Birmingham City Council

Planning Enforcement

Overview

Shortcut to this page www.birmingham.gov.uk/planningenforcement

Planning Enforcement is the process by which we investigate and resolve complaints about development taking place without planning permission.

We also investigate properties being used for business and other uses, where permission has not been received, or if development is taking place without complying with conditions attached to a planning application.

These are collectively known as ‘Breaches of Planning Control’.

The enforcement of planning law is particularly complex. It needs to strike a balance between

  • the rights of individuals to use or alter their property in the way they wish;
  • the need to safeguard the character and quality of neighbourhoods; and
  • to uphold the planning policies for the local area in such a way as to protect the public interest.

In all cases, we have to assess what harm is being caused as a result of any breach and how the situation could be remedied without formal legal action. Although we can, and do, take formal legal action against unauthorised development, we are advised to do so only as a last resort. The majority of cases are resolved through negotiation. We are sometimes also informed of matters that ultimately may not be in the broader public interest to investigate further, or that do not need planning permission.

The guide at the bottom of the page explains how we investigate a planning enforcement complaint and the process of formal action.

Essential Information
  • We can only investigate complaints where planning permission should have been applied for, such as:-

    • New buildings
    • Extensions and alterations, including walls and fences
    • Changes of use of land or buildings, including the use of residential properties as multiple occupation
    • Conditions attached to planning approval but not complied with
    • Advertisements
    • Alterations to Listed Buildings
    • Works in Conservation Areas
    • Works to trees in Conservation Areas or protected by a Tree Preservation Order (TPOs)
    • Engineering operations

    Therefore if anyone has carried out any of the above works without the correct authorisation, we can investigate. We also investigate untidy or neglected land and buildings that are affecting public interest.


    • Matters falling outside the planning regulations, such as legal covenants, boundary disputes, competition between traders, obstruction of the public highway, ‘right to light’ and Party Wall issues.
    • Permitted Development’ - the Government has granted blanket consent for minor extensions, alterations or changes of use, provided they comply with certain tests. These extensions may however still require building regulations approval ‘Deemed advertisements’ which include many small non-illuminated signs on business premises.

    You are advised to contact a solicitor or Citizens Advice (0121 248 4950) in relation to these matters, or the police in relation to obstructions of the public highway.

  • Fill in the form at the bottom of this page giving as much information as possible about the breach and how it adversely affects you or the neighbourhood. You can submit the form electronically or print it off and send it to us.

Frequently Asked Questions
    • We will

      • Acknowledge any complaint made within three working days of receiving it.
      • Assign your complaint to a Senior Enforcement Officer for investigation.
      • Visit the property to see what has taken place, what harm it is causing and how it might be resolved. This usually happens within 10 days, although more serious breaches (e.g. demolition of a listed building) will be visited as soon as possible.
      • Write a site report and, where necessary, discuss the matter with a planning officer to decide what, if any, action is to be taken.
      • Update you and other parties at key stages of the investigation and inform you of the outcome.

      If a breach is identified, the person responsible will be told what is wrong and what action is required to remedy the breach. In the majority of cases, unless there is serious and immediate ongoing harm to the environment, highway safety or neighbours, the person responsible will be given an opportunity to remedy the breach before the commencement of costly and protracted formal action.

      Please Note: Sometimes the investigation can take some time, for example when trying to find out if a property is being used for business purposes. We may have to serve legal notices on the owners to find out more information. A planning application may also be submitted during our investigations. If this happens you will be consulted on it and given a chance to formally give us you views. There is also a right of appeal against any formal notice or if planning permission is refused. Therefore, some complaints can take time to resolve.

    • If we find that a breach of planning control has occurred and is causing harm, we can:

      • request that changes are made to the development so that it is acceptable in planning terms;
      • request that details required by a planning condition are submitted or implemented;
      • ask for a retrospective planning application to be submitted to regularise the site. (This will give us the opportunity to consult on the development and we can impose controls through the use of conditions); or
      • request that construction work stops or that an unauthorised use ceases.
    • We always seek to resolve complaints without having to resort to formal enforcement action, as advised by government guidelines. However, if an unacceptable breach continues then we will consider using formal enforcement powers.

      Formal action can involve issuing one of the following notices:

      • Planning Contravention Notice
      • Enforcement Notice
      • Breach of Condition Notice
      • Temporary Stop Notice.
      • Stop Notice
      • Section 215 Untidy Land Notice.
      • Requisition for Information Notice

      Please Note:It is not a criminal offence to do something without planning permission, however carrying out unauthorised works to a listed building, the unauthorised display of advertisements or damage to a protected tree is a criminal offence.

      However, if a notice is served and is not complied with, it does become a criminal offence and is likely to lead to us considering further action, such as:

      • Prosecution;
      • Direct action, such as the demolition of an unauthorised structure; or
      • Injunction.

      See some examples of successful prosecutions here.

    • We will keep your details confidential during the investigation. Any comments you make on any planning application will however be on a public file. We may also have to disclose your details if we have to go to court to take legal action. We will, however, talk to you about this first if it is necessary.

    • We will visit you to discuss the matter. The leaflet below will be left with you and it explains the process. In brief you are advised to:-

      • Stop work on the development until a course of action has been discussed and agreed with us;
      • Respond promptly to any correspondence you receive, which might include a legal notice to provide us with more information.

      We recognise that genuine mistakes are made and will seek to advise you on a course of action as soon as possible.

    • Some extensions to residential properties may not need planning permission. It can depend on a number of factors, such as the size and height of the extension, the position in relation to the road and whether there have been previous extensions to the property. For a definitive view contact us or visit our Do I need planning permission? page for further information.

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