THE BLOG

Planning Enforcement Needs Greater weight

24/04/2013 15:35 BST | Updated 24/06/2013 10:12 BST

This week I will present a 10 Minute Rule Bill to Parliament calling for stricter rules to impose fines on developers who deliberately exceed planning consents.

I have seen several constituency cases where developers have blatantly breached planning permission in order to gain an unauthorised advantage, often financial, to the detriment of other local residents.

The National Planning Policy Framework states "207. Effective enforcement is important as a means of maintaining public confidence in the planning system." But under current rules that confidence is being eroded by underhand developers.

The NPPF also states "Enforcement action is discretionary, and local planning authorities should act proportionately in responding to suspected breaches of planning control. Local planning authorities should consider publishing a local enforcement plan to manage enforcement proactively, in a way that is appropriate to their area. This should set out how they will monitor the implementation of planning permissions, investigate alleged cases of unauthorised development and take action where it is appropriate to do so."

My Bill serves to strengthen the hand of Local authorities who often feel they have no real sanction other than to require the demolition of all or part of the development. They rarely do this because it is considered disproportionate action. This naturally frustrates law-abiding citizens who themselves apply for planning permission, jump through the hoops and stick to the permission granted; and it brings the planning system into disrepute.

The Planning Permission (Financial penalties) Bill would permit local authorities to levy significant fines that would act as a direct deterrent in cases where unauthorised advantage has been sought. By expressly stating in law that local authorities can, and should, levy fines of an amount at least equivalent to the financial gain to the developer of the breach of planning permission the risk inherent in breaking the law in this way is substantially increased.

In one recent instance I have been made aware of, it would ensure that a developer who constructed a 3 storey house when given permission for a 2 storey house could suffer a financial penalty equivalent to the gain made by breaching planning permission. In the event, it was decided by the Planning Committee that requiring him to demolish the extra storey (and hence effectively the whole house) would be disproportionate.

Under my Bill councils would be required to use the proceeds of fines to the benefit of the community in which the breach occurred, restoring public confidence in the planning system and delivering clear results from enforcement action.