The Government produces legislation and regulations which govern what does, and does not require planning permission.
The Enforcement Register shows all Enforcement Notices and Breach of Condition Notices served since 1 January 2000. This information is updated within 1 working day of a notice being served.
We have legal powers and duties to implement and enforce planning law. This includes protecting buildings of historic importance, controlling outdoor advertisements, dealing with untidy land and buildings, trees and high hedges as well as taking action when serious harm is being caused.
Planning enforcement exists to help control development which has been undertaken without planning permission, or the development constructed does not adhere to the original planning permission granted.
We have to decide whether it is right to take action. It is not a criminal act, in most cases, to breach planning control. However, unauthorised works to protected trees and listed buildings, and the display of unauthorised advertisements, do constitute criminal offences, as does failing to resolve an enforcement notice within a specific timeframe.
Central Government has set down how planning enforcement should operate in the National Planning Policy Framework.
Principles of Enforcement in Stevenage
An effective enforcement service ensures there are no adverse consequences on either your quality of life or the local economy. Therefore, in order to provide an effective service we have:
- Four planning officers who deal with both enforcement and development management matters;
- A legal department that gives advice and support to officers;
- Counsel to advice and represent us if a case proceeds to appeal or court action.
Most enforcement work arises from reports to us. All reports we receive are dealt with in the strictest of confidence and the name of the reporter will not be revealed. Only reports of potential planning breaches made in writing can be given any significant priority. If monitoring is required over a period of time, we may need to rely on members of the public to help provide information. In these cases, it would be beneficial for details of the planning issue and the reporter to be made available, especially if it involves undertaking court action.
Reports of planning breaches will only recorded if they raise legitimate planning considerations. If these reports raise other issues which are more appropriately dealt with by another department, we will forward these on the relevant departments.
This will usually involve a site visit together with research or interviews to establish:
- Whether there has been a breach in planning control;
- Whether we should pursue the matter further.
We can serve formal notices requesting information on owners and occupiers about land interests or any other information concerning a possible breach in planning control. This is known as a Planning Contravention Notice (PCN). Failure to reply to such notices can result in criminal convictions. Authorised officers also have powers to enter land for enforcement purposes under various sections of the Town and Country Act 1990 (As amended).
Our Enforcement Charter
All enforcement reports which are lodged to us will be kept confidential, unless the person who reported to us agrees otherwise. We will:
- Acknowledge receipt of a report within 3 working days;
- Inform you of our investigation, either in writing or by telephone, following a site visit and what course of action has been decided within 21 days of the report;
- Inform you of all decisions once the case has been signed off.
The planning enforcement system seeks to control both development that is carried out without planning permission or those that are not in accordance with planning permission we have granted. In determining whether to take action, we consider a number of priorities which are as follows:-
- Serious harm to the condition of the local environment and/or harm has been made to the built and natural environment that cannot be easily remedied e.g. unauthorised works to a listed building, unauthorised works to a protected tree, unauthorised building or demolition works in a conservation area;
- A change of use which creates serious harm due to visual impact, adverse traffic implications or noise and pollution issues as well as advertisements creating significant visual harm;
- Breaches of control which are not causing serious immediate harm e.g. advertisements with limited adverse impact, householder extensions not complying with planning permission, minor operations such as fences and satellite dishes are considered to be lower priority.
Where it has been established that there has been a breach in planning control, we will first consider whether the matter is serious enough/expedient to warrant further action. In all cases, we have to ensure whether to act, or not, is reasonable. There is no clear cut rule and each case is assessed taking into account national and local planning policies and the harm being caused by the development.
Approval from the Planning Committee, which is made up of elected local councillors, is required before most enforcement action can be served. However, our Officers can take enforcement action under Section 215 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 (As amended). This allows Officers to enforce against land and/or buildings which are of a condition which adversely affects the amenity of the area.
In many cases, matters are resolved through a negotiated process and are either regulated through the granting of permission or the breach of control is stopped. We will make every effort to resolve the complaint without serving a formal enforcement notice. Where a breach cannot be resolved, and enforcement action is justified a formal notice may be served. Notices take effect 28 days from serving, during which there is a right to appeal. After this, there is a period of time to comply with the notice. We have to specify the precise steps required to remedy the breach of control. If the breach continues after this, we can take action through the courts as a criminal proceeding.
If an appeal is lodged, the notice is suspended and does not come into effect unless the appeal is dismissed. Appeals are the responsibility of the Planning Inspectorate.
In the most serious case, where there is no remedy, we have the powers to step in to remedy the breach and recharge an individual for any costs caused. In such cases, we could consider a Stop Notice or apply to the Court for an injunction to prevent further harm being caused.
Our Enforcement Plan
As per the recommendations of the National Planning Policy Framework, we have published our own Planning Enforcement Policy Statement.
Reporting a Potential Breach in Planning
You can report an alleged breach in planning control. Remember to complete all the required details set out within the form. We cannot accept anonymous reports.
Whilst the details of the alleged breach will be publicly available, your name, address and any details which identify you will be kept confidential to us. However, if you make any comments on any subsequent planning application, these will be available for the public to view and read.
We aim to acknowledge your report within 3 working days of receipt and aim to keep you informed of progress, so please make sure you supply your contact details.
Appealing an Enforcement Notice
You can appeal an enforcement notice to the Planning Inspectorate.
Separately, if you are unhappy with the way the enforcement investigation has been conducted or the decision made by Officers, you can make a formal complaint to our Customer Service Centre by email, firstname.lastname@example.org, by calling 01438 242242 or 01438 242555.
Alternatively, you can write to the Customer Service Centre, Stevenage Borough Council, Daneshill House, Danestrete, Stevenage, Herts, SG1 1HN.
Planning Enforcement Officer
Stevenage Borough Council