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Planning Enforcement

The National Planning Policy Framework (2023) 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.

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.

Key Changes under the Levelling Up and Regeneration Act: Planning Enforcement Matters

From Thursday 25 April 2024, changes to planning enforcement matters come into effect as a result of the Levelling Up and Regeneration Act (LURA).

The Planning Act 2008 (Commencement No. 8) and Levelling-up and Regeneration Act 2023 (Commencement No. 4 and Transitional Provisions) Regulations 2024 were made on 2 April 2024. These are the regulations that bring the enforcement package set out in LURA into force, and subject to transitional provisions, will come into force on 25 April 2024.

Further details are here: Enforcement appeals: Key changes under the Levelling Up and Regeneration Act - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

The accompanying explanatory note is here: The Planning Act 2008 (Commencement No. 8) and Levelling-up and Regeneration Act 2023 (Commencement No. 4 and Transitional Provisions) Regulations 2024 (legislation.gov.uk)

Below are the key elements affecting planning enforcement matters:

Time limits for taking enforcement action

The LURA has amended Section 171B of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 by deleting the words ‘four years’ and substituting this with ‘ten years’ (England). The effect of the change will mean that all breaches of planning control can only become immune from enforcement action after 10 years. This includes those breaches which were previously 4 years, such as the change of use of a building to residential use and operational development. The LPA will also no longer have to consider whether operational development is ‘part and parcel’ of a change of use (Murfitt principle) as all breaches of planning control will carry the 10 year immunity rule. The ability for this period to be extended in cases of concealment is unchanged

In simple terms, the four-year time limit for bringing enforcement action against building or engineering operations and changes of use to a single dwelling-house will be removed and a single 10-year tariff will apply to all breaches of planning controls.

‘Second-bite’ provisions and the law related to enforcement orders remain unchanged.

The ten year limit for bringing enforcement action will apply where alleged operational development was substantially completed on or after 25 April 2024, or where the date of an alleged change of use to a single dwellinghouse was on or after 25 April 2024.

Enforcement Warning Notices (EWA)

Local Planning Authorities can issue EWAs, inviting regularisation applications when it appears that a development has taken place in breach of planning control.

Issuing an EWA will constitute the taking of enforcement action, which is relevant to the ‘second-bite’ provisions.

Restriction on appeals against enforcement notices

Changes to when a ground (a) (an application for retrospective planning permission) will limit circumstances in which an appeal against an enforcement notice can be brought on ground (a).

This will apply in circumstances where an application for planning permission has already been made to regularise the breach

These amendments do not apply to appeals against enforcement notices that were issued, and have not been withdrawn, before 25 April 2024.

The Enforcement Plan

The Enforcement Plan relates to Redditch Borough Council’s planning enforcement service and describes the purposes of the service and how it will be delivered.

It is recognised that the integrity of the Development Management process depends on the Council’s commitment to take effective action against unauthorised development. The Enforcement Plan explains the Council’s policy and procedure for dealing with reports of alleged breaches of planning control. It identifies local priorities to assist with case management. The Enforcement Plan sets out the approach to planning enforcement and provides greater clarity for all parties engaged in the development process.

The Planning Enforcement Process

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.

The statutory register of planning enforcement notices is not available online.  However, details be requested.  Here are our contact details.

Unauthorised works to protected trees

To report unauthorised works to protected trees outside of normal office hours, please use the emergency out of hours number 01527 871565.

For enquiries during normal office hours, contact the Tree works team here.

Unauthorised advertisements

Unauthorised advertisements placed on the public highway or on Redditch Borough Council owned land are dealt with by the Environmental Services Support Unit.  This team has instant powers of removal. 

You can report an unauthorised advertisement here

Please provide details of the location and content of the advertisement.

Wildlife crime

Wildlife crime is any activity that goes against legislation protecting the UK's wild animals and plants.

Alleged wildlife crime and/or the destruction of habitat can be reported here.

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