A Guide to Planning Enforcement

What Is Planning Enforcement?

Development is sometimes carried out without planning permission or the detailed plans approved by the council are not properly followed (a breach of planning control). In cases such as these serious harm may be caused to the way in which people live. Residents and businesses have a right to expect that harmful activities are dealt with quickly and effectively.

What Is The Council’s Role?

 Local Planning Authorities have been given the responsibility through the Planning Acts to deal with breaches of planning control. The decision whether or not to take action in most cases rests with the council. Each case is judged on its own merits and depending on the circumstances the council does not always have to take action.

You should note, however, that we do not deal with cases which do not involve planning matters nor do we investigate land ownership/ boundary disputes or enforce your deeds.

 It is not a criminal offence to carry out work or change the use of land, or buildings without planning permission. In most cases the council will therefore give the individual the opportunity to correct the situation or apply for retrospective planning permission. If serious harm is being caused, the council will take firm action quickly. The council is committed to negotiating satisfactory outcomes through our pro-active enforcement policy. We have also signed up to the Government’s Enforcement Concordat.

How Do I Complain?

If you suspect a breach of planning control, please contact one of the Planning Enforcement officers, or one of the Planning officers. Alternatively, a letter explaining your concerns may be sent to the address on the back of this leaflet. You may prefer to ask your local parish, town or ward councillor to take up your complaint.

What Information Will The Council Need From Me?

When you first approach the council it would be useful to supply as much information as possible about the current and previous situation (ideally in writing, with photographs where appropriate).

  • The exact location of the building or site
  • The approximate dimension of any new building works
  • When activity started, is it still continuing?
  • Names and addresses of any owners, occupiers or builders involved
  • In the case of unauthorised use the frequency of such activity
  • Evidence to support prosecution may be sought from complainants.

All complaints are kept confidential.
Your name will not be disclosed without your knowledge and agreement.

What Happens When I Have Made My Complaint?

  • Every complaint is recorded as soon as received. All written complaints will be acknowledged in five working days.
  • You will be advised of the name of the Enforcement officer for your case.
  • An initial site visit will be made in response to every complaint within 10 working days.
  • You will, whenever possible, receive a full response within 15 working days after the initial visit as to what action the council will take.
  • You will be consulted on any retrospective planning application submitted as a result of your enquiry. You may make your comments known to the planning officer but these will then be on public file.

What Action Can The Council Take?

Once we are satisfied that a breach of planning control has taken place, there are a number of options available:

  • Take no action, e.g. Where a technical or minor breach of control occurs.
  • Ask for a planning application to be submitted to regularise the breach.
  • Try to negotiate a solution - perhaps relocation or an amended design of the unauthorised building works.
  • Consider issuing an Enforcement Notice and/or a Breach of Condition Notice or a Planning Contravention Notice to find out more details.
  • When extreme harm is being caused, consider serving a Stop Notice to cease the activity immediately.
  • In extreme cases consider seeking an injunction where it is clearly in the public interest to do so.

 If the breach cannot be resolved voluntarily and more formal action is required, the decision may have to be taken by the Planning (Enforcement) Committee.

If I Am Still Not Satisfied What Can I Do?

The council is committed to providing you with high quality services. We try to keep these high standards but know that sometimes things can go wrong. When this happens we want to hear from you. We will try our best to put it right and make sure it doesn’t happen again.

Let us know if:

  • You are dissatisfied with the service you have received.
  • You feel the service received was provided inefficiently or unfairly.