Never the twain shall meet

A recent appeal case (DCS Number 400-023-412) reminds us that civil matters are usually best considered separately from planning matters.

In this case the inspector rejected a south Wales householder’s argument that, in the context of an ongoing boundary dispute, the four-month period given for compliance with an enforcement notice directed at an unauthorised extension was too short. One of the options for the appellant was to modify the building so that it complied with an extant planning permission. She considered, however, that scaffolding would need to be erected on the neighbours’ land and they were refusing to permit this. The inspector recognised that an application under the Access to Neighbouring Land Act 1992 had been made to the courts, hopefully to be heard in conjunction with the boundary dispute issue, but noted that the hearing date had not been confirmed.

The inspector considered these matters carefully. Ultimately, however, he did not find that the circumstances concerning the ongoing civil disputes constituted sufficient reason to increase the compliance period specified in the notice. The boundary dispute, he remarked, was a civil matter between private parties and was separate from the public interest land use planning considerations which underpinned the local planning authority’s decision to take enforcement action. He reasoned that, in any event, the appellant was required as a minimum to partly demolish the existing structure to the point where the elements remaining were authorised by the planning permission. He found no good reason why this could not be done at this juncture, whether as an interim step to further works pending the resolution of the civil boundary dispute, or otherwise. He also saw no technical reason why it could not be done without erecting scaffolding on the neighbouring land. Extending the period for compliance would further delay the council’s attempts to remedy the breach of planning control in the public interest, he concluded, and the appeal against the enforcement notice must fail.

Section 4.5362 of DCP Online concerns reduction to permitted use.