Are you ready to challenge your planning enforcement in London?
After being issued with an enforcement notice, it is time to act fast to avoid hefty fines!..
The majority of the works you do to your property will most likely require a permission from your local council, may that be a full Planning Permission or a Certificate of Lawfulness.
Failure to seek permission and to comply with the restrictions proposed can lead to very serious consequences. Do you know anyone who has given a fine? If not, read this to learn how the Court made a confiscation order in the sum of £700,000.
There are various ways you can breach the law, ranging from building an extension, changing the use of the property, using outbuildings as residential dwellings without prior permission.
Whereas outbuildings (known as granny annexes) fall within Permitted Development rights in most cases, using them as a residential unit or renting them out would be a change of use for which you need to seek Planning Permission for.
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Planning policies are in place to protect urban amenities of London and make sure tenants are met with an adequate standard of living. For this reason, the government decided to arrange £5 million funding for the Local Planning Authorities. Housing Minister Brandon Lewis announced on 22nd of January 2016 that councils across the country are to receive a £5 million cash boost to tackle rogue landlords in their area.
These councils will share the funding so they can take on the irresponsible landlords that force tenants to live in squalid and dangerous properties, making their lives a misery. The money will be used by the councils to increase inspections of properties, carry out more raids, initiate more enforcement action and prosecutions, and to demolish sheds and buildings that do not have Planning Permission.
The councils are not alone.
There are private planning and legal companies working in collaboration with the councils to find unlawful developments and issue Enforcement Notices. Breaking planning control rules is not an offence in itself however, if you are issued with an Enforcement Notice, you are required to take action and failure will result in prosecution.
The aim of the councils is not to prosecute you; and they are usually willing to work with landlords to assure the living conditions are satisfactory and in line with planning rules and building regulations. The councils are targeting the minority of landlords in the private rented sector that let out unsafe outbuildings to vulnerable tenants and charge them extortionate rents to live in cramped conditions. You must realise that councils will take action against those who flout the rules.
In London, Ealing Council together with IVY Legal is a clear leader in the field and has recently won an award for its enforcement cases against outbuildings. The Ealing Council estimates that 10% of the outbuildings in the borough are subject to unlawful use. The council uses the aerial photographs to indicate suspect sites for unauthorised outbuildings which are now up for further investigation by the authorities.
Two illegal building in Southall were knocked down September last year. The landlord claimed they were empty but after investigation, it was found out that the small outbuilding was occupied by five people and a small child. The landlord was issued with an enforcement notice summer 2014 to immediately stop the use and demolish the out building by December 2014. Failing to take any action, the council was forced to carry out the works and demolish the building in September 2015, billing the landlord with a hefty fine..
Not every enforcement is in relation to such serious matters, the law is set out to protect people. Even if you have carried out building work or changed the use of a building without prior Planning Consent, you still have options.
You might be wondering these options for planning enforcement in London. I will explain now:
1) Certificate of Lawfulness: If you can prove that the use was continuous for over four years, you may be eligible to apply for Certificate of Lawfulness. Here is the 4 Year Rule.
2) Appeal against the Enforcement Notice: If you have been lawfully using the space, ie. using the outbuilding only for leisure activities, you can appeal against the Enforcement Notice.
3) Retrospective Planning Application: Most common solution is to applying for a retrospective planning application. You can apply retrospectively for unauthorised construction of buildings or extensions, unauthorised change of use, unauthorised display of advertisement and unauthorised works to listed buildings or protected trees.
What’s the bottom line? After being issued with an enforcement notice, it is time to act fast.
Many people are not even aware they are breaking the law in the first place like in the case in Camden Council when a Belsize Park homeowner has painted the front elevation of their house a slightly different shade of pink than the original building was.
It is important to note again that time is of an essence when issued with enforcement notice and you will only have a chance once to apply. Talk to a specialist planning consultant, who will be able to advise the best route against enforcement action and take you step by step and ensure you are not prosecuted. If you have any questions, send me an email now. I am here to help you, whatever your case is.