MARSHALLING OF LAWFUL EVIDENCE

What does this service entail?

Sometimes, clients find themselves in the awkward position that they have carried out development, whether operational or a material change of use, without realising they needed planning permission for that.  Sometimes people buy property and find out that the previous owner did not obtain the necessary planning permission. This can sometimes attract the attention of the local planning authority’s planning enforcement/compliance officers, perhaps even years later after the event!

All is not lost though.  A breach of planning control is not a criminal offence under law, but is a civil offence. Planning law allows for retrospective planning applications to be made or applications for Certificates of Lawfulness of existing development. Where the matter is left though and the local planning authority considers environmental or other harm to have been caused, contrary to its planning policies, it may take formal planning enforcement action. 

There are a variety Enforcement Notices that can be served requiring the landowner to take action to remedy the breach of planning control. It is only where the landowner fails to comply with an effective Notice does the matter become a criminal act, where the relevant persons served can then be prosecuted in the courts.  Heavy fines or even a prison sentence (rare) can result on conviction. So, it is important to take such enquiries by planning enforcement officers very seriously and take action promptly.

If it is possible that the unauthorised development has become immune from planning enforcement action, it may be possible to apply for a certificate of lawfulness of existing development to resolve the concerns raised. With such an application, it is not the merits of the development you are seeking to regularise that are relevant.  Rather, it is the evidence you can produce to demonstrate that the time limits for taking planning enforcement action have been exceeded: the burden of proof is on the applicant. As your agent, I can help in that process to assist you to assemble the evidence from records of the property that you and others may hold.  The marshalling of that evidence is key – on the balance of probabilities – to securing a Certificate, which will give you immunity from the local planning authority’s possible planning enforcement action.  This includes drafting statements to be worked up into statutory declarations by your solicitor.

Applications for Certificates of Lawfulness of proposed development are also possible to be applied for.  Essentially here, you are asking the local planning authority whether the development you are intending to carry out constitutes development requiring planning permission.  ACHIEVE can assist here too. 

Prime examples of when ACHIEVE has provided this service:

Click on the project titles below for further information.