Enforcement Visits | Colchester Borough Council

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Enforcement Visits

TEST: Article

What happens if you receive a visit from a Planning Officer.


  • What happens when you receive a visit from a Planning Officer
  • What a Planning Contravention Notice is
  • What Concealment Powers are
  • View the Enforcement file

If you received a visit from a Planning Enforcement Officer, it’s possible that we received a complaint or query about your development being completed without planning permission.

This can include constructing an extension or outbuilding, or a change of use of the building (such as running a business from your home, or creating new residential accommodation).

We will visit your property to ascertain whether the alleged breach is taking place. Usually, this will be carried out without prior appointment.

If a breach is found, the investigating officer will advise you on how we intend to proceed (usually in writing).

If there is no breach, then no further action will be taken.

Planning Officer Visit

Under Section 196 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 (as amended), authorised officers of a Council have the right to enter land to ascertain if a breach of planning control has occurred.

It’s an offense to obstruct an officer, and if access is denied, the officer(s) will apply for a warrant in the Magistrates Court.

Officers are required to give 24 hours notice before entering a building used as a dwelling house, but this doesn’t apply to the area around a dwelling or any outbuildings.

Similar powers of entry exist for listed buildings.

When visiting occupied sites, officers will always try to make themselves known to anybody on the site, and will explain the reasoning for the visit before beginning their inspection.

If the officer(s) are unable to gain access to the land and there is no one to assist them, they will leave a calling card asking for the owner to contact them so that a later inspection can be arranged.

Planning Contravention Notice

A Planning Contravention Notice is a legal document that requires landowners and/or occupiers to provide us with certain information about activity that we believe might be taking place on the land.

Failure to provide the necessary information within 21 days is a criminal offence (liable for prosecution in the Magistrates Court, with a maximum fine of £1,000).

It’s also an offence to knowingly or recklessly provide false/misleading information, with a maximum fine of £5000.

Concealment Powers

Concealment Powers were introduced in the Localism Act.

They allow us to pursue enforcement action against developments after becoming aware that a breach has been deliberately concealed, even if up to 10 years have passed since the development, and they would have otherwise been lawful.

In the case that a landowner conceals developments from us, it will be harder for them to become exempt from future enforcement action.

Developments that haven’t been concealed will still be assessed against 4 or 10 year periods, and could still be accepted as lawful, and therefore exempt from enforcement action.

Enforcement file

You can request to view the enforcement file through a Freedom of Information / Environmental Information Regulation request.

Make a Request

If you’re given the option to see the enforcement file, the complainant’s identity will be withheld, and certain information may also be withheld.

We can’t disclose any details about the complainant(s) as we hold a policy of confidentiality in order to ensure that customers are protected, and to comply with the Data Protection Legislation, unless enforcement action leads to legal proceedings.