Planning Enforcement and Monitoring Plan

Last updated: 9 September 2021

7. Investigation outcomes

7.1 Once the investigation is concluded it could result in a number of different outcomes. These are outlined below:

7.1.1 No breach established. The reported matter has not occurred, has ceased, or is outside of planning control.

7.1.2 The development is immune from enforcement action. Breaches of planning control become immune from enforcement action if they have existed for a certain period of time. View more information about the time periods for immunity. Note: There is no period of immunity for unlawful works to a Listed Building.

7.1.3 A breach planning control has occurred but causes no planning harm. The fact that a breach of planning control has occurred does not automatically mean that formal action will be taken. Some breaches of planning control are minor and therefore cause limited or no planning harm (i.e. if an application were to be submitted it would be unconditionally approved). In these instances, the council will use its discretion not to take further action as it would not serve a useful purpose or be a good use of our resources to do so. We will however advise the offender of the breach of planning control advising that planning permission is required for the works undertaken and of their right to regularise the development retrospectively under Section 73A of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990.

7.1.4 Negotiation to find a solution. Resolving breaches of planning control can take a long time, particularly when taking formal enforcement action. The amount of time it takes to resolve a breach of planning control very much depends on the severity of the breach combined with the actions and/or reactions of the land owner(s)/occupier(s). Negotiations can often lead to a quicker resolution and to a better overall outcome. Where appropriate we will seek to negotiate with the owner/occupier and will consider options to address the planning harm resulting from the breach. The negotiation process may involve works being undertaken to remedy breaches of planning control to bring a development in line with permitted development rights or involve the submission of a retrospective planning application.

7.1.5 Invite a Retrospective Planning Application. Upon investigating a breach of planning control, officers will consider the likelihood of planning permission being granted for the development upon application. Where appropriate, we will invite the submission of a planning application in an attempt to regularise the breach of planning control. In determining the application, the council could impose conditions on the planning permission to address the harm being caused by the unauthorised development and/or in order for the council to retain control of the development. This approach allows the planning merits of the development to be fully and openly considered. Applications for retrospective planning permission are considered in the same way as those for proposed development. The council may, where it is appropriate and reasonable to do so, suspend any formal enforcement action whilst a retrospective planning application is being considered. However, where appropriate, the council will not allow the application process to unreasonably delay enforcement proceedings.

7.1.6 Formal Enforcement Action. Almost all formal enforcement action is based on planning merits and can therefore only be taken where the development fails to meet the aims of the National and Local Plan Policies. In some cases, it will be necessary for the council to take formal enforcement action against a breach of planning control. Formal enforcement action will be taken where it is reasonable and justified to do so. Such scenarios may include:

  • where negotiation has failed to resolve the breach of planning control occurring
  • where a breach of planning control has a serious harmful impact that it requires formal action

All enforcement action follows an investigation and will be taken in accordance with the scheme of delegation.

7.1.7 How will we deal with the most serious types of breach of planning control? We will use all resources available to investigate alleged breaches of planning control. Serious breaches of control will be strictly enforced, but particularly where those breaches have a significant detrimental impact on living conditions, the local area, or where the breach has the potential to cause irreversible harm. In such cases, the council will use all the tools available to remedy the harm being caused. In some instances, the council may decide that the breach of planning control is so serious that it warrants immediate cessation. The council may therefore issue a temporary stop notice, or an enforcement notice accompanied by a stop notice. Most formal notices have a right of appeal either to the Planning Inspectorate or through the courts.

7.1.8 Further Legal action. The failure to comply with the requirements of a formal notice is a criminal offence. Where such an offence is committed, the council will gather information about the offence, assess that information and decide the best course of action. This may be by seeking prosecution proceedings, applying for a high court injunction, undertaking works in default (aka direct action) or continue to work with the offender to seek a suitable resolution. Where a crime has been committed and a successful prosecution has been secured, the council will consider whether to make an application under the Proceeds of Crime Act. When deciding on the best course of action, the council will assess whether there is sufficient evidence to pursue the matter, whether such action is in the public interest and the expediency of pursuing the action.

7.1.9 The breach of planning control has been remedied. A remedy to a breach of planning control can occur as a result of one or more of the other outcomes listed above. For example, planning permission may have been granted, or the offending development has been removed. Nevertheless, in more cases, upon the remedy of a breach of planning control the council will close the enforcement case and notify the relevant interested parties accordingly. In some case it may be that formal action (ie. prosecution or other legal action) may continue beyond the point of the breach being remedied. The decision to continue with this action will be made on a case by case basis and will be in line with the council's corporate enforcement policy.

7.2 More information on the approach the council takes to formal action can be found in the Buckinghamshire Council Corporate Enforcement Policy.