TRA has always recognised that the integrity of the entire planning system depends on effective enforcement and our annual Forum on Enforcement provides valuable CPD for the wide range of people involved in enforcement work. It also offers the opportunity, particularly during the parallel sessions and over lunch and coffee breaks, for delegates to exchange ideas, discuss common enforcement issues and meet colleagues.
As always, we were very pleased that this year's Forum was well supported, with people travelling the length and breadth of the country to attend. For those of you who were not able to make it, here's what you missed....
The opening plenary session was once again delivered by Izindi Visagie, Solicitor and founder of Ivy Legal. Izindi took us through a number of recent Court decisions with relevance to enforcement and gave a detailed explanation of their consequences. Of particular interest this year were a number of cases that help to interpret the provisions of S70C of the 1990 Act (Power to Decline to Determine Applications), including the very recent decision in Chesterton Commercial (Bucks) Ltd v Wokingham District Council  EWHC 1795 (Admin) - https://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Admin/2018/1795.html. As always, Izindi's session was well received, and perfect for those of us who are not always able to keep up to date on the implications of important case law!
Delegates then had the choice of attending two out of three parallel sessions:
- Neill Whittaker, Planning Associate at Ivy Legal and current Chair of the National Association for Planning Enforcement (NAPE), looked in detail at how to draft, and subsequently defend, Enforcement Notices. In particular, Neill explored the application of the "Miller-Mead" test ie "does the notice tell [the person on whom it is served] fairly what he has done wrong and what he must do to remedy it?" and highlighted its recent application in Sarodia v Redbridge LBC  EWHC 2347 (Admin).
- Paul Diaper, Accredited Financial Investigator (AFI) at Reigate and Banstead BC took delegates through the provisions of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 (POCA). Paul explained the role of the Financial Investigator in planning enforcement and confiscation cases and sought to encourage all LPAs to think about appointing an AFI at the earliest opportunity. As he noted, "financial footprints are left by almost everyone involved in acquisitive crime and pre-order enquiries on accounts held may identify expenditure, cash or cheque credits of a significant nature and identify other potential evidence or benefit".
- Michael Hyde, Independent Planning Consultant and TRA Associate, considered the "AirBnB" phenomenon and how this crosses over into the planning dimension. By going back to first principles he considered when a change of use becomes material, how to identify the correct "planning unit", and the application provisions of the Use Classes Order. Of particular interest was the issue of "party houses" and in this context reference was made to Moore v Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government  EWCA Civ 2012 where the LPA successfully defended their allegation of a material change in the use of a property - from its use as a dwellinghouse to use as "commercial leisure accommodation".
To end the day Julia Shaw, Investigator for the Local Government Ombudsman, gave a thought provoking presentation on maladministration, or more importantly how to avoid being found guilty of it! She looked at a number of real investigations with reference to the good, the bad and the ugly.
This year's Forum was chaired by Samuel Fox, Service Lead - Infrastructure, Planning and Development at Southampton City Council. Sam reminisced about his first brush with planning enforcement as a young Planning Officer at Eden District Council and stressed how, throughout his career, he has never lost sight of its importance and how it underpins the credibility of the LPA's planning service.
The date for the 2019 Forum will be announced shortly. If you have attended the event in the past we look forward to seeing you again. If you are involved in enforcement but haven't yet attended our Forum then we hope to see you in 2019.