Enforcement action

Enforcement action is taken when our planning enforcement team considers it 'expedient' to do so.

Our planning enforcement team consists of three investigators who are fully trained in planning enforcement and the application of the Town & Country Planning Act 1990.

The 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

We deal with approximately 600 planning investigations per year.

It’s an offence when…

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,

We have a general discretion, which allows us to take enforcement action only when it considers it 'expedient' to do so.
Expedient means only when it is appropriate given the nature and extent of the breach of planning control.

We will therefore need to decide the extent to which public amenity or the use of land and buildings are harmed.
This means that we will not always decide to take action, although quick and effective action will be taken where it is plainly necessary.

The process of enforcement actions is often complex. This means there can be some delay in taking enforcement action.

We aim to reduce the undesirable effects of unauthorised development where possible, by taking action in a controlled and organised manner.

Our adopted policy on enforcement is:

  • We take breaches of planning control seriously and will undertake to investigate all complaints

  • we will aim to remedy the undesirable effects of all unauthorised development

  • our approach to enforcement will be thorough, fair, consistent, courteous and efficient. We will pay due regard to issues affecting human rights

  • we will keep all complainants and Parish Councils informed. They will be advised of any intended action and the outcome of that action

  • we will negotiate an acceptable solution with all parties where this is appropriate before taking formal enforcement action.

In order to safeguard public amenity as much as possible, we will deal with cases on a priority basis as set out below.

  • we will deal with breaches of planning control in a manner which reflects the degree of harm which is, or is likely to be, caused.

  • we will set realistic targets for implementing the process to resolve breaches of control, but may have to adopt a flexible approach.

  • we will consider deferring enforcement action whilst an invited application to remedy a breach of planning control is considered. Action will be taken, however, when a serious harm to public amenity is being caused.

We will investigate all complaints as quickly as possible. It’s important, however, that those breaches of planning control which are considered more serious than others, are dealt with more urgently.

An initial site visit will normally be carried out within five working days of receipt of a complaint. Where a full investigation is necessary, cases will be dealt with on a priority basis as follows:

HIGH Priority

  • Immediate investigation and assessment i.e. normally the same day
  • For works which are irreversible or irreplaceable (e.g. damage to, or loss of, listed buildings and protected trees, where highways issues could endanger life).


MEDIUM Priority

  • Investigation and assessment within 10 working days of the initial site visit.
  • Activities that cause harm (e.g. adverse affects on residential amenity and conservation areas, breaches of conditions).


LOW priority

  • Within 15 working days of the initial site visit. 
  • For a development which may cause some harm but could be made acceptable by way of conditions (e.g. control on hours of use, parking)

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