Local authorities have the responsibility to investigate and take enforcement action to rectify such non-compliance.

Hedgerow/Tree Removal

The removal of hedgerows and trees without the necessary permissions is considered unauthorized and subject to planning enforcement. Local authorities have the power to investigate and take appropriate action against the removal of hedgerows and trees, ensuring compliance with planning regulations.

4. What Planning Enforcement Does Not Cover

While planning enforcement addresses a wide range of unauthorised development, there are certain issues that fall outside its scope. Local authorities are not responsible for dealing with the following matters:

Boundary or Party Wall Disputes

Boundary or party wall disputes between neighbouring properties are not within the remit of planning enforcement. Local authorities do not have the jurisdiction to intervene in such disputes, and individuals are advised to seek legal advice or consult organisations such as the Citizens Advice Bureau for resolution.

Obstruction of the Highway

Obstruction of the highway, such as issues related to shared driveways or private access, falls under the purview of the police rather than planning enforcement. Local authorities do not have the authority to address highway obstruction, and individuals should report such issues to the appropriate law enforcement agencies.

Right-to-Light Issues

Issues related to the impact of development on neighboring properties’ right-to-light are not directly addressed by planning enforcement. While planning applications consider the impact on light, right-to-light issues fall under separate legal frameworks. Individuals seeking resolution for right-to-light issues should seek legal advice before approaching planning authorities.

5. Assessing the Impact of Unauthorised Development

When assessing unauthorised development, local authorities consider various factors to determine the appropriate action. These factors ensure that enforcement efforts are proportionate and address the harm caused by the unauthorised development. The factors taken into account include:

Risks and Dangers to the Public

One of the key considerations in planning enforcement is the potential risks and dangers posed by unauthorised development to the public. Local authorities assess the impact of the unauthorised development on public safety and take appropriate action to mitigate any risks.

Impact on Neighboring Individuals and Businesses

Unauthorised development can have adverse effects on neighbouring individuals and businesses. Local authorities evaluate the impact of the unauthorised development on the rights and interests of those in the vicinity and take action accordingly.

Effect on the General Amenity of the Area

Maintaining the general amenity of an area is an important aspect of planning enforcement. Local authorities consider the impact of unauthorised development on the overall aesthetics, character, and quality of the area, and take action to rectify any harm caused.

Impact on the Highway Network

Unauthorised development that affects the highway network, such as obstructing access or creating traffic hazards, is a significant concern for planning enforcement. Local authorities assess the impact on the highway network and take appropriate action to address any adverse effects.

Compliance with Local, London, and National Policies

Local planning authorities consider the appropriateness of unauthorised development in relation to local, London, and national planning policies. The assessment takes into account the relevant policies and guidelines to determine the level of non-compliance and the appropriate enforcement action to be taken.

6. Recent Changes in Planning Enforcement

In recent years, planning enforcement has undergone significant changes to adapt to the evolving needs and challenges of the UK planning system. These changes reflect the increasing workload and demand for effective regulation. Some of the significant changes include:

Increased Workload and Resource Allocation

Planning enforcement has experienced a substantial increase in the number of requests for service. This increased workload has required local authorities to allocate sufficient resources to address the growing demand for enforcement actions. Investing in additional resources ensures that unacceptable development is not tolerated and that enforcement efforts are carried out effectively.

Changes in Permitted Development Allowance

Changes in permitted development allowances have also influenced planning enforcement practices. Local authorities must consider the extent to which an unauthorised development exceeds the permitted development allowance when determining the appropriate action. Staying up-to-date with changes in permitted development regulations is crucial for effective enforcement.

Prioritizing Harmful Development

Prioritising harmful development is an essential aspect of planning enforcement. With limited resources, local authorities must focus on addressing breaches of planning regulations that cause significant harm. Assessing the level of harm caused by unauthorised development helps prioritise enforcement actions and ensure that the most significant breaches are addressed promptly.

Importance of Local, London, and National Policies

The assessment of unauthorised development takes into account the relevant local, London, and national planning policies. These policies provide guidance on appropriate development and help shape enforcement actions. Local authorities consider the extent to which unauthorised development aligns with these policies when determining the appropriate enforcement action.

7. Reporting a Breach of Planning Regulations

If a breach of planning regulations is observed, it is important to report it to the relevant local planning authority. However, there are certain considerations when reporting a breach:

Anonymous Allegations and Supporting Evidence

Local authorities typically do not investigate anonymous allegations without supporting evidence. When reporting a breach, it is essential to provide sufficient information and evidence to substantiate the allegation. This helps ensure that the authority can effectively investigate and take appropriate action.

Neighbour Boundary Disputes

Boundary disputes between neighbours are not within the remit of planning enforcement. Such disputes should be resolved through legal means, and individuals are advised to seek legal advice or consult organisations like the Citizens Advice Bureau for assistance.

Property and Land Ownership Issues

Issues related to property and land ownership, such as ownership disputes or boundary issues, are not directly addressed by planning enforcement. Local authorities do not have the jurisdiction to intervene in such matters, and individuals should seek legal advice for resolution.

Resolved Complaints

Local authorities may not reinvestigate complaints that have been previously resolved. If a complaint has already been addressed, it is important to provide relevant information about the resolution to avoid duplication of effort.

Malicious or Vexatious Reports

Local authorities do not entertain malicious or vexatious reports. It is important to report breaches in good faith, providing accurate information and evidence. Misuse of the reporting process can divert resources from genuine enforcement issues.

Non-Planning Related Issues

Planning enforcement does not cover non-planning related issues such as boundary disputes, trespass issues, or loss of views. It is important to understand the limitations of planning enforcement and seek appropriate channels for resolving non-planning related issues.

8. Enforcement Options and Notices

When addressing unauthorized development, local authorities have various enforcement options and notices at their disposal. These options and notices help ensure compliance with planning regulations and rectify any breaches. Some of the key enforcement actions include:

Issuing Planning Enforcement Notices

Local authorities have the power to issue planning enforcement notices to individuals or entities responsible for unauthorised development. These notices outline the breach of planning regulations and specify the actions required to rectify the breach within a given timeframe.

Failure to Comply with a Notice

If the recipient of a planning enforcement notice fails to comply within the specified timeframe, local authorities have the power to take further action. This may include pursuing legal proceedings or other enforcement measures to rectify the breach.

Appeals Against Notices

Recipients of planning enforcement notices have the right to appeal against the notice if they believe it to be unjust or inappropriate. Appeals are typically made to the Planning Inspectorate, an independent body responsible for resolving planning-related disputes.

Addressing Untidy Sites

Local authorities can take action to address untidy sites that harm the amenity of the neighbourhood. This may involve issuing notices and specifying the necessary actions to rectify the untidiness within a given timeframe.

Requests for the Removal of an Enforcement Notice

Individuals or entities who have received an enforcement notice can request its removal if they believe the notice to be no longer necessary or appropriate. Such requests are subject to review by the local authority, taking into account the circumstances and merits of the case.

Dealing with Short Term Letting

Local authorities can take enforcement action against unauthorized short term letting, such as Airbnb rentals, that contravene planning regulations. This ensures compliance with planning policies and prevents the negative impact of unregulated short term accommodation.

9. Understanding Permitted Development

Permitted development refers to certain types of development that are allowed without the need for specific planning permission. However, it is important to note that permitted development has limitations and restrictions. It is crucial to understand the permitted development status of a property or development before assuming it is exempt from planning regulations.

Importance of Checking Permitted Development Status

Before reporting an alleged breach of planning controls, it is crucial to verify whether the development in question falls within the scope of permitted development. The GOV.UK website regularly updates its guidance on when planning permission is required. Checking the permitted development status helps avoid unnecessary reporting and ensures accurate assessment of potential breaches.

Resources for Determining Permission Requirements

Various resources are available to assess whether planning permission is required for a particular development. The Planning Portal offers an interactive house and other tools to determine whether a development is permitted or requires permission. Utilizing these resources can provide clarity on the planning status of a development.

10. Seeking Legal Advice and Support

In certain situations, seeking legal advice and support is essential for resolving planning-related issues. There are specific scenarios where legal expertise can help individuals navigate complex matters:

Citizens Advice Bureau

For boundary disputes, property ownership issues, or general legal guidance, individuals can seek advice from the Citizens Advice Bureau. They provide free and confidential advice on a wide range of legal matters, including those related to planning and property.

Resolving Boundary Disputes

When faced with boundary disputes, involving a shared boundary where an extension encroaches onto neighboring land, it is recommended to seek legal advice. Legal professionals can provide guidance on resolving boundary disputes and ensuring compliance with property laws.

Obstruction of the Highway

If there are issues related to obstruction of the highway, such as shared driveways or private access disputes, it is important to involve the appropriate law enforcement agencies. The police have the jurisdiction to address obstruction of the highway under The Road Traffic Act (1988).

Right-to-Light Issues

For matters involving right-to-light, it is important to seek legal advice due to the separate legal frameworks governing planning and right-to-light. Legal professionals can provide guidance on the intricacies of right-to-light law and advise on the appropriate course of action.

11. Conclusion

Planning enforcement in the UK is a vital component of the planning system, ensuring that development adheres to the necessary regulations and permissions. Local authorities have the responsibility to monitor, investigate, and take action against unauthorised development. Recent changes in planning enforcement practices reflect the increasing demand for effective regulation and the evolving legal landscape. By understanding the powers and limitations of planning enforcement, individuals and communities can contribute to maintaining the integrity of the planning system and safeguarding the built environment.

Need help with enforcment issues, email Gordon on [email protected]

 

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Post Author: Gordon evans

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