Ashtons Legal wins planning enforcement High Court appeal

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The Ashtons Planning and Regulatory teams have successfully supported a client who had been prosecuted in 2023 by a local authority for failing to comply with a planning enforcement notice, in breach of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990.

The client owned a property which she rented out as a house of multiple occupation and the local authority was seeking to require her to turn it back into a single dwelling. It transpired that although the enforcement notice had been registered, the client had not actually been served with it and she had therefore not known about it. Having not known about it, she had not acted on it and in due course was prosected for non-compliance.

The case started out in the Magistrates’ Court and the court accepted that the client could not reasonably have been expected to know that the enforcement notice had been issued and acquitted her of the offence. The local authority appealed the case, suggesting that the Magistrates’ decision was legally wrong.

The appeal was heard in the High Court and the judgment handed down in May 2024. The outcome was that the Magistrates Court’s decision was upheld. This confirms the legal position that it is possible for someone to be acquitted when prosecuted for a breach of a planning enforcement notice, if they were not actually served with the notice and were genuinely and excusably unaware that it existed.

Tim Ridyard, who is Head of the Regulatory team at Ashtons, comments: “This was a very unusual matter, but we were delighted to be able to achieve the right outcome for our client. Clearly, complying with all regulatory regimes is important in any business environment, but being prosecuted for something that you could not have been expected to be aware of was unfair from a common sense perspective, and it is reassuring that the law substantiates this.”

For more detailed legal information about this case, please read: Ashtons Legal LLP wins planning enforcement High Court appeal in case stated judgement.

Contact our regulatory law solicitors today

If you have any questions regarding any of the issues raised in this article, please do not hesitate to contact our specialist Regulatory Law team by using our online enquiry form or by calling 0330 191 5713.


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