Local planning enforcement plan
How we respond to different types of breach
On-going breaches of planning control
Breaches of planning control involving physical works are easier to observe than occasional breaches which are often associated with changes of use.
We will seek to prioritise the case depending on the nature of the works and whether they are on-going or have been completed. In addition, consideration will be given to whether the development is causing any irretrievable harm which maybe increasing due to the presence of the breach for example pollution to a sensitive ecological habitat.
We will seek to gain evidence of the breach from a number of observation points, including neighbouring properties, where permission is granted, to fully and accurately assess the scale of harm arising.
Intermittent breaches of planning control
In some cases, it is not possible to determine whether or not there has been a breach of planning control because the activities are sporadic. Typically, this can be a business being operated from domestic properties, a breach of opening hours restrictions or a low-key change of use of premises. In these cases, the following sequence will be adopted:
- following the initial site visit, a letter and log sheets will be sent to the complainant asking to record activities for a 28-day period and then return the log sheets to the case officer
- the log sheets will then be assessed by the case officer, senior planning enforcement officer and a team leader if deemed necessary
- if there is evidence of a breach of planning control, then a targeted inspection will be made to progress the investigation. Investigations like these may mean a number of inspections need to be made including outside normal working hours which will require authorisation. For these reasons log sheets completed by complainants are essential for evidence collecting and hence why they are specifically requested
If log sheets are not completed and/or not returned to the case officer then the case will be reviewed to see if the necessary information to pursue a case or whether evidence can be secured through any other reasonable means. Where this is not possible then the case may potentially be closed down. Following investigation of the enforcement complaint, the complainant will be informed of our decision including to close a case if no breach is noted or if insufficient evidence can be collected to prove a breach. Where a case is closed the information will be retained on file as a record.
Retrospective planning applications
Requesting a retrospective planning application has the advantage of us being able to obtain full details of the works that have been carried out and enables interested parties to be formally consulted before an informed decision is made. It may also be possible to make amendments to the scheme or impose conditions which overcome the concerns of interested parties. A period of 28 days will normally be given for such an application to be submitted, although this period may be reduced or increased depending on the merits of each case.
Any views or advice given by officers will be informal and will not prejudice the outcome of any planning application which is subsequently submitted. Where there are no reasons to oppose the development, in the pursuit of expediency we may exercise its discretion not to pursue enforcement action, as set out in the expediency test section.
Where formal action is required and it will affect a business or commercial interest, full regard will be given to the government's enforcement concordat. Where necessary those in breach will be referred to our economic regeneration officers, in order that efforts may be made to minimise the effects of any necessary enforcement action. For example, help in guiding the business to an alternative site where the business activity is better suited.
Timescales for compliance with any formal enforcement action will reflect the following:
- harm arising to the environment
- harm to the amenity of the neighbours
- needs of the business and impact on staff and customers
- impact of the enforcement action
- time needed to remedy the breach
We acknowledge this may be unwelcome to the complainant. However, this judgement must be part of the process if enforcement action is taken. If we seek to take a case to prosecution through the courts, consideration will be given to whether we have acted in a reasonable manner.
If it can be successfully argued by a defendant that we have acted in an unreasonable manner then the case may be dismissed irrespective of the merits of the case or the harm arising.
For cases where the breach is causing significant harm, we will consider whether it is expedient to move directly to taking formal enforcement action rather than inviting a planning application. The type of enforcement action available for such cases is outlined in in Appendix 1.
When a retrospective planning application is received, it will be determined on its own merits. Unless the breach is causing serious harm, it is normal practice to await the determination of the planning application before deciding whether to pursue formal enforcement action. The enforcement case will remain open until the planning application has been determined. If the retrospective planning application is approved, then the enforcement case will be closed subject to the applicant's compliance with any conditions requiring changes to the development to make it acceptable or overcome any harm. If the planning application is refused then the case will remain open until the breach is satisfactorily resolved.