Councils have comprehensive powers to enforce against breaches of planning control. In practice, how far can councils go? And what are the implications of the public sector equality duty?
How far can enforcement go?
As far as:
Public sector equality duty
The recent court decision on the 109 flats shows that the public sector equality duty (PSED) is not necessarily a significant obstacle to enforcement action.
The landowner alleged the decision to serve the enforcement notice was taken without proper regard to the PSED, as the Council did not know what the equality implications would be of requiring the occupants of the flats, about 200 people, to leave their homes.
The Officer Report stated that, whilst the exact personal circumstances of every occupier was not known, it was understood that a number of individuals fell within protected characteristics. It also acknowledged risks of homelessness, disruption and distress.
The Court held that this was sufficient to satisfy the PSED requirement - the Council was not required to identify, on an individual basis, the protected characteristics of the occupiers or to ascertain their individual circumstances.
The Report also indicated the accommodation was "oppressive", "very poor", "small in size", and "highly deficient in amenities, standards and quality". The Court held that it was open to the Council to decide that providing that standard of accommodation to those with protected characteristics was contrary to the aims of the Equality Act 2010.