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Planning Rules are Not there to be Broken

Thursday, 19 December 2013

The rules and systems governing planning in England can be frustratingly complex and technical for the uninitiated. Some developments are automatically “permitted” and others require full planning consent and/or buildings regulation approval.

What’s more, enforcement of planning law can often seem inconsistent throughout the country, with some local authorities being more enforcement happy than others.

The rules are further complicated by a number of urban myths circulating, particularly online, which claim to enable the avoidance of planning laws.

Don’t Get Caught Out Unaware of Planning Rules

It is not surprising, then, that many are confused or unaware of their legal obligations and are often caught out by the rules, finding themselves innocently subject to enforcement notices issued by local authorities.

Given the usually high cost of home improvements and developments, an order to demolish a garage or extension built in contravention of planning laws can be financially devastating for those involved.

To add to this, a recent case has shown that there is a difference between those who are unaware or confused about their legal rights and obligations when it comes to planning consent, and those who are fully aware of their position but attempt to “play the system”.

Judges will have little sympathy where a breach of planning law has been carried out dishonestly by individuals in full knowledge of their breach of planning law.

Don’t Try Your Luck at Circumnavigating Planning Rules

In the well-publicised and long-running ‘house in a barn’ case which concluded earlier this year, a couple—Alan and Sarah Beesley—obtained planning consent to build a hay barn on their land which they then built.

Within the shell of the barn they built a luxurious three bedroom house complete with gym and garage. After living in the house for four years, the Beesleys applied for planning consent to convert the barn into a home but permission was refused.

After a long legal battle with Welwyn Hatfield Council, a previous Court of Appeal ruling that the family could remain in their home was overturned by the Supreme Court, with the judges in the case citing the couple’s “dishonest conduct” and the fact that the land was within a green belt zone as factors influencing their decision.

Following the Supreme Court ruling, the Planning Inspectorate eventually ordered the home to be demolished.


There are lessons to be learnt from this case. Any attempt to circumvent planning laws is a huge legal and financial risk.

If you are planning development on your home, it is critical to obtain professional advice before carrying out any work so that you obtain the necessary planning consent.

While it is not a criminal offence to undertake development works without planning consent, if the Local Authority subsequently issues an enforcement notice, a failure to comply with it is a criminal offence.

For specialist advice contact Peter Gourri today by email or telephone 0207 611 4848.

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