14th October 2022
A farmer has received a letter from the local planning authority – an enforcement notice warning that a disused barn under conversion to a dwelling now falls outside planning permission. What do they need to know/do?
It might seem obvious, but the first thing to do in this situation is to take some advice, either from your planning consultant or from a planning lawyer. If the local planning authority is investigating a potential breach of planning control the consequences can be significant. It will also be important to stop further works until these issues are dealt with.
It is important to understand what the Local Planning Authority is concerned about, and what they are alleging is the issue. We would need to understand the exact scope of the existing planning permission to understand what you are able to do. In this case there is a permission which allows the conversion of an existing building, the issue is likely to be whether the works that have been done go beyond what is reasonable for a “conversion” and instead should be considered a “rebuild”.
This is largely a matter of judgment. If works have been done to a building as part of a conversion which, in the eyes of the local planning authority, go beyond those necessary for that conversion, it can render the future conversion of the building impossible. This could be the case if, for example, the roof was removed, or a wall taken down.
Planning enforcement is a discretionary power for Local Planning Authorities. It is a matter for them whether it appears that there is a breach, but once they conclude that there is, there is a range of ways for them to tackle the issue. Government guidance requires local planning authorities to act in a proportionate way.
It may be possible to negotiate a remedy with the Council which can rectify the alleged breach without formal action. This might be works done to bring the development back in line with the planning permission, or through the submission of a retrospective application to regularise the position. Your professional team can handle those negotiations and seek to reach a satisfactory conclusion.
That said, it is not always possible to retrospectively solve a breach of planning control. This can be a particular issue with the conversion of buildings. Local planning authorities have discretion to take enforcement action when they regard it as expedient to do so having regard to the development plan and any other material considerations. This includes a local enforcement plan, where it is not part of the development plan.
Where this happens, there will usually be a right of appeal to the Planning Inspectorate.
As a final note of caution, where works are done to an existing building which go beyond the scope of conversion and render the building “incomplete”, such as the removal or a wall or roof, it can be very difficult to justify a retrospective planning permission. The best way, therefore, to avoid these issues is to pay close attention to the permission in the first place and ensure that works occur within the confines of that consent.