The rights of entry to a property are outlined in s196A, 196B and 196C of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 (as amended).
s196B does not allow for a warrant application where access has been granted. However, if access was denied at an unannounced inspection and there is sufficient evidence to suggest that the site is being cleared prior to an arranged inspection, then an argument can be made to the Courts to grant a warrant on that basis and attend the site with the police to prevent a breach of the peace. Bear in mind also that the Courts have huge backlogs of cases which are ever increasing so any applications could take longer than used to be the case.
S196A (Rights to enter a property without a warrant) reads:-
(1) Any person duly authorised in writing by a local planning authority may at any reasonable hour enter any land –
(a) to ascertain whether there is or has been any breach of planning control on the land or any other land;
(b) to determine whether any of the powers conferred on a local planning authority by this Part should be exercised in relation to the land or any other land;
(c) to determine how any such power should be exercised in relation to the land or any other land;
(d) to ascertain whether there has been compliance with any requirement imposed as a result of any such power having been exercised in relation to the land or any other land,
if there are reasonable grounds for entering for the purpose in question.
(2) Any person duly authorised in writing by the Secretary of State may at any reasonable hour enter any land to determine whether an enforcement notice should be issued in relation to the land or any other land, if there are reasonable grounds for entering for that purpose.
(3) The Secretary of State shall not so authorise any person without consulting the local planning authority.
(4) Admission to any building used as a dwellinghouse shall not be demanded as of right by virtue of subsection (1) or (2) unless twenty-four hours’ notice of the intended entry has been given to the occupier of the building. (In the case of MBR Acres Ltd, the property is not residential, so 24 hours notice is not required).
S196B (Rights to enter a property under warrant) reads:-
(1) If it is shown to the satisfaction of a justice of the peace on sworn information in writing –
(a) that there are reasonable grounds for entering any land for any of the purposes mentioned in section 196A(1) or (2); and
(b) that –
(i) admission to the land has been refused, or a refusal is reasonably apprehended; or
(ii) the case is one of urgency, the justice may issue a warrant authorising any person duly authorised in writing by a local planning authority or, as the case may be, the Secretary of State to enter the land.
(2) For the purposes of subsection (1)(b)(i) admission to land shall be regarded as having been refused if no reply is received to a request for admission within a reasonable period.
(3) A warrant authorises entry on one occasion only and that entry must be –
(a) within one month from the date of the issue of the warrant; and
(b) at a reasonable hour, unless the case is one of urgency.
S196C (Supplementary provisions relating to rights of entry) reads:-
(1) A person authorised to enter any land in pursuance of a right of entry conferred under or by virtue of section 196A or 196B (referred to in this section as “a right of entry”)—
(a) shall, if so required, produce evidence of his authority and state the purpose of his entry before so entering;
(b) may take with him such other persons as may be necessary; and
(c) on leaving the land shall, if the owner or occupier is not then present, leave it as effectively secured against trespassers as he found it.
(2) Any person who wilfully obstructs a person acting in the exercise of a right of entry shall be guilty of an offence and liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 3 on the standard scale.
(3) If any damage is caused to land or chattels in the exercise of a right of entry, compensation may be recovered by any person suffering the damage from the authority who gave the written authority for the entry or, as the case may be, the Secretary of State.
(4) The provisions of section 118 shall apply in relation to compensation under subsection (3) as they apply in relation to compensation under Part IV.
(5) If any person who enters any land, in exercise of a right of entry, discloses to any person any information obtained by him while on the land as to any manufacturing process or trade secret, he shall be guilty of an offence.
(6) Subsection (5) does not apply if the disclosure is made by a person in the course of performing his duty in connection with the purpose for which he was authorised to enter the land.
(7) A person who is guilty of an offence under subsection (5) shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding the statutory maximum or on conviction on indictment to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years or a fine or both.
(8) In sections 196A and 196B and this section references to a local planning authority include, in relation to a building situated in Greater London, a reference to the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission for England.