Planning Enforcement Breach of Condition Notices Queries

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TumbleWeed
Posts: 38
Joined: Fri Apr 23, 2021 2:55 pm

Planning Enforcement Breach of Condition Notices Queries

Post by TumbleWeed »

Hi I'm hoping for a little help to understand the planning enforcement process but because we have. The site has been built as a back-land development within what used to be a large garden of a run-down house. The initial planning application began in 2011 but there have been dozens of revised plans in the intervening years increasing the number of houses planned from 1 to 4, which were permitted with conditions. There was an application denied last year to add a further 4 houses (8 in total once the old house has been demolished). The builder appealed to the Planning Inspectorate, but they found in favour of the LPA.

Over the last decade of the build the builder has boasted that they "build what they like and then apply for retrospective permission" and this is pretty much how events have played out. However the LPA has occasionally taken some half-hearted steps toward enforcement of the permitted plans and issued 6 largely similar Breach of Condition Notice but taken matters no further when these notices were not heeded (in 2016, 2020, and 2022). I can post more specific info if needed, but prefer to keep things vague on a public forum.

Fast forward to 2023 and the builder seemingly went a bit too far in starting to build a double garage for one house where only one had been planned and permitted. The the garage is only 4" from the boundary and its foundations have been laid over the roots of a TPOed oak tree in the next door neightbour's garden, just the other side of the boundary. :shock:

In Sept.23 the LPA presented, to the council planning meeting, a detailed case to take "enforcement action" for various breaches, which was passed unanimously by the committee. The surrounding neighbours rejoiced that finally something was being proposed. The builder was in attendance at the council meeting, but nothing was forthcoming from the planning enforcement department for several weeks, so the builder cracked on, finished the garage and moved tenants into that house (also breaching the "no occupation until the whole site is finished" conditions!) Council officers were denied access to the plot because the house was now tenanted. They didn't try very hard, plus the garage and stricken oak tree are visible from the estate road and the neighbour's property. :roll:

By the end of November 23 several neighbours had asked the LPA what was happening and finally the head of planning announced that they had served another 4 or 5 Breach of Condition Notices. The LPA's explanation for doing this, rather than any stronger enforcement measure, was that there is no right of appeal against Breach of Condition Notices whereas enforcement action does come with a chance to appeal. This approach - to avoid having their action appealed seemed a little odd to the neighbours, so we continued to ask what comes next. Six months later we have just heard from the Planning head that they are taking the builder to court for failing to meet the BCN requirements.

So my question is about the next steps now that the LPA might achieve:

I understand that the LPA can turn down an application for retrospective permission where enforcement action has been taken. Does this hold true for breach of condition notices? The builders have not been invited to submit retro planning applications by planning.

Having issued BCNs is the next step, where there has been no compliance nor any attempt to meet the conditions, is the only penalty a fine, or can the court force compliance? Once the fine is paid does that discharge that condition or is there still an option for an further enforcement order?
If there is a penalty fine, say for the double garage, how does a breach of condition notice achieve the rebuild of the garage to match the permitted plans? Would the fine for not complying with the BCN then render those conditions dealt with, with no further enforcement action available? I hope I've expressed that in a way that makes sense because I likely haven't used the proper planning jargon.

Anything else I should know about planning enforcement would be useful. Our impression of the council's view of this small and very slow site is that it's already taking up more man-hours than larger-scale, faster builds nearby. The council's legal team operates in a gate-keeping role to minimise any council department's legal action, no doubt to save money. This seems to carry more clout than maintaining public confidence in the integrity of the planning process. The neighbours who live on all sides of this site, which may take another 12+ years to be finished, would welcome advice as to the best way to engage with the planning enforcement team.
TIA
Rushton
Posts: 79
Joined: Mon Mar 20, 2023 3:15 pm

Re: Planning Enforcement Breach of Condition Notices Queries

Post by Rushton »

Is your local MP aware of how this is blighting neighbours' lives. Looks like it's going to be an election year too.
TumbleWeed
Posts: 38
Joined: Fri Apr 23, 2021 2:55 pm

Re: Planning Enforcement Breach of Condition Notices Queries

Post by TumbleWeed »

Thank you for replying.

To be fair the planning aspect is only a small part of dreadful experience of living near these evil bullies, and the MP has been supportive in asking the police and ASB department afford us some protection or deterrent. Still waiting for that too!

When it comes to planning the local councillors are largely led by the planning department telling them what they intend to do, even if they later decide to do something else :roll:

I think I'm just hopeful that the LPA might still be able to force the correct garage to be built and the other breached conditions met...my optimism is wearing thin though, and selling this house to move away with all that is going on won't be easy; 3 surrounding houses are up for sale currently.
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