What we do next
This page provides information on what the council’s officers will do once they determine that a breach is taking place and that some form of enforcement action may be warranted.
Dealing with persons responsible for the alleged breach
Before determining what action is to be taken in respect of an enforcement enquiry, the person responsible for the alleged breach of planning control will be given the opportunity to explain his/her position and to put forward any mitigating circumstances.
Usually, the Enforcement Officer or Principal Planning Officer will discuss the matter with the person responsible who will be advised in writing of the Council’s intended course of action.
Taking enforcement action
The Council will take prompt and appropriate enforcement action where serious harm to the amenity of local residents or specially designated areas is identified.
Enforcement action may only be taken in the public interest and should not be used to resolve disputes of an essentially private nature between, for example, adjacent land-owners or competing businesses.
In appropriate circumstances, i.e. where the continuation of unauthorised development is significantly harmful, the Council may issue a Stop Notice or a Temporary Stop Notice as deemed appropriate. This will require the immediate cessation of the unauthorised operation or use of land or buildings.
Planning contravention notices
In circumstances where there is uncertainty as to whether or not a breach of planning control has occurred, the Council may issue a Planning Contravention Notice (PCN). This does not constitute formal enforcement but it is an information-gathering tool. Alleged transgressors can also be invited to attend a meeting to discuss possible breaches of control through this Notice. There is a legal requirement to respond, in writing, to the questions posed in the Notice within 21 days of receipt of the Notice.
Enforcement noticesIn certain circumstances the Council may issue an enforcement notice.
The service of an Enforcement Notice will normally only be considered as the last resort and when negotiations have failed to resolve a breach of planning control. In appropriate cases consideration will first be given to other remedial options, for example:
- requesting the submission of a retrospective planning application;
- reaching an agreement that the breach can be remedied with a reasonable timescale; or
- negotiating the relocation in respect of certain uses of land or buildings.
Enforcement Notices must specify clearly the nature of any breach of planning control, the reasons for issuing the Notice and steps which must be taken in order to remedy the breach. A reasonable timescale for taking the required steps must also be specified. There is a right of appeal against such a Notice where all of these matters can be challenged. If an appeal is lodged, the requirements of the Notice must be held in abeyance until such a time as the appeal is determined by the Planning Inspectorate.
Non-compliance with an Enforcement or Stop Notice is a criminal offence and the Council will view a continued breach very seriously. Court proceeding will almost inevitably follow.
The Local Planning Authority has powers to enter land and take such steps as are necessary in order to secure compliance with the terms of an Enforcement Notice and seek to recover costs incurred from the transgressor.
Breach of condition notices
Where a breach of planning condition is identified a Breach of Condition Notice (BCN) may be issued. The minimum time for compliance with a BCN is 28 days. There is no right of appeal against this Notice and non-compliance can result in prosecution.
Advertisements displayed in contravention of the Regulations
In respect of the display of a sign or advertisement without advertisement consent, the council's officers will write to any person deemed to display the advertisement and, if the sign is not removed within a reasonable timescale will then consider:
- initiating a prosecution of such person or persons; and/or
- removing or obliterating the advertisement after serving the appropriate notices, recouping their costs from those served with the notice.
One complaint that Councils receive in respect of planning enforcement is that officers do not act quickly enough or that results take too long to achieve.
There are various factors which can slow the process down, for example:
- Exercise of the right to appeal against an enforcement notice;
- The use of informal methods to try to resolve the matter which do not yield the results hoped for;
- Submission of a retrospective application for planning permission.
Whilst the Council's officers will do what they can to achieve a given result in a specific case, they have to look at the big picture and frequently have to divide limited resources across a broad range of matters. It would help us to progress matters as swiftly as possible if we are not interrupted by "update" phonecalls, emails or visits from complainants unless these are absolutely necessary.