( Dover Society Newsletter issue No 77 July 2013 )
The positive use of
Section 215 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990
Section 215 is a planning tool that can assist with the visual improvement of a town as well as contribute towards a town’s regeneration.
The implementation of the use of Section 215 rests with the local statutory planning authority, in the case of Dover the statutory authority is Dover District Council (DDC).
Attempts since 2006 for DDC to exercise the use of Section 215 had, sadly, fallen on deaf ears; however in late 2011 The Dover Society sought a joint working partnership with DDC and the local parish council (Dover Town Council) to identify properties in need of repair/redecoration that would enhance the visual quality of Dover.
The author of this article corresponded and visited Hastings Borough Council (HBC), who had been using Section 215 as part of its regeneration tool since 2000 with remarkable success having served over 500 properties with Section 215 legal notices, and it made sense to adopt established criteria and method used by HBC.
The experience at Hastings was to concentrate on “areas” rather than a random system. It was agreed with DDC and DTC that the first area would be within the town centre that also incorporated two Conservation areas and many listed buildings that should not have been permitted to fall into decline. Also as much of this route would be used in 2012 for the Olympic Torch.
The area included:
Maison Dieu Rd (from Pencester to Castle Street)
Biggin Street (up to Pencester)
Within this area 70 properties were identified as requiring work to be carried out. Additionally because of its visual importance as “The first impression of England” one property was also included from Athol Terrace.
All Land Registry searches and warning letters were kindly handled by DTC. All owners being sent a polite letter stating that their property required maintenance. A second letter was later sent to those property owners that had not complied. This can trigger the actual legal serving of a Section 215 notice by the statutory authority. Dialogue between non-complying owners and DDC takes place during the entire process.
To date within the above area three Section 215 legal notices have been served:
1 Athol Terrace
13/13A (Best Kebab) Cannon Street
62 Castle Street (Former Cinema) owned by J D Wetherspoon
As at December 2013 two thirds of the identified properties have either completed or work is underway. To have achieved nearly 50 properties to be improved can be seen as a success story, however, there are still major eye-sores that will require legal serving of Section 215 notices in order to deliver a visually attractive town. Some in Castle Street that is a Conservation Area with Listed buildings and particularly within the Bench Street area that has a high footfall, including many tourists, from the seafront to the Market Square.
In late 2012 DDC sought that part of Folkestone Road be reviewed for possible Section 215 action and The Dover Society identified 38 properties in the “Priory Station” and “lower end of Folkestone Road”. Concentration of this area was to see visual improvement for passengers using Dover Priory station and to similarly improve the lower end of Folkestone Rd. that has seen a decline in property maintenance standards.
After one year progress in the Folkestone Road area is slower although some 25% of properties have either completed or started work. Major eye-sore properties are now likely to be served with Section 215 legal notices.
What actually happens after the legal notice is served.
So far only one (Athol Terrace) of the three aforementioned notices has gone to Court. The initial “fine” can be up to £1,000. DDC were successful with the prosecution although the Court did not exercise the maximine fine. However the owner now has to comply to carry out work within an agreed timescale with DDC that could include DDC doing the work and the owner paying the Council. Failure to do so enables DDC to return to Court where the maximum fine is £100 for each day beyond the date of agreed work timescale. An example of how costly this can be to the offending owner is demonstrated in Hastings where fines in excess of £20,000 are not unusual AND Council legal costs have to be paid by the offender.
The use of Section 215 fulfils The Dover Society objectives of:
The success would not have been achieved without the support of members of the Dover Society that have assisted me in identifying and recording properties. A special thanks to this team:
Capt. Mike Weston
James Pople (our photographer)
The late Roger Marples
The partnership with Dover District Council and Dover Town Council must also be recognised and thanks must go to
Jim McEwen Dover District Council Principle Planner (Enforcement)
Cllr Nigel Collor Dover District Council Cabinet Member
Karen Dry Dover Town Council Land & Community Officer
With major “New Developments” coming to fruition for Dover we look forward to this partnership continuing with the objective of delivering a cleaner and visually more attractive town by ensuring established properties are well maintained.
Chairman Planning Committee
The Dover Society
4th January 2014