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Updated handbook launched to guide planning enforcement officers in England to take correct decisions

The National Association of Planning Enforcement, part of the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI), has issued an updated Planning Enforcement Handbook for England.

The RTPI said the Handbook would “ensure local authorities have access to the latest best practice advice in dealing effectively with a range of enforcement challenges”.

The publication, which was funded by the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government (MHCLG), covers:

  • Gathering information: sources of information; requests for information; surveillance.
  • Site visits and entry: site safety and lone working; rights of entry.
  • Establishing breaches and expediency: development defined; permitted development; expediency.
  • Enforcement notices.
  • Appeals: who can appeal; grounds of appeal; Planning Inspectorate procedure; immunity; invalidity, nullity and power to amend; costs; High Court challenges.
  • Other enforcement powers: planning enforcement orders; breach of condition notice; stop notice; temporary stop notice; listed building enforcement notices; section 215 notices; urgent works; high hedges; community protection notice; completion notices; tree preservation order enforcement; advertisement enforcement.
  • Securing compliance with notices: investigations, evidence, interviews and disclosure; prosecutions; confiscation – Proceeds of Crime Act 2002; direct action; injunctions.
  • Other: enforcement against unauthorised Gypsy & Traveller encampments; Ombudsman complaints; legislation, regulations, policy, advice notes and useful documents.

An online launch this week featured presentations by many of the handbook’s authors, including NAPE chairman Neill Whittaker and Izindi Visagie, both of Ivy Legal, Scott Stemp of No5 Chambers, and NAPE Deputy Chair Craig Allison of Hambleton District Council.

The RTPI’s Immediate Past President, Ian Tant, said during the event: “This new handbook is an important guide for planners and for planning enforcers and I am delighted to have provided its foreword. I am particularly pleased that it is supported by MHCLG, lending Government support to this essential part of the planning system for England.

“Throughout my term as President, I was keen to give due regard to the work of our planning enforcers, who do so much to uphold the system and take action where appropriate against those who seek to avoid important policy objectives and necessary planning controls.”

The RTPI said the handbook would be reviewed and updated at regular intervals by NAPE Management Committee members.

In the introduction Mr Whittaker says: “The aim of this handbook is to guide planning enforcement officers in England towards the correct decision, whether this be taking formal enforcement action or taking no action at all. Whatever the decision, there must be an auditable trail of officers’ actions; based upon the law, government guidance and the evidence available.

He adds: “The Handbook is not written as a substitute for official publications, nor does it give hard and fast rules or specific legal advice. It is not a substitute for formal training or in-depth research, discussion and consideration of what can be complex issues.”