The integrity of the development control process depends on the local planning authority's readiness to take effective enforcement action. There are a range of actions available to the local planning authority but these are discretionary powers. Any action must be in the public interest and always commensurate with the breach of planning control that has occurred.
Our policy and procedures document sets out what individuals and organisations can expect from Sandwell Council in the undertaking of its planning enforcement functions.
What can we investigate?
Breaches of planning control can take a number of forms including unauthorised changes of use of land or buildings, work being carried out without the benefit of planning permission and breaches of conditions attached to planning permissions. This includes:
unauthorised building works or changes of use
unauthorised works to a Listed Building
unauthorised demolition of an unlisted building in a Conservation Area
unauthorised works to protected treesunauthorised works to trees in Conservation Areas
It should be noted that individuals may be able to make minor changes and extensions to their home under "permitted development rights" or for some businesses to change their use without needing to apply for planning permission.
These rights are granted by the Government under the provisions of the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) Order 1995, and in such instances planning enforcement action cannot be taken.
If you would like written confirmation of permitted development rights, a charge will be made for this service. A charges list is available to download outlining the different fees payable.
What we cannot investigate
The Development monitoring team does not investigate the following:
land boundary or ownership disputes
the height of hedges and trees
use of or development on highways, pavements or grass verges
Such matters are covered by other legislation but we can pass concerns on to the relevant department.
What action can we take?
When the council investigates a breach, an assessment is made to determine what action, if any, is necessary.
The council will usually attempt to remedy unauthorised breaches through negotiation, rather than immediate formal action. This may involve the submission of a retrospective application or a requirement to take steps to ameliorate specific problems with a development.
In cases where the breach is serious or has a detrimental impact on the character or amenity of an area, the Council has a range of powers available to it under existing legislation, a summary of which is as follows:
Planning Contravention Notice - served where it appears that there may have been a breach and the council requires information about activities on the land or nature of the occupier's interest in the land.
Enforcement Notice - used to remedy an actual breach of planning control by requiring an unauthorised use to stop or building works to be removed. There is a right of appeal against this notice.
Stop Notice - served at the same time as an Enforcement Notice to require unauthorised activities to cease before the Enforcement notice comes into effect. A Temporary Stop Notice has also recently been introduced which seeks a cessation to activity for a period of 28 days.
Breach of Condition Notice - can be served where there is a failure to comply with any condition imposed on a previous grant of planning permission.
Injunctions - these are granted by the County Court or High Court to restrain any actual or expected breach of planning control.
Prosecution action - may be taken, for example, in cases where unauthorised advertisements have been displayed, unauthorised works to a protected tree have been undertaken, or in instances where the requirements of a notice or injunction are not met within the stated timescale.
How long action will take?
Within 5 days we will acknowledge all written complaints by letter, which will also tell you the officer dealing with it and the case reference number you need for contacting us.
The investigating officer will also aim to visit the site of the breach within 15 days of the complaint being received. However, this visit will be as soon as possible in the case of serious breaches.
Beyond this, timescales will vary depending on the nature of the complaint and the need to collect evidence. However, you will be written to at the conclusion of our investigations.
Complainants will be asked to identify themselves and provide an address and phone number so that they can be kept informed of what the council decides and also to provide further information to assist the investigating officer where necessary. This information is treated as confidential.
The alleged contravener is not told who has made a complaint, although they sometimes make assumptions.
The council will deal with anonymous complaints but they will take a much lower priority.
Complainants concerned about possibly revealing their identity or having difficulties putting their case may wish to discuss the matter with their local ward councillor..
Making a complaint
You can contact the Planning Enforcement Team in the following ways:
Call us - 0121 569 4054 or 0121 569 4055
Visit us - Regeneration and Economy, P.O. Box 2374, Council House, Freeth Street, Oldbury, West Midlands B69 3DE.