Neglected Land: How to Get Untidy Land Cleaned Up

What is neglected land?

Neglected land can be defined as land that was intrinsically useful but has deteriorated and is now perceived to be abandoned, neglected and possibly detrimental to its immediate environment.

This could be raw land that has not been cared for, or previously developed land that is no longer attended to by the owner.

Local authority powers: s 215 notices

Under s 215 of the Town & Country Planning Act 1990 (the Act), a local planning authority (LPA) has the power to take steps requiring land to be cleaned up when its condition adversely affects the amenity of the area.

If it appears the amenity of part of their area is being adversely affected by the condition of neighbouring land and buildings, the LPA may serve a notice on the owner requiring that the situation be remedied. These notices set out what needs to be done and when it needs to be done by.

LPAs also have powers under s 219 of the Act to carry out the clean up works themselves and claw back the costs from the landowner.

The use of s 215 by LPAs is discretionary and when deciding whether to issue a notice under these provisions, LPAs should consider:

  • the condition of the site;
  • the impact on the surrounding area;
  • the scope of their powers.

Notices issued should clear, precise and unambiguous, with good quality, lasting solutions required. Where necessary, specialist input should be sought at an early stage; for example, from the LPA’s Conservation or Building Control Officers, or independent engineers with relevant expertise.

Before issuing a s 215 notice, LPAs must ensure the works required do not breach planning control, eg, unlawful works to a listed building, or material alterations to premises for which planning permission should be sought.

In some circumstances s 215 notices may be used with other powers, such as repair notices in respect of listed buildings or dangerous structure notices.

The scope of works that can be required in s 215 notices includes planting, clearance, tidying, enclosure, demolition, re-building, external repairs and repainting.

Such notices have been used to successfully clean up large vacant industrial sites, town centre street frontages, rural sites, derelict buildings, and semi-complete development as well as rundown residential properties and overgrown gardens

LPAs are encouraged to share information and work with regeneration, economic development, housing departments and other regeneration agencies as part of a wider strategy of local environment improvement and regeneration. Government guidance also encourages them to be proactive in identifying and remedying neglected land, rather than just waiting for

Other powers

Potential sites can sometimes go beyond the remit of a s215 notice so there may be other more appropriate powers that an LPA can rely upon in order to effect a remedy, such as:

  • ss 76-79 of the Building Act for defective premises, dangerous buildings, ruinous and dilapidated buildings and neglected sites;
  • s 29 of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1982 for works on unoccupied buildings;
  • ss 79-82 of the Environmental Protection Act for abatement or prohibition of a nuisance;
  • listed building legislation such as Repairs and Urgent Works Notices;
  • completion Notices; and
  • compulsory Purchase Orders.