Take notice – planning enforcement

The case of Luigi del Basso & Bradley Goodwin v Regina [2010] EWCA 1119 highlights the seriousness of non-compliance with planning enforcement notices (“PEN”) and the draconian powers which the courts have at their disposal under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 (“POCA”).

A park and ride scheme operated by reputable local businesspeople and for the benefit of a football club was in excess of its permitted use for parking restricted to match days. Mr Basso and Mr Goodwin were served with a PEN under the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 (the “Act”). Non-compliance and expiry of the compliance period rendered the on-going scheme criminally unlawful under the Act, with the defendants eventually being convicted in the Crown Court by Judge Baker.

That Crown Court conviction entitled the prosecution to bring confiscation proceedings under POCA. Judge Baker, disregarding the purported altruistic motives of the scheme, stated that POCA did not exclude certain types of activities and that the recoverable amount may be the total gross receipts of the activity in question. Moreover, if the court determines that a defendant has a ‘criminal lifestyle’, all of a defendant’s property is made available for the recovery pursuant to the confiscation order.

The initial fines of £20,000 handed down to the defendants under the Act might well have served to promote a perception that non-compliance is a routine business risk. However the subsequent £760,000 confiscation order handed down under POCA was, in the words of Judge Baker, devastating.  Lord Justice Leveson in the Court of Appeal affirmed Judge Baker’s treatment of the case, approving of his comments that, in respect of this regime, defendants are “in the same position as thieves, fraudsters and drug dealers…


No doubt motivated by flagrant non-compliance, it will be the ability to retain up to 50% of the confiscated property that will drive cash-strapped local authorities to pursue judgements such as this. The case of Mr Basso and Goodwin serves as an exemplary reminder that once a case enters the domain of criminal law, there is a genuine risk that a crippling confiscation order may be made, with a lengthy prison sentence in default. Purchasers of property subject to enforcement notices should take note as, of course, should owners of land where the clock is ticking for compliance.

PLEASE NOTE: this briefing note contains information about current legal issues and is only intended as a general statement of the law – it does not give legal advice. No action should be taken in reliance on this note without specific legal advice.

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