Most people are affected by planning decisions at some time in their lives. Building works or other changes in the use of land and buildings are sometimes carried out without planning permission or without properly following approved plans. Development may also be carried out in breach of conditions attached to a planning permission. Such unauthorised work can harm the character of the area or the way in which people live and work.
The carrying out of development without planning permission is generally not a criminal offence. Failure to comply with an enforcement notice however, is a criminal offence. The power to take enforcement action is discretionary and should only be used when necessary and should be proportionate to the scale and impact of the unauthorised development.
When an enquiry is received the Planning Enforcement Team will investigate and determine what action is needed. The team will try to resolve matters through negotiation in the first instance. This may involve the submission of a retrospective planning application, or a requirement to rectify specific issues with the development.
Should a voluntary resolution not be achieved, The Council can choose to take formal action. Enforcement Officers are not empowered to physically stop unauthorised works on site, but enforcement proceedings can be issued that may lead to prosecution.
BREACHES OF PLANNING CONTROL
What the planning enforcement team will investigate:
• unauthorised building or engineering works
• work being carried out on a listed building without consent
• material changes of use of land or buildings to a different use
• development that has not been carried out in accordance with approved plans and conditions
• unauthorised work to protected trees or works to trees in a Conservation Area without providing notice
• Unauthorised demolition of an unlisted building in a Conservation Area
• Damage to protected trees
• display of advertisements without consent
• untidy land or buildings that affect local amenity.
In each of the circumstances above, the planning enforcement team may commence an investigation. Not all development or change of use requires permission - more information can be obtained from the Planning Portal.
What the planning enforcement team will not investigate;
• boundary disputes, trespass or property damage
• neighbour disputes
• construction vehicles using or parking on the public highway (dangerous driving or highway obstruction is dealt with by the police.)
• unsafe building work on construction sites
• dangerous structures
• use of or development on highways, pavements or grass verges
• issues relating to building standards
• clearing land of bushes and trees (if they are not protected)
• enforcement of private covenants
• anticipated breaches
• loss of views
• alleged reduction in property value
• competition between businesses
In some cases, a development or activity may have continued without the benefit of planning permission for so long that enforcement action cannot be taken. Where a development or use has continued, uninterrupted, for a specified number of years, it could be considered lawful.
Where such a situation applies, the District Council could invite an application to regularise the situation. A ‘lawful development certificate’ can be applied for where an owner is seeking to sell land or property and requires confirmation that the development or use has been determined as lawful.
REPORTING A POTENTIAL BREACH OF PLANNING
If you think that a development is taking place without consent or contrary to conditions placed on a planning permission, you can request an investigation by:
• Filling out a planning breach application form and sending it to email@example.com.
• Phoning the Council on 01543 462621.
• writing to the Planning Enforcement at Cannock Chase Council, Civic Centre, Beecroft Road, Cannock, Staffs WS11 1BG.
To assist the team, you should provide as much information as possible about the current and previous situation that should include:
• the address and location of the building or site.
• when activities started, and whether they are still continuing.
• approximate dimensions of any new building works.
• if known, details of landowner/developer names and addresses/phone numbers of any owners, occupiers, or builders that you think may be involved.
• details of any problems caused (e.g. noise, visual intrusion, overlooking, traffic, smells) and, in the case of potential unauthorised uses, details of the type and frequency of the activity.
• your name, address and contact details so that we can contact you about the investigation.
We do not investigate anonymous complaints, but complainant’s details are entirely confidential. If complainants feel uncomfortable in providing their details, an officer will advise on the best course of action. Anonymous complaints will be recorded, and an inspection may be carried out depending on the seriousness of the alleged breach. An investigation will be carried out if significant harm is subsequently determined.
If the Council feels that a complaint is vexatious or malicious, with no real planning grounds to substantiate it, there will be no investigation.
BEFORE CONTACTING US
Certain developments do not require planning permission and therefore are permitted under the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) Order 2015, commonly referred to as 'Permitted Development'.
For further information on Permitted Development, please visit the Planning Portal to determine whether a development you are considering complaining about would have required planning permission or whether it falls under Permitted Development.
IF A COMPLAINT IS MADE ABOUT YOU
If you are contacted about an alleged breach of planning control, you will be informed of the allegation and given the opportunity to explain your side of the case. Details of the complainant cannot be disclosed under the General Data Protection Regulation. Such information is provided to the District Council in confidence, so disclosure would be a breach of that confidence. Complainant information is also exempt from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act 2000.
Initially, an Enforcement Officer will visit the site. This may be without any prior warning to the owner or occupier at the site. Officers are authorised to enter land without the owner’s consent. The District Council can obtain a warrant of entry where access is refused. Wilful obstruction of a person exercising a right of entry is an offence. For entry to a house or flat, twenty-four hours’ notice should been given to the occupier.
If the allegation refers to land or buildings in which you have no interest or involvement, no action will be taken against you. If you are involved, however, Planning Enforcement will advise you of the details of the breach and how it can be rectified. You may be served with a planning contravention notice (PCN), which requires information to be submitted to the Borough Council concerning the alleged development. This is used to establish the facts of what has occurred and the details of those with an interest in the land. It is an offence not to complete and return such a notice within the specified timescale.
In the event of a breach being established, your co-operation will be sought to either remove or modify the unauthorised development, or to cease the unauthorised use or activity. A reasonable period of time will be allowed for you to do this.
In some circumstances, you may be invited to submit a planning application in retrospect, to regularise the situation, but we will only suggest this if we feel there is a good chance of permission being granted.
If the situation is not resolved through either of the routes outlined above, formal action may be instigated.