In March 2022, five luxury mansions that were being constructed were demolished as they had been built in contravention of planning permission. After complaints were raised to the local authority in 2016, an inspector found that the properties should be torn down as they significantly deviated from their original designs.
The original planning permission for the properties was granted in 2014. This was for the refurbishment of an existing farmhouse and the construction of four new homes around a central courtyard. However, the homes were built over a third larger than agreed, sited incorrectly, and as such were deemed to be causing harm to the greenbelt. Bolton Council issued an enforcement notice for demolition in 2018.
As the above case proves, failing to comply with planning permission can have devastating consequences. The Local Authority will weigh up other considerations such as the environmental impact, the loss of homes and disruption to family life. However, it is clear to see that there are extreme cases in which enforcement action for demolition is taken regardless of any emotional and financial impact.
When you purchase a property, your solicitor will carry out a Local Search. This is a search with the local authority, which reveals lots of information, including details of planning permission issued in respect of the property. Solicitors should then make enquiries to ensure that any conditions attached to a planning permission have been complied with if they remain enforceable.
In some cases, planning permission may even be required for the replacement of windows or doors if the property is in a conservation area where only certain types of fittings are allowed or in an area which is subject to an Article 4 Direction Order, which is an Order restricting development and may impose a requirement to have a front door a certain material and/or colour or windows of a certain style and material.
Your solicitor should ask you if you are aware from your own inspection of the property if any works have been carried out, but if they do not, you should inform your solicitor of any building works or structural alterations of which you are aware. Planning breaches attach to the property and not to the person who committed the breach, and so if you purchase a property that has an enforceable breach, you will become liable as the new owner.
Local Authorities have a limited time in which to take enforcement action against planning breaches. The period is four years for works carried out without planning permission and ten years with regards to change of use or breach of planning condition.
Depending on the nature of the works in question, an indemnity policy may be appropriate in the absence of planning permission or in the event of a breach of planning conditions. An indemnity policy will not grant the missing permission nor remedy a breach of condition, but it will provide you with a financial remedy in the event that the local authority takes enforcement action against you as the homeowner.
If you have any more questions or would like more information regarding planning permission, you can contact our Residential Property Team below.