RTPI launches updated Planning Enforcement Handbook

The RTPI has created a new Planning Enforcement Handbook for England, in response to new Levelling Up and Regeneration Act rules taking place
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The Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) has launched a new Planning Enforcement Handbook for England in preparation for new Levelling Up and Regeneration Act rules coming into effect

The updated Planning Enforcement Handbook for England is aimed at providing local authorities’ enforcement teams with best practice advice on how to effectively deal with a range of enforcement challenges.

The handbook has been written by members of the RTPI’s National Association of Planning Enforcement (NAPE) and funded by the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC).

The updated handbook is launched as new enforcement regulations take effect on 25 April. These new regulations are a part of changes to the planning system introduced by the Levelling Up and Regeneration Act (LURA).

Providing a clear process of planning enforcement for a service under pressure

The Planning Enforcement Handbook seeks to guide planning enforcement officers in England towards correct decisions, whether it be taking formal enforcement action or taking no action at all.

The aim is to ensure that whatever the decision, there must be an auditable trail of officers’ actions based upon the law, government guidance, and the evidence available.

Planning enforcement serves as the cornerstone of the planning system, safeguarding the public and the environment from infringements of planning control, violations of planning laws, and poorly conceived developments.

A 90% backlog in planning applications was due to resourcing issues

The sector continues to grappling with a substantial crisis in resourcing, skills, and performance. Research conducted by the RTPI in 2022, and commissioned by DLUHC, found that 80% of planners surveyed felt that their local authority had an insufficient number of enforcement officers to manage the workload.

Additionally, 70% of respondents reported that their local authority has experienced difficulties recruiting enforcement officers over the past five years. In February, DLUHC supported the RTPI to fund an online recruitment campaign to address the critical shortage of Planning Enforcement Officers across councils nationwide.

The updates reflect new requirements of the Levelling Up and Regeneration Act 2023

Lindsey Richards, president of the RTPI, said: “Since launching the first version five years ago, our Planning Enforcement Handbook has become an invaluable asset for enforcement officers across England.

“Planning enforcement is a critical component of the planning system, and we hope that this updated handbook will provide much-needed guidance to local authorities in England on how to tackle a range of enforcement challenges.”

Joanna Averley, chief planner at DLUHC, said: “This handbook is a valuable resource to planning enforcement officers and provides useful advice on the different tools available for use in tackling unauthorised development.

“I’m pleased that DLUHC have been able to fund the production of this updated handbook, reflecting the changes we have made through the Levelling Up and Regeneration Act 2023, giving more powers to local planning authorities supporting a critical part of our planning system. This will support the incredibly important work that planning enforcement officers do across the country.”

Dawn Russell, principal planning enforcement officer, South Gloucestershire Council said: “I refer to this Handbook often; it is designed as a practical tool for planning enforcement officers by experts in our field. The new sections on Enforcement Warning Notices and Listed Building Temporary Stop Notice provide sound advice for introducing these new powers into our daily processes.”

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