Planning Enforcement Conference – 24th February 2017 (Sponsored by Oyster Partnership
It was a full house at the Brent Civic Centre as the half-day RTPI London ‘Planning Enforcement Conference’ got underway. Kindly sponsored by Oyster Partnership, the event attracted attendees from over 20 London Boroughs, a variety of public bodies and private sector practitioners alike.
The collection of speakers had been tasked with considering two central themes: ‘Policy and Guidance’ and ‘Changing Behaviours’. Addressing the first of these was Ed Grant, Barrister of Cornerstone Barristers, who started proceedings with an overview of recent case law to be aware of and highlighted the ongoing use of such judgements in regards to grounds of appeal, unauthorised changes of use and deliberate concealment.
Next, Luke Perkins, RBKC, took delegates through the Borough’s use of S215 Notices. RBKC have become well known for their use of the ‘Untidy Land Notice’, developing a reputation for a no tolerance approach to landowners blighting the streetscene of a Borough that boasts over 3800 statutory listed buildings and 38 conservation areas. To date, the project is responsible for 140 properties being renovated to an appropriate standard.
The responsibility to close an excellent first session fell to Brian Whitely (Planning Aid for England). Brian spoke about the work Planning Aid has been involved with regarding neighbourhood plans. In discussion, one delegate suggested that detailed policy and guidance at the local level could only assist in taking effective enforcement action where expedient to do so.
Following a short break, Tim Rolt, Planning Enforcement Manager LB Brent, painted an unfavourable picture of ‘small’ houses in multiple occupation that essentially operate as self-contained flats. In addressing the breach of planning in such instances it was noted that enforcement action is typically subject to delays due to appeals. The second part of Tim’s talk centred on confiscation powers under the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA). Tim explained that the POCA was not only useful in recovering significant income, but importantly in achieving compliance.
Des Adumekwe and Matt Robinson were next up to present LB Hounslow’s ‘Rogue Landlord’ project. Set up in 2013, the project has had support from officers at HMRC, the Metropolitan Police and the Immigration Service, and has visited over 3,500 properties to date. Benefitting from DCLG grant money, a strong management board and member support, it continues to be an active project on the ground and gained national recognition through receipt of the Editor’s Award at the National Planning Awards in 2014.
Rounding off the event, Neill Whittaker (Ivy Legal) steered delegates through intentional unauthorised development, the responsibilities of enforcement officers and the limitations they face when using the ‘Planning Toolkit’.
As the conference drew to a close, discussions turned to the future of planning enforcement. The impact of Brexit on LPA resources is not yet known, but was flagged as a potential threat to the work of enforcement teams across London, whilst the effects associated with a move away from EU ecological and human right law is also unknown. What is important, however, is that the examples given by our speakers illustrated behavioural change through pro-active enforcement is not only possible but often significant. Indeed, these examples from Brent, Kensington and Chelsea and Hounslow could all act as blueprints for other authorities within the capital.
RTPI London would like to thank all of the day’s speakers for contributing to what was a very engaging and thought provoking event. We hope all that attended enjoyed the event and we look forward to seeing you at another event soon.
Presentations available for RTPI members.