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Planning enforcement deals with breaches of planning control. 

What are breaches of planning control?

 Breaches of planning control include: 

We also deal with complaints about untidy land and buildings. 

What is development?

 Development means carrying out building, engineering or other operations or making a material change in the use of buildings or land. 

Does all development need planning permission?

 Landowners can carry out some types of development without needing to apply to the district council for planning permission. This type of development is known as ‘permitted development’. Further information on permitted development rights for householders is available on the Planning Portal and our Do I Need Planning Permission? page.

 Permitted development rights for other, non-household, uses are set out in the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) Order 2015

Are breaches of planning control criminal offences?

 A small number of breaches of planning control are criminal offences. These include unauthorised: 

  • work to listed buildings

  • work to a tree with a Tree Preservation Order

  • demolition of buildings or structures in a conservation area

  • work to trees in a conservation area

  • advertisements.

 We will consider the merits of each case when deciding whether or not to prosecute. 

What happens if development is carried out without planning permission?

 In most cases it is not a criminal offence to carry out development without first obtaining any necessary planning permission. 

The work or use will be unauthorised, but not illegal, and is carried out at the developer’s risk. 

Who can make an enforcement complaint?

 Anyone can make a complaint, but we do not accept anonymous complaints. All complaints are treated as confidential. 

What do I need to check before I make a complaint?

 If you are concerned about a development, you can check our Public Access system to see if permission has been granted and if there are any conditions attached to it. 

Check Planning Decisions

 How do I make a complaint?

 If you think there may have been a breach of planning control, the easiest way to report it is online. 

Report a Breach of Planning Control

 You can also report a breach by emailing, calling 01480 388369, by post or in person

If you think that an investigation is urgently needed to prevent an offence being committed, or to gather evidence, please contact us by telephone if possible. 

What happens next?

 After receiving a report we will: 

  • send an acknowledgement to the complainant, within three working days of receiving the complaint, with contact details of the officer who will be dealing with the case

  • carry out a site visit as soon as possible

  • provide the complainant with a response as soon as possible. 

What if someone makes a complaint about my property?

 If someone makes a complaint about your property, you may be contacted by a member of our planning enforcement team. The case officer will carry identification when visiting your property. You should provide as much information as possible to enable the case officer to decide whether or not there is a breach of planning control. Quick responses to correspondence will help to speed up the process. 

What actions can the council take?

 Planning enforcement powers are discretionary. Our main options are: 

  1. Take no formal action

    We may decide not to take formal action if we consider that a breach of planning control is the result of a genuine mistake and the property owner or occupier remedies the breach voluntarily.

    Enforcement action should be proportionate to the breach of planning control, so we may also decide not to take formal action when:

    • a breach is trivial or technical and causes no significant harm

    • the development is acceptable on its planning merits and formal enforcement action would be taken solely to regularise the development.

  2. Invite a retrospective application

    We will often invite a retrospective application if we consider the development may be granted planning permission. We also invite applications when planning conditions may need to be imposed.

  3. Take enforcement action

    Our main consideration when deciding to take enforcement action is whether the breach of planning control unacceptably affects the public interest. 

When can enforcement action be taken?

 Unauthorised works and uses become immune from enforcement action after the following time periods: 

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Unauthorised Works and Uses Time Period

Building, engineering and other operations 

 4 years

Where there is a change of use from a building to a dwelling 

 4 years

All other changes of use 

 10 years

Breaches of planning conditions 

 10 years

 There is no immunity for unauthorised works to listed buildings. 

What is the council’s policy on planning enforcement?

Planning enforcement is carried out in line with our Corporate Enforcement Policy.