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What is the purpose of planning enforcement?

4.1 Planning laws are designed to control and manage the development or use of land and buildings in the public's interest. They are not meant to protect the private interests of one person against the activities of another.

4.2 Carrying out work, or changing the use of land or buildings without planning permission is not a criminal offence. In most cases the Council will attempt to resolve the breach of planning control by negotiation; this will include giving the opportunity to apply for retrospective planning permission. Where serious harm is being caused however, the Council will take firm action and may not enter into any negotiations before doing so. The Council will not allow prolonged negotiations to prevent the taking of effective formal enforcement action where this is necessary to resolve the breach of planning control.

4.3 Unauthorised works that do constitute a criminal offence.

  • Cases involving listed buildings - works such as demolition, extension or alteration which affect the character or appearance of a listed building require Listed Building Consent. Where works have been carried out without consent a criminal offence may have been committed. Subject to the extent and nature of the works, consideration will be given to whether to start criminal proceedings and/or serve a Listed Building Enforcement Notice to make sure that appropriate remedial works are undertaken.
  • Advertisements - the Town and Country Planning (Control of Advertisements) (England) Regulations 2007 allows the display of some classes of advertisements and signs without the need to obtain consent from the Local Planning Authority. Where an advertisement is being displayed without appropriate consents it constitutes a criminal offence. Where the advertisement causes serious harm to "amenity" or "public safety" we will ask for it to be removed within a specified period. If the advertisement continues to be displayed after this time, formal prosecution proceedings will be considered.
  • Works to trees subject to Tree Preservation Orders, within a Conservation Area or in the curtilage of a listed building- The Council imposes Tree Preservation Orders (TPO) to protect and retain visually important trees, particularly where they are threatened by development. Similar protection applies to trees in Conservation Areas and within the curtilage of a listed building. It is a criminal offence to cut down, top, lop, uproot, wilfully destroy or damage a protected tree in a manner likely to destroy it, without the Council's consent.
  • Failure to comply with an enforcement notice, once the period for compliance has elapsed, and there is no outstanding appeal. A person guilty of an offence is liable, on summary conviction, to a fine currently not exceeding £20,000 or on conviction on indictment to an unlimited fine. Where a local planning authority achieves a successful conviction for failure to comply with an enforcement notice, they can apply for a Confiscation Order, under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002, to recover the financial benefit obtained through unauthorised development.

4.4 Action taken by the Council will be appropriate to the actual breach of planning control and necessary to resolve it.

4.5 The Council must operate its planning enforcement activities in accordance with nationally and locally adopted and emerging policies and guidance, such as the National Planning Policy Framework, The Central Lancashire Core Strategy, The South Ribble Local Plan (2015) and the South Ribble Site Allocations and Development Management Policies DPD. This means that:

  • The Council must decide whether the breach of planning control unacceptably affects the amenity of the area.
  • Action should not be taken just because development has started without planning permission.
  • The Council does not always have to take action, but the particular circumstances of the case must always be considered.
  • It is not normal to take formal action against a minor breach of control that causes no real harm.

4.6 But:

  • Enforcement action will be taken quickly when it is necessary.

What is 'harm'?

4.7 Harm resulting from a breach of planning control may concern amenity or highway safety issues and could include for example noise nuisance, loss of daylight or privacy, or danger from increased traffic flows; this is not an exhaustive list. Harm to the visual amenity of an area could occur for example through unauthorised work to a listed building, demolition within a Conservation Area or works to a protected tree.

4.8 Once the alleged breach has been investigated, and it has been established that harm is being caused, action may then be taken.

4.9 This harm would not, for example include:

  • loss of value to a neighbouring property,
  • competition to another business,
  • loss of an individual's view or trespass onto someone else's land.

4.10 It may be possible to address issues such as the above, by way of civil action, although this is a matter for the individual to pursue and is not an area where the Council would be involved.

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