An enforcement notice explained
If you’ve received an enforcement notice, you may not know where to start. Don’t panic, the important thing is to take it in stages. We’ve broken down an enforcement notice into carefully explained sections, to help you deal with your enforcement notice effectively.
Section 1 A: The top of the notice refers to the Town and Country Act – 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’s “ISSUED by the ‘Council’, so it’s 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.
This section explains why you have received the notice; that you have done something, which did not have proper planning permission. Section 171A(1)(a) refers to this and can be found online. This also means they’ve taken into account the Local Development Framework, laying out what’s important to the council for the area.
Section 2: This part refers to the specific section of land, which the notice applies to. [The land to which the notice relates] There should be a map, which refers to this, the specified area edged in a thick black line.
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: Unplanned extensions, conservatories and garden sheds. It’s important to note, that some will and won’t need planning permission, depending on the direction the property faces and its size for example. However, 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 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 and in some cases, 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.
Section 4: Detailed reasons behind why the notice has been issued and what policies it breaches.
Section 5: This lists what you need to do next (make sure this is clear and if not ask a lawyer or the council).
Section 6: The time you must comply by. [X weeks after this notice takes effect.]
Section 7: [When this notice takes effect]: This means, the date the notice becomes effective on. 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.
How could the notice impact me?
If you fail to comply with the any of the planning enforcement documents mentioned above and particularly an enforcement or stop notice, you will be at risk of being fined. You may also be prosecuted. You might 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. 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 deal with the notice as soon as you can, to avoid an escalation of the process, as described above.
In terms of potential fines, these are estimates of what you may be liable to pay if you do not observe the requirements of the planning enforcement notice you’ve received.
- 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 not exceeding £20,000 but there is no limit on the fine that the Crown Court may impose.
- If you do not comply with a stop notice, which usually requires activities to cease within a minimum period of three days, you can receive a maximum penalty of £20,000.
- Summary prosecution can be brought in the Magistrates’ Court for the offence of contravening a breach of condition notice. The maximum penalty on conviction is a fine not exceeding “level 3” on the standard scale (currently £1,000).
- If you ignore a Section 16 Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Acts 1976 you could receive a maximum penalty £5,000.
3. What steps should I take if I receive a planning enforcement order?
There may be ways in which an enforcement notice (or indeed any of the aforementioned planning enforcement documents) is invalid; make sure you investigate the options as described below, as it will give you more time.
The planning enforcement document may be void if the council does not know all the names of the owners and occupiers or if the order is too vague. It could also be invalid if the enforcement notice is inaccurate.
It’s a sensible idea to contact a solicitor and at Kingsley Smith Solicitors, we would never encourage a client to take on an appeal against an order, if we didn’t think there was a strong case to do so.
We are able to advise you on the ins and outs of your case and the potential pitfalls or positive aspects of the appeal ahead. We most often also find a way to improve a client’s case, if initially it seems as if there may be nothing to pursue. We will work with you to build as comprehensive and well-structured a case as is possible. We understand exactly what planning officers and local planning authorities want to see and will present a comprehensive and well-presented case, which even the busiest of planning officers can process easily.
Remember there are also time limits that the council must adhere to, when taking enforcement action. You should be aware of these and be ready to argue your case, if you feel an order has been issued incorrectly. In some cases for example, the council may claim that the current planning permission has lapsed. At Kingsley Smith Solicitors we have the specialist knowledge to argue against decisions such as this.
Subject to cases where there has been deliberate concealment, development is immune from enforcement if no action is taken:
- Within 4 years of substantial completion for a breach of planning control consisting of operational development.
- Within 4 years for an unauthorised change of use to a single dwelling house.
- Within 10 years for any other breach of planning control (changes of use)
In this case, you have a couple of options. If you do not think you can or want to comply with the notice then you should make an appeal to the Planning Inspectorate. If you think you can comply and are willing to do so, let the council know about the inaccuracies.
Remember: You have until the effective date to make an appeal so there is no cause for alarm
Should I make an appeal?
Only consider submitting an appeal as a last resort. It’s always worth trying to negotiate with your local council before you go down the road of making an appeal.
If you do decide that an appeal is the best option, you’ll need to submit it to the Planning Inspectorate, (an executive agency of the Department for Communities and Local Government.) You must do this before the date the enforcement notice specifies as a time limit. Make sure you go over your grounds for appeal with a fine toothcomb. If there are any gaps, they will be found and you may have to resubmit your appeal. If you need any help or advice, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us.
The appeal itself is free to submit. However, if the appeal is made on the basis that planning permission should be granted, you’ll need to pay a fee for this, normally double that of a standard planning application. Half the fee is payable to the Local Planning Authority and half to Communities and Local Government.
You can make an appeal against an enforcement notice online. The Planning Casework Service is a system available via the Planning Portal.
You can send your appeal to The Planning Inspectorate by post, by fax, or deliver it by hand to the address below. You should keep the fax transmission report and recorded delivery numbers, or if you deliver your appeal by hand ask for a dated receipt.
The Planning Inspectorate, PO Box 326
Bristol, BS99 7XF, Tel: 0117 372 8075
4. How long will it take?
You can comment on or withdraw your appeal at any time during the proceedings.
It’s important that you don’t submit any late evidence, as this is likely to be ignored by the Planning Inspectorate; likewise if the LPA submit new evidence, this is not likely to be considered either. In extreme cases the Inspector may choose to consider material that may help the case and which could not have been reasonably submitted by the relevant date. The decision will normally be posted in the Planning Portal search facility, so you can check back using your case reference number.
We can help to make the process as straightforward as possible with our planning expertise and our supportive, experienced lawyers. At Kingsley Smith Solicitors we can help whatever your location within England. Don’t hesitate to get in touch, if you need to discuss your options or would like our help with an appeal against a planning notice.
Please call us on +44 (0)74 0088 6988, complete our online enquiry form, or email our planning law expert.
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