Planning enforcement

This information aims to help you understand and access the planning enforcement system. It sets out the purpose of planning enforcement and where it is likely to be applicable.

Is planning permission required?

Planning enforcement can only be considered where the building work or change of use involved needs planning permission. An initial investigation by the enforcement officer will seek to determine this. Certain types of building works or changes of use are defined as ‘permitted development’ meaning that an application for planning permission is not required.

Whether or not planning permission is required depends on a number of factors and these are detailed in the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) (Amendment) Order 2018.

What is planning enforcement?

Many types of building/ engineering work and changes in the use of land or buildings need planning permission from the Council. Sometimes development is carried out without planning permission or does not properly follow the detailed plans which have been approved by the Council. Cases such as these can cause serious harm to the way in which people live. Residents and businesses have a right to expect that harmful activities are dealt with effectively.

Other situations that can be considered for planning enforcement include:

  • Unauthorised display of advertisements.
  • Unauthorised works to protected trees.
  • Unauthorised work to buildings listed as being of special architectural or historic interest.
  • Unauthorised demolition of certain buildings within a Conservation Area.
  • Land that is in such a poor condition that it adversely affects the amenity of the area.

The term used to describe such cases is ‘breach of control’.

The purpose of planning enforcement action

Planning laws are designed to control the development and use of land and buildings in the public interest. They are not meant to protect the private interests of one person against the activities of another.

Carrying out work or changing the use of land or buildings without planning permission is not a criminal offence. In most cases the Council will give the opportunity to apply for retrospective planning permission. However, where serious harm is being caused, the Council will endeavour to take firm action quickly.

The Council must operate its enforcement activities within Government guidelines and in accordance with Council policy. This means that:

  • The Council must decide whether the breach of control unacceptably affects the quality of life.
  • Action should not be taken just because development has started without planning permission.
  • The Council does not always have to take action but the particular circumstances of the case must always be considered.
  • It is not normal to take formal action against a minor breach of control that causes no real harm.

Enforcement action will be taken when it is necessary.

What is ‘harm’?

Harm resulting from a breach of planning control could concern amenity or highway safety issues and may include noise nuisance, loss of daylight or privacy, or danger from increased traffic flows for example, or unauthorised work to a listed building, demolition within a Conservation Area or work to a protected tree.

Harm to the visual amenity of an area could occur for example through land that is so neglected that it becomes an ‘eyesore’ and adversely affects the area. Harm to the visual amenity of an area could occur for example through land that is so neglected that it becomes an eyesore; and adversely affects the area.

This harm would not, for example include:

  • loss of value to a neighbouring property
  • competition to another business
  • trespass onto someone else's land

Once the alleged breach has been investigated and it has been established that harm is being caused, action may then be taken.

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 the Council would be involved.

Who can complain

Anyone who believes that a breach of planning control has occurred can make a complaint. Except for urgent cases, all complaints should be made in writing.

Be prepared to identify yourself so that your complaint may be investigated. It is often not possible to successfully investigate anonymous complaints due to lack of witnesses or evidence.

Where a retrospective application for permission is made to regularise unauthorised development, publicity and consultation will be carried out, and people given the opportunity to comment before a decision is taken.

All initial complaints are dealt with in confidence and details of the complainants will not be made known without their agreement. However, the substance of the complaints themselves is not confidential.

In some cases it may be necessary to rely on evidence from complainants in order to take action and you will need to consider whether you are willing to actively assist the Council by collecting evidence and acting as a witness at an appeal or in Court. The Council's Enforcement Officer will explain what may be required in these cases.

What we need you to do if you wish to make a complaint?

If you are concerned about building work, a change of use, or the condition of a property, you should contact the Planning Enforcement team by completing the online referral form.

In cases of extreme urgency such as the unauthorised felling of a tree under a Tree Preservation Order, you can also telephone the Arboriculture Officer on 0161 912 3199, or if outside normal office hours the Council's switchboard on the following number: 0161 912 2000.

For urgent contact concerning the unauthorised demolition of a listed building you can telephone the Planning Control Section on 0161 912 3149.

Ensure that you are in possession of all the relevant facts and relate them calmly. Some people are understandably annoyed about a breach of control. Remember that the Council will do all it can to resolve the problems and is most effective when you are prepared to actively assist officers with their investigations.

If you also raise your complaint with a Councillor, advise them of any contact you may have had with the Planning Control Section and give them the name of the officer who is dealing with your complaint.

What happens to my complaint?

Where it is appropriate the the enforcement officers will make a site visit to ascertain whether there is a breach of planning control following receipt of the complaint and within 10 days. It is necessary to prioritise complaints in terms of impact and harm. Therefore the most urgent cases will be visited first.

Once it has been established that a breach of control has or has not taken place the enforcement officer dealing with the case will inform you of what action is open to the Council and where possible how long such action is likely to take. The enforcement team will try to periodically update you with the progress of the case and will inform you of the result of any action when the investigation is completed.

It should be remembered that the carrying out of development without planning permission is not a criminal offence and it can take considerable time to remedy a breach of planning control. However the enforcement team will attempt to resolve breaches of planning control as expediently as possible within the constraints of the existing legislation.