The Borough Council is firmly committed to providing an efficient and effective enforcement service. In considering whether to initiate enforcement action against unauthorised development, the Council will assess whether the breach of planning control unacceptably affects public amenity or causes harm to land or buildings.
The Planning Acts give Local Planning Authorities discretion to take enforcement actions, when they regard it as expedient to do so. Not all unauthorised development is bad development and that is why planning applications are sometimes requested instead of initiating formal enforcement action. It is important that everyone involved in the planning process is clear on the approach which the Council will adopt in dealing with breaches of planning control.
Whether or not the Council takes formal enforcement action is discretionary.
In exercising that discretion the Council must have regard to the following:
- is planning permission required?
- does planning permission exist?
- how long has the building or use been in existence?
- is the unauthorised use or activity causing harm with regard to development plan policies or other material considerations?
This policy document sets out a framework within which decisions can be made when dealing with such breaches. The enforcement policy has been formulated with regard to the Planning Acts, the Central Government Enforcement Concordat, relevant Government Guidance and Circulars, the Council’s Development Plan Policies, the Human Rights Act and the Regulation of Investigating Powers Act.
The Council has powers of enforcement in relation to other services such as Highways, Environment Health, Listed Buildings and Trees.
The Council is committed to treating all recipients of enforcement action fairly, keeping them informed of action being planned, or taken, at each stage, and informing them of any rights of appeal with particular regard to the Human Rights Act 1998. However, when decisions are taken relating to enforcement action, the public interest must be taken into account. Decisions will, therefore, be taken by balancing private rights, the public interest and the resources required for action to be taken.
Where a breach of planning control causes unacceptable harm in planning terms, then the removal of the problem will be sought. As a general principle, unless harm is so severe as to demand immediate action, the person involved will be given the opportunity to voluntarily rectify the situation. This will usually involve a written request specifying that a building or use is unacceptable and must either cease or be removed. In this way it is envisaged that a negotiated solution and timescale for removal can be agreed. This is the most desired outcome as it represents the most efficient use of resources and offers a more effective solution than having to reply upon formal enforcement action.
It is important to progress enforcement cases quickly and efficiently at every stage. The Council will seek to ensure that all reported breaches of planning control are resolved as quickly as possible. However, to enable the most efficient and effective use of Council resources, the following order of priorities are followed when investigating and resolving alleged breaches of planning control:
- any unauthorised development or non-compliance with a condition, legal agreement or enforcement notice that is causing immediate harm to the environment or public safety. This includes unauthorised works to a Listed Building and unauthorised development or change of use in The Green Belt
- any breach of planning control causing significant and sustained loss of residential amenity
- any breach of planning control causing significant but intermittent disturbance to local residents or the environment
- unauthorised development in a Conservation Area
- unauthorised development (building operations and change of use) that affect the vitality and viability of shopping parades
- untidy sites – neglect of the environment with a wide impact
- previously undetected, unauthorised developments where the time limit for enforcement soon expires
- any breach of planning control causing a limited degree of disturbance to local residents or the environment
- unauthorised advertisements
- any other breach of planning control.
These priorities will be reviewed from time to time and may be amended.
The Council will monitor development sites within the Borough to ensure compliance as far as resources permit. However, the investigation of actual breaches of planning control will take priority over potential breaches as indicated in the list of enforcement priorities above.
Procedure for dealing with complaints
The Council investigates all complaints and will undertake a site visit to establish the facts. The site visit will normally take place within 5 days of receiving the complaint. Written complaints are preferred as this improves accuracy and may be required as evidence.
In order for a complaint to be actioned the Council will require the following:
- accurate site location
- the exact nature of the problem and
- the date or time that the breach commenced.
In addition it is helpful to provide the following information:
- the name, address and telephone number of the complainant
- the name, address and telephone number of the owner/occupier of the land in question and
- any relevant background information such as previous problems or breaches.
Protection of complainants
The identity of complainants is treated as confidential under the Data Protection Act and the general public do not have access to enforcement files. However, if the breach cannot be resolved through negotiation, the investigation may proceed to formal action resulting in Public Inquiry or prosecution action in Court.
In these circumstances, it may not be possible for the Council to guarantee the anonymity of the complainant particularly where the issue only affects a small number of residents.
Complaints about enforcement action
If you feel that we have failed to apply the principles contained in this policy in your case, you should complain first to the officer concerned.
If you are unable to satisfactorily resolve your complaint, you should write to the Head of Development, at the Town Hall. You will be contacted within 5 working days with either a full response to your complaint or, if the situation is complicated, an indication of the time within which a detailed response will be made.
Enquires dealt with by other departments and agencies
The list below is a sample of the type of other potential ‘enforcement’ issues which are handled by other Departments/Agencies because different legislative powers apply:
- Epsom & Ewell Borough Council Environmental Health Department: Noise disturbance complaints; Nuisance complaints; Light pollution; Smell Nuisance; Travellers issues; Housing conditions/facilities
- Epsom & Ewell Borough Council Building Control Department: Dangerous structures; Building drainage/stability issues
- Epsom & Ewell Borough Council Legal & Estates Department: EEBC land ownership enquiries/disputes
- Surrey County Council: Waste tipping and waste disposal; Minerals
- Surrey County Council: Works within, or affecting, the public highway and pavement areas:
Surrey County Council
Kingston upon Thames