Planning enforcement deal with cases where development has been carried out without the relevant permission, unauthorised advertisements, unauthorised works to protected trees, non-compliance with conditions attached to planning approvals, unauthorised changes of use of land or buildings and untidy land or buildings which are adversely affecting the amenity of an area.
In deciding whether it is appropriate to take enforcement action the degree of harm that the unauthorised development is causing, or is likely to cause will be carefully considered.
Harm can arise through a range of factors, for example:
- Noise nuisance or disturbance from a business operation
- Danger and disturbance due to significantly increased traffic flows
- Loss of privacy and impact on outlook, overshadowing and loss of natural light
- Adverse impact on visual amenity due to poor design or inappropriate materials
- Loss of protected trees or loss or damage to protected buildings and buildings in a conservation area
- Risk of pollution that affects people or the natural environment
- Developments that undermine the purpose and credibility of adopted national and local planning policies
- Untidy land and run down or derelict buildings that have an adverse impact on the visual amenity of the surrounding area
Harm does not include:
- Competition caused to another business
- Loss of an individual's view or trespass onto their land
- Loss of value to a neighbouring property
Where it is decided to take enforcement action in response to a breach of planning control, the council has a range of statutory powers available to it to seek information about the activities being undertaken and the persons involved and can take action to remedy the unauthorised developments or uses. The council can serve statutory notices setting out what actions are required to remedy the breach of planning control and where necessary undertake works in default, prosecute or seek court injunctions.
A notice could:
- Stop or prevent an activity
- Request the removal of an unauthorised building or extension
- Ask for a development to be changed to make it more acceptable
- Require compliance with planning conditions
- Request the improvement in the appearance of land or buildings
There are statutory time limits within which enforcement action must be taken or the breach becomes immune and the unauthorised development is then lawful. For example, enforcement action cannot be taken against building works or the change of use of a building to a single dwelling, including the subdivision of a house into self contained flats, if the development took place more than four years ago. The time limit in respect of other changes of use or the failure to comply with planning condition is 10 years. There is no statutory time limitation on taking action against breaches of listed building control.
Anyone receiving an enforcement notice can appeal to the Planning Inspectorate. Guidance about making an appeal against an enforcement notice is also available on Planning Portal.
More information on Planning Enforcement can be found on the Department for Communities and Local Government Website; Ensuring Effective Enforcement and also by visiting Planning Portal; Having your say and Planning permission, your responsibilities.
How to make a complaint
To report an alleged breach of planning control and ask us to investigate, your complaint needs to be in writing.
This helps us to clearly identify the site, check records, clarify the nature of the complaint, further investigate and be able to provide an appropriate response.
Complaints form (Word Doc/14.2KB/1 page)
Return the completed forms to us. You will need to include:
- details of the alleged breach or unauthorised activity
- address or location of the alleged breach
- date when the works or activity first started
- the harm you feel it causes you and the neighbourhood. Include photos if this helps
- name and contact details of the person(s) carrying out the alleged breach (if known)
- your name, postal address and other contact details (this is essential)
Please note: We do not accept anonymous complaints; however your complaint will be treated as confidential. We will not reveal any information likely to identify the complainant unless required to for court proceedings. However on occasion it may be clear where the complaint has come from.
The process when an alleged breach is reported
We receive many reports of alleged breaches of planning controls. Some are very serious and can take a long time to investigate. We prioritise cases in accordance with the scale of the breach and the seriousness of the harm caused.
We will consider negotiation before taking formal action, where a successful outcome seems possible within a reasonable timescale.
Negotiation is not appropriate where significant and sustained harm is experienced in the surrounding area. In these circumstances, we will take formal enforcement action.
Within five working days we will acknowledge your request in writing (or by email if provided).
When irreversible and serious damage to the environment or public amenity would result. We will visit the site within 24 hours for alleged breaches like:
- demolition or works to a listed building
- unauthorised works to a protected tree(s)
- removal of a protected non-domestic hedgerow
- demolition of certain buildings in a conservation area
- works where there is already an on-going court case or appeal
- breach of a planning condition with the potential to cause immediate harm
- disturbance caused by businesses/developers operating outside of permitted hours.
When less immediate, but still serious and harmful to the environment or public amenity. We will visit the site within five working days for alleged breaches like:
- significant unauthorised alterations or extensions to a dwelling or domestic building
- where building works have started without planning permission, or in a way that is significantly different from what has been granted
Medium priority/ Low priority
When less likely to cause serious or lasting harm to the environment or public amenity. We will visit the site within 10-15 working days for alleged breaches like:
- changes of use of land or buildings contrary to council policy or where there is a harmful effect on public amenity or highway safety
- non-compliance with planning conditions
- all types of unauthorised advertisements
- unauthorised domestic structures, such as, sheds, greenhouses, carports, walls, fences or satellite dishes (except on listed buildings)
- formation of vehicular access onto a classified road
- formation of house of multiple-occupation
- installation of unauthorised windows/doors etc. in the Article IV Conservation Area
Contact: Planning Enforcement