Compliance and Enforcement

This page sets out how we manage planning enforcement, monitor the implementation of planning permissions, investigate alleged cases of unauthorised development, and take action where appropriate - our Local Enforcement Plan.

What is enforcement?

Enforcement ensures compliance with planning control. We investigate alleged breaches and take appropriate enforcement action where required.

What do we monitor and investigate?

We investigate all concerns about breaches of planning control which are reported to us.

How to report a concern

If you think a breach of planning control is taking place, you need to:

To ensure we have enough information to properly understand and investigate your concerns, all complaints should be made using this form.

I want to report a concern - will my details be kept confidential?

Anyone can request copies of our enforcement investigation records under the Environmental Information Regulations and Freedom of Information Regulations. We redact complainant details when we release information under these regulations. However, we can be directed to disclose information we have withheld by the Information Commissioners Office or the Courts. Also, if the matter results in an appeal, the Planning Inspectorate refuse to consider anonymous information.

We investigate anonymous complaints, however without your details we cannot notify you of the investigation outcome.

I've reported a concern - what happens next?

We receive around 400 enforcement concerns each year. When we receive a concern our small team will:

  • Visit the site
  • Make an initial assessment
  • Rank the case compared to other current enforcement issues to organise our work
  • Make a detailed assessment
  • Close the case if there is no breach or further action is not required
  • Find a suitable remedy if there is an unacceptable breach, for example formal enforcement action or voluntary compliance

We will take enforcement action when it is in the public interest. Where a breach does not have unacceptable planning impacts and no planning conditions are required, we will not take further action. We will undertake an initial review of all new investigations. The timing of further action will depend upon relative priorities and may take significantly longer than usual.

I've reported a concern - how long will it take to investigate?

Our investigation priorities are:

  • Prompt site visits
  • Formal action where required

We aim to visit sites within three weeks of concerns being reported. We then make an initial assessment and rank the case compared to other current enforcement issues to organise our work. We accumulated significant backlogs during 2020-21. We currently have over 600 live enforcement cases. We cannot progress all cases simultaneously.

We will follow up all investigations. However, the timing of further action will depend upon relative priorities and may take significantly longer than usual. Because the complexity of cases varies significantly, we are unable to provide a general timescale for casework resolution.

I've reported a concern - will I receive updates on progress?

We only provide updates if we need more information from you, take formal action, or close a case. We are unable to respond to queries asking for updates on ongoing investigations because doing so takes staffing away from these investigations and further delays our progress.

How do we decide whether to take formal action?

Around 40% of complaints we receive do not involve breaches of planning control.

Identified breaches of planning control can be tackled in a number of ways. Enforcement action is discretionary and can be taken when it is expedient having regard to the development plan (our policies) and any other material planning considerations (including the National Planning Policy Framework).

Breaches of planning control may be resolved without formal enforcement action - for example the owner or occupier may voluntarily comply. Sometimes it may be appropriate to regularise the breach with a retrospective permission.  In other cases it may be necessary to take formal action. Sometimes it will not be necessary to take any further action, and the unauthorised development can be allowed to become lawful in time. More information can be found in the Government’s National Planning Practice Guidance.

An enforcement notice has been served - what happens next?

If we have served an enforcement notice, the landowner has a right of appeal to the Secretary of State. If they choose to appeal the notice does not come into effect until the appeal has been decided by the Planning Inspectorate. We have no control over how long appeals take to be decided, the Planning Inspectorate set the timescale for the appeal. Until the appeal is decided the unauthorised development can usually continue or remain.

If an appeal is allowed, for example because no breach has occurred, the development was lawful, or planning permission is granted by the Secretary of State, the development is permitted and no further action can be taken.

If the appeal is dismissed, the notice will come into effect, and the landowner must comply with its requirements. Not complying with an enforcement notice which is in effect is a criminal offence and risks prosecution (with unlimited fine on indictment) and direct action being taken.

I've breached planning control. Will the Authority help me to resolve the issue?

We provide a duty planner service every day between 0930 and 1200 by phone (01539 724555) so you can get advice before starting any works. Anyone can also make an application for a Certificate of Lawfulness seeking a conclusive determination by the Authority that a proposed use or development will be lawful before undertaking a development.

As a landowner or operator it is your responsibility to ensure that you comply with the law. Planning law is no different. We expect developers who have breached planning control to take responsibility for their situation. If you have breached planning control and now require guidance and support through the planning process you should seek independent professional representation. The Royal Town Planning Institute Directory of Planning Consultants provides details of private planning practices.

I've breached planning control. Will I get an opportunity to resolve the matter voluntarily?

In some cases we will write to you detailing the breach and a course of action which could remedy it.

However, we may issue an enforcement notice without prior notification and without giving you an opportunity to remedy the issue voluntarily.  Examples of when this is particularly likely include:

  • Where a property is being used breach of a local occupancy conditions
  • Unauthorised holiday letting accommodation
  • Sites or operators where there are persistent issues of non-compliance
  • Uses which pose immediate risk to designated Habitats Sites (e.g. SAC)

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