A failure to obtain planning permission or to comply with the details of a permission is commonly known as a ‘planning breach’. Planning enforcement is the process of investigating and resolving possible breaches of planning law. Once Council planning officers become aware of a possible planning breach, (perhaps as a result of anonymous complaints via Council websites), then they take matters very seriously and will open an enforcement file on the case. There are commonly various steps in an enforcement procedure and this often starts with an inspection of your property. Despite guidance requiring you to be properly notified, our experience suggests that inspections are sometimes unannounced, particularly where a property is tenanted.
If planning enforcement officers believe that there may be a planning breach, then they will probably issue you with a Planning Contravention Notice, (PCN). You may be invited to submit a retrospective planning application, or to cease using the property. You are required to respond to a PCN, however we would recommend that you consult with us first before committing any response in writing.
The next step may be an Enforcement Notice and this is something that you can appeal to the Planning Inspectorate, who may decide that the Council are incorrect and that you can retain the use or the buildings in question.
Please be aware that planning breaches can have very serious consequences, particularly because Councils can recover significant funds from you via the Proceeds of Crime Act, (POCA). The level of such penalties is generally derived from the potential rentals, or other financial gains, that may have arisen from the alleged breach. In many cases, the fines have amounted to 10’s of thousands of pounds and some have been greater.
In addition, please note that all parties having a financial interest or charge on your property will be notified about the alleged planning breach. In practical terms this may mean that your Building Society or other lenders will be informed and this may affect the value of your property. We are aware of cases where property has been unsaleable for several years because of alleged planning breaches.
Get Planning and Architecture have considerable experience in managing complex planning assignments. We can therefore assist you in such situations and we often negotiate with planning officers to agree postponement or withdrawal of enforcement action.