Council criticised for taking wrong type of enforcement approach

An enforcement notice was used to regularise a change of use of a garage to a dog-grooming business at a property in Hertfordshire, but this notice was quashed by an inspector who considered the council should have used a breach of condition notice instead to ensure the re-use of the garage for vehicular parking.

The inspector noted in considering the case that a retrospective planning application for the grooming use at the garage had previously been refused. The council refused it as they considered the use gave rise to on-street parking pressures and resulted in noise and disturbance for adjoining occupiers.

The inspector noted a condition was imposed at the property requiring that domestic garages be retained and made available for the housing of non-commercial vehicles only. In considering whether any breach of planning control had actually taken place, the inspector referred to a letter from the council, issued in June 2019, which stated that from a site visit earlier in the same month it appeared the grooming business had currently ceased as the main equipment necessary for its continued use, including a sink and a table, had been removed from the garage. The letter mentioned the breach of condition relating to the use of the garage and advised that the dog grooming use should not recommence, and the garage should be re-instated for vehicular use by 8 August 2019. However, an enforcement notice was subsequently issued on 24 June 2019.

The inspector held that crucial to the case was that there had been no further correspondence, nor any written indication from the council provided to suggest the use had recommenced between the 10 and 24 June when the notice was issued. The inspector concluded the enforcement notice was used as a vehicle to attempt to regularise the planning position in respect of the garage’s availability for parking and that this was the wrong approach, as on the date of issue of the notice, the breach of planning control comprising the dog grooming business was no longer occurring. 

Inspector: Timothy King; Written representations

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