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Investigating a planning control complaint

What happens after a complaint has been made.

Question

Planning Enforcement issues can often be resolved without resorting to formal enforcement action or prosecution. The Council will:

  • treat breaches of planning control seriously, but proportionately to the scale and impact of the breach
  • resolve as many breaches as possible by requiring retrospective planning applications and making permission conditional, if appropriate
  • take formal enforcement action and prosecution (as a last resort)
  • take strong action against breaches of control when needed

Investigation process

If you make a complaint, we will acknowledge it and aim to visit the site within 10 working days (prioritising reports of unauthorised works to Listed Buildings or Trees). Your details will be kept confidentially; however, if enforcement action results in court proceeding then you may be called on to give evidence publically.

The officer who makes the initial visit will remain with the case until a decision has been reached, or compliance has been achieved. They will monitor progress of the case and will establish a way forward by:

  • keeping other interested parties updated with progress after their initial visit (such as Highways and Drainage authorities, as well as Building Control and Environmental Health teams)
  • speaking with planning officers to understand if a development is unauthorised, and if so, whether any action should be taken
  • making sure that the person responsible for the unauthorised development knows what is unauthorised and what they need to do to make it compliant. They will be given 28 days to make these changes. If appropriate, we will tell them to stop work until they have got all of the necessary approvals.
  • letting the complainant know the council's findings and if action has been taken.

Wherever possible, they will try and resolve the issue through negotiation rather than resorting to legal action.

If Enforcement Action is taken

If negotiation has failed, and the land/property owners do not comply, then Enforcement Action will take place. This could be through a formal 'Requisition for Information' - a statutory notice which requires the recipient to complete and return the questionnaire within 14 days, or through a Planning Contravention Notice (PCN.) Find out more information and other ways enforcement action can take place.

If this fails, an enforcement notice will state what action is required and when it must be undertaken by. This recipient can appeal against this before the enforcement notice takes effect (usually 28 days after it is issued). If an appeal takes place, the Council will seek to be awarded costs caused by the failure to comply with enforcement requests.

If Legal Action is taken

If the Enforcement notice is not complied with, the matter will be referred to our Legal team. They will notify the person that legal proceedings are about to begin, and will refer the matter to the Planning Committee seeking authority for formal action by the Council. This may lead to direct action by the Council (such as demolition or clearing the site) or action through the Courts.

If direct action takes place, we will recover our costs from the person or as a charge on the land. If Court action takes place, we will seek to be awarded all of our costs created because of the failure to comply with our enforcement procedures.

The complainant will be kept updated throughout each process.