4. Taking enforcement action
We will not normally be able to take enforcement action in the following cases:
- If the work does not need permission. This could include extensions built under a householder’s national right to undertake some home improvements without planning permission from the council (also called permitted development), or the use of part of a house for the owner’s hobby or in connection with their business, as long as the property is still mainly used as a home.
- If the development already has the necessary permission. We normally allow up to three years after we have granted planning permission to start the development, as long as compliance with any relevant conditions is achieved. We cannot normally require a development to be finished in a particular timeframe.
- If the work could have become legal over time, even if it never had planning permission in the first place. The timescale for this is four years for building work, other physical operations and changing the use of a building to a home, and 10 years for other changes of use and for breaches of planning conditions. If the owner can prove that the development took place after the end of these timescales, we cannot take enforcement action.
- Where work needs planning permission we can still grant it permission after the work has been done, without taking enforcement action. For example, if a house extension is built without planning permission, but it is built to keep to our policies and does not damage the environment, we will ask for an application to be made to keep it (known as a retrospective application).
The law requires us to judge the application as it were a proposal and does not allow us to take into account the breach of planning control in our decision.
Where we decide we would not grant permission for what has happened we can take enforcement action. We can:
- Issue an enforcement notice, saying how somebody may have breached planning control, what needs to be done to put the situation right, and when it needs to be done.
- Issue a breach of condition notice if somebody fails to keep to a condition attached to a planning permission, such as when a takeaway must be closed.
- Issue a stop notice or temporary stop notice to stop a development within a very short timescale. We use this power to stop significant harm only in particular circumstances as there can be compensation implications for the council from using it.
- Apply for an injunction from the Court to stop or prevent somebody breaching planning control where there is sufficient evidence that it will happen and we need to stop it.
- Pursue a prosecution in the Courts when the requirements of an Enforcement Notice have not been complied with by the due date, for example.
- Enter a site and do the work required of an enforcement notice ourselves and then recover the cost from the landowner.