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4. Action following a planning breach complaint
The council’s decision whether to take enforcement action will always be well founded and will be achieved through a thorough assessment of the relevant facts in each case.
The council’s approach will not be stricter than it would have been when considering the merits of an application for planning permission before the development started, i.e. if something would have been granted planning permission, we will not enforce against it.
The council’s formal enforcement powers will not be used against a trivial or technical breach of planning control which causes no harm to public amenity in the locality of the site.
The Council conducts enforcement investigations in accordance with Section 207 of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) which was published on 27 March 2012 and states:
"Effective enforcement is important as a means of maintaining public confidence in the planning system. Enforcement action is discretionary, and local planning authorities should act proportionately in responding to suspected breaches of planning control. Local planning authorities should consider publishing a local enforcement plan to manage enforcement proactively, in a way that is appropriate to their area. This should set out how they will monitor the implementation of planning permissions, investigate alleged cases of unauthorised development and take action where it is appropriate to do so."
Further information about the NPPF:
With the exception of item 10 (which refers to Planning Policy Guidance 18) the Council also conducts enforcement investigations in accordance with Circular 10/97: 'Enforcing Planning Control - legislative provisions and procedural requirements'.
The key principles
1.1 Harm to public amenity?
The Enforcement Strategy defines the appropriate form of response to various breaches of planning control. This is determined by the guiding principle that the response to a breach of control should be proportionate to the harm it causes. It is never expedient, or a wise use of limited public resources, to pursue enforcement action against a development that would have been granted planning permission, except where the act of granting planning permission would have allowed necessary controls to be secured, normally through the imposition of conditions. In all cases, enforcement action should not be viewed as punishment, but what needs to be done to protect public amenity.
1.2 Resolve through planning permission
A planning application is the most appropriate way to consider the merits of development and to allow affected neighbours and other interested parties to have their say. It is therefore logical to apply the same approach to development already carried out, and for the council to encourage retrospective planning applications where appropriate.
1.3 Formal action
The exception is where the council considers there is no real prospect of planning permission being granted. In these cases we will proceed to enforcement action as a matter of course. However, the developer still has the right to apply for planning permission and if they do, the council must deal with the application fairly before proceeding with enforcement action as necessary.
1.4 Appropriate actions
In all cases, the council will judge the development, not how it came about. The council will therefore choose from the following options in deciding how to act:
- Where it is felt that unconditional planning permission would have been granted, the correct approach is to suggest immediate submission of a retrospective application. If no such application is received, enforcement action is likely to be viewed as unreasonable and the Council would be at risk of an award of costs against it in any enforcement appeal.
- Where it is felt that planning conditions could make the development acceptable, the correct approach is to invite a retrospective application. If no such application is received within a reasonable timescale of 28 days, enforcement action would be justified, if the Council can demonstrate that appropriate planning conditions would overcome the harm caused by the development.
Where the development is unacceptable, the Council should consider setting a realistic time limit for cessation, or relocation or closure of a business, and be prepared to serve an enforcement notice if progress is not made within that time scale.