The principal change to be aware of is that even where the time limit for taking enforcement action against unauthorised development has expired (i.e. the 10-year or 4-year period) the Council still has the opportunity to take enforcement action if that breach of planning control has been deliberately concealed. This is contained in s.124 Localism Act 2011 and came into force on 6 April 2012.
The Council can apply to the Magistrate’s Court for a Planning Enforcement Order at any time within six months of a breach of planning control coming to their attention. The Order, if granted, will give the Council a further period of 1-year in which they can take enforcement action. The Order can only be granted if “the court is satisfied, on the balance of probabilities, that the apparent breach, or any of the matters constituting the apparent breach, has (to any extent) been deliberately concealed by any person or persons”
The term “deliberately concealed” is not defined in the legislation. Therefore, whilst this provision was brought in to try to stop people like Mr Fidler building houses concealed by hay bales or within barns – the term “deliberate concealment” could feasibly be applied to situations where the person did not take active steps to draw the breach to the Council’s attention. Until we have some case law on this we cannot be sure how this provision will be applied.
Caroline Waller is an agricultural planning specialist in our team and can be contacted for further information.