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Planning Enforcement Questions and Answers

What does 'development' mean?

Section 55 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 (legislation.gov.uk) defines development as "the carrying out of building, engineering, mining or other operations in, on, over or under land, or the making of any material change in the use of any buildings or other land."

What does 'breach of planning control' mean?

Essentially if you:

  • build something without the required planning permission;
  • have planning permission but fail to comply with the conditions or limitations subject to that permission;
  • fail to observe the strict conditions which apply to permitted development;

then you are in danger of committing a breach of planning control and enforcement action may be taken.

It is also worth remembering that a breach of planning control doesn't just apply to what is physically built, it can also apply to the use of a building.

If an unacceptable breach has occurred, what action can be taken?

If we find that a breach of planning control has occurred and is causing harm, we can:

  • Request that changes are made to the development so that it is acceptable in planning terms
  • Request that details required by a planning condition are submitted or implemented
  • Ask for a retrospective planning application to be submitted to regularise the site (this will give us the opportunity to consult on the development and we can impose controls through the use of conditions)
  • Request that construction work stops or that an unauthorised use ceases

How do I avoid a potential breach?

  • Some extensions to residential properties may not need planning permission. It can depend on several factors, such as the size and height of the extension, the position in relation to the road and whether there have been previous extensions to the property. Please visit the planning-a-guide-for-householders.pdf (gov.wales) page for further information.
  • The duty planning officer will offer free, general planning advice and support. Please see the following link for more information Duty Officer - Powys County Council
  • Pre-application advice can be sought for specific project proposals. Such queries must use the Pre-planning application advice services available on the Council's website
  • Please ensure that you carefully read any decision approval notice, and ensure works are carried out in full accordance with the approved plans and any specified conditions.
  • Do not start work until all pre-commencement conditions have been formally agreed by applying for a discharge of condition application Apply for Planning Permission - Powys County Council

What happens to your complaint/when will I be updated?

  • We will acknowledge receipt of your complaint within five working days if a postal address or email address is provided
  • We will endeavour to inform you within 84 working days of receipt of your complaint how the Council intends to pursue the matter. During this period the Authority will investigate the complaint to inform its decision on whether formal action is appropriate.
  • More information and a flowchart about the enforcement process is available via the Welsh Government Development Management Manual.
  • Powys County Council's Enforcement Policy and Procedure is available at the following link: Planning Enforcement Policy and Procedure

Will my details be kept confidential?

We will keep your details confidential during the investigation. Any comments you make on any planning application will however be on a public file. We may also have to disclose your details if we must go to court to take legal action. We will, however, talk to you about this first if it is necessary.

My enforcement officer is going to visit, what should I do?

We appreciate it sounds quite unnerving, but enforcement has a role for public good and encouraging positive development that benefits local amenity.

If an enforcement officer visits your property, what they are seeking to do is assess whether a breach of planning control has occurred. If it has, they will want to understand the degree of harm the breach may be causing. If harm is being caused, then they will seek to regularise the situation.

It is always best practice to engage with your enforcement officer and be as honest as you can with them.  By being responsive and helpful, it shows that you are keen to rectify or remedy a breach of planning control, if one has taken place, which may help your case.

Under what circumstances would the council act against a breach of planning control?

Planning enforcement powers are discretionary powers available to Local Planning Authority (LPA), but in considering any enforcement action, the decisive issue for the LPA is whether the breach of control would unacceptably affect (harm) public amenity.

Enforcement action should, also be proportionate to the breach of planning control to which it relates and taken when it is expedient to do so.

It will therefore not be expedient for an Enforcement notice to be issued where:

  1. An assessment of the breach has concluded that the resulting harm is negligible or 'de minimis'
  2. A retrospective application to regularise the unauthorised development has been submitted and subsequently approved by the Local Planning Authority
  3. The breach results in only a slight variation in excess of what would have been permitted by virtue of the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) Order 1995 and as amended in 2013 (or as amended thereafter)
  4. The harm was temporary and has already ceased
  5. An alternative site is discussed and a clear timeframe for the development to relocate is specified and agreed

What is 'harm'?

Significant harm that results from a breach in planning control could concern residential amenity or highway safety issues. Examples of significant harm could include noise nuisance, loss of daylight or privacy, or danger from increased traffic flows.

The following are NOT examples of harm:

  • Loss of value to a neighbouring property
  • Competition to another business
  • Loss of an individual's view or trespass onto someone else's lane.

It may be possible to address issues such as these by way of civil action, although this is a matter for the individual to pursue and is not an area where we would be involved.

What is a planning contravention notice?

This isn't a formal enforcement notice but is a potential precursor to enforcement.  Therefore, it is imperative that you respond swiftly and accurately within the timeframe specified within your notice.

A planning contravention notice can be used to do the following:

  • allow the local planning authority to require any information they want for enforcement purposes about any operations being carried out; any use of; or any activities being carried out on the land, and;
  • can be used to invite its recipient to respond constructively to the local planning authority about how any suspected breach of planning control may be satisfactorily remedied.

Why is early engagement so important?

If you get contacted by the enforcement team, then don't ignore it.  Early engagement is key to seek to resolve any perceived breach swiftly. 

Enforcement is discretionary and intended to be remedial.  Engaging with the enforcement team positively can allow discussions to achieve remedial works to remedy any breach in a bid to avoid formal enforcement action.

Can I appeal an enforcement notice?

Yes, as part of the enforcement process there will be a specified timeframe to appeal the enforcement notice. On your enforcement notice you will have a period of time identified as to when you can appeal before the notice takes effect.

The appeal is undertaken by the Planning and Environment Decision Wales (PEDW).

Further information can be found at the following link: Appeal a planning enforcement notice | GOV.WALES