Fortune Green Legal Practice was set up in 2011 with the specific aim of providing independent legal advice to homeowners and property developers who have found themselves on the receiving end of enforcement action from the local planning authority.
Every situation will be different
There are a number of ways in which local planning authorities can take enforcement action. Each local planning authority will have different investigation procedures.
They may start with visits to the site under investigation. The officers will be looking for evidence of what is usually referred to as a “breach of planning control”. They are examining whether something has happened at the site which should not have happened (in terms of national and local planning legislation or policy).
Planning Contravention Notice (PCN)
The next stage in the planning enforcement action may be the service of a planning contravention notice (PCN). This is a notice containing a series of questions, used to gather information and evidence about the possible breach. The power to issue the notice comes from section 170C of the Town and Country Planning Act. Often the PCN will include questions about who owns the land, who occupies it, or uses it. Planning enforcement officers will use the information collected here to inform a decision on whether to take further action.
If you receive a PCN, you will have only 21 days to reply. Failing to reply, or making a statement which you know to be false or misleading are both criminal offences. Also there is a risk that you could be fined.
Therefore, the most important advice is to reply to the PCN on time and truthfully. You should be aware that the PCN is likely to be just the first step in the enforcement process. Because of this, it is always recommended that you take independent legal advice at an early stage, from a solicitor with experience of the planning system. Contact Fortune Green Legal Practice for straightforward advice on how we can help.
Planning Enforcement Notice
In cases which the local planning authority consider to be more serious, they may issue a planning enforcement notice (under the power in section 172 Town and Country Planning Act 1990). A planning enforcement notice is a very powerful tool. Non-compliance can lead to criminal proceedings and an unlimited fine.
The planning enforcement officers should usually warn you in writing before they serve the notice, but there is nothing in law to prevent them serving it without any warning.
In short, a planning enforcement notice must make it clear what actions and / or use of the site the local planning authority believes represent the breach of planning control. In addition, it must also clearly set out the actions you must take to rectify the breach or to restore the site to the lawful (pre-breach) state.
Crucially, the planning enforcement notice will state the date on which it takes effect. You should always pay attention to this date, because that is the last day when you can appeal against the notice.
Taking independent legal advice
If you are served with a planning enforcement notice it is highly recommended that you seek independent legal advice, from a planning solicitor to explore the possibility of appealing. However, even if it is too late for that, with good legal advice, you may still be able to prevent further action being taken against your property and avoid a prosecution.
At Fortune Green Legal Practice we will provide tailor made advice on all your planning enforcement issues.