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How we investigate planning breaches

Find out how to request for an investigation for a planning breach and how Planning Services deal with your request.

How to ask us to investigate

To request an investigation, please make sure you have read what we can investigate.

Report planning breach

Or you can contact our Planning Services.

The information we ask for

  • The precise location of the site or property you want investigated.
  • The exact nature of your concern.
  • If possible, the identity of the person or organisation responsible and the date the alleged breach began.
  • Your details so we can report back on our findings.

We promise to keep your identity confidential and will not reveal it to the people we are investigating. However, on rare occasions, with serious breaches of planning control which result in an appeal, we are required to give the Planning  Inspector and the appellant details of the complaint, which will include your name and address.

We will not investigate anonymous complaints. 

How do we investigate?

When we receive a request to investigate an alleged breach of planning control, it is passed to officers in the Planning Enforcement Team. The cases will be prioritised in levels of urgency.

Urgent matters will include:

  • works to a listed building or protected tree
  • those having a lasting and harmful effect on neighbours or the environment
  • non compliance with existing enforcement notices
  • time limited enforcement action
  • alleged breaches giving rise to widespread local concern

Following the initial investigation by the Planning Enforcement Team, which will normally include research into any background to the case and a site visit, a decision will be made as to what further action (if any) needs to be taken.

There is no set timescales for enforcement cases.

When enforcement action is not possible

There are certain cases where we will not be able to take enforcement action.

  • If the work has been built under permitted development and does not require planning permission.
  • If the development already has the necessary permission.
  • If the work has become legal due to the amount of time that has passed.
  • The breach is deemed minor with no significant effects.

Taking informal action

If the work needs planning permission but appears to meet the objectives of our development plan policies, we will normally ask interested parties to make a planning application to retain the development so the matter can be considered formally, and neighbours can be asked what they think. This is called a retrospective planning application.

If permission is unlikely to be granted, the Planning Enforcement Team will ask for the unauthorised development to be removed, reduced in size to meet  permitted development parameters or the use to cease. A suitable period of time will be allowed depending on what needs to be done. 

Taking enforcement action

In the few cases where the Planning Enforcement Team have been unsuccessful in their negotiations, the matter will be reviewed by a senior officer to decide whether more formal action should be considered. The final decision to take further action is decided on a case by case basis by the relevant Planning Committee.

We will use planning legislation powers such as:

  • a planning contravention notice, which will require the owner or occupier of land to give us further information about activities and ownership of the land
  • an enforcement notice, saying how somebody may have breached planning control, what needs to be done to put things right, and when this needs to be done by
  • a breach of condition notice if somebody fails to keep to a condition attached to a planning permission, for example, what time a takeaway must close

If the requirements of an enforcement notice or breach of condition notice have not been complied with by the due date, the Planning Enforcement Team will go on to pursue prosecution in the Courts.

Appeals against enforcement action

When we serve an enforcement notice an appeal can be made by anyone receiving the notice. The appeal is handled by an independent Inspector appointed by The Planning Inspectorate, who must receive an appeal before the date the enforcement notice comes into force.

Enforcement appeals are similar to normal planning appeals, and give residents the opportunity to tell the Inspector how the unauthorised building or use of land affects them and their local area.

Once an appeal against an enforcement notice is lodged, the matter is on hold until the Inspector issues their decision. Prosecution is not possible at this time.

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Article utilities:  Bookmark and Share Print Print this page Last updated: 18 Apr 2017 at 16:06