The vast majority of our Residents are law-abiding and peace loving folk who want nothing more than to enjoy their lives in the comfort of their own homes living happily alongside their friends and neighbours. Occasionally we get someone who chooses to build something or to create a nuisance by operating a business in an inappropriate location or carry on some other un-neighbourly action, and this can destroy that peace and happiness we all seek. The Law clearly identifies what is permitted development and requires planning permission be obtained from the Planning Authority for all other construction and changes of use. We have a set of rules and regulations which help to guide Householders, Business Operators and Developers when determining what is acceptable and what is not.
Sometimes a property or business owner chooses to ignore these regulations and in some instances not bother to obtain planning permission before construction commences or a change of use is enacted. The Council will protect the interests of its Residents by enforcing our rules and regulations firstly by encouraging the offending person or company to conform to the law and our local planning regulations. If this fails then action may escalate and could result in court action, and in extreme cases with direct action where the Council will employ Contractors to make amends.
However what the majority of offenders do not realise that no matter how trivial they may consider their infringement to be, once an Enforcement Notice is issued, copies are forwarded to all owners, occupiers and anyone else with a legal interest in the land. As well as displaying this on the Council's web site, the Planning Department is required by law to place a copy on the Council's Enforcement Register - which is a public document viewable by anyone - and send a copy to the Council's Land Charges Section.
As part of the conveyancing process, the buyer's solicitors would carry out a land charges search. This would reveal any enforcement notices and the dates of the notice registered on the land. The buyer's solicitor would query this and contact the Council for more detail and ask whether the notice has been complied with. Generally, notices of this nature would hold up and delay the sale as the purchaser would not want to buy any property or land subject to an enforcement notice. The seller would be asked to resolve the situation or risk losing the sale.
If a notice has been complied with, it is not automatically taken off the register but there will be a note stating that it has been complied with and the date of compliance. This would be there for information purposes.
So what may have appeared to be a good idea at the time may prove to be embarrassing and extremely costly to the perpetrator in the long term.
The message I want to get across is that we all need to live in peace and harmony with our neighbours and the only way to do this is for us all to conform to a recognised code of conduct in all aspects of our lives; no one is beyond the regulation of the law and that includes planning laws.
(Portfolio Holder for Planning & Transportation RDC)