We will investigate all of the complaints we receive about unauthorised development. This includes building works, changes in the use of buildings or land, the appearance of building or land, advertisements, works to Listed Buildings, or works to trees that are protected. We have a discretionary power (as to whether it is expedient or in the public interest) to take enforcement action having regard to:

  1. The merits of each case,
  2. The aims and objectives of the local development plan and other legislation and
  3. Whether it is expedient or in the public interest to do so in respect of the above factors.

We receive over 700 complaints each year mainly relating to concerns about such development. Many complaints may be unfounded because planning permission already exists for the work, or was not actually required. Some complaints may be extremely complicated requiring a protracted investigation. The following process is used with regard to complaints.

Make a report

You can report a planning breach to us online. You must provide your name and address. All complaints are treated in the strictest confidence and the source will not be revealed (although it may well be apparent in some situations). It may be necessary for us to rely on the complainant as a witness in due course if it is decided that prosecution is necessary.

  Report a breach of planning

Paper applications

You can also submit a report by downloading and completing a form and sending it to us.

  Download a breach of planning report form

When the complaint is received it is logged on and allocated to an Investigation Officer. Having researched the relevant planning history the officer will decide whether there is a breach of planning control or not. If there is a breach of the site it will normally need to be visited as soon as possible to establish the facts. It may also be necessary to view the site from the complainants address, this will be done discreetly.

Once the facts are established the officer will decide whether there is a breach of planning control occurring, and if so explain what is to be done to try and resolve the matter. This will normally be done in consultation with one of the senior planning officers so that a balanced judgement can be made.

It may be that changes to the works could overcome our objections, or that a retrospective planning application be submitted to regularise the matter. These solutions are suggested in national advice and would allow us to impose conditions to improve the situation. It may also be that a breach is occurring but we do not consider that enforcement action would be expedient or in the public interest, and as such it would take no further action. Either way, all parties would be notified of what the outcome is.

We have powers to issue an Enforcement Notice if it feels that it is expedient (necessary to do so). In the case of unauthorised building works it may require some changes, or its complete demolition. Such a Notice would be served on all those parties having a legal interest in the land and it would explain clearly to what site the Notice relates to; what the alleged breach is; what is required to comply with a Notice; and by when it should be carried out.

If someone fails to comply with a valid Enforcement Notice by its effective date a criminal offence is committed. The offender can be prosecuted in the Magistrates Court with a fine of up to £20,000.00 or if at the Crown Court, to a fine. Further failure to comply with the Notice can incur a daily fine and in some cases we will enter the land and carry out the required works at the expense of the landowner.

The presence of a formal Notice relating to a breach of planning control will be revealed to prospective purchasers during a Search and may affect the saleability of the property, or its value until it is complied with.

There is a right of appeal against the Notice provided it is lodged with the Planning Inspectorate  Opens in a new window in time and there are several grounds of appeal. Enforcement Appeals are quite complex by their nature and the appeal process can take nearly a year before a decision is issued. Compliance with a Notice is held in abeyance whilst an appeal is underway. The Planning Inspectorate will issue a decision letter at the end of the appeal process confirming the final outcome. That decision will either allow the appeal and quash the Notice or discuss the appeal and uphold the notice.

Enforcement Policy
Spatial Planning Enforcement Policy 2011

The appeals process for Enforcement Notices can take quite a long time. A person who has been served a Notice has a period of time in which to lodge an appeal with the Planning Inspectorate  Opens in a new window if they feel they have grounds do so. They usually need to lodge a valid appeal within a month of receiving the Enforcement Notice.

All persons who have contacted us about the breach of planning control as well as any other relevant person will be notified. There is a strict timetable in which further representations can be made to the Planning Inspectorate. The appeal files can be viewed at our offices.

There are three ways that an appeal can be determined. The first is the least formal and is dealt with by way of written representations. The second is an informal hearing where an Inspector chairs a meeting between the appellant, us and anyone else can participate at the discretion of the Inspector. The third and most formal method is by means of a Public Inquiry. This is usually for complex appeals where evidence needs to be given on oath and is similar to court room proceedings.

All appeals are subject of a site visit by the inspector usually accompanied by the parties.

The Planning Inspectorate  Opens in a new window will then issue a decision letter.

It is always best to check with us beforehand if you are unsure as to whether permission would be required or not. Do not always rely on the advice of builders or friends as to whether planning permission would be required, as each property can be completely different and there are many factors to be taken into account.

One way to establish whether planning permission is required or not is to submit an application for a Certificate of Lawfulness for a Proposed Use or Development. We would consider all of the information you submit and let you formally know its decision. Such a document, if granted, would give you, or prospective purchasers, peace of mind as to whether the development is lawful or not.

If you would like to contact the Investigation Team please telephone 01803 207802.