“Our caseload of instructions from clients who have received letters from Local Planning Authorities (LPAs) threatening to take enforcement action for breaches of planning conditions or unauthorised development has increased significantly over the last few months”, says Brian Dinnis of Acorn Rural Property Consultants.
In one recent case, a landowner was served with an enforcement notice by the LPA to prevent what the LPA regarded as an unauthorised use of agricultural land and buildings. Acorn RPC was not instructed until after the enforcement notice had expired and the LPA was about to commence legal proceedings. On investigation, we established that the unauthorised use had been going on for a sufficient period of time to make it immune from enforcement. However, the previous advisors had not taken any steps to challenge the enforcement notice prior to its expiry and the opportunity to do so had therefore been lost. That put our client in a position where he was potentially facing criminal proceedings for failing to comply with the enforcement notice for which the penalty can be an unlimited fine.
“In this case, our only remaining option has been to engage with the LPA and to persuade them to put any legal action on hold whilst we prepare and submit a retrospective planning application to enable the use to continue. This has involved negotiation and compromise as compared with what the outcome would have been if the deadline for challenging the enforcement notice had not been missed. However, where the LPA is prepared to seek a solution as an alternative to a prosecution, it can provide a solution”, explains Dinnis.
“Under National planning practice policy and guidance, enforcement action is discretionary, and LPAs should act proportionately and only take action when it is expedient to do so. That means that it is extremely important to be proactive in responding to any enquiries from an LPA about potential unauthorised development or enforcement action and not to wait until action has started before engaging with the process”, concludes Dinnis.
For further information on any rural planning matters please contact Brian Dinnis on 01884 212380 or at firstname.lastname@example.org