Planning compliance charter: introduction

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The purpose of the compliance charter

The planning regime exists to regulate the development and use of land in the public interest. Planning policies are adopted both nationally and locally to make sure that land is used and developed in an appropriate and responsible way. Applications for planning consent are submitted to Denbighshire County Council and judged against these adopted policies.

Not everyone applies for planning consent when they should. This is where the planning compliance function comes in. This charter sets out how the Council seeks to deal with the harmful effects of unauthorised works by ensuring that planning policies are applied proportionately but robustly.

The charter’s primary purpose is to help complainants, alleged contraveners and other interested parties understand how the planning compliance function operates. The Council wishes to work alongside local stakeholders to remedy unauthorised works, in the knowledge that working together is the most effective approach to dealing with breaches of planning control. Advice for complainants is provided in section 2, and advice for alleged contraveners is provided in section 3.

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What is a breach of planning control?

A breach of planning control is defined in the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 as: "the carrying out of a development without the required planning permission, or failing to comply with any condition or limitation subject to which planning permission has been granted".

The term ‘development’ is also defined in the Act, as follows:

“the carrying out of building, engineering, mining or other operations in, on, over or under land, or the making of any material change in the use of any buildings or other land”.

In other words, a breach of planning control is a ‘development’ which has occurred but which a) does not have planning permission, or b) is contrary to conditions imposed on a planning permission. These are the types of breach which the planning compliance function primarily deals with (see what we do and don’t investigate for more information).

It is not necessarily against the law to carry out a development without planning permission. In most cases, there is no legal obligation on developers to apply for planning consent prior to undertaking works - though it is usually simpler for all involved if they do. If they don’t, they run the risk of the Council pursuing enforcement action in order to remedy the breach. An offence may then be committed if a developer, upon receipt of an enforcement notice, fails to comply with it.

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Development which does not need planning permission

It is quite often the case that building works or changes of use do not need the Council’s consent in the first place. Some development, typically small in scale, is classed as ‘permitted development’, meaning that it is exempt from the requirement for planning permission. Many extensions to houses, for example, do not need planning permission. Permitted development rights can also apply to changes of use, both temporary and permanent.

Further information about permitted development rights, and whether a development requires planning permission, can be found on the planning permission section of the Welsh Government website (external website).

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Avoiding planning compliance involvement

It is the responsibility of the property owner (or, in limited cases, the person carrying out works) to comply with planning regulations. To avoid the potential involvement of the planning compliance officer, prospective developers should ensure that all of the appropriate consents are in place prior to commencing works. Developers are also advised to inform neighbours about their plans from the outset.

The Welsh Government’s website provides extensive guidance in relation to common projects which may need planning consent (external website). The Council has also published relevant advice. Of this guidance, the Council’s supplementary planning guidance (“SPG”) documents, are especially useful; covering a wide range of topics, they are tailored to different types of scheme. For example, business owners may find the SPG documents on advertising and shop fronts particularly useful. The documents on Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas may be of use to developers who are carrying out works on a heritage asset. More detailed guidance can be obtained from a planning consultant; a list of agents who operate within Denbighshire is also available.

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Lawful development certificates

The Council does not give informal advice on the need for planning permission. Developers who are unsure as to whether their project needs planning permission are recommended instead to make an application for a lawful development certificate. This process is not the same as making an application for planning permission; it is a less onerous process which will provide formal confirmation of whether a specified use, operation or activity is lawful for planning purposes. See more information about how to apply for a lawful development certificate.

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Pre-application advice service

The Council also offers a pre-application advice service which enables prospective developers to get an informal opinion on the acceptability of the proposed works. To arrange this service, applicants must complete a pre-application advice form which is available on the Council’s website. So long as all the necessary information has been provided, we aim to provide a written response to pre-application enquiries within 21 days.

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