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Planning Enforcement policy and implementation

These notes are designed to give you a better understanding of the purpose and practice of Planning Enforcement. Please read them carefully before reporting an issue to us, or submitting an appeal against one of our decisions.

The purpose of Planning Enforcement

Planning Enforcement exists to protect the environment we share from developments (or lack of action) which could cause public harm. This covers a huge range of issues, from failing to protect a listing building or unauthorised demolition in a conservation area, to causing environmental pollution, traffic hazards or damaging a protected tree. Our purpose is not to punish people for breaking Planning regulations, but to assess any harm caused, and decide if it is in the public interest to take action. Investigation and prosecution cost considerable public money, and we will only pursue these courses of action if we feel that the harm being caused is unacceptable.

The status of unauthorised works

Unauthorised development is not illegal, unless it is done to a Listed Building. However, if you do not get the necessary planning permission for your works, you risk the possibility of major costs from Enforcement action in the future. It may also be difficult or impossible to sell your property if you cannot show planning permissions for any development you have done.

If you have breached Planning regulations, you may apply for retrospective permission for works, or changes of use, as long as we do not consider them to be causing harm. We will treat these applications in exactly the same way as any other Planning Application. If a retrospective application fails, however, then it is likely that we will take Enforcement action to have the development changed or removed.

How we investigate reports

Firstly, we will consider whether the works need planning permission, or are ‘permitted development’. Many domestic extensions and out-buildings to houses are permitted development, but it is the property owner's responsibility to confirm this before starting any building. We can only take action for works which are unauthorised, either because they should have planning permission and don't, or because they have broken a condition which was specified in the permission granted.

Before reporting a breach of regulations, we recommend you view any application made for the works, so you know if permission has been granted, or any conditions apply. 

Check details and status of a planning application Application Reference, for example 19/03943/FUL

Where there is a breach, we will then need to find evidence of whether this is deliberate or persistent, and of the harm it has caused. We will categorise how serious we feel the harm is, and we will base our actions on this. If we think there is a case to answer, we will always negotiate first, and will only issue legal notices or start court proceedings as a last resort.

Both you and the property owner will have an opportunity to appeal against any decisions we make. It is important to remember that, as a result, the process of Planning Enforcement can be a very lengthy one. We will keep you updated of our decisions and the reasons for them, including if we decide not to take formal action.

For a fuller explanation of the details of how we work, please read our Local Enforcement Plan