Your local council has responsibility for administration of the planning system in your area, including the enforcement of planning control. There are three main ways that planning control might be breached. These are:
- carrying out development without planning permission (for example, by constructing a house or other building);
- changing the use of land or a building without planning permission (for example, by using an office as residential accommodation); or
- breaching or failing to comply with a condition attached to a planning permission (for example, by failing to observe the restrictions on opening hours imposed as part of the planning consent for a wine bar).
A suspected breach of planning control is likely to be investigated by the Council’s planning enforcement officers. In order to help them to decide whether to take any action, the Council is able to serve a Planning Contravention Notice on you. The Planning Contravention Notice can require you to give the council information about the suspected breach. Council enforcement officers also have powers to enter your land to investigate breaches of planning control, provided they give at least 24 hours’ notice.
If the Council concludes that there has been a breach, it may decide to take enforcement action. There are a number of different tools at its disposal:
A Temporary Stop Notice requires the person receiving it to cease the activity or activities identified within it for a period of up to 28 days. It takes effect immediately and is intended to stop an activity that the Council believes is unlawful while it considers taking further action.
A Planning Enforcement Notice is the most common form of enforcement action taken by local councils. A Planning Enforcement Notice can require you to take steps such as:
- to alter a building or remove it completely;
- to re-instate a building that has been demolished;
- to cease an activity that is being carried on.
The actual steps required will depend on the breach of planning control the Council believe to have occurred. You are entitled to appeal against a Planning Enforcement Notice, although you may have as little as 28 days to do so. The Planning Enforcement Notice does not take effect until the end of the period during which you are allowed to appeal.
A Stop Notice requires the activities specified in it to cease during the period that the recipient of a Planning Enforcement Notice has to appeal. It enables the Council to require an activity to stop even though its Planning Enforcement Notice has not yet come into effect. A Stop Notice may only be served in conjunction with an Enforcement Notice.
A Breach of Condition Notice can be used by the Council as an alternative to a Planning Enforcement Notice where it believes that a planning condition has been breached. There is no right of appeal against a Breach of Condition Notice.
An Injunction is a Court Order that may be sought by to remedy an existing breach of planning control or where the Council anticipates that a breach of planning control might occur in the future. Planning Injunctions are relatively rare, but can have very serious consequences, as failure to comply with an Injunction constitutes contempt of court.
Failure to comply with any of the notices described above is a criminal offence and may lead to Prosecution by the Council.
Zyda Law specialise in planning enforcement matters. Through our Planning Helpline service we are able to take your case for an affordable fixed fee that is less than you might think. Please contact us for a free no obligation initial consultation. Remember that you may have as little as 28 days to appeal against a Planning Enforcement Notice, so if you are subject to enforcement action please do call us without delay.