With almost 5,000 enforcement notices being issued within four years, the City of Westminster is the worst place for planning permission violations in the nation.

This 21 km area in central London was responsible for 47 percent (of the 10094 total) of all complaints between 2016 and 2020. Some 4,740 were resolved or enforced.

This contrasts with Birmingham, which saw the most complaints in its 268km region, and had 7,991 over the four-year period. Only 139 complaints were resolved, which is a mere two percent. 

The worst fifteen areas were taken up by 11 London boroughs, one expert in planning blamed wealthy homeowners for ‘trying not to make ends meet’. 

Joe Whitworth, Head of Planning at design firm Resi, told MailOnline ‘breaches in planning can be common as there’s not a lot of support out there for homeowners and a general lack of clarity in the industry’, adding ‘it’s easy for mistakes to be made if the contractor isn’t using a fully inspected drawing’.

He also blamed the high number of upheld complaints on Westminster City Council’s ‘highly resourced planning team’, and added: ‘They’re able to be much more proactive in sniffing out planning breaches’.

The council’s spokesperson said that it wasn’t surprising they handle more planning violations and complaints than other authorities. According to them, Westminster was the most busy planning authority dealing with thousands upon thousands of development each year.

SOHO: Recent upheld complaints in the borough include a roof terrace on Richmond Buildings in May 2020. The terrace, complete with railings and planters was not allowed

SOHO: Recent upheld complaints in the borough include a roof terrace on Richmond Buildings in May 2020. This terrace was complete with planters and railings, but it wasn’t allowed. 

SOHO: A detailed example of what the roof terrace looked like despite not having planning permission

SOHO: An example of the roof terrace as it looked despite not being granted planning permission

PADDINGTON: Graffiti and a badly maintained outside area was blasted in one enforcement notice in Westbourne Terrace from June 2018

PADDINGTON: A Westbourne Terrace enforcement notice from June 2018 blasted graffiti and an area that was not maintained properly.

PADDINGTON: A street view of the building on Westbourne Terrace which was in a bad state of repair

PADDINGTON – A Street View of Westbourne Terrace’s Building. It was badly damaged.

BAYSWATER: Photographs show the repairs needed in the house in St Stephen's Gardens in December 2019

BAYSWATER – Photographs of the work needed to renovate the St Stephen’s Gardens house in December 2019

The borough has recently received two complaints: a Soho rooftop terrace and a poorly maintained, graffiti-laden garden in Paddington.

A second complaint was filed in St Stephen’s Gardens Bayswater due to the ‘poor state of the building’. In the ruling, it was clear that steps needed to be taken within four months to correct the situation.

You were instructed to remove all unkeyed, crackled, or perished render/stucco on the property’s front elevation from the basement through the fourth floors.

Hammersmith, Fulham and Birmingham were then followed by Ealing and Camden, Camden and Newham and Bromley and Leicester. 

Areas that are most likely to be harmed by planning permission violations 

City of Westminster: 47%

47% of all complaints regarding planning permission violations in the City of Westminster led to formal enforcement by the local authority. Between 2016 and 2020, over 4,700 enforcement notices had been issued.

An enforcement notice is issued when a party begins unauthorised construction. This serves to stop any further work. The council may issue enforcement notices to request you modify or completely remove building work. Failure to comply can result in serious penalties like prosecution and fines. 

Brent: 42%

Residents in London Borough Brent reported 42 percent to local authorities about violations of planning permission. In five years, enforcement notices were issued. Between 2016 and 2020, more than 800 enforcement notices had been served.

Ealing – 15%

From 2016 to 2020, the local authority of London Borough Ealing was subject to more than 6000 complaints. 15%, or around 900, of those complaints led to formal enforcement notices being issued. 

Mr Whitworth added: ‘The City of Westminster is known for having a highly resourced planning/enforcement team, so they’re able to be much more proactive in sniffing out planning breaches. 

We would assume that because of the increased competition in this area for homes and the price tag on Central London properties, neighbors are more attentive to what they do and how it affects their property. That could result in more complaints.

MailOnline spoke with Colby Short who is the founder and CEO at GetAgent.co.uk. He said that while it’s impossible to determine exactly why so many planning offences have occurred in Westminster, there were a variety of possible factors.

“To start with, many properties in Westminster have attached boundaries, making it easier for you to cross into neighboring properties.

According to Mr Short, many properties have older structures that can lead to strict rules which could be easily broken. Owners may get in trouble for making minor changes like painting without permission. 

He also said that the price per square feet in London and Westminster was much more expensive than in other parts of the UK. Therefore, many people are trying to make their homes bigger and sell at a higher value. 

The Westminster property list is full of older properties that may need to be governed by stricter rules due to their listing status. Some properties are not allowed to be modified by homeowners without their permission.

“Lastly, London’s special area can draw a lot more overseas buyers whether they are looking for second homes, or investment properties. Many foreign buyers don’t understand all the details involved in planning. 

Short said that while a planning infraction is not illegal, ignoring enforcement notices without successfully appealing against them is against law. 

MailOnline was told by Geri Silverstone a planning communication consultant: “One reason for this is because many people living in Westminster aren’t using the best consultants to assist them with their projects. It can lead to errors and failure to obtain the correct permissions.

Silverstone said that the problem was “very much to do basement builds”. Silverstone said, “This is the problem that you get when large private houses try to use permitted development rights to make things happen and then fall foul of what they’re allowed to do.” 

“In Westminster, you cannot build up or go sideways. The only way to get down is through. This can lead to many times being in violation of law. 

Westminster City Council spokesperson said, “Westminster has the most busy planning authority in the nation dealing with thousands upon thousands of developments every year. This is why we are able to handle more planning breaches and complaints than other authorities. 

The pub was the only building left standing on Carlton Vale after a Nazi bombing raid on Maida Vale during the Second World War

After the Nazi bombing raid of Maida Vale in the Second World War, the pub was the last remaining building on Carlton Vale.

The Carlton Tavern is pictured following the demolition by developers CLTX in 2015

The Carlton Tavern is pictured following the demolition by developers CLTX in 2015

The pub was demolished in 2015 despite the council having rejected a planning application

Despite the fact that the planning application had been rejected by council, it was still demolished.

When you don’t need to apply for planning permission 

Although for most home renovations planning permission is needed, in some cases you might not need the local authority’s permission to carry out the work.

Permitted Development Rights (PDR), allow for certain modifications to buildings, without the need to make a formal planning application.

The government allows permitted development rights. They may be for the conversion residential properties into commercial spaces, or they could cover improvements to homes such as extensions.

While work covered under PDR requires no planning permission, you do have to submit an application to the local planning authority to determine if it requires ‘prior approval’. If it is determined that the work needs approval, then the local authority will either approve or reject the application.

Source: GetAgent

“While we try to resolve planning violations amicably through negotiations, we sometimes have to take formal enforcement actions in the best interests of residents.

“The authorities are well-equipped and have a lot of experience in dealing with planning enforcement. The data shows the efficiency and dedication of our team. Many high-profile cases of councils standing up for their local communities are highlighted, such as that of the Carlton Tavern Public House. The dedication of the planning enforcement staff and the support from the community resulted in the ‘brick-by-brick’ re-building the pub which was illegally demolished. 

After the Carlton Tavern opened in Maida Vale (West London) six years ago, the developers had to tell them that they would rebuild it ‘brick for brick’. 

English Heritage was considering the pub for Grade II listing status when it demolished the building in 2015.

More than 5,000 campaigners then urged Westminster Council to act, and chiefs ordered Israeli property developer CTLX who owned it to rebuild the whole thing. 

The pub closed in April 2015 and the owners were denied planning permission to convert it into ten flats – but ordered it to be demolished, two days before English Heritage was due to recommend it become a Grade II-listed building.

Incensed, they took their cause before the council. They forced the owners of the property to rebuild the entire thing. 

The Carlton Tavern in Maida Vale, West London, is pictured before it was demolished in 2015

Pictured before its demolition in 2015 is the Carlton Tavern in Maida Vale (West London).

One year later, a planning inquiry approved the move and ruled that it must be rebuilt “in facsimile”, including red bricks as well as its tiled name.

Polly Robertson from Rebuild the Carlton Tavern told The Observer that there was a suspicion they might do something. So, we asked English Heritage about listing the property. They created a plaster mold of each tile and then took photographs. 

Campaign for Pubs claimed that this ruling sets an “incredibly useful precedent”, and now requires full planning permission before any pubs are allowed to become shops as permitted by the rules of permitted development.

After the Nazi bombardment of Maida Vale, the pub was the only remaining structure on Carlton Vale. 

This pub was built to replace an earlier one that stood on this site since the 1860s. It was decimated by a German Zeppelin attack in May 1918. 

Frank J Potter built the Carlton Tavern in 1920 using Vernacular Revival design.

It had been commissioned by the Charrington and Co brewery at a cost of £11,600 – which is about £600,000 in today’s money.