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Unauthorised Development

Volume 530: debated on Monday 20 June 2011

The Government take the problem of unauthorised development very seriously. There are already strong powers to enable local planning authorities to take action, and the Localism Bill, which begins its Committee stage in the House of Lords today, includes provisions in clauses 108 to 111 to strengthen authorities’ powers to tackle unauthorised developments, particularly when people have deliberately tried to conceal them.

I thank my right hon. Friend for his response and the work he and his Department are doing in this field. Does he believe the policies in the Localism Bill to which he has just referred will speed up the planning and enforcement process to help tackle the problems caused by unauthorised developments and business operations?

I do. A particular problem has been unscrupulous developers rather playing the game by both appealing against enforcement in respect of unauthorised developments and putting in fresh applications. In future, the applicant will have a choice of either appealing the enforcement or making a fresh application.

I thank my right hon. Friend for his answer. The 2006 planning enforcement review recommended that planning fees should not include a charge for enforcement. Will the Secretary of State confirm what the current position is, and is he considering changing it?

We will lay out changes with regard to enforcement and issue guidelines. For instance, we will increase the fine for enforcement from £1,000 to £2,500. It is important to send out the message that unscrupulous developers will no longer be able to play the system and get those vital months of freedom in which to continue with a development no one wants.

One of the planning enforcement steps that the Secretary of State has made it harder for Slough local authority to take is dealing with what we call Slough sheds, which is people erecting garden sheds in their back gardens and letting them out for others to occupy. The Secretary of State has taken away the funds we had to be able to enforce against that abuse of garden sheds. What is he doing to ensure that local authorities have sufficient powers and resources to deal with the letting out of inappropriate buildings to needy people?

I regret to have to inform the House that, in all our deliberations, Slough sheds have not been at the forefront of the Department’s mind. If it is an important abuse, I frankly do not believe that the local authority cannot find the necessary resources to prioritise tackling it. However, we are looking at ways in which we can encourage small business and private enterprise to set up in private homes, and I hope the point the hon. Lady raises would not stand in the way of that.