City MP calls council out on planning enforcement strategy

Steve McCabe has spoken out against Birmingham City Council’s decision not to apply for money from the £1 million Planning Enforcement Fund despite hundreds of planning breaches across the city.


Steve McCabe recently wrote to the Chief Executive of Birmingham City Council to ask what plans they had to apply for money from the Department for Communities and Local Government’s Planning Enforcement Fund to help with costs associated with enforcement cases where someone as breached planning rules.


Steve was appalled to be told by the Council’s Head of Planning Management that the fund is only used for Injunctive Action and they have reviewed the criteria and they believe they do not have any current live cases that they think would justify injunctive relief at present.


The Council’s Planning Officer told Steve that for the Council to consider Injunctive Powers regarding unauthorised building works, the works would have to be so oppressive in size and location regarding proximity to neighbouring properties that other enforcement powers would not be suitable.


Section 187b of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 enables local authorities to apply to the court for an injunction where they consider it necessary or expedient, whether or not they have exercised or are proposing to exercise any of their others powers.


In a recent Freedom of Information Request to the Council Steve McCabe discovered that the number of enforcement cases where the Council took formal action has reduced by two thirds over 10 years. In 2004 the Council pursued formal enforcement action for 187 cases, by 2014 this was just 56.


Many people will recall the case of Mr & Mrs White from The Hurst who’s neighbour extended their property so close to Mr & Mrs White’s house that it effectively turned their home into a semi-detached property with no way of maintaining the guttering or rainwater pipes. However the Council told Mr & Mrs White that despite the neighbours breaching planning permission the extension did not cause ‘significant harm’ and they would not take any action.


Steve McCabe MP said:

“I find it astonishing that we see rogue landlords and cowboy builders doing what they like all over my constituency and the council says that they have no cases that meet the criteria for a court injunction.


“I have been told there are approximately 100 live enforcement cases in Selly Oak ward alone, I want to know why the council thinks it doesn’t need to seek a court injunction on any of its live cases? Even more puzzling is why we have seen a steady decline from 2004 to 2014 in the number of cases where formal enforcement action has been taken.


“The council repeatedly tell me that a particular build does not pose significant harm or an extension is only slightly bigger than permitted development allows. It sounds too often like they don’t care. My constituents want planning enforcement action so that they can be confident that the council is on their side. I wonder how many of those making these decision would be happy to live next door to one of these extensions and if they’d consider it significant then.”

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