Frequently Asked Questions

On average, almost 50% of the cases that are reported to our department are not a breach of planning control, either because they are not a planning issue or because they are permitted development. Having the correct and relevant information from you before investigating it means that we can hopefully provide you with an answer straight away if the matter is not a breach of planning control or if it appears that we can advise you on a technical breach without a full investigation. This allows our investigating officers more time to deal with the cases where our intervention is required.

Enforcement action is discretionary. The Council must assess the relevant planning considerations of each development and if the assessment concludes that there is a breach but that there is no harm caused by the development then the government guidance states that enforcement action must not be taken. In fact, if the Council did proceed with action against development causing no harm then we could be liable to pay the landowner’s costs of challenging the matter through an appeal. For example, ‘harm’ could be : severe highway safety issues, significant harm to the character of the area, significant overlooking or loss of amenity. This is not a definitive list and all issues would need to be balanced when making a decision. Further information can be found on the government website.

Because we need to assess the level of activity to establish whether there is an ongoing breach of planning control or to assess the level of harm. For example, a condition relating to operating hours has been breached on one day – the Council would not investigate this or take any action because there would be insufficient harm. However, if the operating hours are being breached every day for 3 weeks – the Council would investigate it as a regular pattern is emerging.

As much information as possible as to the times/dates/duration of the matter in question and any other information you may have to demonstrate the issue you want to raise with us.

Unfortunately we are presently unable to provide the facility to receive photographs via the internet. As and where necessary separate arrangements will be made to receive any such material.

The Council will not investigate any anonymous complaints. However if there is a degree of sensitivity, you could consider raising the matter with your local Councillor or Parish/Town Council who can report it to the Council on your behalf.

we will:

  • Contact you by telephone if it seems that your complaint might not be a breach of planning control or if it appears that we might be able to advise you about a technical breach of planning without a full investigation
  • Aim to acknowledge your complaint within 3 working days
  • Prioritise complaints based on possible risks to the public or the environment. Cases will be considered a higher priority when they are likely to involve the potential for permanent damage to public health and safety or the environment
  • Provide a brief summary of our findings once we have concluded our investigation

More information about our procedures can be found in the Planning and Regeneration Customer Care Standards.

No. Under the General Data Protection Regulations the Council has a duty to protect the privacy of the person who is the subject of the complaint as we do for the person reporting the complaint.  Therefore, we are unable to provide you with any updates or information about the matter during the course of our investigation. Such information is also likely to be exempt from release under Freedom of Information. You will be provided with a summary of our findings once the investigation has been concluded.

A 'listed building' is a building, object or structure that has been judged to be of national historical or architectural interest. There are two ways to check whether a property is a listed building.

To use the interactive map locate the property using the Search function. Then select Layer and choose Historical, followed by checking the Listed Building box.

View the interactive map

You can also search the National Heritage List for England (NHLE) for all listed buildings, scheduled monuments, protected wrecks and registered parks, gardens and battlefields. The Heritage List is the only official and up to date database of all nationally protected historic buildings and sites in England.

You can find out more about listed building on the listed buildings frequently asked questions section.

Almost all work to a listed building would require Consent. Listed Building Consent is required for all works of demolition, alteration or extension to a listed building that affect its character as a building of special architectural or historic interest.

The requirement applies to all types of works and to all parts of those buildings covered by the listing protection (possibly including detached buildings in the curtilage or other structures) provided that the works affect the character of the building as a building of special interest.

A Conservation Area is an area of special architectural or historic interest with a character or appearance that is desirable to preserve or enhance.

View the conservation area interactive map

You can find out more about conservation areas on the conservation areas frequently asked question section.

Cornwall Council has powers to protect trees and woodlands where they make an important contribution to a public amenity and where they are considered to be at risk.

View the tree preservation order interactive map

Information about the protection of trees and woodlands can be found on the Planning Advice and Guidance - Trees section.

Enforcement action must only be taken where we have evidence to support our case. Every effort is made to safeguard the confidentiality of any private individual who reports a potential breach of planning control. If an appeal is made against an enforcement notice any complainant will be notified and asked if they wish to submit additional representations or to appear independently at a public inquiry or hearing to support the Council's case. The strength of local support is often crucial to the Council's success on appeal, but at this stage any representations must become public documents.

If it proves necessary for the Council to commence prosecution action, the quality of the evidence needed to prove the guilt of a named individual or company is higher than that required to justify the issue of an enforcement notice against the original breach of planning control. Here the evidence of local witnesses can be of overriding importance, for example, in proving the frequency or duration of an unauthorised use and thus support the evidence that may be given by the Council.

In some instances, your evidence may be the only evidence available and therefore the Council may not be able to pursue the matter if you are unable to give evidence at an appeal or at Court.

There is a wide range of signage that can be displayed without applying for permission, for example small signs on properties, some signs on commercial premises and shop fronts, signs on enclosed land, signs inside a building; subject to certain conditions and limitations.

You can find out more on the government website.

Retrospective planning applications are an acceptable way to regularise unauthorised development. Therefore, we would allow the application to be fully determined through the democratic process as there is a chance that the planning permission will be approved for the development. If permission is refused, we would of course investigate the matter.

It is recommended to speak to your neighbour first rather than approaching the Council. You may find that your neighbour has already sought guidance on whether planning permission is required. Involving the Council can often cause friction between neighbours, so you may find that a friendly conversation with your neighbour could result in them making minor alterations which may overcome your concerns without causing any unnecessary upset.

Sometimes these issues may be better dealt with through different means, for example if a fence is erected on the wrong boundary line this would be a civil issue which would need to be resolved between you and your neighbour as this is not a planning issue. You could consider mediation as a way to resolve matters amicably for example.

If we issue an Enforcement Notice, the person who it is served on has a right of appeal. Full details of how to make an appeal will be included within the Enforcement Notice. Further information about Enforcement Notice appeals can be found on the government website.

Yes the limits are:

  • 4 years after substantial completion in relation to building works, engineering operations and change of use of buildings to residential use.
  • 10 years for all other change of use of land or buildings and breaches of planning conditions.