What is a breach of planning control?

Development and planning control is an element of the UK’s town and country planning system that regulates land use and new building through local government.

What is a breach of planning control?

It's not an offence to carry out development without planning permission. However, it's risky without securing planning permission first. It can't be assumed that retrospective planning permission will always be granted for that development.

An offence occurs if the development involves unauthorised advertisements, works to protected trees or listed buildings, or if a formal notice has been served and it has not been complied with.

Protecting our Environment

Large parts of our district are within the Green Belt and Areas of Best Landscape. Most villages contain listed buildings and conservation areas and there a development pressures due to the economic success of the region. This creates a demand for new buildings or uses of land, which may not always be acceptable.

We take great care in balancing the need to protect the environment while promoting growth and investment in our area and it's recognised that all development should be properly controlled.

So, what actually is classed as a breach of planning control?


Our Planning Enforcement team can take enforcement action against a development that doesn't have the necessary planning permissions or if it breaches planning conditions.

A breach of planning legislation may have occurred;

  • Where something has been built without planning permission
  • alterations have been made without planning permission
  • unauthorised works to Listed Buildings have been carried out
  • when the use of land or a building has altered without permission
  • when conditions attached to planning approvals have not been complied with
  • where unauthorised advertisements have been installed
  • unauthorised works to trees protected by Tree Preservation Orders (TPO); trees in Conservation Areas and rural agricultural hedgerows
  • unauthorised display of advertisements
  • The poor condition of land impacting on the visual amenities of the wider area.

Unauthorised works carried out can be a criminal offence.

**Please always check before carrying out any works to your property or land.

What isn't a breach of planning control?

  • Buildings or extensions that don't require planning permission: known as permitted development legislation allows for a range of building works which can be undertaken using what are known as permitted development rights.
  • changes in the use of land and buildings which are not so significant that they comprise a material change of use or which fall within the same use class category.
  • The display of advertisements which do not require consent: the regulations relating to advertisements allow the advertiser to display certain types of advertisements without the need to make an application to the Council.
  • where development has been carried out more than four years ago it is immune from enforcement action.
  • where a change of use has existed for more than 10 years it is immune from enforcement action
  • where  a residential house that has existed for more than four years it is immune from action.
  • issues relating to waste disposal, burning, including bonfires and tipping which are handled by Environmental Services
  • issues within or relating to the adopted highway including for example advertisements displayed within the Highway or on street furniture which are handled by Cambridge County Council who are the Highways Authority and can be contacted by following the above link.
  • issues relating to noise and disturbance; smell nuisance and light pollution which are investigated by our Environmental Health Team*.
    For further information contact env.health@scambs.gov.uk or by telephone 03450 450 063
  • issues relating to how buildings or extensions have been constructed or concerning potentially dangerous structures are handled by our Building Control Department telephone 01480 388 240 or email buildingcontrol@3Csharedservices.org
  • issues relating to compliance with covenants or other legal restrictions which are private civil matters.

* In certain circumstances such issues may be controlled by planning legislation, for example where they are the subject of a condition imposed on a planning permission.

What to do if you suspect a breach of planning control?


Our planning enforcement team deals with alleged breaches of planning, including:

  • Where something has been built without planning permission
  • where alterations have been made without planning permission.
  • when the use of land or a building has altered without permission
  • where conditions attached to planning approvals have not been complied with
  • where unauthorised advertisements have been installed

It's not an offence to carry out development without planning permission. However, it's risky to carry out development before securing planning first as it can't be assumed that retrospective planning permission will always be granted for that development.

An offence will only occur if the development involves unauthorised advertisements, works to protected trees or listed buildings, or if a formal notice has been served and it has not been complied with.

Complain about or report a suspected breach:
If you're concerned about a development please check if permission has been granted and what the conditions are. This can be done on our planning search page.

If you still think that the correct planning permission has been breached, or that work has been carried out without the correct permission, we will need the following information:

  • The precise location of the site or property to which the complaint relates
  • the exact nature of concern - for example, the potential breach of planning control
  • an indication of any harm caused by the breach
  • if possible, how long ago the activity was undertaken, any information about the identity of the person or organisation responsible and the date when the breach began

You can tell us by filling out our online reporting form.

Confidentiality
All investigations are carried out on a strictly confidential basis and the investigation team will not reveal the complainant's details.

On serious breaches of planning control - which may warrant prosecution, or result in an appeal - the complainant may be invited to give a witness statement. This situation is rare and involvement in the case is on a voluntary basis.

Anonymous complaints
Anonymous complaints will not normally be investigated unless the complainant has a reason for not giving their details and explains this to the investigating officer.

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