Anytime soon

In Shakespeare’s day ‘presently’ only meant in the present, now. Over a few centuries the procrastinators amongst us have managed to stretch the meaning of the word such that it can also mean in the near future, soonish. Likewise, ‘immediately’ might not mean exactly the same thing to one person as it does to another. Against this background you can see the inspector’s problem with an enforcement notice which required the use of a site in Gloucestershire as a storage yard to cease ‘immediately’ (DCS Number 400-024-830). He declared the notice a nullity and without legal effect.

The inspector explained that in R (oao Lynes & Lynes) v West Berkshire DC [2003] the judge found that a period must have a start point and an end point. He pointed out that the term ‘immediately’ does not. The notice therefore failed to specify a period for compliance as required by s173(9) of the Act.

The inspector reasoned “There is, on the face of it, a simple and obvious remedy, namely to use the power available under s176(1) of the Act to vary the notice and substitute a true period for compliance, such as one day.” He noted, however, that in Lynes the judge said:

I am very conscious of the need to avoid technicalities and artificial distinctions when dealing with enforcement notices, but the failure to comply with a basic statutory provision for a valid enforcement notice, such as specification of a period for compliance, cannot be said to be a technicality. An enforcement notice which, on its face, does not comply with such a requirement, is a nullity and therefore incapable of amendment.

Accordingly, the inspector had to conclude that the notice was a nullity.

Just to be clear, we don’t believe that “The use must cease one day” is what the inspector meant.

Further appeal examples relating to the period of compliance can be found at Section 4.5361 of DCP Online.