Report a planning breach
We investigate suspected breaches of planning control. To investigate, we'll need details of the precise location of the site or property, why you're reporting and the impact the work is having.
Information we will need when you report
In order for us to investigate a case, we will need the following details:
- precise location of the site or property
- what has led to the report
- the effect of the work or use on the person reporting the matter
- name, address and contact number in case we need to contact you for further information.
How to report a concern
The simplest way to report a suspected breach is by using our online form. Any details will be treated in the strictest confidence.
What happens next?
Planning enforcement work to resolve unauthorised breaches through negotiation, rather than immediate formal action. However, when unauthorised development is both unacceptable in planning terms and causing significant harm to the amenity, we will not hesitate in taking appropriate and proportional formal enforcement action.
Planning enforcement can be complex and cases often remain live over a protracted period of time; options for immediate action are available but they are usually reserved for the most serious breaches.
A typical investigation will involve the following steps:
- Allegations or reports of suspected contraventions are received in the office and acknowledged within three working days, allocated to a case officer and an initial view on prioritisation taken;
- It is difficult to predict how long it will take to deal with a planning breach, because it varies case to case and is also dependent on co-operation from the concerned parties. Due to the confidential nature of the enforcement process, officers would not be able to share the details of investigations, so no updates would be available except when the events listed below happens.
- An application is received;
- No application is received and we decided to take action or take no further action;
- If alterations are made or the subject of your concerns is removed that requires no further action.
- Site inspection undertaken within 24 hours for most urgent breaches (protected trees and listed buildings-related cases) and within 5 working days for others and if necessary, the priority is revised. Information about the ownership and details of alleged breach are sought including if necessary through the service of statutory notices;
- The contravener is informed that they should stop if there is a breach or submit a planning application in cases where officers consider there is a reasonable prospect that planning permission may be retrospectively granted;
- If the breach is not resolved voluntarily within a specified time period, it is considered whether a statutory notice should be served.
- If the notice is appealed to the Government’s Planning Inspectorate, the breach can continue until the appeal decision is received unless a Stop Notice (which requires an immediate cessation of the breach) has been served; Stop Notices involve potential liabilities of compensation payable by us should the action fail so care needs to be taken in establishing whether this form of action is appropriate.
- If no appeal is submitted or/and appeal fails and the notice is not complied with, prosecution action can be taken.
Planning enforcement powers are discretionary powers and in considering any formal enforcement action, the decisive issue for us is whether the breach would unacceptably affect public amenity. Therefore, where we decide to take action, in accordance with Planning Enforcement Policy and Procedure (PDF), it should be able to demonstrate in case of an appeal there was significant harm to amenity.
All investigations are carried out on a strictly confidential basis and we will not reveal a complainant's details without their permission. With serious breaches of planning control, which warrant prosecution, or which result in an appeal, the complainant may be invited to give a witness statement if their evidence is considered crucial. Such involvement is on a voluntary basis.
We will also respect the confidentiality of anyone who may be involved in the alleged breach. We will therefore not be able to reveal full details of our investigation to a complainant.
Anonymous complaints will be investigated however we will not be able to inform you of our findings. If we have your details we can have more confidence that a report is genuine rather than malicious.
You can download documents at the bottom of this page which gives further information to those reporting potential breaches of planning control and those who are being investigated by the team.