Below are the most commonly asked questions about planning enforcement.
What is planning enforcement?
Planning enforcement plays an important part in monitoring development and investigation of potential breaches of planning control.
The type of work that people do without permission is often the sort of work which damages the character and amenity of an area, and would not be allowed if they did apply.
Our enforcement officers investigate complaints received from a variety of sources such as staff from our own and other departments, councillors, neighbours and other members of the public. Some of the most common cases include:
- building work
- change of use
- untidy land
- work to listed buildings
- felling or lopping trees
- erection of advertisements
- work not complying with planning conditions
Is planning permission always needed?
This depends on what work is proposed.
There are lots of smaller jobs that can be done without planning permission. These types of work are known as 'permitted development'.
To check whether work may need planning permission, visit the planning portal interactive guides.
Or contact the Planning Duty Officer system between 9.30am and 1pm Monday to Friday on 020 8303 7777.
Remember, it is cheaper to check because putting things right can be very expensive.
How do we assess what action is necessary?
When a complaint is received, the first task is to check whether any permission is needed.
If the work does not need planning permission, or if permission has been granted and planning law has not been broken, we cannot take enforcement action.
If work has been done without the necessary permission, the Government recommends that we should try to negotiate a satisfactory solution before we start more formal action. Sometimes, the problem can be solved by an alteration of the work or the submission of a retrospective planning application.
If negotiation fails, we are legally required to consider the expediency of taking enforcement action. In other words, we have to decide whether the case is sufficiently serious as to justify spending a lot of public time and money taking legal action.
In making that decision, we consider whether the matter is contrary to Council and National policies, which set out how we assess the merits of all planning applications. One of the key issues is the severity of the impact on the neighbours and on the general environment.
The type of work that people do without permission is often the sort of work, which damages the character and amenity of an area, and would not be allowed if they did apply.
What does enforcement action involve?
There are various powers available to us and the action we choose to take will depend on the type of offence and the harm it causes.
The more formal part of enforcement action usually starts with an Enforcement Notice which requires the breach of planning legislation to be remedied.
The Notice is served on the land, so anyone with an interest in the land gets a copy. That includes mortgage lenders because the problem could have a serious effect on the value of the property. The Notice will allow an adequate period of time for the problem to be resolved. If that period expires and the problem still exists, we will normally move on to a prosecution.
A slightly different process applies when planning permission has been granted but the conditions of the permission have been breached. We serve a Breach of Conditions Notice on the person(s) responsible and, once again, we allow a suitable period of time for compliance.
Has an offence been committed?
That normally depends on whether something has been physically done or whether it is simply a failure to follow the correct legal procedure.
For example, breaching planning legislation by working on a listed building or working on protected trees would be an offence.
Simply failing to apply for planning permission is not, in itself, an offence. However, where permission has not been sought, enforcement action may follow, which could lead to offences being committed.
How do I make an enforcement complaint?
If you believe works have been carried out without the appropriate permission, or are not in accordance with a permission that has been given, then let us know.
You can either complete the online complaint form or telephone our customer service team on 020 8303 7777.
Please remember your complaint will be dealt with in confidence.
Will I hear what is happening?
When people have made a complaint, we try to tell them what progress has been made.
The legal process can take a long time so you may not hear from us as often as you might hope. We should update you after eight weeks and again after 26 weeks.
You can see a summary of the case including its current status by using view planning applications on-line. Please make sure you have read, understood and accepted the terms and conditions set out on the page before using the service.
I've been served an enforcement notice, can I appeal?
An appeal can be made against an Enforcement Notice before it takes effect.
The appeal is made to the Secretary of State and the Notice is held in abeyance until the appeal has been dealt with.
There is no right of appeal against a Breach of Condition Notice. That is because there was a right of appeal when the conditions were first imposed as part of the planning permission.
Information prepared by the Planning Inspectorate, to help anyone served with a copy of an enforcement notice to decide whether there are grounds for appeal to the Secretary of State (and if so how to appeal) is available from the Planning Portal.
The Secretary of State responsible is the Secretary of State for the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG).
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