Localism Bill – Will it bring chaos to the property market?

The new Localism Bill proposes changes to the planning system including strengthening authorities’ powers to tackle abuse of the system and the Law Society is warning that changes could bring yet more uncertainty to the housing market.
The Bill will allow local planning authorities to pursue a planning enforcement order at any time after it becomes aware that there has been a breach of planning control and require a property owner to remedy that breach.
Law Society President Linda Lee has said:
“The new regime could create uncertainty for the buyers of both residential and commercial property when they cannot establish whether previous owners have concealed a breach of planning control as they themselves could become liable to enforcement action for that breach at any point in the future. If the buyer discovers a concealed breach and then fails to report it, they will be concealing it themselves.
These reforms could have a serious effect on both the residential and commercial property markets, where innocent purchasers could become liable for the actions of a previous owner.
This could lead to purchasers demanding that every breach of planning control is remedied or that the price is abated for the risk. It also could delay transactions while enquiries are being made about the planning status of a property. It increases the level of due diligence buyers would need to do, as there will no longer be a cut-off date. This could involve buyers incurring considerable expense. It could even necessitate taking out insurance against any unknown potential liability.
While aimed at the fraudulent and blatant cheats, the provisions are drawn so widely that they will catch anything which has not been expressly pointed out to the planning authority. Establishing deliberate concealment is not straightforward. The new provision is unnecessary — the two cases which have led to these proposals are highly unusual and bizarre.’
At present the Town and Country Planning Act gives time limits on the taking of planning enforcement action:
No enforcement action can be taken against development involving the carrying out of operations without planning permission after four years from the date the operations are substantially completed
No enforcement action can be taken against the change of use of a building into a single dwelling house after four years following the date of the breach of planning control.
No enforcement action can be taken against any other breach of planning control after ten years following the breach.
What do you think — will it have an adverse impact on the property market or will buyers be encouraged to obtain insurance to cover the risk?
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