Press release

New fund to help councils crack down on unauthorised development

Councils set to receive £1 million boost to their efforts to crack down on unauthorised development and ensure everyone plays by the planning rules.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Building site

Councils are set to receive a £1 million boost to their efforts to crack down on unauthorised development and ensure everyone plays by the planning rules, Communities Secretary Eric Pickles said today (10 January 2015).

The new Planning Enforcement Fund gives councils funding towards the legal costs in seeking a court injunction against those who flout planning laws and cause misery to local residents.

In the past councils had to shoulder the cost of court injunctions. Now, they can apply for up to £10,000 per case to secure a court injunction. Whilst most planning breaches are resolved without use of the courts, over the last 10 years local planning authorities in England have issued an average of 60 injunctions a year. These are typically for serious breaches of planning rules. The £1 million fund now provides a significant boost to the capacity of local authorities to take legal action against those flouting planning rules.

Protecting the interests of law-abiding citizens

By taking decisive action at an early stage, councils can stop unauthorised development in its tracks – this saves money, avoids lengthy disputes and unnecessary upset for local residents.

A survey of councils identified the average cost of an injunction during 2011 to 2013 was around £13,000. The £1 million fund, with a maximum contribution of £10,000 to each case/council, could pay towards more than 90 court injunctions up to March 2016 – a real boost to councils’ capacity to take action against unauthorised development.

Those refusing to abide by a court injunction could face a jail sentence.

The fund will help tackle serious breaches of planning control such as unauthorised building developments and illegal traveller encampments.

Mr Pickles said

By putting power back into the hands of local people, we’ve seen support for new housebuilding soar over the past four years. But residents rightly expect fair play in the system and for their council to take action when people flout the rules.

This new £1 million fund gives councils the tools they need in the fight against unauthorised development, so they should not be afraid to go through the courts to tackle serious breaches of planning law.

We believe in putting power back in the hands of local communities and empowering councils to take action against those who do not play by the rules.

Councils should not be afraid of using court injunctions for serious planning breaches and this new £1 million enforcement fund gives councils extra resources in the fight against unauthorised development.

The public rightly expects fair play in the planning system. Law-abiding residents follow the rules and obtain planning permission so they find it galling to see others who don’t. That’s why we set up this new fund to help councils act swiftly to stop unauthorised development.

Other measures this government has taken to deal with unlawful developments include:

  • five new powers in the Localism Act 2011 including scrapping the rule allowing an appeal against an enforcement notice and a retrospective planning application being submitted at the same time to delay a decision; and allowing councils to extend the amount of time they have to deal with unauthorised development when it has been concealed

  • temporary stop notices extended to cases of caravans used as a main residence placed without planning permission

  • publishing an updated summary of powers available to councils and other agencies to deal with unauthorised sites and encampments, and updated and simplified guidance on enforcement

  • reforms to judicial review to address its impact on economic recovery and growth and reduce the delays and costs associated with it - in July 2013 we reduced the time for bringing a judicial review from 3 months to 6 weeks in certain planning cases.

Further information

A scheme administrator was appointed through competitive procurement to manage the fund.

The £1 million fund is split £200,000 until March 2015 and £800,000 in 2015 to 2016.

Prior to March 2016, the government will review the fund and explore whether it can become self-funding.

A survey of local authorities identified the average cost of an injunction for the period 2011 to 2013 was around £13,000.

Local authorities can apply for half their legal costs or up to £10,000, whichever is the lesser figure.

Further details of the scheme and the eligibility criteria is available from the scheme administrator’s website

See further information about planning injunctions.

Read a range of council powers to deal with for illegal and unauthorised encampments can be found here.

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Published 10 January 2015