The District Council as the Local Planning Authority, has a duty to ensure that Town and Country Planning legislation is complied with. The vast majority of developments in the District takes place in accordance with planning rules, but we do investigate a number of cases each year where breaches of planning control have taken place. The Enforcement Team try to resolve issues surrounding unauthorised development through negotiation and agreement but it is occasionally necessary to take formal action to require a breach to be resolved.
Once issued, a formal enforcement notice may take effect immediately or on a specified date, and will contain a date by which it must be complied with. Failure to comply with a valid enforcement notice is a criminal offence and could lead to prosecution.
Reporting Unauthorised Development
The Enforcement Team investigates complaints about possible breaches of planning control, which can include:
- Work being carried out without the benefit of planning permission
- Unauthorised change of use
- Non-compliance with conditions imposed by a planning permission
- Departures from the approved plans of a planning permission
- Unauthorised works to trees
- Unauthorised signage
If you suspect that building or other work is taking place without planning permission we recommend that you complete our online Report an Alleged Breach of Planning Control Form or contact the Planning Enforcement Team on 01629 761 327 or 01629 761 141 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Search our online Enforcement Register
Please Note: This Register only shows those cases where the Enforcement Notice is still active. The Register is updated whenever a new Enforcement Notice is served, or when an existing notice is complied with. Please note this means that updates happen on an irregular basis and it is not uncommon for over a month to elapse with no Enforcement Notices being served or cases closed.
Many minor building works are 'permitted development' and so do not require a planning permission from the District Council. When you contact us we will carry out an initial check to establish whether or not what is being reported falls within this category. If we establish a breach of planning control appears to have taken place, our Enforcement Officer will conduct further investigations to confirm the nature of that breach, and assess the harm it is causing. We will carry out all investigations in accordance with the Council's Enforcement Customer Charter [PDF 131KB] and will keep you informed of progress.
Although we endeavour to resolve all complaints as quickly as possible, planning enforcement investigations can take a long time to reach a conclusion. We need to gather evidence relating to the breach, seek information from the person who has carried out the alleged unauthorised work, and we will usually try to reach a negotiated settlement in preference to formal action.
Dealing with Breaches of Planning Control
The Council has a range of actions and powers available to deal with breaches of planning control. These are described below:
This can be issued to deal with any alleged breach of planning control. It must specify the alleged breach, the reasons for issuing the Notice, the steps required to remedy the breach and the period within which those steps must be taken. There is a right of appeal to the Secretary of State against such a Notice. The District Council issues about 10 Enforcement Notices each year, which is relatively low, and reflects our overall approach to proactive negotiation to resolve problems rather than resort to costly legal action.
Breach of Condition Notice
This measure is designed to deal quickly and easily with enforcement matters where the breach is obvious and related to a written condition of planning permission. Such a Notice must contain similar information to an Enforcement Notice (to enable the recipient to rectify the breach). Compliance can be sought in as little as 28 days, there is no right of appeal and failure to comply is an offence that can be brought swiftly before the Magistrates' Court.
Planning Contravention Notice
This type of Notice is simply a means of gathering information about activities relating to land or buildings, where a breach of control is suspected. Failure to comply with the Notice within 21 days is an offence. The Local Planning Authority can use such a Notice to try to rectify an apparent breach of control by enabling it to consider any offer from the recipient to resolve matters.
These require the immediate cessation of the offending development. They have a more immediate effect but run a risk of compensation being awarded to the developer if their scheme is subsequently found to be immune from enforcement action. They can only be served with or following an Enforcement Notice and cannot be served once an Enforcement Notice has taken effect.
There is power to seek an injunction to prevent a deliberate and flagrant breach of planning control. The Courts insist that Local Authorities give an undertaking to pay damages if the injunction fails when the matter comes to full trial. Accordingly, the power to seek an injunction is an emergency measure used only in extreme circumstances.
Effective enforcement action is essential to the successful operation of the development control system and the public acceptance of it. Action should however, only be taken, when it is "expedient" to do so. That is to say:
- demonstrable harm is being caused to interests of acknowledged importance;
- the development is contrary to the Development Plan;
- the developer has had the offending development identified to him and been given a reasonable opportunity to remedy the harmful effects;
- where it is unlikely that planning permission would be approved for development.
Except in relation to listed buildings and advertisement controls, it is not an offence to carry out development without the necessary permission – that stage only being reached when the terms of an Enforcement Notice are ignored. In that case, the Local Planning Authority is able to pursue the matter through the Courts. Penalties for non-compliance are up to £20,000 (no upper limit in the Crown Court), and can take account of any financial benefit accruing to the convicted person from the offence. These high penalties are intended to show the serious nature of this type of offence.
The Government advocates a flexible and sympathetic approach to enforcement where small business operators, the self-employed and householders, have genuinely and inadvertently carried out unauthorised development. The Government expects Local Planning Authorities to enter into discussions and seek compromise to assist such developers to overcome these problems, especially where formal enforcement action could have serious consequences. Nevertheless, where irreparable harm is being caused there will be no alternative to vigorous and effective enforcement action.