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Developer Ordered to Demolish 10 Newly-Built Town Houses

Planning laws can be draconian in their effect – as one development company found out when it was ordered to tear down 10 three-storey town houses it had proceeded to construct although it only had official permission to build nine.

A local authority had issued an enforcement notice requiring demolition of the entire development. However, that notice was overturned by a planning inspector who plainly felt that its requirements were disproportionate. He instead directed that modifications be carried out to comply with the original planning consent.

The council challenged that decision at the High Court on the basis that the consent had expired before work on the project had started and that the development had therefore never been lawfully commenced. It was submitted that the inspector thus had no power to vary the terms of the enforcement notice.

The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government conceded that the inspector’s decision should be quashed. The developer resisted the council’s case, but the Court ruled that the decision contained errors of law and that the matter would have to be reconsidered. The Court, however, urged the developer and the council to enter into ‘meaningful discussions’ as to the way forward.

Elmbridge Borough Council v Secretary of State for the Communities and Local Government. Case Number: CO/5330/2014