Flintshire County Council is set to take on clearer guidelines for tackling breaches of planning laws.
It follows a high number of complaints from residents and politicians about how the council carries out planning enforcement.
During a recent meeting, members of the planning strategy group highlighted a number of ‘historic failings’, as well as current issues with communication.
Concerns have also been raised about the lack of staff available to take enforcement action.
A review has been conducted and cabinet members are now being asked to adopt a revised policy to reduce the impact on people’s living conditions.
The policy sets out the circumstances which will trigger an investigation by officers, including developments being carried out without permission or against the terms where permission has been granted.
It states: “For the planning system to work effectively in the best interests of all, there is a need for an effective planning enforcement system, supported through a range of legislation and associated powers.
“Whilst there is a considerable range of enforcement powers available to the council, formal enforcement action will normally be used as a last resort.
“The decisive issue for the council must be whether the breach of control unacceptably harms the environment, people’s amenity and quality of life, public safety, or some other public interest of acknowledged importance to a material extent.
“This extent is judged by the expertise of the council officers.”
Other examples where action might be taken include adverts being displayed without consent, unauthorised work being carried out on listed buildings and damage to trees which are subject to a preservation order.
Feedback received in response to a consultation on the policy included suggestions that the authority’s planning committee should be notified if conditions are not enforced.
Questions were also raised about how the policy will be funded and whether any extra officers will be taken on.
However, the council’s chief officer for planning, environment and economy, Andrew Farrow, said it would not be possible.
In a report, he said: “There is not currently any requirement within the council’s constitution to report alleged breaches of planning conditions to the planning committee.
“Many alleged breaches of planning conditions are unfounded and many actual breaches are relatively minor.
“It is recommended that time would be best spent resolving those breaches of conditions which have occurred and responding to local complainants and/or local members.
“In response to issues regarding resource there is not any further resource within the development service.
“The enforcement function will be carried out by two enforcement officers.”
Cabinet members will be asked to approve a revised version of the policy when they meet on Tuesday.
By Liam Randall – Local Democracy Reporter (more here).