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The investigation process

Our priority is to protect amenities, safeguard the built environment and uphold local planning policy in the most effective way. We are concerned with serious breaches of planning control, not with neighbour disputes or minor residential developments that have little or no adverse impact to the public.

Planning enforcement is discretionary

Planning enforcement is a discretionary power and as such enforcement action is not mandatory or always appropriate.

Much will depend on acting reasonably, proportionately (in relation to the level of harm caused), whether it is expedient and in the public interest to act immediately and whether planning permission is likely to have been granted had an application been made.

It is rare to make an immediate intervention and in most cases we will review all circumstances before agreeing if and what type of formal action is appropriate. 

We can only take action if a breach has taken place - we cannot investigate based on speculation and hearsay alone. 

How we deal with reported breaches of planning control

If someone reports a breach in planning, we will:

  • aim to undertake an initial investigation within 10 working days, but will look at more serious breaches immediately if deemed necessary
  • give those found in breach of planning control the opportunity to remedy the breach, before we carry out formal enforcement action
  • in some instances, we will ask for a retrospective planning application to be submitted, if the unauthorised development might be acceptable.

Every effort is made to resolve matters with the co-operation of the developer or landowner. However, enforcement action can be a lengthy process and in instances where there is the right of appeal, this can add up to 12 months to the time taken to receive an appeal decision. Notices where prosecutions are applicable are reliant on the court process, which is currently experiencing significant delays.

Appealing against an enforcement notice

Anyone receiving an enforcement notice for unauthorised development has a right of appeal. There is no fee for making an appeal, unless you are appealing on ground (a) - that planning permission should be granted. All appeals must be received before the date the enforcement notice takes effect. Appeals are normally decided within 36 weeks.

How to appeal an enforcement notice

More information

See our Local Planning Enforcement Plan (this will open as a PDF document)