Last edited 22 Oct 2020

Section 215 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990

Section 215 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 enables a Local Planning Authority (LPA) to serve a notice if they judge the condition of land or buildings to be harmful to the area. A typical application of a Section 215 notice is to require the tidying up of waste and detritus on open land.

An LPA may decide that the amenity of the area is being negatively impacted by the condition of land or buildings, and so serve a notice setting out the possible remedies that the owner of the land can take, as well as the timeframe within which they can undertake those remedies.

Failure to comply with a notice is a prosecutable offence. An LPA has the power, under Section 219, to enter and carry out the remedial works themselves, as well as subsequently recovering costs from the landowner. Such notices can be appealed against by the landowner.

The use of Section 215 is discretionary, the LPA must decide whether the serving of a notice is appropriate, based on considerations of the site condition and its impact on the surrounding area. Some circumstances may involve an LPA using a Section 215 notice in conjunction with other powers, such as dangerous structure notices, repair notices for listed buildings, and so on.

Section 215 is intended to address a problem identified by the Urban Task Force found in 1999, that ‘…there is little incentive for private property owners to invest in the quality of their property if they are situated within an urban environment which is of such low quality that it simply sucks value out of their property’.

However, Notices can also be misused by LPAs.

In the case of Lisle-Mainwaring v Kensington and Chelsea RLBC (2016), a Notice was served in respect of a house which had been painted with red-and-white stripes. The LPA argued that, although a building’s external decoration would not normally adversely affect the amenity of an area, the house was situated in a conservation area, one of the key features of which was its visual integrity, with a limited range of neutral painted colours.

The Court of Appeal ruled in favour of the LPA, saying that ‘amenity’ is a broad concept, not defined by Section 215, instead being a question of the LPA’s judgement. The appellant was ordered to repaint the property.

However, in April 2017, the High Court ruled that the council had served the wrong legal notice and misused Section 215. Mr Justice Gilbert ruled; “In my judgment, to allow an LPA to use Section 215 to deal with questions of aesthetics, as opposed to disrepair or dilapidation, falls outside the intention and spirit of the planning code. I am therefore of the view that it is an improper use of Section 215 to use it to alter a lawful painting scheme.”

He said the council should have used Section 102 instead.

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