If you are involved in a breach of planning control

To establish adequate and reliable information about alleged or suspected breaches of planning control, we often need to liaise direct with the person(s) thought to be responsible for it.

Usually, we find such information is forthcoming through correspondence and discussion. However, the council will use its statutory power to formally require information about a suspected breach.

If our investigations confirm that an enforceable breach of planning control has taken place, the person(s) believed to be responsible for the breach are quickly informed where practicable in person and by letter of what is wrong and what voluntary action should be taken to correct it, specifying a time limit for taking such action and explaining the possible consequences of not doing so.

Informal action

In investigating it may be found that planning permission is not required (as it was permitted development) or may have already been given. In such instances the case is closed and the enquirer informed accordingly.
 
When a material breach of planning control is identified we will try to remedy the breach by negotiation if this is likely to resolve the problem by:
  • Inviting a retrospective planning application and considering it in a normal way
  • Using persuasion to seek the cessation/relocation of an unacceptable activity or structure

We try to do so without resorting to formal action because we are aware that:

  • Not everyone is familiar with the planning regulations and in particular householders and small businesses may have breached the regulations without realising it
  • Not all breaches are significant enough to warrant taking action
  • The carrying out of development without permission is not normally a criminal offence (there are exceptions e.g. listed buildings, adverts and works to TPO trees)

Formal planning enforcement action

If the breach is not remedied by voluntary action within the specified time limits, the council will consider taking formal enforcement action to resolve it. If the council does take formal action, you will be informed of this in writing.

The Town & Country Planning Acts provides local council's with powers to take several different types of formal planning enforcement action.

The most commonly used are:

Breach of condition notice Used for breaches involving failure to comply with requirements of a condition of a relevant planning permission.
Enforcement notice Used for cases involving building works and changes of use undertaken without the necessary planning permission in place and also as an alternative to a breach of condition notice.
Listed building enforcement notice Used for breaches involving alterations to buildings on the statutory list of buildings of architectural or historic interest.
Section 215 notice Used to require improvement to the appearance or condition of land and buildings which are considered to be unsightly.
Stop notice Requires immediate cessation of works on site used where a breach of planning control continues to cause serious or irreparable harm to amenity, public safety or the environment.
Temporary stop notice Used to halt activity for up to 28 days where there is serious harm which needs to be stopped immediately. Often followed by an enforcement notice.

In any Enforcement Notice, the council will specify clearly what steps must be taken to remedy the breach and detail a timescale for compliance.

Except in the case of Breach of Condition Notices and Temporary Stop Notices, persons who have been served with an Enforcement Notice have rights of appeal against the Notice to the Secretary of State. Right of appeal for a Section 215 notice is to the Magistrates Court. See related page link to appeals information.

If the requirements of a Planning Enforcement Notice are not then fully complied with, the person(s) responsible become vulnerable to prosecution in the Magistrates Courts. Penalties for summary conviction in such cases can now be as high as £20,000.

Prosecutions

Formal planning enforcement procedures relating to signs/advertisements are more straightforward and do not involve Enforcement Notices.

In these cases under the Town & Country Planning (Control of Advertisements) Regulations a person(s) may simply be prosecuted by the council in the Magistrates Courts.

Penalties upon summary conviction in these cases can be in excess of £1,000.

Additionally the council may decide to serve a discontinuance notice for which there is a right of appeal to the Secretary of State.