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Craig Allison: Could enforcement be the most important arm of planning?

I am currently a Senior Planning Enforcement Officer for Hambleton District Council and also play an active role within the RTPI as the NAPE North of England Representative. NAPE plays an important role within the enforcement sector of planning by supporting and being at the forefront of any proposed changes to the Enforcement system.

What do you say when someone asks “what is the most important arm in planning?” Some people will say design, as it maps out the places we live and work. Other’s will say creating policy as it ensures that we build the right developments in the right location.

Whilst these are all significant parts of the planning system, they are not – in my view – the most important. To me, enforcement is the most important arm of the planning system, as without planning enforcement, what is the point in planning all together? It is our role as enforcement officers to ensure that the integrity of the planning system is maintained and that we ensure certain characteristics of our environment are protected from inappropriate development.

Being apart of NAPE (National Association of Planning Enforcement) for a number of years, I am using various platforms to promote enforcement and the work that officers do throughout the country.

It is also encouraging to see that the Government are now taking notice of enforcement and the work we do. The NAPE Management committee have been having regular meetings with DLUHC to ensure that the changes done to the enforcement system are changes that our NAPE members wanted to see. This is particular evident within the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill  where a number of points were made to give enforcement officers more scope and power in dealing with breaches of planning control. These include:

  • Extending the period for taking enforcement action to ten years in all cases and by removing the four year rule associated with residential.
  • Introducing Enforcement Warning Notices – this is a tool that is actively used in Wales and has been successful in tackling breaches of planning control without the need of serving a formal enforcement notice.
  • Increasing fines associated with certain planning breaches – this is especially in regard to Breach of Condition Notices where only small fines are issued to large development companies. Therefore, by increasing the fines more risk associated with undertaking an unauthorised development
  • Doubling fees for retrospective planning applications – Currently the NAPE Management committee do not support the doubling of fees for retrospective actions as this risks penalising those who have made genuine mistakes on their applications and discouraging them from applying.
  • Extending the time period for Temporary Stop Notices from 28 to 56 days – giving Local Authorities more time to consider formal enforcement action and to assess expediency.
  • Give Local Planning Authorities the power to dismiss certain appeals where the appellant causes undue delay – this should in turn quicken up the process
  • The scope for appeals against enforcement notices will be tightened so that there is only one opportunity to obtain planning permission retrospectively.

These measures will improve the enforcement system and shows that Government wants enforcement to have an even stronger arm in planning. However, it is known in the planning community that enforcement can sometimes be under resourced or overlooked. Therefore, with more power being given to enforcement officers to tackle breaches of planning control it is as important as ever that we ensure that enforcement is at the forefront of planning departments throughout the country to ensure that the integrity of the planning system is maintained. By maintaining a good planning system, this gives members of the public confidence in the planning system.

If you ever want to discuss a particular matter that you are unsure on please do not hesitate to contact your local representative via RTPI | National Association of Planning Enforcement (NAPE).


The RTPI runs two types of Online CPD Masterclasses on enforcement in each year.

  • The Introduction to Enforcement CPD Masterclass is aimed at those who are new to planning enforcement. The masterclass will provide you with an overview of what planning enforcement is, why it is important, and the role it plays within the overall planning system.
  • The Enforcement Handbook CPD Masterclass is aimed at those who already work within or have some experience and knowledge of planning enforcement. This Masterclass explores the role of a planning enforcement officer, and the tools and processes of the job.

These masterclasses offer you structured and flexible learning with 7 CPD hour credit towards your yearly professional development.

To help you plan ahead please find the CPD Training Calendar with all the upcoming training dates.

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