When development takes place without permission, the Council has a full range of enforcement powers available to establish whether a breach of planning control has taken place, what harm is caused as a result of the breach and how to remedy the situation.
Most breaches of the planning rules are brought to our attention by neighbours, or as we monitor development under way. There is a procedure established for investigating such complaints:
- Allegations that development has been carried out without planning permission will be recorded individually. We will acknowledge any complaint made in writing within five working days of receiving it.
- Investigation will begin as soon as possible.
- If the investigation shows that no breach of planning control has taken place, the complainant will be informed.
- As a result of our investigations, an application is invited where it is clear that a breach of planning control has taken place. Once an application has been submitted it will be treated on merit like any other application.
- If an application is not submitted, we will decide whether or not an Enforcement Notice should be served. If, for instance, the unauthorised development is considered not to cause any harm then enforcement action may not be appropriate.
- The name and address of any complainant will be kept confidential to the Council, although if you make representations on any subsequent planning application these will be available for the public to read.
Further advice and information is available from the Planning Portal website:
Enforcement of complaints
If you would like us to investigate a possible breach of the planning rules, please contact us via our e-form or alternatively by post or email:
Planning Enforcement Team
Further Information/Procedures on Enforcement
What can I complain about?
Breaches of planning control can include:
- Building an extension, or making alterations to a building without planning permission.
- An unauthorised change of use of a property, e.g. running a business from a residential property.
- A condition imposed on a planning permission, not being complied with
- Work being carried out that is different to what was approved
- Advertisements erected without permission
- Protected trees being removed or lopped without permission
- Unauthorised works to a listed building
We can’t deal with:
- Covenant issues
These are private issues which a solicitor or the Citizens Advice Bureau can help you with.
Please note, some extensions, adverts or uses can be carried out without the need for planning permission.
How can I complain?
- Your name, address and contact details
- The address where the breach is taking place
- What the breach is
- How it affects you
Will my details be kept confidential?
Under the Data Protection Act, the name and address of the person making the complaint, or any other contact details, will not be disclosed. The only exception to this is when we are taking formal action and you have been asked to collect evidence to support your complaint. In these cases you may be asked to give that evidence at a hearing, but before then you will be asked if you are prepared to do that.
Most complaints are managed without the need for formal action, so in most cases confidentiality can be maintained.
Under the Freedom of Information Act 2000, the Council have to make available to the public information about where there has been a complaint and what the complaint is about. Formal notices that are served, along with a list of all those people served with that notice, are also public documents.
We do not check anonymous complaints.
What happens to my complaint?
We can only take action if there has been a breach of planning control. We will therefore check this first by visiting the property. If the complaint involves a building, we can assess if there has been a breach quite quickly. If the complaint involves the use of a property, we may have to monitor it for a few weeks to make this assessment. We may also ask for your help to collect evidence of the unauthorised use.
If there is a breach we then have to consider if it would be likely to get planning permission. If we feel it might, we will invite an application on which you would be consulted. Letters received on planning applications are available to the public, or if the application is being decided by the Planning Committee, you can have your say in person.
If an application is not submitted, the Council will then have to consider if it is in the public interest to take formal action. The Council will not automatically take action just because an application is not submitted.
If we do not feel planning permission would be granted and the breach is significant, we will take formal action.
At each stage we will keep you informed, by phone or in writing.
What if a complaint has been made about me?
We recognise that some breaches of the planning rules are genuine mistakes, where people don’t know they need permission. We also recognise some people deliberately “play the system”.
You may be given the opportunity to apply for retrospective planning permission and we will guide you as to whether we feel you might get it. It is beneficial to apply as any unauthorised extensions, for example, could cause problems if you sell your home in the future.
If you have breached planning control and we don’t feel you would get permission you will be asked to put the situation right, e.g. by stopping the use or pulling down or reducing the size of an unauthorised building.
If you do nothing to put the situation right, then we will consider taking formal action.
At each stage we will keep you informed, by phone or in writing.
What is formal action?
We will start formal action when negotiations to resolve a complaint have failed. It means we will serve legal notices requiring the breach of planning control to cease.
If the legal notices are not complied with, we will take court action which could result in a significant fine. In some cases we may consider taking direct action, e.g. demolishing an unauthorised building and then reclaim the costs. In extreme cases we can consider serving an injunction. Failure to comply with that could lead to a prison sentence. In most cases there is a right of appeal against the legal notices that are served by the Council.
How long will this take?
We will acknowledge your complaint by letter within 5 working days of receiving the complaint. We will visit the site (in some cases more than once to gain access or speak to the relevant people) and we will then write to you to tell you the outcome of the complaint, or update you on what we have done so far.
Timescales will vary depending on the need for further evidence. In any event, however, we will contact you as and when we have further information.
If formal action is necessary, due to the complexities of planning law, it can take several months, and in complex cases years, to satisfactorily resolve problems.
If I’m not happy with the outcome?
If you feel we have not dealt with this matter correctly, there is a Corporate Complaints procedure that investigates complaints about our service. Please contact the Standards and Review Officer, via email by clicking here or in writing.