If you have received an Enforcement Notice you should seek professional assistance as soon as possible. Failure to act upon an enforcement notice could result in court action by the Council leading to substantial fines (up to £20,000 plus regard to the financial benefit resulting from the breach).
An Enforcement Notice is one of the means by which a Council may control development that they consider has been carried out without the benefit of planning permission.
An Enforcement Notice will be served by the Council where:
"There has been a breach of planning control, and
"that it is expedient to issue the notice, having regard to the provisions of the development plan and to any other material considerations" [T & CPA 1990 S.172 (1)]
It is likely that you will already be aware of the Council's concerns, because the Enforcement Officer will have contacted you to establish the facts. However, where the Council believe that your development should be stopped immediately, they can issue a Stop Notice.
Often the Enforcement Officer will be acting on a complaint or query from a member of the public who is concerned about what you are doing. They may not know you have planning permission or are developing in accordance with permitted development rights. If you are able to satisfy the officer he will respond to the complainant accordingly.
You may therefore receive a letter or telephone call in the first instance from the Council's Enforcement Officer. However, if the officer considers your development is not lawful then you will receive a formal notification to this effect. This is known as a 'Planning Contravention Notice'.
The notice will ask for information about the owners of the property and details of any other persons who have a legal or equitable interest in the property. It will set out what actions the Council consider you should take to rectify the matter. Initially this may be a request for you to stop what you are doing and advising you to make a planning application or apply for a Lawful Development Certificate.
If an unlawful development can be rectified in this manner then the Council is encouraged to seek this remedy in the first instance.
If after seeking the submission of a planning application none is forthcoming, then the Council will consider the need to issue an Enforcement Notice.
If the Council are concerned that the development has already gone too far, that they consider there is no lawful use present, or that planning permission is unlikely to be granted even if a planning application is lodged, they may then begin proceedings to issue an Enforcement Notice.
In most cases you will normally be informed of the following:-
The nature of the breach of planning control
The remedies available to rectify the matter
The amount of time available to you to put the matter straight.
Whilst guidance to Councils generally encourages dialogue and assistance to rectify breaches of planning control, in the event that the Councils' concerns are ignored or immediate action is called for in the circumstances, then an Enforcement Notice will be served.
Non-compliance with any requirement of a Planning Contravention Notice within 21 days is an offence with a maximum potential fine of £1,000. This is a fine levied in the absence of any continuing failure to provide the required information.
False or misleading statements in response to a Notice is also an offence with a maximum penalty of £5,000.
Subject to the Standing Orders of the Council, the issue of a Notice may be referred to the Planning Committee for approval, or served immediately by the planning department. Enforcement action is not taken lightly, but you should not assume that your actions would not be taken seriously, however insignificant you consider the matter to be.
The Notice is served upon:
The owner and occupier of the land, and
Any other person having an interest in the land which will be materially affected by the notice.
The Notice itself will specify:
The alleged breach of planning control, and
The steps required to be taken to remedy the breach.
The Notice will provide a period for compliance of:
Not less than 28 days before the notice will take effect.
Any appeal against the Enforcement Notice must be submitted BEFORE the date on which the Notice is to take effect.
The period for compliance with the Notice may vary for different types of breach and for the different steps required to remedy the breach.
In serving the Enforcement Notice the Council aim to achieve either or both of the following purposes:
1. making the development comply with the terms of any planning permission, by requiring the discontinuance of the use of the land or by restoring the land to its condition before the alleged breach occurred,
2. remedying any injury to amenity which has resulted from the alleged breach.
This may involve:
o the alteration or removal of buildings or works,
o the carrying out of buildings or operations,
o cessation of a use of land in part or whole,
o Replacement of a demolished building [as close as possible to the appearance of the original building].
Where the Notice requires the construction or replacement of a building and all the requirements of the Notice have been complied with, then planning permission will be treated as having been granted for that construction.
An Enforcement Notice may be withdrawn at any time. Equally, the Council may relax or waive any of the requirements of the notice or extend the time for compliance. This can be done both before and after the notice has taken effect and all parties to the Notice will be informed.
The withdrawal of an Enforcement Notice does not limit the Council from re-issuing or serving a further notice.