Planning enforcement issues are usually resolved without resorting to formal enforcement action or prosecution. However, if negotiation fails to resolve the problem, there are a number of tools available to obtain information or remedy the breach. These include:
Planning Contravention Notices (PCN)
This notice enables information to be gathered from the owner of the land or someone using the land to establish whether a breach has occurred and who has an interest in the land. The recipient(s) of a Planning Contravention Notice is given 21 days to respond. Non-compliance with the requirements of a Planning Contravention Notice is an offence, and on conviction, the offender may be liable to a fine.
Breach of condition notices (BCN)
This notice can be served on all those known parties who have an interest in the land where a condition attached to a planning permission is being breached. A Breach of Condition Notice will set out the steps the recipient should take to remedy the breach of condition and a timetable for doing so. Non-compliance with the requirements of a Breach of Condition Notice is an offence and, on conviction, the offender may be liable to a fine. Failure to comply with a Breach of Condition Notice may result in further enforcement action being pursued.
Enforcement notice (EN)
This notice can be issued to all those known parties who have an interest in the land against breaches of planning control and set out steps that the recipient(s) should take to remedy the breach and a timetable for doing so. An appeal against an Enforcement Notice can be made within 28 days of the date it was served. Failure to comply with the terms of the Enforcement Notice would constitute a criminal offence for which the offender could be prosecuted and be subject to a fine on conviction.
Temporary stop notice (TSN)
This notice can be issued for a period of up to 28 days when there has been an identified breach of planning control and when it is expedient that the activity, or any part of the activity that amounts to the breach, should cease immediately. The Temporary Stop Notice takes immediate effect but ceases to have effect after 28 days. This allows us to make further investigations and consider whether to take further action.
Stop notice (SN)
This notice is only served in conjunction with an Enforcement Notice in exceptional circumstances where it is essential that activities cease to safeguard amenity or public safety or to prevent serious or irreversible harm to the environment. The Stop Notice normally takes effect 3 days after being served. There is no right of appeal against a Stop Notice although a recipient may challenge its validity by making an application to the High Court for a judicial review.
Our objective throughout planning enforcement proceedings is to prevent and remedy harm to the environment and local amenity. In cases where those identified with an interest in the land have failed to comply with the requirements of an Enforcement Notice or Stop Notice, the only way in which we can secure our objectives is to prosecute for non-compliance. Prosecutions are normally brought in the Magistrates Court against the failure to comply with one of these notices listed above but some serious cases may be brought in, or referred to the Crown Court. Failure to respond or comply with the requirements of the notices above could result in prosecution.
Where we consider it necessary or expedient for any actual or apprehended breach of planning control to be restrained, having first considered our other enforcement powers, we may apply to the High Court or County Court for an injunction. An application for an injunction can be made whether or not we have exercised, or propose to exercise, any of our other powers to enforce planning control referred to above.
An injunction is only sought, in the County or High Court, in the most exceptional investigations and used as a last resort if it is necessary to restrain an actual or anticipated breach of planning control. The breaking of an injunction is contempt of court and the court can levy an unlimited fine or impose a custodial sentence.
An appeal may be lodged with the Planning Inspectorate against an enforcement notice before it comes into effect on one of seven specified grounds. If an appeal is made the requirements of the notice are suspended until the appeal is heard. Appeals against enforcement notices may sometimes take up to a year to be heard.
If an appeal is allowed, we will take no further action concerning that breach. If an appeal is dismissed, legal action can only be taken if an individual then fails to comply with the requirements of an Enforcement Notice.