Concern over new planning enforcement regime

Changes proposed in the new Localism Bill could bring uncertainty and chaos to the property market. The Bill proposes changes to the planning system including strengthening authorities’ powers to tackle abuses of the system. The Bill will allow local planning authorities to pursue a planning enforcement order at any time after it becomes aware that there has been a breach of planning control and requiring a property owner to remedy that breach. Geoff Parry, Solicitor says: 'These reforms could have a serious effect on both the residential and commercial property markets, where innocent purchasers could become liable for the actions of a previous owner.”

The new regime could create uncertainty for the buyers of both residential and commercial property when they cannot establish whether previous owners have concealed a breach of planning control as they themselves could become liable to enforcement action for that breach at any point in the future. If the buyer discovers a concealed breach and then fails to report it, they will be concealing it themselves.

Geoff Parry comments: 'While aimed at the fraudulent and blatant cheats, the provisions are drawn so widely that they will catch anything which has not been expressly pointed out to the planning authority. Establishing deliberate concealment is not straightforward. The new provision is unnecessary – the two cases which have led to these proposals are highly unusual and bizarre. '

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