Report the breaking of planning rules

The council's enforcement team are dealing with a number of high priority complex cases. As such priority three cases will be investigated at the earliest opportunity, which may not be within the timescales listed below.

Local enforcement framework

The role of the Planning Enforcement team is to deal with alleged breaches of planning control that are reported to them by members of the public, councillors or other departments of the council.

We also monitor conditions that have been imposed upon planning permissions and check, insofar as it is possible, that development is being built in accordance with the planning permission.

The Development Management service is supported by the enforcement team's readiness to take enforcement action where this is deemed to be proportional and it is expedient to do so.

The enforcement service operates within the policies set out in the National Planning Policy Framework. This assists in the effective management of the Planning Enforcement team and helps to make best use of the available resources.

The issues that the Planning Enforcement team is enabled to consider include:

  • unauthorised development or uses
  • unauthorised works to a listed building - both internal and external works
  • unauthorised display of advertisements
  • non-compliance with planning permissions
  • untidy sites where these are considered to be detrimental to local amenity
  • works to trees, which are protected by a Tree Preservation Order or are located in a conservation area, without consent

Not all development requires consent. A great deal of building work can be under taken without the need for planning permission. This development is commonly referred to as ‘permitted development'.

A breach of planning control occurs where planning permission is not obtained before development takes place (where it is not permitted development). This is not necessarily a criminal act. Enforcement action is discretionary and may be taken if it is considered that it is proportional to do so and if it expedient to do so, that is, in cases where the breach is considered to be unacceptable and harmful to public amenity and/or the wider public interest.

The display of advertisements, work to protected trees or listed buildings which have taken place without consent is a criminal offence and can be prosecuted in the magistrates' court or a higher court. Such breaches can result in significant fines, an award of costs against the perpetrator and potentially a prison sentence.

Enforcement charter

The role of the Planning Enforcement team is to deal with alleged breaches of planning control that are reported to them by members of the public, councillors or other departments of the council.

Examples of planning control breaches include:

  • unauthorised development or uses
  • unauthorised works to a listed building - both internal and external works
  • unauthorised display of advertisements
  • non - compliance with planning permissions
  • untidy sites where these are considered to be detrimental to local amenity
  • works to trees, which are protected by a Tree Preservation Order or are located in a conservation area, without consent

We also monitor conditions that have been imposed upon planning permissions and check, insofar as it is possible, that development is being built in accordance with the planning permission.

How is an alleged breach reported?

Report a planning breach

Letters will also be accepted.

Complainants must provide their name and address before any complaint is investigated. This will enable the council to update the complainant about the outcome of its investigation. The complainant's details will be kept confidential. Anonymous complaints will not be accepted.

What information is required for an alleged breach to be investigated?

  • The address of the land or building where the breach is alleged to have taken place.
  • Details of the alleged breach.
  • The name and address of the complainant.
  • Any additional relevant information or details of other interested parties.
  • What are the stages of an investigation?
  • Enforcement enquiries will be registered and acknowledged within three working days.
  • Each enforcement enquiry will be prioritised 1 (high), 2 (medium) or 3 (low) according to the nature of the alleged breach and the degree of harm caused. Individual cases may be re-prioritised as the investigation proceeds.
  • Research on the property will be carried out, including the planning history. Inquiries will be made in order to establish the details of the owner or anyone with an interest in the land.
  • After this information has been obtained a site visit will be carried out (in the instance of high priority cases the initial site visit will be carried out with minimal research).
  • The complainant, and if appropriate the alleged offender, will be told of the likely course of action to be taken by the council within 28 days of the date of the complaint. If the case is a high priority one, involving for example a TPO or listed building then this period is reduced to 14 days.

What action is taken where a breach of planning control is found to have taken place?

Once a complaint has been investigated and a breach identified, a number of things may happen, depending on the severity of the breach. The council may:

  • negotiate a satisfactory solution
  • seek the submission of a retrospective planning application
  • if no application is forthcoming or the breach is serious then the council may decide to serve an enforcement or other notice, which will require works or actions to be undertaken in order to remedy the breach, the individuals or organisations on which this Notice is served do have the option of making an appeal against it
  • no action taken, if the harm resulting from the breach of planning control is considered to be ‘minor', then no action may be justified, the enforcement of planning control is a discretionary power and the exercise of it must be proportional and expedient
  • the complainant and the individuals responsible for the alleged breach will be kept informed of the actions that are being taken, throughout the process

Don't forget

  • All alleged breaches of planning control will be investigated, the complainant will be told who is dealing with the case and will be kept informed throughout the process.
  • The carrying out of unauthorised development or uses is not in the first instance a criminal offence (except for works to listed buildings and some advertising signs).
  • In most cases, a criminal offence is only committed after an Enforcement Notice has been served and has taken effect and its requirements have not been complied with.
  • The council's decision to take enforcement action is discretionary, each decision to do so has to be justified as ‘proportional' and ‘expedient'. This means that any action must be appropriate to the amount of harm caused by the alleged breach.
  • Some enforcement cases may take a long time to resolve, particularly where an alleged offender has exercised a right of appeal against an Enforcement Notice or in cases which have resulted in court proceedings.

Prioritisation

The following criteria will be applied to the prioritisation of enforcement cases:

Priority 1

  • work that causes a danger to the public
  • significant works including alteration of or damage to listed buildings
  • unauthorised works to trees that are protected by a Tree Preservation Order or that are located in a conservation area
  • any other development that causes irreversible harm

Response time 14 days.

Priority 2

  • unauthorised works, or breaches of condition, that are considered to cause a significant harm to amenity
  • councillor or MP referrals
  • significant development within a conservation area

Response time 28 days.

Priority 3

  • all other development

Response time 28 days.

This page was last updated on 8 April 2016

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