Planning enforcement investigation process


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The Planning Enforcement team have a standard process they will follow when an alleged breach is reported. There are three stages in the process where we may decide to close a case. We will only follow all the steps if a formal enforcement notice is issued.

Step 1 - Report made

The best way to report a matter to us is to complete our online form. Completing the form will help you to provide the information we need. You should try and give us as much detail about the issue and the harm it is causing. You can also attach photographs to your report.

Report an alleged breach of planning control

Please remember to include your contact details.

Step 2 – Triage the report

If any important information is missing from your report, a member of the team will contact you. We may also discuss the matter to get a better understanding of the issues and to tell you whether we are able to assist.

We will tell you if an investigation is not necessary for example, if the works do not require permission and no further action will be taken.

Step 3 - Investigation required

An enforcement case will be created. We will send you an acknowledgement letter. It will give you the reference number of the case.

Step 4 – Investigate the case

The case will be assigned to an Enforcement Officer who will carry out a detailed investigation. This could include:

  • Checking the planning history of the site
  • Checking the approved plans if planning consent was given
  • Visiting the site for a visual inspection
  • Meeting with the owner of the land or property
  • Checking the law and planning and guidance for the works being carried out
  • Collecting evidence
  • Discussing the case with other Council teams or other agencies
  • Searching the Land Registry to find out who owns the site
  • Issuing a formal notice to gather information. This could be a Planning Contravention Notice, Requisition for Information or an Interview Under Caution.

Step 5 – Deciding if there is a breach of planning control

If a breach of planning control is confirmed, we will continue to step 6.

If no breach is found, we will close the case. We will write to you and give you a summary of our findings.

Step 6 – Negotiation

The Enforcement Officer will work with the party who is in breach of planning control to find an appropriate outcome. There are several potential outcomes that could be agreed:

  • Discuss changes to the works that mean that planning consent is not required
  • Ask for a planning application to be submitted. This is called a retrospective application.
  • Ask for a Certificate of Lawfulness to be applied for. If this is granted, the works will no longer need planning permission or consent.
  • Ask that the works stop, and the land or property is returned to its original state

Step 7 – Outcome of negotiations

If negotiations are successful, the case will be closed. We will write to you and give you a summary of our findings and the outcome.

If negotiations are unsuccessful, we will proceed to step 8.

Step 8 – Consider formal action

The Enforcement Officer will look at the details of the case and will:

  • compare it to local and national policies
  • consider the harm being caused and the material planning considerations
  • review the comments made by official bodies that we have consulted with
  • look at any relevant appeal decisions and case law
  • consider any personal circumstances and the Human Rights of the party who has breached planning control
  • consult Councillor who is the divisional member for the area.

This step of the process determines whether it is appropriate for the Council to take formal action. This is called a test of expediency.

Step 9 – The decision on formal action

If the Council decides that is expedient to take formal action, we will continue to step 10.

If the Council decides that it is not expedient to take formal action the case will be closed. We will write to you and give you a summary of our findings and the reason why we consider that formal action is not expedient.

Step 10 – Begin formal action

The Enforcement Officer will:

  • draft a formal notice and create a file of documents and their report
  • discuss forthcoming action with the landowner or property owner/occupier
  • discuss implications with other teams within the Council
  • inform the local councillor
  • liaise with any contractors working on the site
  • undertake up to date Land Registry search and site visit if necessary.

This step will be completed when the officer visits the site to serve a formal notice.

Step 11 – Investigation complete

A formal Notice is served. The investigation phase is now complete. We will write to you and give you a summary of the outcome of the case.

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