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Planning Enforcement

Make a complaint about a suspected breach of planning control

The planning system is here to manage the development of land and buildings and protect local heritage. Controls are in place to manage new development, stop development that shouldn't happen and monitor conditions attached to planning permission. This is why planning permission is often needed before activities are carried out or a new use begins. 

Making a complaint

Please contact us if you think planning rules are, or will be, broken.  Our planning enforcement team can act when:

  • planning conditions are broken
  • advertisement doesn't have permission
  • listed building or tree works take place without permission
  • works take place in a conservation area without permission

We take breaches of planning control seriously. Actions taken will reflect the size and impact of the breach. Please note we:

  • cannot investigate anonymous or malicious complaints
  • choose whether to carry out enforcement
  • cannot help with pollution, parking or highway issues

Where possible, we try to resolve breaches through negotiation. We may grant retrospective planning applications or conditional permission in certain cases.

Formal enforcement action can be used in the most serious cases. This may involve prosecution.

We will keep your details confidential. However, if enforcement action results in court proceedings you may be called upon to give your evidence in public. 

Our complaints process

We aim to acknowledge a complaint within 10 working days. Reports of unauthorised works to listed buildings or trees will be prioritised.

During this time, a council officer will visit the site that is being complained about. They will manage the complaint until it is resolved.

Our officer will check if the development has permission it needs. If it doesn't, they will explain to the person who is responsible:

  • what doesn't have permission
  • what they must do to put it right

They have 28 days to make these changes. We may advise them to stop work until they have all of the necessary approvals.

Types of enforcement action

Where possible, we will try to resolve the issue through negotiation first. If negotiations fail, we have the power to:

Issue a Planning Contravention Notice (PCN)

This is used to gather information about a suspected unauthorised development, for example:

  • the use(s) of the land or buildings;
  • when the use(s) began;
  • when the development began;
  • when the development was completed
  • who has a legal interest in the land

This information will help to decide if further action is needed. Failure to complete and return a PCN, or to return it with false or misleading information, is a criminal offence.

Issue a Breach of Condition Notice (BCN)

If planning conditions are not met (that were set when planning permission was granted) a BCN can identify the breach and say what must be done to put it right. Failure to comply may lead to prosecution. 

  • identify the breach
  • say what must be done to put it right, by when
Issue an Enforcement Notice

An Enforcement Notice is a legal document that can be served on people who have built something without the required permissions or against planning rules. It can:

  • stop or prevent an activity using a stop notice, or an injunction in the most serious cases
  • request the removal of an unauthorised building or extension
  • ask for a development to be changed to make it more acceptable

A Listed Building Enforcement Notice can be issued when works to Listed Buildings take place without consent, or against consent.

An Enforcement Notice is registerable as a Land Charge. It would be revealed in future searches on that land and could affect the future sale of the property. 

It is a criminal offence not to comply with an Enforcement Notice. Failure to comply may lead to court proceedings. We are also able to enter the land to undertake the necessary work and recover the payment from the land owner or through a land charge on the property. 

Issue a Section 215 NoticeA Section 215 Notice can be served on the property owner or occupier when its condition is judged to be detrimental and causing harm to the visual amenity of the area. It explains what must be done to resolve the problem(s). Failure to comply may lead to prosecution. 
Tree Preservation OrderOwners of trees protected by a TPO must have permission to lop, top or fell it. Felling or damaging a protected tree without consent is a criminal offence that may lead to prosecution. It may also lead to an order to replace the tree(s) with some of the same species or size. This can result in fines and large replacement costs to the owner.

Failure to comply with these may lead to prosecution, with serious cases referred to the crown court. In exceptional cases, we may seek an injunction if necessary to stop an actual or expected breach of planning control. Failure to comply with an injunction can lead to an unlimited fine or imprisonment. 

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.

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