The planning service often receives complaints that a development has taken place without planning permission or that the work carried out is not in line with the planning permission granted.
Whilst a failure to submit a planning application is not in itself an offence, development that is carried out without permission is unauthorised and called a breach of planning control. In extreme cases the development could be threatened with removal or demolition.
We are obliged to investigate all enforcement complaints and a team of officers respond to such concerns. The enforcement officers have special powers to investigate the uses and ownership of land and they can be contacted via the planning service reception area.
Where breaches of planning control occur the persons responsible have the opportunity to regularise the problem through the submission of a retrospective application for planning permission. In cases where the development is acceptable permission should be granted.
What if action is required?
Having investigated a complaint the council may decide more formal action is required. This will generally take the form of either an enforcement notice or a stop notice. Either action will be based upon the evidence the enforcement officers have collected after investigating a complaint.
This notice requires the breach of control to stop and spells out the action required to normalise the situation.
A stop notice
This strong power is only used in a limited number of cases where a threat is created by someone persistently ignoring the planning rules. Action under this power would be linked to the service of an enforcement notice.
A form is available for you to use to report a breach of planning control.
The Town and Country Planning Act says that planning permission is required for ‘development’. When development is carried out without planning permission, the act calls this a ‘breach of planning control’.
The act defines development as either ‘operational development’ (building, engineering, mining or other operation) or a material change in the use of land. The act exempts certain operational development and changes of use from requiring planning permission and certain building operations and changes of use are deemed to be given permission by Government regulations without the need to make specific applications- these are known as ‘permitted development rights’. In addition the courts, in interpreting the act and the regulations, have set down rules and guidelines to be followed.
Breach of planning control
The county council, as local planning authority, is given the job of policing breaches of planning control and taking enforcement action against breaches.
The act says that a local planning authority may take enforcement action where it ‘is expedient to do so’. This means that the county council doesn’t have to act in the case of every breach.
The National Assembly (and prior to that the Welsh Office) has given advice to all councils as to how to exercise their enforcement powers. Put simply, the advice to councils is to take enforcement action against breaches of planning control where the council believe such action is necessary to protect or safeguard the local area from the detrimental (or bad) effects of the breach.
In addition there is both national guidance issued by the National Assembly (such as Circulars and Technical Advice Notes) and local policy (in the form of the county council’s Development Plan- approved under the act) which planning officers must have regard to when deciding whether a breach should be enforced against.
Planning officers must consider whether the breach could be regularised by a grant of planning permission with appropriate conditions attached.
Not all breaches will have a detrimental effect on the local area. Planning officers will have to exercise their judgment as to whether a breach has arisen and what effects the breach has and whether such effects deserve to be enforced against.
Please note that this is an overview only and is not a comprehensive statement of the law.
Planning Contravention Notice
Please note that this guide is an overview only and is not a comprehensive statement of the law.
Where the county council wants information about a particular breach or alleged breach of planning control, the Town and Country Planning Act allows them to serve a ‘Planning Contravention Notice’.
This notice allows the county council to ask questions about the ownership and occupation of the land in question as well as asking questions about the nature of the development on or use of the land.
The notice may be served on persons owning or occupying the land or those who appear to be carrying out the development or using the land. At least 21 days must be given for a person to reply to the notice.
Once received, the information is assessed by planning officers to help decide whether there is a breach of planning control on the land and, if so, whether any enforcement action should be taken against it.
The enforcement notice
This notice requires the breach to stop and can require action to be taken to remedy the damage caused by the breach. The notice must give a reasonable time for compliance with its requirements. There is a right of appeal against this notice to the Planning Inspectorate (acting on behalf of the National Assembly). A period of 28 days must be given in which to make an appeal. If the appeal is successful, the enforcement notice will be quashed. However, if the appeal is unsuccessful, the enforcement notice will come into force on the date that the appeal is decided.
This notice requires the breach of a specific condition on an existing planning permission to stop and/or be remedied. The notice must give a period of at least 28 days to comply with its requirements. There is no right of appeal against this notice.
Section 215 notice
Although not strictly in respect of a breach of planning control, this is a notice served when the condition of a property has a detrimental effect on the amenity of the surrounding area. It is not to be used merely because a property is ‘untidy’. There is a right of appeal to the Magistrates’ Court against the issuing of this notice which must be exercised within 28 days. If appealed against, the notice does not come into effect until the appeal is decided. The notice must give a period of at least 28 days to comply with its requirements.
In respect of all three types of notice the act provides for a power to prosecute where the notice is in force and not complied with.
Authorising enforcement action
The county council has delegated the power to take planning enforcement action to the head of planning service, who is a council officer. The head of planning service may also grant such power to other officers. In certain cases (usually exceptional ones), the head of planning service may request the planning and orders committee to authorise enforcement action. The person asked to authorise enforcement action has discretion whether to do so or not. Any recommendation made to them by another officer is not binding on the decision-maker.