Enforcement action is a discretionary power. Government published the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) and paragraph 207 states:
‘Effective enforcement is important as a means of maintaining public confidence in the planning system. Enforcement action is discretionary, and local planning authorities should act proportionately in responding to suspected breaches of planning control. Local planning authorities should consider publishing a local enforcement plan to manage enforcement proactively, in a way that is appropriate to their area. This should set out how they will monitor the implementation of planning permissions, investigate alleged cases of unauthorised development and take action where it is appropriate to do so.’
The decisive issue for the Authority should be whether the breach of control would unacceptably affect amenity or the existing use of land and buildings which merit protection in the public interest.
- Enforcement action should always be commensurate with the breach of planning control to which it relates
- Negotiation should not be allowed to hamper or delay whatever formal enforcement action may be required to make the development acceptable on planning grounds, or to compel it to stop
- Enforcement action should not be taken solely to ‘regularise’ development which is acceptable on its planning merits but for which permission has not been sought;
- If a breach of control is causing serious harm to public amenity, the Authority should normally take vigorous action.
Many courses of formal action are however dependent upon how long the use or development has been carried out providing it is not considered that the use or development has been concealed.