What we do when we receive a reported breach
The Council's officers will consider all breaches of planning control of which they are made aware.
In order to do so our officers need certain key information about the breach.
Pre-requisites are the full address of the site and full details of the alleged breach. For example, an anonymous phone-call that someone has removed some windows somewhere near an off-licence on Smith Street, may well not be sufficient for our officers to investigate.
Further information on how to advise the Council that a breach is taking place is available on the Reporting a breach page.
In order to assess alleged breaches our officers may do the following:
- carry out desktop research;
- review the planning history of the site;
- contact the "breacher" and seek further information from them;
- visit the site and, where deemed necessary, take photographs or make measurements.
The Council does not have unlimited resources. Its officers therefore have to assess and to prioritise in order to determine what, if any, action to take according to the overall impact of the breach.
Resources will be targeted at pursuing cases where there is demonstrable harm.
Appropriate enforcement action will be taken where it can be demonstrated that there is significant harm caused through:
- the loss of residential amenity;
- loss of character of an area;
- development/use being contrary to Local Plan Policy;
- an unacceptable precedent.
As explained above, in all cases it is for the Council's officers to determine how the breach should be treated and what action is appropriate (your own concerns or views, whilst relevant, are only one factor in a raft of considerations that an officer might have to take account of).
The following factors are some of the other things that will be borne in mind:
- Guidance recommends that enforcement action must be seen as a last resort. Officers are often able to resolve minor cases of unauthorised development through negotiation. They may well therefore try to do so as a first course of action in appropriate cases.
- There will be instances where rapid action will be the only appropriate response. Prosecutions will therefore be pursued, where appropriate, including where negotiations fail to yield results.
- Enforcement action must not be used to regularise a breach where no harm is caused, or in an attempt to settle neighbour disputes. If you believe that your neighbour is infringing your private law rights (i.e. there is no planning issue in respect of which it is expedient for the Council to take action, but you nevertheless feel that your rights are being infringed) you need to decide whether or not to take legal advice from a solicitor. Pursuing trespass actions or settling land ownership issues, are neither the Council's responsibility, nor its officers.
Responding to complainants
If you provide contact details and indicate that you are happy for the Council to contact you, we will write to you once (by email or by post) to confirm that we have received your complaint.
Whether we contact you again after that, will depend upon whether or not you have indicated that you wish to continue to be informed. Even where you wish to be kept informed, we have limited resources and are not able to provide regular updates to complainants. We will endeavour however, to let you know when we have:
- successfully prosecuted someone; and
- taken a decision to take no further action.
We would respectfully ask that you do not repeatedly visit our offices or call/email our officers requesting updates. This distracts us from doing our job and slows progress.