Investigating complaints, monitoring of mineral extraction and processing, waste management and our own developments, such as schools and nursing homes.
We do this in accordance with our Planning Enforcement and Monitoring Policy which we adopted in May 2022.
Complaints may range from development without planning permission or a breach of the terms of a planning permission. Monitoring of permitted waste sites is carried out to ensure compliance with planning controls.
Your local district council deals with planning enforcement for residential, commercial and industrial developments.
Report a suspected breach of planning control
Email email@example.com if you suspect unauthorised development or a breach of planning control.
It is important you provide as much information as possible about the issue. Please include:
- your name, address, telephone number and email address
- the address or location of the alleged breach (mark on a plan if possible)
- the name and address of the person(s), company, developer carrying out the breach (if known)
- the nature of the complaint and what you believe is the breach of planning control
- when the problem started or took place
- your assessment of the ‘harm’ the alleged breach is causing
- whether you would like to be kept informed of the progress of your complaint
When we receive a complaint or a report of a suspected breach of planning control we will:
- record and acknowledge receipt within 3 working days
- investigate within 21 days
- inform you of the outcome of the investigation within 28 days
Once a breach of control is confirmed, you may be asked to make a note of your observations and keep a log of any relevant activities. In particular, times, dates, names, addresses, telephone numbers and the registration details of any vehicles are helpful.
The main breaches of planning control investigated include:
- building or engineering work and the change of use of land without a planning permission
- unauthorised deposit of waste or mineral extraction and mineral processing
- breach of conditions attached to planning permissions or the terms of a section 106 obligation
- non-compliance with approved plans attached to planning permissions
- unauthorised change of use of land or buildings
- unauthorised works to a listed building
- unauthorised demolition work
Situations that do not involve a breach of planning control such as land ownership disputes and breaches of a covenant attached to deeds are civil issues and will not be investigated.
In accordance with government advice, our objective is to:
- prevent serious or irremediable harm
- bring unauthorised activity under control
- remedy the undesirable effects of unauthorised development
- ensure breaches of planning permission do not compromise the basis of any original permission
We will always seek to resolve breaches of planning control by negotiation and only pursue formal enforcement action as a last resort where negotiation has failed. Enforcement action is a discretionary power and we reserve the right to use the powers available to us as appropriate. If we choose not to pursue enforcement action, even if negotiation has failed, the reasons for not doing so will be made clear and conveyed to the complainant.
Enforcement activities are operated within government guidelines and in accordance with our Planning Enforcement Monitoring Policy. This means:
- we must decide whether the breach of planning control unacceptably affects amenity
- action will not be taken just because development has started without planning permission
- we do not always have to take action but the particular circumstances of the case must always be considered
- it is not normal to take formal action against a minor breach of control that causes no real harm. However, any breach of planning control will be recorded and drawn to the attention of the developer
If it appears there is a breach, then the person responsible will be asked to take action to resolve the breach. This could include:
- submitting a retrospective planning application (where appropriate)
- ceasing the unauthorised activities
- removing any unauthorised development and/or complying with the condition
If an enforcement notice has been issued, the recipient has a right of appeal. You may be contacted to ask if you wish to submit additional information or appear at an inquiry or hearing to support the enforcement team’s case. Once an appeal has been lodged, any subsequent representations received become public documents, available for public inspection, including the appellant and their legal representatives.
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 enable information to be gathered from the owner of 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 are 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 where 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.
There are time limits for taking enforcement action:
- where there has been a breach of planning control consisting of the carrying out without planning permission of building, engineering, mining or other operations in, on, over or under land, no enforcement action may be taken after the end of the period of four years beginning with the date on which the operations were substantially completed
- within 4 years for an unauthorised change of use to a single dwelling house
- within 10 years for any other breach of planning control (essentially other changes of use and breaches of conditions)
To avoid malicious complaints, anonymous allegations of breaches of planning control are not normally investigated but will be recorded. You should, however, be aware that if you give your name, address, or any other details, they will be treated in the strictest confidence as far as legislation permits. Should you still wish to remain anonymous, you are encouraged to refer the matter to your local councillor.
Anonymous complaints may be accepted at our discretion if the matters raised constitute a criminal offence, such as works to protected trees.
Legislation requires that the name and address of the person making the complaint, or any other contact details, will not be disclosed. However, when you have been asked to collect evidence to support your complaint, you may be asked to give that evidence at a hearing but only when you are sure that you want to do so.
Most complaints are dealt with without the need for formal action, so in most cases confidentiality can be maintained. However, you should remember that the person whose activities you have complained about may know you have made the complaint because of things you have said to them, someone reported what you have told them or the nature of the complaint makes it obvious you are the person who has complained.
All dormant and operational minerals sites and operational waste sites with planning permissions we grant will be the subject of periodic routine monitoring visits in accordance with a prescribed schedule. The monitoring is to ensure sites comply with planning conditions, approved schemes, plans and documents and requirements of legal agreements and to identify any non-compliance with planning conditions, approved schemes, plans and documents and requirements of legal agreements and any unauthorised development that requires addressing or action.
The frequency of monitoring will be determined by the nature of the site and how it is understood to be operating. Monitoring is usually carried out as part of a prearranged visit although unannounced visits may be carried out, particularly if there is a need to investigate reported alleged breaches of planning control.
A monitoring report will be prepared at the time of the visit that confirms:
- whether the site is operating in accordance with the planning permission(s), planning conditions, approved schemes and programmes and plans or otherwise
- what action, if any, is necessary to ensure compliance
- the timescales within which action, if any, is to be completed
- the date of the next visit to confirm the identified action has been carried out
A signed copy of the officer report will be provided to the person responsible for the site at the time of the visit and who will be invited to sign the report. A letter, with a copy of the report, will be provided to the site operator confirming compliance and/or highlighting areas needing action within 14 days of the visit.
In the event any identified action is not subsequently taken, depending on the scale and nature of any non-compliance, we may pursue any of the enforcement options referred to above. We will always work with an operator to ensure compliance with the approved planning permission(s), planning conditions, approved schemes, programmes, plans and legal obligations to ensure there is no unacceptable risk to the environment or the amenities of the area or others.