Bucks clampdown on illegal building will help prevent against 'planning anarchy'

Action to make sure Buckinghamshire does not have ‘planning anarchy’ in the coming year has been given the go-ahead.
Warren WhyteWarren Whyte
Warren Whyte

A local planning and enforcement plan has been drawn up by development chiefs at the new Buckinghamshire Council in an effort to clamp down on illegal building in the county.

And bosses say this will apply to all planning breaches — including HS2 if applicable.

Councillor Warren Whyte, who helped devise the plan, said: “The reputation around the county is varied and perhaps tarnished in some places about how our previous councils undertook planning enforcement.

“This is a new opportunity for a Buckinghamshire Council county-wide enforcement service.

“We must have a new enforcement policy that is seen to give us confidence in the planning system.”

A report outlining the plan revealed how officers want to take a pro-active approach to monitoring planning conditions rather than “simply reacting to potential breaches.”

The new service will, therefore, provide an ‘out of hours’ enforcement service so officers can investigate alleged breaches of planning quicker.

Cases deemed to be of the highest priority will be investigated with a site visit within one working day of being reported, according to a new target set by officers.

Other cases which are less of a priority can expect to see a site visit within ten working days.

Councillor Isobel Darby welcomed the plans, saying: “It’s so very important.

“If we don’t have enforcement, we will have planning anarchy and that is something our residents do not want.

“If there’s no enforcement, then why bother?”

In 2019, the combined cases received by the five former councils was 1750 and of these, less than six per cent were in the highest priority category.

The top priority cases will include unauthorised works to listed buildings, conservation tree matters, development that could cause long-lasting harm, and more.

Councillor Angela Macpherson asked planning chiefs if this meant taking action against the controversial HS2 development if it was discovered to have breach planning rules involving trees and wildlife.

Steven Bambrick responded: “As we’ve made clear [in the document], we will continue to take enforcement action where that’s appropriate, even if that relates to HS2 activity.”

The enforcement plan, which is an interim document covering the first year of the new service, was approved at a virtual meeting of the council’s cabinet on Tuesday, June 16.

Oliver Sirrell , Local Democracy Reporting Service