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Planning enforcement process

Coronavirus: Planning Enforcement

Officers have considered our approach to planning enforcement. We will continue to acknowledge and investigate all formal complaints that are received in writing/e-mail (not anonymous). We would however request full details of the alleged breach of planning control with evidence using photographs of the building or details of the use eg. times/frequency a use is occurring,  further formal enforcement action is discretionary to the LPA.  Our current policy is to investigate all reported matters following a desktop triage process but it is recognised that we could change our policy to reduce what we investigate.  

It is acknowledged that there will be ongoing enforcement matters which we might need to tolerate for a temporary period because of the current situation - we should not force people to move or travel.  A pragmatic approach will be required.

A Written Ministerial Statement was published on Friday 13 March which urges local planning authorities to apply pragmatism to the enforcement of restrictions on food and other essential deliveries at this time. Local planning authorities should also use their discretion on the enforcement of other planning conditions which hinder the effective response to COVID-19.  

Furthermore, the government has relaxed planning regulations allowing cafes and restaurants to offer take-away facilities.

It is considered that we could reduce the complaints that are formally registered for a temporary period whilst we are dealing with the pandemic by not registering certain breaches for example:

  • Breaches of planning conditions relating to delivery times to essential businesses
  • Changes of use of cafes/restaurants to take-aways
  • Householder development (unless the person reporting demonstrates significant harm)
  • Breaches of construction traffic management plans (unless the person reporting demonstrates significant harm)
  • Adverts

 In other cases, please consider that there may be a delay in dealing with the matter.

Following the receipt of a complaint

Initially a site visit will be undertaken within a designated time period dependant on the severity of the breach, and where a breach is found, the landowner may be requested to take necessary action to remedy the breach. In some cases this request maybe to remove unauthorised development or cease of use of land or buildings. In other cases where development may be likely to receive planning permission a retrospective planning application to regularise the unauthorised development/activity may be requested. Planning enforcement is also time limited, and if a building has been on site for over 4 years, or change of use has been undertaken for over 10 years (4 in the case of a dwelling) a landowner may be requested to submit a certificate of lawfulness application to regularise the matter.

Repeated non-compliance

Where there is a repeated failure to comply with our requests, and where the breach continues, the council will consider taking formal enforcement action. The type of action taken will depend on the severity and type of breach that has occurred, and the planning enforcement team has a large number of tools and notice available to resolve these issues.

Planning law

The enforcement of planning law is particularly complex. It needs to strike a balance between the rights of individuals to use or alter their property in the way they wish, the need to safeguard the character and quality of neighbourhoods, and to uphold the planning policies for the local area in such a way as to protect the public interest.

In all cases, we have to assess what harm is being caused as a result of any breach and how the situation could be remedied without formal legal action. Although we can, and do, take formal legal action against unauthorised development, we are advised to do so only as a last resort. The vast majority of cases are resolved through negotiation. We are sometimes also informed of matters that ultimately may not be in the broader public interest to investigate further, or that do not need planning permission. When formal action is taken in many circumstances there is also a right of appeal against the action which can further extend the process.