The Council will investigate all legitimate written and telephone complaints relating to unauthorised developments, changes of uses, and non-compliance with planning consents/conditions and the display of an advertisement without proper consent in accordance with the Enforcement Priorities.
The Council does not normally investigate anonymous complaints unless it was considered that the cause of the complaint could give rise to serious health and safety problems.
When submitting a complaint, please give as much detail as possible, e.g.
- the nature of the alleged breach of planning control and how long ago it commenced.
- the location, the name and address of the person suspected of the breach.
- If the complaint relates to an unauthorised use, give details of the time the use is normally carried out.
- If you have already made a complaint, is there any more information you can give us? - the more details we have the easier it is to help you.
What happens when I complain?
The Planning Service receives approximately 1000 complaints each year about alleged breaches of planning control and this is increasing with public awareness of activities which damage the environment and the quality of people’s lives.
Whilst every effort will be made to resolve all complaints the Planning Service applies enforcement priorities to allow the most urgent and important to be dealt with more speedily (see the Enforcement Priorities section below). However, all complaints will be investigated as soon as we are able.
Complaints from members of the public will be treated as confidential, and details of the complainant will not be disclosed. However if the matter proceeds to an appeal or when prosecution procedures are initiated the complainant’s evidence may be required. The complainant will be contacted beforehand if this is the case.
The processing of the complaint
The Council aims to acknowledge your complaint within 5 working days, and thereafter the Enforcement Officer will endeavour to keep you updated. All complaints are dealt with in strict accordance with the Council’s approved priorities.
The Enforcement Officer will check the planning history of the site to see whether planning permission and /or consent has been granted, and if so whether there are any conditions that may not have been complied with. It is the aim of the Council to make the initial site visit as soon as it is practicably possible.
It will be necessary for the Enforcement Officer to consider the following:
- can this complaint be dealt with under the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 (as amended)?
- is it permitted development?
- should the matter be referred to another department within the Council or outside agency?
- is the development immune from enforcement action (see note below)?
- has a breach of planning control occurred?
- does this complaint fall within a priority category?
- would conditional planning permission have been granted anyway?
- would planning permission have been refused?
Investigating officers will always try to negotiate a solution to the problem, and try to persuade the contravener to voluntarily remedy the breach of planning control. Most cases are resolved in this way. In some situations this might involve the submission of a retrospective planning application on which you can comment.
In most cases the contravener is given a period of 28 days from the receipt of the Planning Service’s initial letter, to submit information relating to the alleged breach of planning control.
You will be informed of any key decisions which are made. You will also be notified of the outcome once we have resolved the problem.
There are certain time constraints prescribed within which enforcement action can be taken, these are:
- Operational development - 4 years, beginning with the date on which the operation was substantially completed.
- Change of use of any building to use as a single dwelling house - 4 years, beginning with the date of the breach.
- Any other breach (including unauthorised material, change of use of land/building and breaches of condition) - 10 years, beginning with the date of the breach.
If a complaint is made against you
- An enforcement officer will visit the site to decide whether there has been a breach of planning control. If there has you will be advised what to do to put the matter right. This may involve the submission of a retrospective planning application.
- Failure to act upon the Enforcement Officer's advice is considered serious. If it is subsequently considered expedient to do so, you will be served with an official Notice. This will give you a limited time in which to remedy the breach of planning control. In the case of Enforcement Notices, and Discontinuance Notice, there is a right of appeal. In some cases there is no right of appeal (the details of your rights will be attached to the notice).
- Failure to comply with the official notice could lead to court action, and you could be fined, and costs awarded against you. (In extreme cases you could be imprisoned).
- However, the Planning Service will try to negotiate a solution with you first, rather than take formal legal action. If you are unwilling to co-operate, then legal action may be taken to put matters right.
If it is considered that the breach of planning control is urgent then immediate action may be taken by the Council. Urgent action is normally justified
- where there is a serious harm to public amenity or health and safety.
- when there are threats to protected trees and protected buildings.
- to restrain an actual or apprehended breach of planning control that is considered serious.
Because of the number of complaints to be dealt with at any one time, the Council has agreed the following priorities:
These proposed priorities are as follows:
- matters concerning Health & Safety and significant nuisance (significant nuisance is defined as an activity building or other structure which by its presence has, or is likely to have, an adverse effect on residential, working or visual amenity in the surrounding area)
- Listed Buildings, Conservation Area and trees protected by a Tree Preservation Order(s)
- Transport Corridors, Gateways and High Public Amenity Areas
- issues that have an adverse impact on the street scene.
The following are issues that will not be registered and investigated unless they are in Conservation Areas, in the grounds of a Listed Building, on designated Transport Corridors, Gateways or in an area of high public amenity. These matters will be placed on a register of received enquiries. The register will be reviewed at six monthly intervals and a decision made about whether it is possible at that time to progress the matters.
- Domestic sheds, garages, fencing and walling situated to the rear and side of residential properties (not forward of the principal elevation).
- Dormer windows that would normally be Permitted Development but the materials do not match the existing roofing materials.
- Unauthorised roller shutters where the shutter box is mounted internally and the shutter, shutter guides and shutter box are powder coated.
- All signs, including banner signs, unless they are situated on a designated Transport Corridor, Gateway or area of high public amenity areas.
- Satellite dishes.