Extract from article in The Planner 7/9/15:  A new era: Are enforcement plans working? By Huw Morris


The Do’s and Don’ts of an enforcement plan

A sizeable part of John Silvester’s practice is advising authorities on their enforcement plans. Here are his do’s and don’ts.

DO’s

1. A good enforcement service is one that demonstrates a willingness and ability to change in relation to regular communication with residents and town/parish councils; and with the essential requirements of national policy, recommended best guidance and the good practice of other authorities.

2. A good enforcement plan should clearly set out the main principles of planning enforcement; establish clear standards and expectations of users; identify close working with local residents and shared responsibilities with town/parish councils; it should also show cooperation between service areas that are essential to deliver an effective enforcement service.

DON’TS

1. What makes a bad plan? It’s easy to say it is the opposite of a good one. Not necessarily on every count, but it can be significantly lacking in principal areas.

2. A bad service is one that doesn’t meet the basis requirements. Put simply, one that does not set clear standards, is not clear and open with the provision of information, is not helping business by advising on and assisting with compliance, does not have a clear complaints procedure; does not ensure that enforcement action is proportionate to the risks involved; nor does it demonstrate consistent enforcement practice.

Wokingham – a case study

WBC’s enforcement service receives around 700 requests to investigate each year, although half of these turn out not be planning control breaches.

John Silvester Associates was commissioned to review the service and found that although the team was hardworking and committed, several improvements could be made. Chief among them was improving communication, managing expectations of stakeholders  by publishing a clear statement of what the service can achieve well as proactively involving ward members and town and parish councils.

In response, the authority has prepared an enforcement plan backed up by more staffing and resources, especially dedicated legal support and IT. The plan includes a charter setting standards of service, a commitment to keep customers information and a zero-tolerance approach to breaches that significantly harm safety and amenity.

"The profile of the service is higher and we are managing expectations so people understand the council’s priorities and what it can and can’t do,” says head of development management Clare Lawrence. “We are also less risk-averse to taking action than we were before.”

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