Planning enforcement deals with and investigates any alleged, reported breaches of planning control.
A breach of planning is when any work is done without the requisite planning permission, or doesn't meet the conditions we set when planning permission was agreed.
Report a planning breach
At all stages in the enforcement process, the knowledge and information held by members of the general public and residents' groups can supplement the council's official records and site inspections.
When reporting a potential breach of planning control, it's helpful to provide as much information as possible about the current and previous situation, for example:
- the exact address
- when activities started
- the nature of the building works
- the use of the building
- the name or addresses of known owners or other persons responsible
Note: Planning enforcement action cannot be taken if the works or change of use do not require permission/consent, or it's permitted by planning legislation. For this reason, formal enforcement action cannot be taken on many of the reports of unauthorised development the council receives.
How we investigate breaches of planning control
- Requests to investigate an alleged breach of planning control are passed to officers in the planning enforcement team.
- Cases are prioritised by the level of urgency.
- The planning enforcement team carries out an initial investigation, which usually involves background research and a site visit.
- Following the initial investigation, we decide what further action (if any) needs to be taken.
- The nature of planning enforcement investigations means you may not get an update from the council for some time.
Types of enforcement
Even when it's technically possible to take enforcement action, by law the council is required to decide whether such formal action would be 'expedient'. This means formal enforcement action is discretionary and we must consider the relevant planning circumstances of each case first.
Central Government advises that, generally, formal enforcement action should be taken as a last resort. Many breaches of planning control are minor and formal action cannot always be justified. In other cases, the changes may be acceptable in planning terms and a retrospective application for permission could be submitted, possibly involving modifications or alterations.
When a breach of planning control is causing unacceptable harm or nuisance, the council considers that essential enforcement action should not be delayed by protracted negotiations. If a breach is unacceptable and causing serious harm to public amenity, immediate enforcement action should be taken to prevent further harm. The final decision to take further action is decided on a case-by-case basis by the relevant Planning Committee.
Planning Enforcement Notices
A Planning Enforcement Notice specifies what action is required to remedy the problem and gives a period for compliance. However, any recipient of an Enforcement Notice can appeal against it to the Secretary of State. Any appeal suspends a notice from taking effect until the appeal is decided.
If the requirements of an Enforcement Notice have not been complied with, the planning enforcement team will pursue prosecution proceedings in the courts.