Page last updated at 15:53 GMT, Wednesday, November 28 2012
An introductory guide to Planning Enforcement is in our
guidance leaflet below:
Planning laws are designed to control the development and use of
land and buildings in the public interest. The Council expects land
owners and developers to comply with planning laws and not carry
out development until the necessary planning permission has been
obtained. In the event of unauthorised development the Council has
a range of enforcement powers that derive from the laws passed by
Parliament which are exercised in accordance with Government
circulars, guidance and Council policy.
The Borough Council's priorities are to protect amenity,
safeguard the built environment and uphold local planning policy in
the quickest and most effective way.
This statement explains how Eastleigh Borough Council carries
out its planning enforcement activities.
The Council signed up to the principles of the Government's
- Proportionality – Any action that is taken will relate to the
seriousness of the breach.
- Consistency – Officers act in a similar way when faced with
similar circumstances. The Council will also work with other
services and Authorities to ensure that consistency is maintained
at a local and national level as far as possible.
- Transparency – The Council will try to help people understand
what the law requires of them and make clear what needs to be done
to achieve compliance. The Council will also make clear what people
should do if they are not happy about any action taken or a
decision not to take action.
- Targeting– Our enforcement efforts will be directed against
those whose activities pose the most serious risks or create the
most danger to the public interest and those who have a history of
There are four planning regimes:
1. Development (building, engineering and
mining operations; and material change of use of
Built Environment (listed building consent and
4. Natural Environment (tree preservation
order consents and all trees within conservation areas)
The crucial difference between the four regimes is that
all carry a criminal liability EXCEPT development. Many
breaches of planning control are not criminal offences and no
offence is being committed if a person carries out development
without first obtaining planning permission. A criminal offence
only arises when a notice has been issued, has taken effect and its
requirements have not been complied with. Only then can the Council
take prosecution action in the courts.
What is a breach of planning control?
Development carried out without planning permission is often
referred to as a breach of planning control. A breach of
planning control is defined in the Town and Country Planning Act
1990 as 'the carrying out of a development without the required
planning permission, or failure to comply with any condition or
limitation subject to which planning permission has been
Breaches of planning control will include:
- Unauthorised erection of a building
- Development not in accordance with the approved plans of
- Change of use of a property
- Unauthorised works to trees protected by a tree preservation
order or in a conservation area
- Carrying out works to a listed building without listed building
- Unauthorised demolition in a conservation area
- Failure to comply with the conditions attached to a planning
- Failure to properly maintain land so that it affects the
amenity of the area
- Displaying a sign or advertisement without advertisement
The following are not breaches of planning
- Parking of commercial vehicles in residential areas or on grass
- Operating a business from home where the residential use
remains the primary use and there is no adverse impact on
- Clearing land of undergrowth, bushes and trees provided they
are not subject to planning protection
- Parking of a caravan within the curtilage of a residential
property provided that it is stored, or used as an extra bedroom,
and not used as a separate, self-contained residential unit.
- Obstruction of a highway or right of way
- Boundary disputes (civil matter)
- Deeds and covenants (civil matter)
- Where development is 'permitted development' (see below)
The Council has powers of enforcement in relation to other
services such as highways, environmental health, trees etc. Our
investigations are often coordinated with other services so that
any action is carried out under the most appropriate
Enforcement is discretionary
Enforcement powers are discretionary and the Council is not
required to take action just because there has been a breach of
planning control. Enforcement action should be taken where there is
harm. The key test is whether the breach of planning control would
unacceptably affect public amenity. To help decide this we would
consider if planning permission would have been granted for this
development had it been the subject of a planning application. The
starting point is the Eastleigh Borough Council Local Plan
policies. If the development accords with these, we would normally
be expected to grant planning permission unless other material
considerations, notably Government policy, indicate otherwise.
Enforcement action should always be commensurate with the breach
of planning control to which it relates. It will normally be
inappropriate to take formal enforcement action against a trivial
or technical breach of control which causes no harm to
What is planning harm?
Factors that may contribute to an assessment of planning 'harm'
|Change in character
||Crime (and fear of)
|Health & safety
||Opinions of complainants
||Age of breach
Is it appropriate to take action?
The Council will not rectify all breaches of planning control.
Action will only be taken where there is an unacceptable effect on
the built and natural environment and public amenity. The Council
is required by policies and legislation set by Central Government
to decide the appropriateness of formal action. The test is whether
the unauthorised activities are causing harm having regard to the
development plan policies and other material considerations. This
is often referred to as an expediency test.
What are our priorities?
It is not possible to investigate every complaint with equal
priority and intensity. Our resource is directed to breaches that
cause the greater harm to the environment or to residential
amenity. For example, the potential permanent damage to a historic
listed building will have a greater priority than a new shed in a
residential garden. The scale of priorities is shown below and can
change during the course of an investigation:
Danger to the public?
Direct and potentially irreversible harm?
Potential to escalate and cause serious harm to the
Loss of amenity?
Other breaches likely to remain stable
Unauthorised works to protected tree/s or tree/s in a
Unauthorised change of use of land and/or building
Unauthorised works to listed building
Encroachment onto Council land
Condition monitoring (contaminated land + piling)
House in multiple occupation
Condition monitoring (minus contaminated land + piling)
Parking on the highway
Demolition of a building essential to retain
Business from home (high activity levels)
Business from Home(low activity levels)
Gypsies / caravans / travellers
Advertisement control (highway safety)
Advertisement control (visual amenity)
Advertisement control(for sale / to let boards)
Breach of condition (serious harm to amenity)
Breach of condition (all other alleged breaches)
Deviation from approved plans (irreversible harm)
Deviation from approved plans (new application required)
Deviation from approved plans (minor variation or de
Our resource is split between investigating reactive
complaints received about breaches of planning control and
the pro-active condition monitoring of new
development sites to ensure compliance with the planning permission
granted. If you have a planning permission that requires the
discharge of planning conditions prior to the commencement of the
development then it is most likely that your site will be selected
How do I make a complaint?
When alerting the Council to a possible breach it is useful for
us to have as much information as possible such as:
- description of the possible breach
- date the activity started, is it happening now, is it getting
- site address (if it is a field, describe the surrounding area
to help identify the exact site)
- name/address/telephone number of the site
- description of the 'harm' being caused e.g. noise, traffic,
- name/address/telephone number of the complainant.
You can report a possible breach of planning control by:
- Using our
- email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- telephone: 023 8068 8353 or 023 8068 8427
- letter: Planning Enforcement Team, Eastleigh Borough Council,
Civic Offices, Leigh Road, Eastleigh, Hampshire. SO50 9YN
- in person by visiting the Civic Offices
Anonymous complaints will not usually be
investigated unless they relate to a matter of public safety or
irreversible public harm.
All complaints are dealt with in the strictest confidence and
details of the complainants will not be made known without their
agreement. However, the substance of the complaints themselves is
not confidential. In some cases it may be necessary to rely on
evidence from complainants in order to take action and you will
need to consider whether you are willing to actively assist the
Council by collecting evidence and acting as a witness at an appeal
or in Court.
Please be aware that we cannot prevent someone correctly
guessing who made the complaint against them.
What if someone complains about me?
If you are contacted about an alleged breach of planning control
you are entitled to know what the allegation is (but not who made
the complaint) and you will be given an opportunity to give your
side of the case. Your co-operation may be sought to remedy a
breach of planning control, either by removing/ceasing or modifying
the unauthorised development or activity. A reasonable period of
time will be allowed for you to do this. In some circumstances, you
may be invited to submit a retrospective planning application.
The Council will usually give you a chance to put matters right
before taking formal action but if the breach is causing serious
harm or nuisance to public amenity formal action will not be
delayed by protracted negotiation.
Many minor building works, including alterations to a building,
certain 'changes of use' and unilluminated signs do not require
consent from the Borough Council. If this proves to be the case, no
action can be taken.
Whether or not planning permission is required depends on the
restrictions and conditions which are detailed in The Town and
Country (General Permitted Development Order) 1995 as amended. This
can be viewed as a planning permission in its own right.
Time limits for enforcement action (Lawful Development)
There is a breach but the activity has been going on for so long
or the structure has been substantially complete for such a long
time that the breach is immune from any enforcement action and the
development has become 'lawful' for planning purposes.
The following table shows the timescales:
Substantially completed for 4 years +
Change of use of a building to a single dwelling house
Continuous occupation for 4 years +
Change of use
Continuous occupation at the same intensity for 10 years +
Breach of a condition on a planning permission
Continuous non compliance for 10 years +
Continuous display for 10 years +
How long will the investigation take?
An enforcement investigation can be a lengthy and complex
process. The time taken to determine each case will vary depending
on the site, the people involved and the type of breach.
On receipt of a complaint the Enforcement Team aim to:
- Allocate a priority and investigating officer within one
- Register within 2 working days
- Acknowledge your complaint within 5 working days (advising you
of the investigating officer)
- Handle the complaint in the strictest confidence (not
disclosing the complainant's identity to third parties)
- Carry out the initial site visit for Priority
1 cases on the same or next working day
- Carry out the initial site visit for Priority
2 cases within 10 working days
- Carry out the initial site visit for Priority
3 cases within 20 working days
- Carry out the initial site visit for Priority
4 cases if necessary following a desktop appraisal
- Provide an update to the complainant at key stages in the
investigation and when significant progress has been made
- Advise the complainant and site owner/occupier of the outcome
of the investigation and any further action required within 12
Outcome of the investigation
No breach of planning control is established:
The development may be permitted development or is not within the
control of planning legislation.
There is a breach of planning control but it is not
expedient to pursue: If a technical breach has taken
place, for example a house extension that is marginally over
permitted development limits then it is not normally worthwhile to
take lengthy and expensive enforcement action over something that
is causing minimal harm.
The development is lawful: The activity has
been going on for so long or the structure has been substantially
complete for such a long time that the breach is immune from any
enforcement action and the development has become 'lawful'.
Negotiate a resolution with the site
owner/occupier: Many people do take the positive steps
required to rectify the situation and formal enforcement activity
is only necessary in a small number of cases.
Invite a retrospective planning application to
regularise the breach: In some cases the most appropriate
way to rectify a breach of planning control is to invite a
retrospective planning application. This approach is taken when
planning officers consider there is a reasonable likelihood that a
planning application will be successful in light of relevant
planning policies. We will only pursue the submission of a
retrospective application if there is a need to control the breach
of planning through conditions.
An invitation to submit a retrospective planning application
will not prejudice either the subsequent recommendation or the
ultimate decision of the Council as each application is considered
on its merits.
Take formal enforcement action: If we are
unable to negotiate a resolution the Council has the power to take
formal enforcement action. The nature of the breach will dictate
what route the Council chooses to pursue. Failure to comply with a
formal notice leaves the site owner/occupier open to the risk of
prosecution. Alternatively, the Council may take direct action to
undertake the appropriate works and recover the costs.
What can the public do to help?
The assistance of the general public is crucial to planning
enforcement. Due to the amount of development, both authorised and
unauthorised, it would be impossible for the Borough Council to
identify all possible breaches of planning control without an army
of enforcement officers and at great expense. Many enforcement
investigations commence following a complaint from the general
public. It is helpful to also contact us when you have any new
Who's Who in Planning Enforcement and How to Contact Us
To contact the Enforcement Team please follow this email link:
or the direct dial telephone numbers below:
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Outside of working hours (this is strictly for emergencies
only, such as the felling of a protected tree) If you need to
contact an officer in the event of an emergency, please telephone
the Council's main telephone number 023 8068 8000 and follow the
option menu to obtain the emergency number.