More help for residents concerned about planning breaches

Residents concerned about potential planning breaches in their neighbourhoods will soon have access to updated advice, information and practical help.

New city Enforcement Plan

We are publishing our new Planning Local Enforcement Plan for the city later this month. The plan aims to help residents find information on potential planning breaches along with advice on when, and how, to request an investigation.

The plan also sets out the council’s powers and procedures, including the steps that can be taken to resolve issues, the possible outcomes and what the enforcement team can and can’t do.

Councillors approved the plan at a meeting of the Tourism, Equalities, Communities and Culture Committee on 15 September.

Investigating complaints

As the Local Planning Authority, we have a duty to investigate complaints, determine whether planning breaches have taken place and, if so, whether to take enforcement action.

The council's planning enforcement officers investigate:

  • breaches of planning control
  • unauthorised works to listed buildings
  • unauthorised advertisements
  • untidy land and poorly maintained buildings

When making decisions, the officers are guided by National Planning Practice Guidance along with the local enforcement plan.

Hundreds of requests

Each year our enforcement officers receive hundreds of complaints about potential planning breaches and requests for investigations.

However, many of these are not planning matters or are not at a stage where they could take any action. These include:

  • works that have not started
  • rumours that work will take place
  • legal disputes not related to a planning breach including party wall issues, land ownership and boundary disputes
  • high hedges
  • work to trees not associated with a planning breach

Officers use both case law and appeal decisions to help decide whether development has taken place and if planning permission is required.

No planning breach

A large proportion of cases investigated by officers result in a decision that there is no planning breach. For example:

  • the works do not require planning permission/ consent
  • planning permission and other necessary consents have been granted via legislation
  • the works do not deviate from the approved plans
  • the development is immune from action
  • the planning permission granted does not control how construction will take place. Major developments, in general, are subject to conditions requiring Construction Environment Management Plans (CEMPS) to be agreed prior to work starting.

In many cases planning permission is not required because national rules class the work as permitted development. 

In cases where development has taken place and planning permission is required, or where planning permission is granted and the conditions are breached, officers must consider whether enforcement action is justified.

If not, then no further action will be taken.

Reducing complaints

By providing clear advice and guidance within the new enforcement plan, including information on how to check whether planning permission or listed building consent has been granted or is needed, along with the circumstances where action will be taken, officers hope to reduce the number of these requests.

This will free up more time to prioritise requests and resolve planning breaches that are causing harm.

Advice for developers

The enforcement plan also gives residents information about how their requests will be dealt with and prioritised, along with measures they can take to resolve issues themselves. There is also advice for residents and developers who may have committed a planning breach on what they need to do to resolve the issue.

Many cases are resolved through negotiation or an agreement to carry out remedial work.

Avoiding disputes

Councillor Martin Osborne, co-chair of the TECC committee said:

“From minor changes to our home or a major development, planning applications and building regulations directly touch the lives of so many residents and businesses-owners.

“It is natural that new building activity can cause concern to neighbours, and this new policy aims to help homeowners and developers avoid disputes and understand what council officers can and can’t do.

“Decisions made by officers sit within the context of national laws, rules and guidance. Like all local authorities, we are often handtied by national policy and regulations that we have to operate within.

“We hope that this new policy will help avoid many more common misunderstandings and make it clear how we will act when major breaches of planning regulations take place.”

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