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Planning Enforcement

The National Planning Policy Framework (2019) emphasises that planning enforcement is a discretionary activity and Local Planning Authorities should act proportionately in responding to suspected breaches of planning control. When deciding whether to enforce, the District Council must consider the likely impact of harm to the public. Breaches of planning control are generally not criminal offences and any works undertaken by the owner that are found to require planning permission are purely at their own risk. It is a criminal offence to display unauthorised advertisements or undertake work on a Listed Building or to protected trees without the relevant permission.

A Written Ministerial Statement was published on Friday 13 March 2020 which urges local planning authorities to apply pragmatism to the enforcement of restrictions on food and other essential deliveries at this time. The District Council is using its discretion on the enforcement of other planning conditions which hinder the effective response to Covid-19. Furthermore, the Government has relaxed planning regulations relating to the erection of temporary structures, the holding of markets and allowing cafes and restaurants to offer take-away facilities.

Under Section 171B of the Town and Country Planning Act, formal enforcement action must be taken within four years in relation to the erection of buildings, and within ten years in relation to changes of use (unless it relates to the change of use to a dwelling whereby the time limit is four years), and breaches of planning conditions. There is no time limit for the enforcement of breaches of listed building legislation.

In Development Management, the potential breaches of planning control that we investigate include:

  • Building works without planning permission
  • Unauthorised use of buildings or land use, eg where the use of the building/land has changed such that it is materially different from what it was before, and planning permission has not been granted
  • Not building in accordance with the approved plans that form part of a planning permission
  • Breach of condition after planning permission has been granted
  • Unauthorised engineering operations, such as the creation of earth bunds
  • An untidy site,
  • Failure to comply with a Section 106 Agreement or other legal obligation
  • The display of some types of advertisements
  • Works to a listed building without listed building consent
  • Unauthorised works to trees with a Tree Preservation Order (TPO) or in Conservation Area
  • Removal of a protected hedgerow

Issues that are not considered breaches include:

  • Obstruction of a highway or public right of way
  • Parking of vehicles on the highway or on grass verges
  • Parking caravans on residential driveways
  • Land ownership disputes or trespass issues
  • Covenants imposed on property Deeds
  • Internal works to an unlisted building

The priority of the planning enforcement function is to protect amenities, safeguard the built environment and uphold local planning policy in the most effective way. The team is concerned with serious breaches of planning control, not with neighbour disputes or minor residential development that have little or no adverse impact to the public.

The approach to planning enforcement incorporates the following factors:

  • Responding reasonably and proportionately in relation to the level of planning harm caused
  • Whether it is expedient and in the public interest to act immediately
  • Whether planning permission is likely to have been granted if an application had been made

The first stage of any investigation is to discuss matters with the owner in the first instance, with this mediation approach advocated by the National Planning Policy Framework. Formal enforcement action is only taken as the last resort when a thorough investigation has taken place and all other avenues have been exhausted. It is therefore extremely rare to make an immediate intervention and, in most cases, the Case Officer will review all circumstances before agreeing the type of formal action to take. The District Council can only take action if a breach has taken place. The team cannot investigate suspected breaches if they have not occurred or take action on intention.

Report an alleged breach of planning control

You can do this via our online form here

Need to contact us?

To report a serious breach of planning control outside of normal office hours, please use the emergency out of hours number 01527 871565.

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