Agenda item

Planning Enforcement Review

Why is the planning enforcement process seemingly so slow in Thanet and how can it be made more efficient?


Iain Livingstone, Planning Manager introduced the report and made the following comments:


  • The enforcement service was a complaints based service and was more reactive to issues being raised with the Enforcement Team. This approach helped to balance resources for the Planning Department;
  • When a complaint for a planning permission breach was report, the first stage was to find whether indeed a planning permission was required;
  • If the breach was established, an informal process would be used to correct the situation and help bring the issue through a planning process for a proper permission to be granted;
  • If no action was taken by the offending party, enforcement action would be taken by the council;
  • There were no defined statutory deadlines by which complaints should be resolved. The enforcement focus would always be to try and bring a planning matter back into the planning protocol;
  • There were often delays in the enforcement process whose control would be outside the council, for example the appeals process which could take anything between six months up to a year or longer in some instances, during which time enforcement action would be kept in abeyance;
  • Thereafter compliance would be from when the decision was made. The grace period given for compliance would be anything between three months and up to fifteen months;
  • The council was currently reviewing and updating the 2015 enforcement protocol. The updates would include developing a process map. Planning date would used to integrate planning applications and enforcement information;
  • The issue of funding of the enforcement function would also be reviewed with input from Finance.


Members asked questions and made comments as highlighted below:


  • The council’s enforcement team of two officers was one of the smallest in the county, whilst some neighbouring councils had up to four enforcement officers;
  • It was important to review the staffing for the enforcement team as the council was expecting a number of large developments in the district in the coming years. These developments would have tougher bio diversity conditions attached to them. These would require enforcement to ensure compliance to the new planning policies that try to address climate emergency issues;
  • There was a need to set up a scrutiny project to review the effectiveness of enforcement in the district;
  • Why was the council not penalising those who did not have planning permission in order to deter others from committing breaches?
  • Continuity of enforcement - How long could the council keep enforcement in abeyance?
  • How long did it take the council to intervene when there was a breach of the planning protocol;
  • Information updates by the Enforcement team would be most welcome by the public. Such updates could be published on the council’s website
  • Some of the conditions that were showing on the planning applications considered by the Planning committee showed landscaping to be done. However when it came to project implementation, not all of the project followed through with the landscaping as reflected in the documents submitted to the council. There was a need to effectively enforce these conditions.


Mr Livingstone responded to questions as follows:


  • The issue regarding imposing fines was a statutory function that was the preserve of the government;
  • The issue of continuity is important. The could would always work towards ensuring consistency in application of enforcement;
  • The council had up to four years from when a breach was committed to take corrective action;
  • Southampton City Council had online access to their enforcement activities. The council would be studying the experience from Southampton, before coming up with such an online facility. However it should be noted that there would be a cost implication for setting up such a facility as the current system did not have the capacity to add that in;
  • There was a planning assistant who predominantly dealt with planning conditions and worked with the Enforcement team to enforce conditions on major development as was approved.


Members agreed that the Chair would discuss with officers and report back to the Panel on how best and what resources would be required to support a scrutiny review of the effectiveness of planning enforcement.

Supporting documents: