What is a Breach of Planning Control ?
Unauthorised development, which can be building, engineering, or mining operations, or a material change of use of land or buildings;
Failure to comply with a condition of a planning permission;
Display of an advertisement without consent;
Unauthorised works to a Listed Building;
Works to or the removal of protected trees without consent, i.e. trees covered by a Tree Preservation Order or trees within a Conservation Area.
It should be noted, however, that some development is permitted development, and some advertisements can also be displayed without consent.
It is NOT a criminal offence to :
- carry out development without planning permission;
- fail to comply with a condition of a planning permission.
It IS a criminal offence to :
- carry out works to a Listed Building without consent;
- carry out works to or remove a tree covered by a Tree Preservation Order or within a Conservation Area, without consent;
The Enforcement Service
- Private citizens cannot initiate planning enforcement action themselves but they can bring breaches of planning control to the attention of the Council to whom Parliament has given primary responsibility for taking whatever enforcement action is necessary, in the public interest.
- The Local Government Ombudsman may find "maladministration" if the Council fails to take effective enforcement action which was plainly necessary.
- In considering any enforcement action the decisive issue should be whether the breach of control would seriously affect public amenity or the existing use of land or buildings meriting protection in the public interest.
- Enforcement action should always be commensurate with the breach of planning control to which it relates. For example, it is usually inappropriate to take formal enforcement action against a trivial or technical breach of control which causes no harm to amenity.
- The Council will normally make an initial attempt to persuade the owner or occupier of the site to either make an application, if the development is capable of being made acceptable, and/or cease work. However, negotiations should not be allowed to hamper or delay whatever formal enforcement action may be required to make the development acceptable on planning grounds, or to compel it to stop.
- Planning Contravention Notice which can be served where it appears that there may have been a breach of planning control and the Council requires information about activities on the land or nature of the occupier's interest in the land.
- Enforcement Notice which can be served to remedy an actual breach of planning control by requiring an unauthorised use to stop or building works removed. In general terms an unauthorised use becomes immune from action after 10 years and building works are similarly immune after 4 years. A Notice can also be served to restrict or impose conditions on a particular operation which would otherwise be unacceptable. There is a right of appeal against an Enforcement Notice which means that the Notice does not come into force until any appeal has been determined.
- Stop Notices which can be served any time after service of an Enforcement Notice to require unauthorised activities to cease permanently.
- Temporary Stop Notices which came into force on 7th March 2005. They can be used in emergency, where there is very serious harm to amenity and it is considered essential for the breach to stop immediately prior to the service of an Enforcement Notice. These only last for 28 days.
- Breach of Condition Notice which can be served where there is a failure to comply with any condition or limitation imposed on a grant of planning permission.
- Injunctions which can be sought in the County Court or High Court to restrain any actual, or expected, breach of planning control.
- Section 215 Notice which enables the Council to deal with any land in its area which adversely affects amenity.
- Entry onto Land whereby the Council's authorised officers have powers to gain entry onto land or into buildings to obtain information required for enforcement purposes.
Responding to Complaints
- Unauthorised demolition or partial demolition of a building which it is considered essential to retain.
- Unauthorised works to trees covered by Tree Preservation Orders or significant trees within a Conservation Area.
- Unauthorised development, non-compliance with a planning condition or limitation or other planning agreement which is causing immediate harm in the locality, particularly to residential amenity.
- Unauthorised works to a Listed Building.
- Unauthorised development which has been undetected until a complaint was received, and where the time limit for enforcement action will expire within the next twelve months.
- Display of illegal advertisements where there is a serious harm to amenity or highway safety (unauthorised signs within the highway boundary will be dealt with by the Highway Authority).
- Non compliance with approved plans or conditions of a planning permission in an on-going development which it is considered appropriate to resolve at an early stage.
- Other complaints/cases relating to unauthorised development not falling in any of the above categories.
- General monitoring of conditions, planning agreements and development work.
Performance Targets for Enforcement
- An initial acknowledgement to all written complaints within 3 working days.
- All complaints to be treated as confidential within the Council as far as possible. There may, however, be cases where the complainant's evidence will be crucial to successful enforcement action and complainants will be advised in advance.
- Where immediate action is involved, a site visit will take place within 36 hours.
- Complainants will be advised within 25 working days of how the matter is being dealt with and at the same time all other parties involved (where known) in the alleged contravention will also be informed.
- Where formal legal or enforcement action is taken, complainants will be notified simultaneously with the action, or at most within 3 working days following that action.
Handling On-Going Cases
- An assessment will be made after the initial investigation as to whether there is a breach of planning control. If there is not, the case will be closed.
- If there is a breach of planning control a retrospective application will be invited unless it is very clear that planning permission would be likely to be refused. In such cases the person who is carrying out the unauthorised development will be invited to rectify the situation, and if this is not done, formal enforcement action will normally be taken.
- It may be possible to remedy a breach of planning control by attaching conditions to a retrospective planning permission, or by the service of a positive enforcement notice, and these options will be explored where appropriate.
- If no application is submitted an assessment will be made of the breach and if it is considered expedient to do so, e.g. significant harm is being caused, formal enforcement action will normally be taken.
- Breaches of planning control of a minor nature raising trivial or technical breaches of control or issues that are non-contentious will not be pursued to formal action if a retrospective application is not submitted.
- Check all Building Regulation plans to ensure that they comply with the relevant planning permission and identify any instances where planning permission is required but has not yet been sought.
- Write to applicants on receipt of monthly notification from Building Control of all commencements of development, and write to applicants to remind them to carry out their development as approved and, where conditions are imposed requiring approval of further details, to specifically draw these to the attention of the applicant.
- Write to applicants on receipt of monthly notification from Building Control of all completions of development, and write to applicants reminding them of the need to ensure that there are no planning requirements outstanding.
- Monitor sites in conjunction with development management case officers where development is taking place, as resources permit.
- Monitor Section 106 agreements.
For further information see the page on Monitoring Development.
Contacting the Enforcement Service