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Frequently asked questions about planning enforcement

Here you will find answers to queries in relation to planning enforcement.

A local planning authority is the local government body that is empowered by law to exercise urban planning functions for a particular area. Leicester City Council is the Leicester Planning Authority (LPA) for Leicester City.

LPA are provided powers to deal with planning applications and enforcement of planning breaches by the Town and Country Planning Act 1990. It is a central part of English land planning law. For further information please read  plain English guide giving an overview of how the planning system works in England - GOV.UK.

The National Government of the United Kingdom gives LPAs the power to manage where people build and what they do with land. Planning laws are passed by the central government. National Planning Guidance is provided by the central government, but the City Council as LPA produce local plan to guide the future development of the area and Supplementary Planning Documents relating to local issues.

Section 55 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 ( defines development as “the carrying out of building, engineering, mining or other operations in, on, over or under land, or the making of any material change in the use of any buildings or other land.”

You will probably need planning permission if you want to:

  • build something new
  • make a major change to your building, such as building an extension or demolition of buildings
  • change the use of your building

Find further information at Do you need permission? - Planning Portal.

Planning laws in the UK require a person to obtain formal consent from the LPA to carry out development, which is called planning permission.

Permitted development is either for a change of use of land from one class to another class or the construction of or making changes to existing building for which a general planning permission is granted by Central Government. For this type of change or building works there is no need to obtain planning permission from the local planning authority as long as all of the elements of permitted development are followed.

Covenants or other restrictions in the title to your property or conditions in the lease may require you to get someone else's agreement before carrying out some kinds of work to your property.

This may be the case even if you do not need to apply for planning permission.

You can check this yourself or consult a lawyer. You may also find that some properties enjoy historic rights. The council has no involvement in checking or enforcing your private rights such as a "right to light".

Boundary disputes are civil matter between the parties involved. Grant of planning permission does not override individual’s property rights. Planning law and other laws work independent from each other hence planning legislation do not deal with civil boundary disputes.

Information on land ownership dispute resolution can be found at: Practice guide 37: Objections and disputes, a guide to Land Registry practice and procedures - GOV.UK.

A retrospective planning application is a planning application which has been made after something has already been built or a change of use has started.

Appropriate publicity and consultation will be carried out on such applications, and interested parties given an opportunity to comment before a decision is made. They are treated in the same way as  planning applications.

In simple terms, planning permission is the approval needed before various forms of construction, expansion or sometimes demolition can begin. Ownership rights do not override the requirement of Planning laws.

Should you wish to sell the property in the future the lack of planning permission could cause serious issues and delays.

Planning consent, either through permitted development rights or planning application process is granted for the construction of a specific scheme. The details of such a scheme are either submitted with planning application to the LPA  or are listed in the General Permitted Development Order ( Hence mixing any two or more schemes may result in a scheme which will not benefit from either consent and development may  be unauthorised, and open for potential enforcement action.

Building regulations and planning are two separate controls governed by two separate legislations, they cannot override the requirement of each other. Sometimes you may need both; sometimes you may only require one; or none at all.

Planning permission is a control used to assess whether the development fits in with local and national policies and whether it would cause unacceptable harm, for example, to neighbours' quality of life, whereas building control covers the structural aspects of development and progress throughout the construction.

When you make a planning application, you are seeking authorisation to enable you to carry out development. On the other hand, when you make a building regulations application, you are seeking to have the details of your development checked and approved for compliance with the standards of construction.

As with land and buildings outside conservation areas, planning permission is needed for any works which will change the use of land or a building, or significantly alter the outside of a building. In conservation areas, however, these planning controls are extended to give greater protection.

In a conservation area, planning permission is required for work that would ordinarily constitute permitted development. This includes:

  • exterior cladding
  • side extensions, or the construction of any other building or structure to the side of the house
  • rear extensions of more than one storey
  • roof extensions, including insertion of dormer windows
  • the installation, alteration or replacement of a chimney, flue or soil and vent pipe visible from the highway
  • erection of an aerial or satellite dish facing the highway
  • erection of solar panels on roofs or walls facing the highway
  • limits on the size of domestic and industrial extensions.

Leicester City Council as a local planning authority may also selectively restrict specific development through an Article 4 Direction.

A breach of planning control is defined by the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 as ‘the carrying out of development without the required planning permission or failing to comply with any condition or limitation subject to which planning permission has been granted’.

The Compliance and Monitoring Team will investigate all suspected breaches and the following key questions will need to be answered:

  • is there development?
  • is there a breach?
  • can the breach be resolved through negotiation?
  • is the breach causing harm?
  • is enforcement necessary?

The team investigate and assess reported alleged planning breaches to establish what has occurred and take the most appropriate course of action.

Whilst building something without planning permission is not normally a criminal offence, failure to comply with some notices to rectify a problem can be. However, unauthorised work to a listed building, protected tree or erecting advertisements without consent is a criminal offence. The development carried out without the benefit of planning permission will be at the risk of the person responsible for it if the council decide to take enforcement action.

Effective enforcement is necessary to protect the integrity of the planning system. The planning enforcement function aims to ensure development proceeds in accordance with approved plans and complies with planning conditions and/or Section 106 Agreements.

It is expected that land owners and developers should observe the spirit of planning legislation and refrain from development until the necessary planning permissions have been obtained. However, the planning system is designed to achieve a balance between the rights of landowners to enjoy their property with protecting the amenity of neighbours and the general public.

Therefore, enforcement of planning control focuses on proportionate resolution of issues rather than punishing those who have acted in breach of planning legislation, sometimes unknowingly.

Planning enforcement powers are discretionary powers available to LPA, but in considering any enforcement action, the decisive issue for the LPA should be whether the breach of control would unacceptably affect public amenity. Therefore, where the Council decides to take action, it should be able to demonstrate in case of an appeal there was significant harm to amenity. The government guidance states as follow:

Enforcement action should, also be proportionate to the breach of planning control to which it relates and taken when it is expedient to do so. Where the balance of public interest lies will vary from case to case.

In deciding, in each case, what is the most appropriate way forward, the council as local planning authority should usually avoid taking formal enforcement action where:

  • there is a trivial or technical breach of control which causes no material harm or adverse impact on the amenity of the site or the surrounding area;
  • development is acceptable on its planning merits and formal enforcement action would solely be to regularise the development;
  • in their assessment, the LPA  consider that an application is the appropriate way forward to regularise the situation, for example, where planning conditions may need to be imposed.

One planning contravention is not justification for another. Each case is considered on its merits, therefore investigated as a separate matter and appropriate action is taken.

Leicester City Council as a LPA cannot recommend a planning agent/architect. You may contact your friends/relatives or use the following link relating to the Planning Portal.