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Court of Appeal rules on planning enforcement offences

DATE: 26 Feb 2014

The Court of Appeal has given judgment in Ahmed v London Borough of Newham. The case is the leading authority on the interplay between the criminal offences created by s. 179 and s. 181 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990.

Where an enforcement notice is complied with, but works of development are then reinstated contrary to the notice, an offence is committed by an owner under s. 181(5) in relation to those works and not under s. 179(2).

The defendant had complied with enforcement notices in relation to a number of properties but then reconverted the properties back to flats in breach of the notices.

The appellant defendant argued that as the resumption of the use as flats was facilitated by reinstating physical works, such conduct falls within s. 181(5). It was argued that the local planning authority was therefore not entitled to charge such conduct under s. 179(2), and with s. 181(5) being a summary only offence, they were now out of time to prosecute.

The court unanimously rejected the appeal, holding that s. 181(5) does not apply to the resumption of a use of land, but only to the reinstatement of physical works. Further, as the works which facilitated the use were not by themselves development, s. 181(5) was not engaged. The works were properly charged under s. 179(2) and the crown court conviction stood.

The appeal against sentence was also rejected. It was held that although the defendant was a joint owner of the relevant properties, the evidence suggested he was the sole landlord and therefore in receipt of all rent. The Judge had therefore been entitled to take into account all financial benefit in setting the fine.

Jonathan Wills acted for the London Borough of Newham.