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        Planning enforcement

        Tell us about a planning breach

        Report a planning breach

        Please use this form you need to make a complaint about an unauthorised change of use of a building or building works.

        Please note that complaints are dealt with in confidence but we cannot deal with anonymous complaints.

        What is planning enforcement?

        When development is carried out on a site without planning permission, the Council will use its powers to enforce planning law. The Council’s enforcement powers help it achieve the ambitions of the local community.

        The powers available to the Council as a Local Planning Authority are contained within the Town and Country Planning Acts.

        Advice is also provided in the planning enforcement circular 10/97 and policy advice is contained within Planning Policy Guidance Note 18 entitled ‘Enforcing Planning Control’.

        We also monitors section 106 Agreement compliance to ensure that monies are paid and obligations met.

        This enforcement function is discretionary and not a duty. It depends on the Council’s readiness to take effective enforcement action when it is essential.

        The Council will only take enforcement action if it is practical to do so when compared with the nature of the planning breach.

        This may be because the development

        • causes significant harm to public amenity or to an interest of acknowledged importance, such as the character or appearance of a conservation area or the setting of a listed buildingor
        • conflicts with
          • the Development Plan
          • Planning Policy
          • other corporate plans and policies

        The Council will also base its action on legal advice, considering the

        • the quality of evidence
        • likelihood of the success of taking such action,
        • the resource implications of taking action

        Enforcement action should always match the nature and size of the planning breach. It should not relate to a trivial or technical matter, if no harm is caused to amenity.

        When conducting its investigations, deciding on action and taking that action, the Council will ensure that it maintains the principles of fairness, honesty and openness.

        All action taken will be in accordance with the Human Rights Act and other relevant legislation.

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        How is a planning complaint investigated?

        If a breach of planning control has occurred the council will first seek the cooperation of those responsible to try and put it right.

        If the breach is serious and negotiation fails the council can take legal action to rectify the situation. This is usually done by service of an enforcement notice. Failing to comply with an enforcement notice is an offence and those responsible may be subject to prosecution.

        An appeal can be made against an enforcement notice and this will be considered by an independent planning inspector. The notice will not take effect until a decision has been made on the appeal. In exceptional circumstances the Council can serve a stop notice which requires the building works or use to cease immediately.

        Please note that complaints are dealt with in confidence but we cannot deal with anonymous complaints.

        On receipt of a complaint we will carry out initial investigations of breaches of planning control which include:-

        • Buildings that do not have planning permission
        • Use of land and buildings without planning permission
        • Land that is kept in a poor condition and has a harmful effect on the character and appearance of an area
        • Works to protected trees without consent
        • Advertisements that do not have consent
        • Works to Listed Buildings
        • Development not built in accordance with approved plans
        • Non-compliance with planning conditions

        High priority will be given to ensuring compliance with section 106 agreements, dealing with breaches that cause significant irreparable damage to Listed Buildings, harm to specially protected areas including conservation areas, and other visually prominent development and protected trees. Priority will also be given to breaches that cause significant and unacceptable harm to living conditions.

        Low priority will be given to other cases, particularly where the development has relatively limited visual impact and/or effect on living conditions.

        Enforcement complaints procedure

        On receiving complaints we will follow the following procedure:

        1. Establish whether the works need planning permission (much development does not need Planning Permission, including internal works and domestic extensions). In some cases the Council will conclude that no action will be taken either because the alleged breach does not exist or that the breach is not significant so as to warrant further action.
        2. Seek to resolve the matter without formal action where possible (nationally this is the case in over 90% of instances). Our first aim is to work with the contravener to assist them in complying with planning law and policy. The council will aim to resolve breaches where possible by negotiation and agreement.
        3. Decide whether or not to take action at the earliest possible stage following the conclusion of our investigations. Decisions whether to take further action will be in accordance with this protocol (see below-Further Action) It will also be necessary for such decision to be prioritised taking account the staff and financial resources available at the time. A written record of the decision whether or not to take further action will be made.
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        How is a planning decision enforced?

        When a breach of planning control is established the Council uses central government advice set out in Planning Policy Guidance Note 18 (PPG18) to decide whether to take enforcement action. In particular, PPG18 says:

        ‘In considering any enforcement action, the decisive issue for the Local Planning Authority should be whether the breach of control would unacceptably affect public amenity or the existing use of and buildings, limiting protection in the public interest.’

        The Council will only take enforcement action if it is practical to do so when compared with the nature of the planning breach.

        This may be because the development

        • causes significant harm to public amenity or to an interest of acknowledged importance, such as the character or appearance of a conservation area or the setting of a listed building
        • or conflicts with
          • the Development Plan
          • Planning Policy
          • other corporate plans and policies

        The Council will also base its action on legal advice, considering the

        • the quality of evidence
        • likelihood of the success of taking such action,
        • the resource implications of taking action

        Enforcement action should always match the nature and size of the planning breach. It should not relate to a trivial or technical matter, if no harm is caused to amenity.

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        Tree Preservation Order/Listed Building Planning Enforcement Site Visit Procedure

        When arriving at site in response to a complaint, Thanet District Council officer will identify themselves, their job title and the purpose of the visit.

        Council officers will assess the works being carried out and note any visible information, including the extent of works carried out, contact details on commercial vehicles, etc.

        Council Officers will:

        1. Identify person carrying out works

        2. Ascertain if they own the site or are working under instruction through direct questioning.

        3. Advise all works to cease while situation is assessed if work is ongoing.

        4. Carry out full inspection of the works carried out, keeping questions to a minimum at this point.

        5. If the works have just commenced and no irreversible damage has been done, check offenders details are correct and ask for owners details if applicable. Advise all works must cease immediately as they are committing a criminal offence and advise no further works must take place until permission has been sought and secured.

        6. When back in the office confirm the site meeting in writing, again advising it is a criminal offence to carry out works without permission.

        7. If more serious works have been carried out, an interview under caution should be carried out on site, making sure the offender signs the written caution when the interview is terminated.

        8. This must be confirmed in writing. If the person interviewed is working under instruction then contact the developer/owner in writing and invite them in for an  interview under caution. Enclose booklet explaining the caution process with the letter.

        9. Site notes shall be made detailing all events, names and information gathered, and these shall be recorded in connection with the enforcement case.

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