Hackney Council has seized £700,000 from a developer who built a block of flats without planning permission, and then proceeded to rent them out. 

The confiscation order, which is one of the largest obtained for a breach of planning control,  was made under the Proceeds of Crime Act and is in addition to the Council requiring that the building be demolished.

Confiscation orders can only be made where a party has pleaded guilty to, or been convicted of, a crime. Criminal convictions are a last resort in planning enforcement matters and in order to obtain one (in matters not relating to listed buildings or TPOs)  a developer would:

  • have been contacted by the Council about a potential breach of planning control;
  • been served with an enforcement notice;
  • either not responded to the notice or lost an appeal against it, as a result of which the notice would have come into effect; 
  • failed to comply with the provisions of the notice once it had come into effect; and finally
  • been successfully prosecuted by the Council, in the criminal courts (usually the magistrates' court) for failing to comply with the order.

As such, eye-watering cases such as this are rare. It does, however,  serve as a reminder of the importance of engaging with the Council early, if the prospect of enforcement action is raised in respect of a development.