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Enforcement Notices Can Only Demand the Minimum

In the context of a planning dispute in respect of the unauthorised conversion of a single dwelling house into three self-contained flats, the High Court has emphasised that enforcement notices must demand no more than the minimum action required to ensure compliance with planning control.

HousesAn enforcement notice had required restoration of a property to its original use as a single dwelling house and removal of all structures, fixtures and fittings associated with its unauthorised use as self-contained flats. The property contained three kitchens and a planning inspector subsequently ruled that one of them had to be removed in order to comply with the enforcement notice.

On appeal, the landlords of the property pointed out that its use as a dwelling house in multiple occupation was a permitted development and that the property already contained three kitchens prior to enforcement action being taken. The kitchens were not part and parcel of the breach of planning control and all that was required to ensure compliance with the notice was to remove the locks on the entry doors to each of the flats, it was submitted.

Allowing the landlords’ appeal, and remitting the matter for reconsideration by the inspector, the court emphasised that an enforcement notice may only require steps to be taken that are necessary for the purpose of remedying a breach of planning control. The inspector had failed to address the landlord’s plea that the kitchens were installed to facilitate the property’s lawful use as a dwelling house in multiple occupation rather than as a precursor to the house’s unlawful conversion into flats.