Councillors have raised concerns about formal action taken against those who breach planning permission and build on their homes or land unlawfully.

Of the 605 cases registered to Lewisham Council in 2017/18, five per cent resulted in a breach of planning enforcement notice – a legal document outlining what action needs to be taken.

Cllr James-J Walsh raised concerns residents were building and then apologising to the council, rather than asking permission.

Speaking at a sustainable development committee, he said: “I am really worried enforcement isn’t as good as it could be.

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“I have had difficulties trying to get [what are] quite clearly breaches of planning enforced in this borough.

“It’s the big thing we all talk about: subdivisions, people doing things on their property, spaces being used without the appropriate planning use class.

“All of those things are the big things. After the housing crisis stuff it’s planning.

“To only have 33 notices seems even lower than what I would expect,” he added.

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A Lewisham Council officer said an enforcement notice was the last resort when someone breached planning permission, which should be taken into account when looking at the figures. 

“The enforcement team does secure compliance through informal action i.e contacting transgressors, advising that it’s been brought to the attention of the local planning authority that works have been carried out without the benefit of planning permission.

“Often those conversations result in compliance way before any formal action is necessary, something to bear in mind in relation to the figure of five per cent.”

The committee asked for the figure to be broken down further and include whether the breach was resolved without an enforcement notice.

This comes after locals threatened to remove the unlawful fence put around the open green space in Duncombe Hill in Honor Oak, with the landowner now appealing the enforcement notice.