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Planning enforcement charter

Enforcement Policy

Our policy is required to comply with national policy which is set out in Circular 10/2009 – Planning Enforcement. The council is required to consider whether the breach of control would affect unacceptably either public amenity or the use of land and buildings meriting protection in the public interest. Enforcement action should always be commensurate with the breach of planning control to which it relates.

When we find that planning control has been broken, we have to decide what action, if any, is needed. The effect of unauthorised development has on an area and the local environment varies and when considering whether to take formal enforcement action, our main concern is whether the unauthorised development or activity has a harmful effect on an area (for example, through noise, visual impact (what it looks like), smell, dust, fumes or traffic safety.

General enforcement policy

The primary aim of planning enforcement is to protect the environment and the quality of life in the public interest. The council will always exercise its planning enforcement powers rigorously when it is appropriate to do so.

There will be occasions where formal action is necessary but in general, we will seek to achieve compliance through negotiation, co-operation, and those carrying out the breach putting it right themselves without recourse to formal action. There will be occasions when immediate formal action is necessary to halt breaches that are causing significant harm, or may cause lasting harm if not stopped.

When considering enforcement action, the council will have regard to the following principles and be guided by the approach set out in stage 4 of the Enforcement Process.

Expediency

We will only pursue enforcement action when it is appropriate to do so. In deciding whether to pursue formal action the following factors are taken into account.

  • whether the breach is causing harm that would unacceptably affect amenity, the environment or public safety
  • whether the existing use of land and/or buildings merits protection in the public interest
  • if planning permission would likely be granted for the unauthorised development i.e. the event of an application being submitted whether the development complies with planning policies.

Proportionality

Taking formal action must always be proportionate to the seriousness of the harm being caused. It will not be taken solely to regularise development which is otherwise acceptable on its planning merits but for which planning permission has not been sought. Carrying out works without planning permission or contrary to a planning condition is not a criminal offence (subject to a few exceptions – works to listed buildings, trees protected by a Tree Preservation Order and failure to comply with an Enforcement Notice).

Negotiation

Where a breach of planning control has occurred, we will normally try to negotiate a solution to regularise the breach. In all but the most serious cases, we will initially seek to persuade those persons responsible for a breach to voluntarily remedy the harmful effects, rather than pursue formal enforcement action, providing that an appropriate solution can be achieved.

Negotiation may also include inviting the persons responsible for the breach to submit a retrospective planning application to try to regularise the breach.

Negotiation aims to:

  • cease an unauthorised use or activity and reduce it so it becomes acceptable
  • remove or modify an unauthorised operational development
  • apply for planning permission, a variation of permission, or variation of condition

Openness

Those making a complaint and persons subject of a complaint will be kept informed about progress of an investigation. When formal action is necessary, we will explain why such action has been taken. Equally, if it is decided we will not take enforcement action, all parties will be informed of the decision and reasons for it. Other than the most serious of cases, we will provide an opportunity for discussion and negotiation before formal enforcement action is taken. We will give clear explanation of the need for immediate action.

We aim to assist the public whenever possible. However, officers will not tolerate abusive language, persons who are unreasonably demanding on staff resources, or show unacceptable behaviour towards staff.

Prioritisation of cases

In order to deal effectively with a large number of complaints about breaches of planning control, we will prioritise cases based on the seriousness of the breach, and the likelihood of serious harm to amenity or public safety.

High Priority Cases (Site visit made within 5 working days of the original enquiry)

These cases are time critical and have a severe impact on public/road safety and/or public amenity and are causing significant harm

  • causing immediate harm to amenity of the environment for example landfilling or large scale engineering works
  • active works to a listed building including demolition
  • felling of protected trees
  • works likely to adversely affect a designated natural or historic site of international or national importance
  • works likely to irreparably adversely affect a conservation area including demolition
  • works causing an immediate danger to public/road safety.

Medium Cases (Site visit made within 4 weeks of the original enquiry)

Cases that have a significant impact on public amenity and/or public safety and cause a degree of harm

  • ongoing building works or changes of use that are not significantly affecting public amenity or safety
  • works unlikely to give rise to severe or lasting harm
  • minor unauthorised works affecting a listed building or conservation area
  • departure from approved plans or a breach of condition that would cause demonstrable harm to the amenity of an area or public safety
  • works at a residential property that affect the amenity of the immediate area including the running of businesses or operation as a short term let.

Low Priority Cases (Site visit made within 8 weeks of the original enquiry)

Cases that are generally technical breaches which have low/no impact and cause localised harm

  • all householder development
  • advertisements with low road safety impact
  • minor alterations to business premises
  • unauthorised development or breaches of condition that have limited or no impact on public amenity

Deciding whether to take enforcement action

We will take enforcement action against any unauthorised development that unacceptably harms public amenity, public safety or the existing use of land and buildings which need protecting in the public interest. In considering whether to take enforcement action, we will assess the situation against:

  • the local development plan policies
  • the effect on residential amenity (for example whether a development would result in an unacceptable loss of privacy, overlooking or overshadowing or affect the overall character of an area and its enjoyment by residents or visitors)
  • the effect on road safety
  • the scale of the problem
  • how sensitive the area is to the harmful effects of noise, visual effect, smell, dust, fumes
  • how much harm will be done to the environment – landscape character, listed buildings, archaeology and habitats.

We will not take action against trivial or technical breaches that cause no harm to amenity or safety. We will try to persuade an owner or occupier of land to voluntarily put right any harmful effects of unauthorised development. However, negotiations will not delay formal enforcement action that we think is necessary to stop the activity or make the development more acceptable.