Last month, the Government published the Levelling up and Regeneration Bill (the Bill). It contains key provisions which will change the enforcement regime.
Are immunity periods staying the same?
The big change is that the Bill changes the time limit for enforcing breaches of planning control in England (not Wales) to ten years for all types of breaches whereas currently it is four years for operational development (and change to single dwelling house).
What should land owners be considering now in light of changing immunity periods?
If you have a property where there is unlawful operational development that has not already become immune from enforcement action, you may want to consider making a Certificate of Lawful Existing Use application as soon as the current four year immunity period has expired.
What are the new enforcement warning notices and how will they benefit LPAs and third parties?
“Enforcement Warning Notices” are new notices that a LPA can serve where LPA considers there has been a breach of planning control but there is a reasonable prospect of it granting planning permission; the notices will state that where a planning application is not made in a set time period, further enforcement may be taken. Such notices will formalise the current letters written by LPAs in such situation which encourage planning applications. However, whereas currently, often land owners will take no action knowing enforcement action is highly unlikely, these notices are more likely to have teeth to them.
Ultimately the purpose of them is to ensure that even though the development may be acceptable per se, by having an application for determination gives the LPA the opportunity to attach conditions and ensure it is controlled for example, by a suitable noise condition with noise thresholds that can lead to enforcement if breached, without which enforcement of any unacceptable noise is left to the often higher threshold under the separate regime of nuisance.
How are enforcement appeals going to be tightened up?
“Ground a” appeals (seeking retrospective planning permission) will be prevented where a planning application has been made for development related to the subject of the enforcement notice was made within the previous two years. The aim is to prevent the same arguments being made to the Inspectorate having already failed in front of the LPA and unnecessarily dealing matters.
Are penalties for non-compliance increasing?
Yes the cap on fine for breach of condition notices is being removed entirely so such notices may start to be taken more seriously as fines will be unlimited.
What are the changes to enforcement tools related to listed buildings?
Temporary stop notices will be capable of being served where the LPA considers that works are being done to a listed building which required a listed building consent and it is expedient they are stopped immediately.
The procedure for obtaining a Certificate of Lawfulness of Proposed Works to a Listed Building (s26H and 26I Listed Buildings Act 1990) is likely therefore to become more widely used as no one wants to start on site and then have to stop builders mid works.