We always take to care to thoroughly investigate all suspected breaches of planning regulations that are reported to us.
The information below is intended to help you understand how we do this, how suspected breaches are prioritised in terms of their investigation and how complainants and alleged offenders are kept informed during this process.
How are suspected breaches of planning regulations prioritised in terms of their investigation?
After a suspected breach of planning regulations is reported to us, we prioritise its investigation based on its potential severity.
Priority A (High severity)
Priority A planning breaches include:
- unauthorised development which causes immediate, serious and lasting harm to neighbourhood facilities or other acknowledged interests, such as:
- any unauthorised development causing severe disturbance to neighbours, such as:
- breaches causing danger on highways; premises creating serious noise and disturbance to neighbours
- complaints where the time limit for taking enforcement action is about to expire, such as:
- where development which goes against our policy is about to become immune from enforcement action
Where a Priority A planning breach is identified we will:
- assign a planning enforcement officer within one working day
- arrange for a planning enforcement officer to contact the complainant on the same or next day
- make our first site visit within one working day to inform the owner or occupier that they require planning permission or consent.
Priority B (Medium severity)
Priority B planning breaches include:
- unauthorised development which causes significant harm to neighbourhood facilities, such as:
- unauthorised and inconsiderate residential alterations resulting in overlooking or loss of light
- alterations which collectively would cause significant harm to the character or appearance of a conservation area
- unauthorised commercial use
- breach of condition resulting in significant noise or disturbance
- breaches to significant policies in the development plan, such as:
- loss of residential accommodation
- loss of multiple occupancy houses
- situations where collective breaches are likely to cause serious harm to neighbourhood facilities or challenge policy objectives, such as:
- unauthorised advert displays where the effect in an area is considered to lead to unacceptable harm to the amenities of that area, including alterations contrary to an Article 4 Direction
Where a Priority B planning breach is identified we will:
- make our first site visit within 10 working days to inform the owner or occupier that they require planning permission or consent.
Priority C (Low severity)
Priority C planning breaches include:
- breaches of conditions not covered by priority A or B
- breaches where minimal harm to our policies is expected
- breaches where planning regulations is likely to be granted, with no or minor amendments, after the receipt of a retrospective application
Where a Priority C planning breach is identified we will:
- arrange for a planning site inspector to contact the complainant or visit the alleged breach within 20 working days
- arrange for a planning site inspector to investigate and determine the next course of action, either by writing to the complainant recommending no further action and closing the case, or passing the case on to a planning enforcement officer
How do we keep complainants and alleged offenders informed during the course of our investigation?
Investigations of possible breaches of planning regulations can be worrying for all people involved and as such we try to make sure that everyone is kept informed during the planning enforcement process.
If you report a suspected breach of planning regulations (that is, if you are the “Complainant”), we will:
- write to acknowledge your complaint within five days of receiving it
- write to let you know the priority that your complaint has been given; who is dealing with your complaint, and how long the initial investigations will take
- contact you if we need further information
- treat your complaint sensitively and where possible confidentially - it may be difficult to preserve confidentiality in every single case (for example, if we need to go to court we may ask you to give us further help with the case)
- let you know the likely course of action we will be taking and how long this will be
- contact you at each key event (such as investigation progress, notice served or appealed)
- let you know the final outcome of your complaint
If your project is reported in breach of planning regulations (that is, if you are the “Alleged offender”), we will:
- provide identification whenever we visit
- give the name of the officer carrying out the investigation
- investigate thoroughly before making any decision on what action to take
- write to you explaining our conclusions
- explain what you need to do to put matters right, how long you have to do this and what the consequences might be if this does not happen
- notify you in writing of the likely course of action
How long does the investigation process take?
For investigations where we decide no further action is necessary, we aim to tell all interested parties within 10 working days of completing a site visit. In cases where further investigation by a planning enforcement officer is necessary, we aim to have completed our investigations within 16 weeks (including any negotiation).