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Five things you need to know about breaches of planning control

Mon 4 March 2019

It can be all too easy to find that your property is in breach of planning control. Oliver Thorogood of Stags Planning Department outlines your need-to-know guide to what to do next:

1. Your property can be in breach of planning control for a variety of reasons: a change of circumstances, a simple misunderstanding or just that you were unaware of the planning situation. If your property is in breach, you can be reported either by a member of the public (often a neighbour) to your local authority’s planning department or the breach could be spotted by the local authority planning officers themselves.

2. The first you know of it will probably be when you are issued an enforcement notice through the post. Often, your only option is to comply with the local authority’s demands but there are certain situations when you can avoid this. It is well worth taking professional advice if you are served an enforcement notice.

3. One option is to prove that the breach has already been occurring for a significant period of time. If the breach has occurred for more than four years it is immune from enforcement if it is a new building, a permanent physical alteration or the change of use of a building to become a dwelling. For other breaches, a period of ten years must pass for it to become immune. In both time periods, you have to demonstrate that the breach has occurred continuously for all that time. Confirmation can then be sought from the local authority in both planning and legal terms. 

4. Another way to counter an enforcement notice is to submit a retrospective planning application to confirm the lawfulness of development. Recently, the Stags Planning Department successfully appealed against an enforcement notice. It related to a building that had been used to work in (known as employment use) but had only been granted storage use. We carried out the appeal process on behalf of our client and argued that the use of the building for employment complied with the policies of the Local Plan. As a result, planning permission was then granted by the local authority. 

5. If you are served an enforcement notice, it is always worth taking professional planning advice to find out whether there is any scope for proving lapse of time or to see if you can submit a retrospective application supported by a Local Plan. Even if you are not served a notice, it is well worth sorting out any possible breaches of planning control in advance as they can pose problems when property is sold. 

Contact Stags Planning department on 01392 439046 for more advice.

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