What is a Planning Breach?

If you’ve found yourself in the situation where you have had a visit from a Planning Enforcement Officer you should know the potential consequences.  This article considers what constitutes a planning breach.

A planning breach in itself is not illegal (apart from specific cases such as unauthorised works to listed buildings or to protected trees), however failure to act on an enforcement notice can be a criminal offence.

A planning breach can be carrying out a development without the required planning permission; or failing to comply with any condition attached to a planning approval.

There are a number of possible outcomes in relation to a breach of planning control, the main outcomes are:

No further action (not expedient)
In accordance with government guidance if the development is acceptable in planning terms the Council cannot take formal action against it.

The officer will consider the development against local and national planning policies and will assess whether the development causes harm; if it doesn‘t the case will be closed and no further action will be taken.

Retrospective planning application
Councils are required to act proportionally for instance if you have built something without planning permission but it would be acceptable the Council will not require you to knock it down, but they may invite a planning application to regularise the development.

It is important to note that a Council cannot make someone submit an application, therefore, if an application is invited but not submitted, the Council must decide whether the development causes planning harm and if it doesn‘t, no action should be taken.

Certificate of Lawfulness
A development can become lawful if it has been in situ for a period of time – 4 years or 10 years depending on what type of development has occurred.

The developer may decide to submit an application for a Certificate of Lawfulness to prove that the development has existed for the required period of time, but again, the Council cannot make them do so.

Negotiate remedial works
If it is considered that the development could be made acceptable with some alterations these could be negotiated with the Council in order to remedy any harm that is being caused.

Formal action
If the development is unacceptable the Council should seek to remedy the matter amicably first by requesting its removal. If that is not successful, the Council will consider what type of formal action is appropriate. There are a number of types of notices, the development circumstances will dictate the type of notice served.

Formal action can be a lengthy process as legal and procedural steps have to be followed, in some instances there is a right of appeal.

There are some notices which could be served without waiting for the outcome of the enforcement process, such as Stop Notices which would normally only be served in a small number of cases where the unauthorised development is considered extremely harmful.

Planning enforcement is a complex and sometimes confusing area of planning if you have been threatened with enforcement action it is essential that you do not ignore it. Enforcement action is discretionary and early intervention and negotiation can resolve a situation quickly and efficiently.

If you need advice and guidance contact Planning House.

Unauthorised development
What is Enforcement Action?