5. How we prioritise investigations into alleged breaches of Planning Control


5.1     The Council deals with around 500 alleged breaches of planning control every year. Cases reported may or may not require a site inspection and may be referred to other departments or agencies as appropriate. Because of the often lengthy and complex nature of planning investigations and staff resources available, priority will be given to those cases where the greatest harm is being caused.

5.2     When complaints are first received each case will be assigned a priority dependent upon the nature of the alleged breach. This initial assessment will be dependent upon the information provided at the time and the harm that is identified such as possible harm to the environment or public and/or planning significance. It is therefore very important that you tell us what impact the development is having on you or the environment.

5.3     All cases will be kept under review, which could result in the priority assigned to the investigation changing, for example after an initial site visit has been carried out and the officer has had the opportunity of assessing the works taking place.,.

5.4     Each alleged breach of planning control will be considered on its own merits. Breaches which involve operational development which has already been undertaken will be given no special consideration. Any 'retrospective' planning application submitted as part of the rectification process will not be treated any differently from an application made in advance of the works being carried out.

  1. Urgent Priority

  • Significant and permanent damage to the environment where works are potentially irreversible e.g. unauthorised demolition or significant alteration to a listed building, or loss of significant protected trees.

    2. High Priority

  • Breaches of statutory planning notices, such as Enforcement Notices. NOTE - follow up action for non-compliance with an Enforcement Notice is automatic and does not rely on a complaint being received.
  • Building works commencing without compliance with pre-commencement conditions or legal agreement which is fundamental to, or goes to the heart of the planning permission, and without which the development would not be acceptable. This may include conditions/legal agreements relating to provision of affordable housing or to details of land contamination or possibly slab levels. .
  • Unauthorised development/activity that results in widespread harm to local amenity or serious harm to policies in the Development Plan and conflict with Central Government Guidance e.g. new unauthorised building works in Green Belt or Chilterns AONB.
  • Non-compliance with planning permissions where there is significant harm to amenity in planning terms. This would not include works where it is alleged there is a boundary encroachment - this would be a civil matter
  • Breach of a condition, which results in serious demonstrable harm or danger to amenity in the neighbourhood.
  • Unauthorised development where it is known the time-limit for taking action is imminent.
  • Demolition or works unlikely to approved without substantial modification (e.g. over-large extensions or significant alterations to an unlisted building in Conservation Area).

    3. Medium priority

  • Development likely to cause general harm to public amenity, in particular residential amenity, the setting of a listed building or character and appearance of a conservation area. For example the erection of buildings close to neighbouring properties.
  • Breaches of condition attached to a planning permission where there is likely to be general harm to public amenity, in particular residential amenity, e.g. windows, materials, landscaping, boundary treatment.
  • Changes of use causing general harm to the amenity of an area, for example commercial uses in residential properties such as child minding or working from home.
  • Advertisements causing harm to amenity or public safety
  • Sales of Green Belt land as leisure or investment plots.

 4. Low Priority

  • Unauthorised development, which would be likely to receive planning permission/approval (e.g. if a planning application were to be submitted) or would not result in formal enforcement action being instigated.
  • Development that is unlikely to require planning permission.
  • Advertisements which do not case harm to amenity or public safety
  • Pro-active condition monitoring/plan checking.
  • Complaints with only very limited details
  • Pro-active condition monitoring/plan checking.

    Examples of such cases are likely to be.

  • Fencing, sheds and outbuildings etc.,
  • Small domestic extensions, resurfacing,
  • Changes of use where there is no significant harm or nuisance, for example a householder working from home where the use does not result in significant callers or deliveries or any noise, disturbance
  • Illegal adverts likely to be unacceptable on amenity grounds,
  • Fly posting,
  • Technical breaches where there is no harm or nuisance,
  • Untidy sites,
  • Developments of a temporary nature