Planning Breaches and Proceeds of Crime

We asked Richard Snape, a leading presenter on all things conveyancing, to share his views on planning breaches and proceeds of crime.

A breach of planning permission is not a criminal offence but non-compliance with an enforcement notice is and may lead to prosecution.  In the case of R v Del Basso [2010] EWCA Crim 1119 there was a successful prosecution for breaching an enforcement notice where a car park was being used as a park and ride in breach of planning permission.  A confiscation order of £760,000 was obtained by the local authority.  This was based on the profit that had been made by the breach.  The planning authority is able to keep 37.5% of the money under the order.  In another example, Southwark Borough Council obtained a confiscation order of £1.2 million relating to breach of an enforcement notice where for seven years a landlord had converted three self-contained flats into twenty bedsits without planning permission for a change of use.  However, in the case of Wokingham Borough Council v Scott [2019] EWCA Crim 205 the Court of Appeal decided that such an order was not available and that criminal proceedings should not be instigated on the grounds that it would benefit the prosecutor.

Carrying out unauthorised works on a listed building is automatically a criminal offence and in these circumstances a confiscation order may be available without an enforcement notice.  Moreover, cutting down, lopping, topping, uprooting, wilfully damaging, or wilfully destroying a tree subject to a Tree Preservation Order (TPO) without permission is also a criminal office.  In the case of Davey [2013] EWCA Crim 1662 a homeowner arranged for a third party to cut down a neighbour’s tree which was to a Tree Preservation Order so as to obtain a better view of Poole Harbour.  They were fined £75,000 and there was also a confiscation order of £50,000 based on the increased value of the property with the enhanced view.  There have been other examples of confiscation orders in relation to TPOs.

Conveyancers may be concerned, especially in relation to listed buildings and Tree Preservation Orders that they are not falling foul of money laundering offences in the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002. Certain other breaches may also give rise for concern.  In particular, confiscation orders have been obtained for breaches in relation to Houses in Multiple Occupation legislation.

Richard Snape, May 2020

DISCLAIMER:  Nothing said in this article constitutes legal or other professional advice and no warranty is given nor liability accepted for the contents of this article. Richard Snape, Davitt Jones Bould and LawSure Insurance will not accept responsibility for any loss suffered in consequence of reliance on information contained in the article.