Who makes the basic rules?
What types of development does the council deal with?
We, as a County Planning Authority (CPA), are responsible for controlling minerals and waste-related development and will investigate complaints or concerns about activities involving mineral extraction sites or waste transfer, treatment or disposal sites, which include the importation of waste on private land. This does not include fly tipping, which is a Local Planning Authority (Borough or District) responsibility. Report fly tipping to your district or borough council.
How do I complain or enquire about unauthorised development?
You should contact our Planning Enforcement and Monitoring Team.
Is planning permission necessary before any development takes place?
No, but most development requires planning permission. In the case of mineral working and processing and waste-related development we, as the CPA, is usually the decision making authority.
Planning decisions are taken having regard to the particular circumstances in each case and on the basis of the planning policies set out in the Development Plan and any other factors that are relevant for a planning purpose. The Development Plan currently consists of the adopted Local Development Framework Documents in Surrey including the Surrey Waste Local Plan 2019-2033, the Surrey Minerals Plan Core Strategy 2011, the Primary Aggregates Development Plan Document 2011, the Aggregates Recycling Joint Development Plan Document 2013 and the relevant borough or district Plan.
We will also take advice from statutory bodies such as the Environment Agency and other specialist consultees. The public can also make representations in relation to planning applications which will be taken into account when a decision is made. For more information see How are planning applications decided?
When will we take enforcement action?
Enforcement action is discretionary and we must decide whether it is expedient to act to control the development: see section 7 of the Planning Enforcement and Monitoring Protocol, Minerals and Waste Planning Development (PDF) dated February 2022. We will consider enforcement action when there is no planning permission or where there is a failure to comply with any condition or limitation imposed on the planning permission and no acceptable remedy is proposed by the landowner or operator.
In some cases the landowner or operator may voluntarily agree and commit to carry out works which resolve the harm caused and will confirm this in writing. Such works will be monitored by County Enforcement Officers.
An alternative course to enforcement action is inviting a retrospective planning application. In inviting such an application we must consider the merits of granting planning permission for the unauthorised development. Government advice states that the fact that the development has already taken place should make no difference to our consideration of the proposal.
The decision to take enforcement action in any particular case will depend on the particular circumstances that apply including the degree of harm that may arise as a result of the continued breach of planning control. The continued protection of the Green Belt will be an important consideration.
What sort of action can the County Council take?
Where a breach of planning control is suspected a Planning Contravention Notice can be served to obtain information about the site and activity. Where a condition is not complied with a Breach of Condition Notice can be issued and cannot be appealed. If the activity must cease and or works are required then an Enforcement Notice may be served specifying requisite actions or works to remedy the breach of planning control. A Temporary Stop Notice may be served as an interim measure where urgency is required in halting a use or activity. A Stop Notice may be served in addition to an Enforcement Notice requiring works to cease promptly and will be effective in the interim if there is an appeal by the landowner/operator against the Enforcement Notice – see below.
A Planning Enforcement Injunction seeks to restrain an individual or individuals from carrying on a breach of planning control. An injunction is a discretionary measure imposed by the courts and any failure to comply with its terms is serious and may result in imprisonment. The service of a Stop Notice will require an assessment of the foreseeable costs to the business, operator or landowner against the amenity benefit likely to result for the action.
Does the landowner or operator have a right of appeal?
There is the right of appeal in the case of an Enforcement Notice. A decision would be made by an independent inspector appointed by the Planning Inspectorate following a Local Public Inquiry or possibly a Local Hearing or the exchange of Written Representations. An appeal effectively suspends an Enforcement Notice until the appeal is finally determined or the notice is withdrawn.
An application to the courts for a Planning Enforcement Injunction may be contested by the landowner or operator. The evidence in a case will be considered by a judge who will then make a decision. The decision to make an injunction order is at the discretion of the judge.
Who makes the decision to enforce?
Planning and Legal Officers have delegated authority to take enforcement action, or conversely not to initiate enforcement action.
Enforcement cases are not normally referred to the Planning and Regulatory Committee given the need to act promptly in many cases although Members are kept advised of all enforcement action taken.
Borough or district councils deal with all other forms of development. They may deal with waste planning matters, where this has been agreed with us in cases where there are overlapping responsibilities, such as Mixed Uses where the waste element of the breaches are in the minority.
How long will the process take?
The CPA will investigate an alleged breach of planning control and may need to obtain further information to progress matters. A landowner or operator will usually be given time to respond to written questions. The case is considered by both Planning and Legal officers. Occasionally some cases are treated on an urgent basis, which may result in a Temporary Stop Notice being issued, but these only have a 28-day lifespan. Enforcement Notices take longer, but once issued are permanent unless appealed by the recipient or withdrawn by the CPA.
Injunctions require the submission of detailed evidence to the courts and there may also be a waiting list for court time. In urgent cases an interim injunction can be sought, which if granted will remain in force until the final hearing, at which point the court will decide whether to make the injunction final. On an application for an interim injunction the landowner/operator is normally given notice of the injunction hearing although in exceptional cases an interim injunction may be granted without notice.
Planning appeals often add significantly to the timescales in seeking to resolve breached of planning control and waiting lists of many months are not uncommon.
How is the environment protected where there are vulnerable interests?
In each case we are required by Regulation 37 of Statutory Instrument 2017 No 571: The Town and Country Planning (Environmental Impact Assessment) Regulations 2017 to consider whether Environmental Assessment is required. The requirement to consider the need for Environmental Assessment also extends to cases where it is not proposed to take enforcement action.
Is there a third party right of appeal for the public where enforcement action has not been taken?
If you are concerned about progress at a particular site then you can speak to your County Councillor who will be able to pursue matters with officers on your behalf.
A member of public may use our complaints procedure where they are concerned about the nature of action taken by the CPA where unauthorised development has been alleged. The public may also refer the case to the Local Government Ombudsman.
The possibility of judicial review exists where third parties with "sufficient interest" feel that a decision of the County Planning Authority is unlawful or unreasonable