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One of the most common planning enforcement measures actions issued by local authorities is a Planning Enforcement Notice.
If you have already received an Enforcement Notice or are concerned that your building plans might incur one, don’t worry - we can help. Read on for expert guidance on what Enforcement Notices are and your next steps.
Kingsley Smith Solicitors can help you appeal an Enforcement Notice. We offer expert Enforcement Notice guidance. Click the link below to learn about appealing an Enforcement Notice.
What is an Enforcement Notice?
Enforcement Notices are legal documents that inform the recipient that their building development is in breach of planning control. This will either be where development requiring planning permission has been carried out without planning permission, or where the development has been carried out without complying with conditions attached to a grant of planning permission. The notice orders actions that the developer must take to remedy the breach.
An Enforcement Notice is one of the first steps taken by a council when there is a development or part of a development that they feel is in breach of planning control. This notice is just one of many actions that authorities can issue depending on the circumstances and status of your planning project. You may receive a Planning Contravention Notice first if the council suspects a breach but seeks more information from you about the development before it decides to commence enforcement action.
The notice may order the building developer to cease any unauthorised use of the development or in some cases instruct that it must be demolished.
Note: An Enforcement Notice can require the demolition of a building erected without planning permission. A Stop Notice cannot do so.
The Enforcement Notice will typically detail several key pieces of information that are relevant to why it has been issued. They will include an explanation of the alleged breach of planning control, instruction on how to comply with the notice, a time period for compliance and guidance on how to appeal the notice if you think it is unwarranted. We dissect an Enforcement Notice letter below so you know exactly what is being communicated.
An Enforcement Notice explained
If you've received an Enforcement Notice, you may not know where to start and be feeling panicked. We've broken down an Enforcement Notice that you might have received into carefully explained sections, to help you understand the notice better.
Section 1 A: The top of the notice refers to the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 - this is simply a legal necessity. Your case number will most likely be found here too, starting with "ENF/" or "E/". The notice will state that it is "ISSUED by the 'Council', so it is clear that everything that refers to the ‘Council’ means your local council in the UK and no other council.
Section 1 B: THIS NOTICE is issued by the Council because it appears to them that there has been a breach of planning control, under Section 171A(1)(a) of the above Act, at the land described below. If this specific section is used, it means the Council is alleging that a development has been carried out without planning permission. If, alternatively, section 171A(1)(b) is referred to, this means the Council is alleging that a development has been carried out in breach of a condition attached to a grant of planning permission. This section also sets out the specific test in the legislation for taking enforcement action: i.e. it must be “expedient” to issue the notice, having regard to the local authority’s development plan for the area, and any other “material considerations”.
Section 2: This part refers to the specific section of land which the notice applies to. There should be a map, which depicts the specified area edged in a thick black line. You should be careful to consider whether the whole of this area of land is within your own control / ownership.
Section 3 A: This part explains why the Notice has been issued. This can encompass many different aspects and might not necessarily refer to physical changes, such as extensions. Common causes of a breach could be the following: unapproved extensions, conservatories and garden sheds. It is important to note that some extensions will require planning permissions and others won't, depending on the direction the property faces and its size for example. We can help you navigate the permitted development rules to explore whether what you have done was authorised. It could also be considered a breach if you start running a business from your home, or start storing large equipment in your home, for your business.
Section 3 B: This section also lets you know when the council consider the breach occurred. There are time limits regarding a breach and when it is still possible to issue an Enforcement Notice. For some breaches, a term of four years is the maximum time during which a notice can be issued after the breach. In some cases, the time period is ten years. Be aware that if you have attempted to hide an 'illegal' structure behind something else, for four years, in order to avoid a notice, you may not be exempt. The issue of concealment is highly complex and we recommend that you seek legal advice if this is something you think you have done.
Section 4: This section is important because it sets out detailed reasons behind why the Notice has been issued and what local and national policies your development allegedly breaches. You should read this section carefully. We can help you understand what the relied on policies say, and whether there’s any scope for arguing that your development might comply with those policies.
Section 5: This lists what you need to do next. Make sure this is clear and if not ask a lawyer or the council. A Notice is required to clearly set out what you are required to do to remedy the breach (unless you decide instead to appeal the Notice). If there is any ambiguity, this could be a reason to appeal the notice. It is possible that the notice could be modified by the Inspector. You may also consider that the steps you are required to take go too far, and actually require you to, for example, remove a lawful structure. This is called “over-enforcement”. This can also be a ground of appeal in some circumstances.
Section 6: This specifies the time by which you must comply. [X weeks after this notice takes effect.] This again is a very important section. The consequences of missing the time limit are set out below.
Section 7: [When this notice takes effect]: This means the date on which the notice becomes effective. This must be at least 28 days from the date the notice was issued.
Annex: This section includes basic information on how to appeal the notice. Read the information sheet that was issued with the notice, as this will include useful tips. We can advise you on whether you have any prospects of successfully appealing a notice. The Annex also explains the consequences of not appealing.
How long do I have to comply with an Enforcement Notice?
If you don’t appeal the Enforcement Notice, the time limit is set out in the Notice. Remember that you can appeal if you don’t think the council have given you sufficient time to remedy the breach.
The period of time in which you must comply can vary from one month for minor works to six months for certain changes of use or land restoration. In some circumstances a period in excess of six months may be allowed.
What happens if I ignore an Enforcement Notice?
You must comply with the Enforcement Notice unless you can appeal against it in time. If you do not comply and do not appeal, there may be significant consequences. This constitutes a criminal offence. If you ignore the notice you may be fined for not complying.
If you fail to comply with an Enforcement Notice you can be tried in the Magistrates' or the Crown Court. The maximum penalty in the Magistrates' Court is a fine of £20,000 but there is no limit on the fine that the Crown Court may impose. The Crown Court also has the power to confiscate any income you might have received from your non-compliance with the Enforcement Notice.
You might also receive an injunction to prevent you from taking further action. You could also face direct action, meaning the council may take an active approach by, for example, removing the incriminating extension and then recovering the costs from you.
In the most serious cases, you could face imprisonment, but with the legal help of a planning lawyer, you’re not likely to get to this stage. The most important thing to remember is not to panic and to get an expert like Kingsley Smith Solicitors to deal with the notice as soon as you can.
How long does a Planning Enforcement Notice last?
An Enforcement Notice can last for an indefinite period of time. It is important that you seek advice from a planning lawyer if you think you have complied with a Notice but aren’t sure. They can give you advice on how to proceed with complying with or appealing an Enforcement Notice.
Can an Enforcement Notice be withdrawn
It is important to note that complying with the Enforcement Notice does not mean that the notice is withdrawn automatically.
According to government guidelines regarding Enforcement Notices the notice stays in effect on the land that the notice refers to until it is manually withdrawn by the local planning authority.
Note: Most councils don’t withdraw notices as common policy. However, in most cases a note will be added to the land charges register detailing the date the Enforcement Notice was complied with.
You may request for the notice to be withdrawn but the decision on whether to do so lies with the local authorities concerned.
Kingsley Smith Solicitors - Enforcement Notice guidance
At Kingsley Smith Solicitors LLP, we have helped many people deal with Enforcement Notices. We make the process of receiving and dealing with any Planning Enforcement measure as stress free as possible, and we believe we can get you the best outcome available.
We have the experience and practical knowledge to deal with Enforcement Notices effectively. We’ve got your back.
Find out how we can help you with an Enforcement Notice. Contact us today on 01634 811118, make an online enquiry or drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.