Local planning enforcement plan

Planning harm

Planning harm is not defined in the planning regulations. The Oxford English Dictionary defines harm as: "physical injury especially that which is deliberately inflicted, material damage, actual or potential ill effects or danger".

Government guidance contained within the national planning policy guidance advises that formal planning enforcement action should be taken when: "there is a clear public interest in enforcing planning law and planning regulation in a proportionate way".

Advice contained in the now superseded government publication (PPG1 1997) usefully explained that: "the planning system does not exist to protect the private interests of one person against the activities of another... but whether the proposal would unacceptably affect amenities and the existing use of land and buildings which ought to be protected in the public interest."

Harm caused by unauthorised development can be described as the injury caused to public amenity or public safety. Before taking planning enforcement action regard will be made to the policies contained within our development plan and other material planning considerations.

Harm can include (this is not an exhaustive list) an unacceptable impact on:

  • planning policy
  • visual amenities and the character of the area
  • privacy/overbearing/daylight/sunlight
  • noise/smells/pollution such as contamination
  • access/traffic/highway safety
  • health and safety
  • undesirable precedent
  • ecology, trees and landscape
  • amenity standards of users of the development

In assessing the degree of harm that is caused will be assessed by us using the following information on scoring.

Where the score is 4 or below, the case will not be investigated further. The owner will be informed and invited to remedy or regularise any breach. Complainants will be notified that the development causes insufficient harm to warrant further action.

If the score is 5 or greater then it will be progressed for further consideration. An assessment will be made of the severity of the case to ensure the most significant cases are dealt with as a soon as possible.

Harm scoring and threshold for taking further action

State of breach

  • worsening (1)
  • on-going but stable (0)

Highway safety issue?

  • yes (1)
  • no (0)

Other safety issue?

  • yes (1)
  • no (0)


  • immediate neighbour/consultee/councillor (2)
  • other neighbour (1)
  • anonymous/malicious (0)

Age of breach

  • within 6 months of immunity (2)
  • less than 1 month old (1)
  • more than 1 month old (0)

Is the harm

  • widespread/public (2)
  • local (private) (1)
  • none (0)

Irreversible harm?

  • yes (1)
  • no (0)

Causes serious environmental or statutory nuisance

  • yes (1)
  • no (0)

Breach of a condition or article 4 direction? (Score 1 per condition breached, maximum score of 5) consider environmental impacts

  • yes (1 to 5)
  • no (0)

Operational development or change of use in Green Belt or major breach of planning policy

  • yes (1)
  • no (0)

Development affecting contaminated land

  • yes (1)
  • no (0)

Within a flood zone

  • zone 3 (2)
  • zone 2 (1)
  • zone 1 (0)

Affecting the setting of a conservation area

  • yes (1)
  • no (0)

Harming a listed building or its setting

  • yes (1)
  • no (0)

Sensitive site e.g. SSSI, SAM, listed garden, archaeological importance

  • yes (1)
  • no (0)

Undesirable precedent (assessing officer to specify)

  • yes (1)
  • no (0)