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Reporting unauthorised development
Anyone who believes there has been a breach of planning control can make a
complaint. The identity of people who complain is protected and
remains confidential. It may be necessary to ask witnesses to
give evidence for the council should a matter be taken to court,
however. Officers can explain what would be involved if anyone is
worried about this.
To treat a complaint as genuine and start an investigation, the
complainant will be asked to provide his or her name and contact
details. It is preferable if complaints are made in writing,
although this is not essential in urgent cases.
As much detail as possible of the alleged breach of control will
also be needed. You may be asked to make notes of what you have
witnessed and keep a log of relevant activities. The council will
have to provide evidence if it is to be successful in preventing
long term harm.
planning enforcement complaint online.
What will the council do?
When a complaint is received, it will:
- keep a register of all telephone and written complaints;
- acknowledge letters within three days;
- carry out a site visit within seven days and inform the
complainant of the outcome;
- provide a written response to letters within 10 days;
- keep complainants informed of progress, including notification
of any retrospective planning application;
- notify all complainants of the final outcome.
What happens next?
The council can only take action where unauthorised activity is
considered to cause harm. Harm, in planning terms, might be
detriment to visual or residential amenities, highway safety or
development that is contrary to the adopted planning policies for
the area set out in the Medway
Harm would not normally include loss of value to a neighbouring
property, competition for another business, loss of an individual’s
view or trespass on someone else’s land. If there is no harm, a
retrospective planning application may be requested simply to
regularise the matter.
A future purchaser of the property will wish to ensure that all
development is lawful. The law allows for an application to be made
after development has been started and the council must consider
any application that is properly submitted.
Once the alleged breach has been investigated and harm has been
established, the council must decide on the appropriate action.
There is a number of actions available and the council must ensure
that any action taken is proportionate to the harm caused by the
In some instances an application for planning permission may be
requested so that the extent of the development can be controlled
through conditions to limit the amount of harm.
Where development has been carried out without planning
permission and is considered harmful, the council can serve an
Enforcement Notice requiring the harm to be
rectified, possibly by removing the unauthorised work or ceasing
the unauthorised use. An Enforcement Notice will allow time for
this to happen.
If the developer or owner fails to comply with a valid
Enforcement Notice, they can be prosecuted. However, they also have
a right of appeal and that may delay the eventual outcome. Where
there is serious harm, the council also has the power to serve a
Stop Notice, which has a more immediate effect in seeking to
prevent further harm.
Where development has planning permission but there is a
condition or conditions that are not being complied with, the
council can serve a Breach of Condition Notice. There is no right
of appeal against this kind of notice.
How long will it take?
Dealing with enforcement cases can be a lengthy and complex
process. Different matters vary in complexity and the most complex
can take months or even years to resolve if there are appeals
against the council’s actions.
What if I am not satisfied?
If, after discussing the matter with the officer dealing with
the case, you are not satisfied with the way the council has dealt
with it, you may wish to use the council’s formal complaints procedure.
What if someone complains about you?
If you are contacted about an alleged breach of planning
control, you are entitled to know what the allegation is but not
who made the complaint (identities are protected by law). You will
have the opportunity to explain your side of the case.
If you are not involved, no action will be taken against you. If
you are involved, the officer will explain the details and what
needs to be done to put matters right. In some circumstances, the
council may serve a Planning Contravention Notice.
This will require you to provide information about the alleged
unauthorised development. This is intended to establish the facts
so that the council can decide whether there has been a breach and
what action, if any, to take. The implications for not responding
to this Notice will be explained.
Your co-operation will be sought to correct the breach. This may
involve removing or modifying any work or ceasing unauthorised
activities. Clearly it will depend on the nature of the breach and
the extent of any harm. A reasonable period of time will be allowed
for you to do what is needed.
In some circumstances, you may be invited to submit a
retrospective planning application if it is considered that
permission may be granted, albeit subject to conditions or some
If an Enforcement Notice is issued, it will give precise
details of the breach, reasons for the action, the steps required
to put matters right and the time you have to do this. You will
have a right to appeal against this notice and the procedure for
this will be explained.
Further advice and guidance on planning enforcement can be
Communities and Local Government
London SW1E 5DU
Phone: 0207 944 4400
Details of legislation
The legislation on the enforcement of planning control is
largely contained in Part VII
of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 (as amended).
Government advice and policy is set out in:
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