Breaches of planning regulations
Coronavirus - impact on the planning compliance service
As part of the response to the coronavirus, it has been necessary for the planning compliance team to make some changes to the way it operates.
Officers will only be making site inspections and taking urgent action where it is considered appropriate to do so and where the reported breaches involve serious and/or irreversible harm to property, including damage to or demolition of listed buildings.
In non-urgent cases, officers will carry out desk-based assessments. Allegations of breaches will be followed up by email, phone or letter and all efforts will be made to reach a resolution without needing to carry out an inspection.
We will make every effort to provide a continued service and to react quickly to any breaches of planning legislation despite the challenging circumstances. The changes we have introduced will be kept under review.
What is a breach of planning regulations?
A breach of planning regulations is when any work is done without the necessary consent. Examples include:
- a developer has planning permission but is not complying with the conditions attached to their permission or is not following the approved plans or failing to submit required information before starting development
- displaying a sign or an advert without advertisement consent
- making a material and unlawful change to the use of a property
- carrying out works to a listed building without consent
- demolishing a building within a conservation area without consent
- felling or carrying out works to a tree in a conservation area or a tree protected by a Tree Preservation Order (TPO).
What is not a breach of planning control?
Some activities are not breaches of planning regulations, and therefore no enforcement action can be taken under planning legislation. Examples include:
- parking of commercial vehicles on the highway, even in residential areas
- operating a business from home where the residential use remains the primary use and it is not causing local problems
- parking a caravan within the residential boundary of a property provided that it is ancillary to the dwelling (for example, it is stored or being used as an extra bedroom)
- building practices and health and safety issues around building operations
- general noise nuisance unrelated to a breach of planning control
- building works undertaken under permitted development - this means that planning permission is not required and we have no powers to control the development.
How to report a potential breach
If you think someone may have contravened planning regulations, you can submit a Planning enforcement form.
If you believe that the potential breach is dangerous and an immediate risk to property or people, call us on 020 7364 5009 (Mon to Fri from 9am - 5pm) or 020 7364 5000 at other times.
You may be asked to provide:
- Your name and contact details (email addresses are accepted) - mandatory.
- When the building works or activities started.
- Location of the site.
- Photographs and approximated measurements.
- Names, addresses and contact details of the owners or other people involved (if known).
- What affect the work or activity is having (e.g. noise, traffic, smells, overshadowing etc).
If you have reported a breach, details of your identity will be kept confidential insofar as the law will permit us to do so.
Your name and address will not be revealed to the person or organisation involved in the possible breach. In certain cases, you may be asked to assist us by providing evidence at an appeal or in court. Before this happens, we will ask for your consent. If an appeal is lodged or a case goes to court, any representations received usually become public documents that are available for public inspection.
What happens if there is a breach of planning regulations?
If we find that there is a breach of planning control, e.g. because works have been carried out on a property that appears to need permission, we may request that a retrospective application be made for the works.
If a retrospective application is not submitted, or if permission is refused, we may ask for the structure to be changed or removed or for the use to cease. In some cases we may issue a planning enforcement notice to ensure compliance.
An enforcement notice is served on all freeholders, lessees, mortgagees and other persons having a material interest in the property. Failure to comply with an enforcement notice is an offence that may result in an unlimited fine if convicted. Continued non-compliance can result in further prosecutions for further offences, incurring additional fines. An enforcement notice is also entered on the local land charges records which could make the future sale or financing of the property more difficult.
Planning enforcement cases
You can search for details of enforcement notices served using our online notice register.
Tower Hamlets Planning Compliance policy
Effective planning compliance and enforcement is an important part of the development management process. The National Planning Practice Framework states that council’s should consider preparing an enforcement plan to explain how these discretionary powers will be used.
With the significant and high levels of development activity taking place in Tower Hamlets the council has now produced a Planning Compliance Policy.
The policy sets out the council’s approach to investigating and dealing with reported breaches of planning control; explains how decisions to take formal enforcement action will be made and sets out the standards of service that will be provided.
The Planning Compliance Policy has been informed by recent casework, comments received by the Compliance Team and an up-to-date evidence base. The policy also promotes collaborative working with other parts of the council who have enforcement or compliance powers and provides a framework taking forward proactive area based or topic based improvement projects.
Tower Hamlets adopted Planning Compliance Policy 2018.