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Planning enforcement

Most development, including the change of use of land or buildings, the provision of new buildings or extensions to existing buildings, needs planning permission.

The planning process ensures that development is appropriate and that it is suitable within a particular location. Some small scale developments do not need planning permission.

Sometimes development is carried out without the required planning permission. Similarly, developments take place which do not follow the approved detailed drawings or comply with conditions imposed by the council.

Such development can cause serious harm to the way that people live. Residents and businesses have a right to expect that such unauthorised activities are dealt with quickly and effectively.

Other situations that can be considered for planning enforcement include:

  • unauthorised display of advertisements
  • unauthorised work on protected trees
  • unauthorised work on buildings listed as being of special architectural or historic interest
  • unauthorised demolition of some buildings within a conservation area
  • unauthorised storage of hazardous materials
  • removal of protected hedgerows
  • allowing land to fall into such a poor condition that it harms the amenity of the area.

The term used to describe all these cases is a "breach of planning control".

Where the council receives a complaint about a breach of planning control, the enforcement team will undertake an investigation and the council will decide what action is appropriate and proportionate in each case. It is important to remember three key points:

  • it is not a criminal offence to carry out development without planning permission, although work on a listed building, a protected tree or the display of an advertisement without consent can make the person liable to immediate prosecution
  • enforcement action can only be taken where there has been material harm in planning terms
  • developers are always strongly advised to stop work where there is a breach of planning control until the matter is resolved.

Planning enforcement can only deal with matters arising from breaches of planning control under planning law and cannot, for example, deal with neighbour disputes or investigate questions of land ownership.

If you believe there has been a breach of control, you can make a complaint.