The Neighbourhood and Communities Service Committee at the London Borough of Redbridge has backed proposals to pilot a planning enforcement and direct action policy.
Under paragraph 207 of the National Planning Policy Framework councils are encouraged to adopt a local enforcement plan. The intention is to provide greater transparency and accountability about how an authority will exercise its discretionary powers with regard to planning enforcement.
The Redbridge policy will provide guidance on the council’s priorities for dealing with breaches of planning control.
“These priorities have been focused to ensure that substandard, poor quality housing and inappropriate uses are treated with the highest priority,” a paper prepared for the committee meeting on 3 June said.
“In order to create capacity to deal with these breaches in a timely manner, other breaches such as high hedges and unlawful advertisements will be treated with lower priority moving forward.”
Fundamental to the council’s revised approach will be the introduction of a formal process by which to take direct action for outstanding breaches.
“The process of direct action will be used in conjunction with existing processes to prosecute or serve an injunction on those parties in breach of planning control,” the paper said.
“The process of direct action will be used to enable the council to take physical action to resolve breaches itself where the requirements of an enforcement notice have not been complied with.”
The document noted that s. 178 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1978 gave the council additional powers to enter the land and take the steps to satisfy the requirements of an enforcement notice and recover from the person who is then the owner of the land any expenses reasonably incurred by the council in doing so.
Redbridge expects that direct action, when progressed either independently or alongside prosecution/injunction will enable planning breaches to be resolved more rapidly in future.
Correcting a breach could also involve demolition of unlawful structures.
The council said the approach had been implemented successfully by a number of councils already, including Brent and Newham.
The paper added that direct action would be taken where officers considered this to be either the most rapid or appropriate way in which to resolve an identified breach of planning control, “particularly where other legal processes such as prosecutions have failed to resolve a breach”.
An impact assessment will be undertaken prior to instructing parties to undertake the action.
A budget will also be provided to run a direct action pilot. The pilot’s success will be reviewed and a decision will be taken on whether further rounds of action would be appropriate.
Redbridge will, following approval of the policy by Cabinet, hold a four-week consultation. After considering the responses of the consultation, it is anticipated that the policy will be formally adopted in Autumn 2015.
Cllr Dev Sharma, Cabinet Member for Civic Pride at Redbridge, said: “We know residents are sick of living near properties that don’t have planning permission. We want those who follow the rules to know that we’re cracking down on those that don’t.
“Together with other enforcement changes we’re sending out a strong message that you need to follow the rules and take pride in our Borough, or face the consequences. ”
Cllr Sharma added: “The new planning enforcement policy has real teeth and will stop lengthy planning breaches negotiations. Through direct action, we will be able to go in and put the breach right, and charge the owner the cost.
“It means we can swiftly deal with substandard housing and developments, improving the quality of life in the borough. This new way of dealing with planning breaches will make a real difference in Redbridge.”