1.1 The Government's view is that the integrity of the planning system depends on the readiness of Local Planning Authorities, such as Chiltern District Council, to take effective enforcement action. The main national objectives of the planning enforcement process are:
- to remedy undesirable effects of unauthorised development; and
- to bring unauthorised activity under control to ensure that the credibility of the planning system is not undermined.
1.2 Planning compliance and enforcement is a very complex area of planning law. The legislative framework is principally contained in:
- Town and Country Planning Act 1990;
- Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990; and
- Planning and Compensation Act 1991.
Other relevant legislation and Central Government Advice relating to compliance and enforcement is contained in:
- Circular 10/97: Enforcing Planning Control: Legislative Provisions and Procedural Requirements;
- Planning Policy Guidance 18: Enforcing Planning Control (PPG18), 1991
1.3 Chiltern District Council is committed to providing an efficient and effective planning service in the interests of the local community.
1.4 As the Local Planning Authority (LPA) we have the responsibility to take whatever planning enforcement action is considered necessary in the public interest in line with legislation. The decision to take enforcement action is at the LPA's discretion In considering any enforcement action, as set out in Central Government Guidance, the decisive issue for the LPA is whether the breach of planning control would unacceptably affect public amenity or the existing use of land and buildings, or be contrary to the policies of the Development Plan and National Planning Policy and therefore merit such action in the public interest.
1.5 Chiltern District Council operates its enforcement activities within Government guidelines and in accordance with the Council's policy as set out in this document. In particular, the Policy is operated in accordance with National Planning Policy as set out in PPG18, 'Enforcing Planning Control' and the saved policies and priorities set out in the Adopted Local Plan for Chiltern District and the Local Development Framework Core Strategy together with any further Development Plan Documents or Supplementary Planning Guidance. Any changes in Central Government guidance or legislation brought about by the National Planning Policy Framework and the Localism Act Will be taken into account.
1.6 An investigation will first establish whether a planning permission or consent is required and whether it is likely that a permission or consent would be granted. The Planning legislation specifically allows for retrospective applications to be made. Formal action will only be taken where there is significant harm in planning terms. For example, "Harm" might arise as a result of building on Green Belt land or it could be the loss of daylight or privacy caused by a neighbour's extension. Loss of monetary value, competition from another business, or loss of an individual's view does not amount to "harm"
1.7 Enforcement action is not taken simply because there has been a breach of planning control; it is not a "punitive" measure. In accordance with Government Guidance in PPG18, we will not take action in respect of a "trivial" or "technical" breach of planning control which causes no harm. Where there is harm, we will take action to remedy that harm through negotiation and when necessary, formal action. Where formal action is taken we will set out our reasons for doing so. Likewise where we do not intend to take action, we will explain why it is not considered expedient.
1.8 Chiltern District lies within the Green Belt and the majority is within the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The District's residential areas are varied and attractive and there is a large number of Conservation Areas with numerous Listed Buildings. We take great pride in the area, and the power to correct breaches of planning law allows us to protect the quality of life and the environment for the people who live, work and visit Chiltern. The effective enforcement of planning control is therefore extremely important to us.
1.9 This planning enforcement policy sets out how we will use our planning enforcement powers and what you can expect from us. In summary we will not condone wilful breaches of planning law but we will exercise discretion about taking enforcement action if it is considered expedient to do so. (PPG18 para 5)
The principles of good enforcement
1.10 In preparing this document we have taken into account the Government's Concordat on the principles of good enforcement practice provided in Enforcement Concordat: Good Practice Guide for England and Wales, Department of Trade and Industry, March 2003 as outlined below
- Standards: to publish clear standards of service and performance through this enforcement policy.
- Openness: to provide information and advice in plain language on the rules, and discuss problems with anyone experiencing difficulties either because of a breach of planning control or as the result of an investigation. We will not normally make personal details available, such as a name, telephone number or address, but our decision making processes will be transparent to make sure that everyone has confidence in the service.
- Helpfulness: to work with all parties to resolve investigations without formal action if possible. We will tell you the name of the officer who is dealing with the investigation, and how you can contact the officer. We will give explanations for the actions we take and any rights of appeal.
- Consistency: to carry out duties in a fair, just and consistent manner. However, this does not mean simple uniformity of decision, as this would not reflect the variety and character of different areas within Chiltern District, and their sensitivity. When we decide whether to take enforcement action, we must always consider the objectives and policies of the Development Plan. This seeks to make sure that development does not take place in inappropriate locations. Each decision will also take into account the particular circumstances of the site and surrounding area; the level of harm being caused; and any relevant planning history, such as previous refusals of planning permission or appeals for similar developments which have been dismissed by the Secretary of State.
- Proportionality: to take action, when it is necessary, in relation to the risks posed and how serious the breach is. However, our resources are limited, and it is essential to use them to maximum effect. In planning terms, this means where there is the most harm to amenity or the environment. Our decisions are not based on who is complaining, or how loudly.
- Complaints about the Service: to provide well-publicised, effective and timely procedures, and explain our complaints procedure.