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Enforcement - how we deal with your enquiry

The Council expects land owners and developers to comply with planning legislation and not carry out development until they have the necessary planning permission. Development includes building operations and also the type or use that land or property is being put to.

The enforcement process

When an enquiry is received, the Council has to establish whether a breach of planning control has taken place and what harm, if any, is being caused as a result of the breach. The Council then has to decide what steps are necessary to remedy the situation and if it is in the public interest to do so.

Enforcement enquiries can be accepted online, by post, email, letter or in person. If you are submitting an enquiry about an alleged breach of planning it is useful if you can give as much detail as possible to assist us in our investigations. Sometimes enforcement enquiries can take a long time to resolve. This can be for many reasons. We may have difficulty getting in touch with the person who owns the site or is carrying out the works. There may be a need to liaise with specialists to clarify a technical or legal matter. We may need to monitor a site for a time period to establish exactly what is happening there, we may need to gather further information or it may take time for the owner of the site to remedy the situation.

If an Enforcement Notice is issued there is a right of appeal which can also delay matters considerably.

The enquiry is given a reference number and recorded by the Council before being passed onto an enforcement officer for investigation. You will then be sent an acknowledgement letter, advising you of the officer who will deal with the enquiry and likely timescales, as well as contact details.

A site visit will be carried out by one of our enforcement officers. How quickly a site visit is carried out is dependant upon the priority the case is given. For example we aim to visit cases of unauthorised building work or works to Listed Buildings by the next working day. However an advertisement or non-compliance with a condition is generally less urgent and is visited within 5 working days.  This may change depending on individual circumstances of a case. We may not always tell the owner of the site before we carry out a site visit.

Following the site visit the Enforcement Officer will liaise with a Planning Officer as to whether a breach has occurred and what is the best course of action. Sometimes we are unable to determine this from a site visit and request further information from the person who owns the site or is carrying out the works.

If we determine that no breach has occurred, you will be informed of this and the file will be closed.

Should we find a breach of planning control has occurred we may do one of three things:

  • ask for a retrospective planning application for the development
  • ask for the work to cease or be removed/rectified
  • If a retrospective planning application is received it is given the same level of consideration as any other application and the fact that it is retrospective would not prejudice the outcome in any way.

If the person who owns the site does not take the required action within what the Borough Council considers a reasonable timescale then further action, including legal proceedings, may be taken. There is a right of appeal against any formal Enforcement Notice which can result in significant delays in resolving the issue

In some cases it may not be considered to be in the public interest to take further action (for example for developments which, were an application submitted, would be acceptable.) In these cases the enforcement file will be closed but the works will remain unauthorised.

If you make an enforcement enquiry we will:

  • retain your confidentiality – we don't disclose the name and address of the person making the complaint
  • acknowledge your initial enquiry (providing you give us your address) and let you know the name and telephone number of the officer dealing with it
  • let you know the outcome of your enquiry
  • keep you up to date on progress if the enquiry is likely to take a long time.

If an enforcement enquiry is made about you we will:

  • work with you to try and resolve the issue
  • advise you of the best course of action
  • give you a reasonable amount of time to rectify or resolve issues.

What to do if you think you have carried out actions which breach planning control

If you are concerned that you may have carried out works without receiving the relevant planning permission or consent then please contact us as soon as possible. Once you have alerted us to the issue we will work with you to try and find a solution.

For more information, see our Planning enforcement code of practice.