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Reporting a potential planning breach

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.

The planning system exists to manage the development and use of the land in the public interest, and planning enforcement is an important part of this. The effective use of enforcement powers is central to ensure a fair and transparent system that protects against the harmful effects of unauthorised development.

When development takes place without permission the council has a full range of enforcement powers available to establish whether a breach of planning control has taken place, what harm is caused as a result of the breach, and how to remedy the situation.

Most breaches of the planning rules are brought to our attention by neighbours or as we monitor development under way.

Not all development requires permission and you should be aware that certain development, including small residential extensions and limited temporary uses or advertisements, can take place without the need for planning permission under permitted development rights. Planning enforcement also has no jurisdiction regarding neighbour disputes, or breaches of covenants or deeds.

Planning enforcement can investigate complaints into the following

  • Unauthorised building developments
  • Unauthorised changes of use of land or buildings
  • Unauthorised works to listed buildings
  • Unauthorised work to protected trees (tree preservation orders), and those in conservation areas
  • Breaches of conditions attached to previously granted planning permission
  • Breaches of the General Permitted Development Order
  • Extensions and alterations, including walls and fences
  • Breaches of conservation area consent including demolition of buildings and fences
  • Other engineering operations

Planning enforcement cannot investigate the following complaints

  • The parking of vehicles, or other obstructions of the highway
  • Dangerous structures
  • Internal refurbishments of buildings which are not listed
  • Disputes between neighbours relating to land ownership or the siting of boundaries
  • Party wall or right to light issues
  • Legal covenants
  • Competition between traders
  • Noise, smell or pollution
  • Extensions, buildings or changes of use that are ‘permitted development’
  • Unauthorised signage
  • Untidy land

In relation to unauthorised signage and untidy land, these are investigated by the enforcement services department and can be reported to (01283)508000.

Complaints regarding breaches of planning legislation can be submitted online or by sending your complaint to dcenforcement@eaststaffsbc.gov.uk or by post to East Staffordshire Borough Council, P.O. Box 8045, Burton upon Trent, Staffs, DE14 1LS.

Please be aware that in normal circumstances the council will not investigate anonymous complaints.


The council's planning enforcement team will keep details of complainants confidential during the investigation. Any comments you make on any planning application will however be on a public file, and we may also have to disclose your details if we have to go to court to take legal action. We will, however, talk to you about this first if it is necessary.