Dealing with derelict and abandoned properties
At the request of Cllr Dale Heenan, Councillor for Covingham & Dorcan ward and the Conservative Cabinet Member for Strategic Planning, the Planning Committee of Swindon Borough Council will be considering a report on Tuesday night about the use of little used Council enforcement powers to solve a range of local issues from overgrown and untidy gardens to abandoned and derelict properties.
Dale Heenan, “Most Councillors and residents know of atleast one property which is abandoned and derelict and becomes a local eyesore, or whose garden is overgrown and there is a refusal to keep it even basically maintained. The use of section 215 notices to solve these problems is something which the Council doesn’t do very frequently and is a last resort. However, there are times when the Council must draw a line in the sand, and needs a stick that it is prepared to use.
Within 72 hours of the Council agreeing to use these powers on a bungalow in Covingham which had been abandoned for many years, quite by coincidence, the owner agreed to sell rather than leave it derelict. In the end, the threat of action at magistrates court is often enough.
As a result of this casework, I asked Officers to present a report on using section 215 orders to the Planning Committee for a review of how they are used to ensure they are used effectively, and promote knowledge of the possible action to all Councillors and local residents”
Background on section 215 notices
Enforcement action under section 215 may be taken by a Local Planning Authority (LPA) against the owner of land where it appears to the LPA that the amenity of the area is adversely affected by the condition of the land. A section 215 notice may be served on the owner requiring the situation be remedied. This notice sets out the steps necessary to do this, and the time limit within which this must be carried out. ‘Land’ also includes buildings.
The scope of works that can be required to be carried out within a section 215 notice include painting, clearance, tidying, demolition, enclosure, planting, and repairs. These must be undertaken by the landowner within a prescribed period.
The Council has the discretion to use this power as it deems appropriate, as long as the discretion is exercised reasonably.
Examples of when enforcement action under section 215 may be used in ascending order of severity (the list is not exhaustive);
- Overgrown front garden.
- Overgrown front garden with rundown residential property (e.g. peeling paint, broken windows)
- Untidy front garden with various goods deposited on the land (e.g. white goods, rusty cars etc.)
- Town centre building frontages
- Incomplete developments
- Untidy building sites with waste and debris
- Derelict buildings
- Large vacant industrial sites
Planning Committee agenda
Report on Enforcement in respect of Untidy land (section 215 notices)
section 215 Best Practice Guide