Agenda item

Cabinet Member Presentation by the Leader - Update on the Planning Enforcement Review


Councillor Rick Everitt, Leader of the Council made a presentation and raised the following points:


·  The Council’s planning enforcement operated on a complaints based system which meant prioritising beaches when carrying out its enforcement function;

·  Currently this functioned was carried out by the Planning Enforcement Officer and Planning Enforcement Assistant both of whom report to the Planning Applications Manager;

·  The team prioritised breaches that caused significant irreparable damage to listed buildings, harm to specially protected areas including conservation areas, other visually prominent buildings and protected trees, breaches to section 106 agreements and significant and unacceptable harm to living conditions;

·  The Council would investigate if a breach had occurred and then seek if the matter could be resolved without formal action where possible, securing an application for the work or alteration that would be compliant to the planning policy and deciding whether or not to take action when the investigation was concluded;

·  The decision should always be in the public interest and sound planning grounds that were compliant to planning policy;

·  Council would always investigate breaches as reflected by the summary statistics shown for the period 2020-2022;

·  Between 2020 and 2022 the Council had served 41 enforcement notices;

·  Recent successful prosecutions led to significant fines for the offending individuals, (as reflected in the presentation slides attached as an annex to this minute item);

·  A previous Scrutiny Panel had reviewed this subject and had come up with some points to consider for improvement (as detailed in the same annex);

·  Council a Section 106 Enforcement Fee. This had helped recruit a new 106 Monitoring and Infrastructure Delivery Officer;

·  This was an additional resource to the Enforcement Team;

·  The Council had secured a new database system (IDOX Cloud). This would increase the enforcement team’s capacity for publishing case information on the Council website. This was expected to go live in 2024

·  A new monthly compliance development meeting led by a Principal Planning Officer would be regularly held that would coordinate compliance activities for new housing development to promptly identify any breaches at the earliest stages of development.


Members asked questions and made comments as follows:


·  One Members asked to what extent did the Council investigate individuals who developed without consent and to what extent did that happen in the district?

·  Another Member welcomed the additional resource to the enforcement team by the employment of another officer. They then asked how many hours each of the officers worked per week;

·  A Member asked whether the Monitoring Officer was involved with any of the enforcement activities;

·  Another Member said that it had previously been a frustration to get enforcement information the Council website and hoped that the additional resource to the team would improve access to enforcement information;

·  They said that there should be a disincentive for retrospective applications;

·  One Member asked how the Council prioritised planning enforcement work considering the limited resources at its disposal;

·  They further asked if there were ways that the Council could use to communicate enforcement updates to complainants. Some residents complained that they did not get acknowledgements when they submit complaints about breaches;

·  Another Member welcomed the plan by the enforcement team to put additional information on the website. This would save a great deal of officer time;

·  A Member asked when the Local Plan would be finalised considering that the DCO issue had now been finalised.


Councillor Everitt and Bob Porter, Director of Place responded to Member questions and comments as follows:


·  A previous Overview and Scrutiny Panel had reviewed the Council’s planning enforcement protocol but had not concluded its work. The Panel came up with some suggestions for improving the planning protocol;

·  The review was resolved due to the new Regeneration Bill which had significant implications on planning enforcement;

·  The statistics presented included those incidents where the individuals developed properties without proper planning consent;

·  The additional resource in the team would enable the team to provide more detailed categories of the breaches in the information that is on the Council website;

·  The information would also include the outcomes of all investigations;

·  The current two officers in the enforcement team each worked 37 hours a week;

·  The team had been chasing developers with s106 commitments to ensure that they fulfilled their commitments. This was huge task and coming of this additional resource would help with this aspect of the team’s work;

·  The team produced evidence and then worked with the Legal Department to enforce planning requirements;

·  If complainants were not responded to, they should approach the Head of Housing and Planning or Director of Place;

·  As a minimum, officers should provide an update on a complaint case to complainants;

·  The National Planning Policy was currently being reviewed by Government. This would give steer to local councils on how they could progress and finalise their respective Local Plans.


Members noted the report and thanked Councillor Everitt for the presentation.

Supporting documents: