Member of Parliament Gareth Bacon proposed a new law in Parliament today to make unauthorised developments a criminal offence in a bid to stop people breaking planning rules.
Mr Bacon tabled the Ten Minute Rule Bill to deal with longstanding problems created by developers flagrantly ignoring planning regulations, often at considerable inconvenience to local residents. During his speech he cited one such example currently taking place at Wheatsheaf Hill where, despite the best efforts of Bromley Council, developers have not been deterred from clearing woods and installing six mobile homes on green belt land without planning permission, with work continuing even after a court injunction had been issued. .
Orpington’s MP believes the current rules which classify unauthorised developments as a civil offence are not strong enough to stop people flouting planning rules. He proposes a new law to make the action a criminal offence to crack down on the individuals illegally developing sites, causing harm to the local area and, in some cases, destroying the green belt.
Under the existing rules, unauthorised developments can lead to enforcement action at a significant legal cost to local authorities. However, it can take years to restore some sites due to the lengthy appeals process and the rogue developers are often granted retrospective planning permission.
In the year up to March 2021, over 6,500 enforcement notices, planning contravention notices and injunctions were granted by courts in England. Mr Bacon says the scale of enforcement action shows the system is failing to deter authorised developments.
By making unauthorised developments a criminal offence, the appeals route would be limited and the right to retrospective planning permission ended. Mr Bacon argues this would provide a strong deterrent to those intent on building without permission.
Commenting on his proposal, Mr Bacon said: “We need a strong and fairer system to stop unauthorised developments. By allowing rogue developers to break the rules and get retrospective permission, we are rewarding them for disregarding the law.
“That’s why I am proposing a new law to make unauthorised developments a criminal offence. This would stop individuals from using the appeals process to delay repercussions and close the loophole that lets them apply for approval after the matter.
“Unauthorised developments like the one at Wheatsheaf Hill cause huge concerns for local residents. “While local authorities are left with a terrible choice: back down and grant retrospective approval or battle the developers in courts for years. By changing the law, we can strengthen council’s to act, protect the green belt and ensure communities get their say on local developments.”