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Planning inspector upholds council's enforcement notices requiring unauthorised buildings to be demolished

A Government inspector has upheld notices issued by Chichester District Council calling for buildings that were constructed without planning permission to be demolished.

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The properties were built in woodland on a site in Marlpit Lane, Westbourne. As well as constructing a large two-storey house, the landowner also installed two unauthorised timber buildings — one to the east and one to west of the site — all of which were used for residential purposes without planning permission.

Once construction of the two-storey house came to light, Chichester District Council's Planning Enforcement team investigated and discovered the additional two timber buildings. The team then issued the landowner with six enforcement notices between February 2021 and July 2022 relating to the use of the land, and the construction of the buildings for residential purposes.

All the notices were appealed by the landowner, who claimed that the house had existed for at least four years and that, as a result, could not be subject to enforcement action. He argued that it had originally been built so that a friend could rent it as a business premises. When the friend's business went into financial difficulties, the landowner then turned it into a residential property. In the brief intervening period, the building was said to have been used for storage but during the hearing, the inspector found no evidence of a prior use of the building.

Regarding the two timber buildings, the landowner argued that he did not know about them when he purchased the land from a neighbour in 2013. He had only discovered them when he had been clearing the land. The neighbour said they had used the buildings for storing tools.

Following a site inspection, the Planning Inspector said that he found it implausible that the current owner had not known about the timber buildings and that there was a 'distinct lack of documentary evidence concerning the prior existence and use of the two buildings'.

Following the hearing, the Planning Inspector found that breaches of planning control had taken place as identified, and upheld the council's enforcement notices.

"We are extremely pleased with the inspector's decision and we hope that this sends a clear message that we will take action where buildings are constructed without planning permission," says Councillor Susan Taylor, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Planning at Chichester District Council.

"Enforcement action is always a last resort. We aim to resolve any breaches that occur by working positively with householders and landowners but, where needed, we will take action. We will continue to monitor this site to ensure that the demolition works are carried out as required."

Date of Release: 3 March 2023


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