5. Making a complaint
4.1 Most investigations into breaches of planning control result from complaints from the public, Councillors or Parish Councils, but the Council will act pro-actively where a significant breach of planning control is apparent even if no complaint has been received. All investigations will follow the same general procedure as set out below. Complaints can be made on-line, by email, in writing, by telephone or in person.
4.2 The Planning Enforcement service will not normally take the lead in investigating possible breaches of planning control that occur on Council-owned land or on highway land. The appropriate Council service or the Highway Authority (Devon County Council) will have stronger powers to remedy such breaches.
4.3 When the complaint is received:
It will be acknowledged within 5 working days. Phone callers will not receive a separate acknowledgement as the complainant will be advised of the way forward during their initial call.
• Complainant’s identities will be kept confidential, unless they are asked to collect and submit evidence to help secure a prosecution in which case their identity and evidence will subsequently be made public.
• Anonymous complaints will not normally be investigated unless they allege serious breaches of planning control.
• Action on complaints will be prioritised (see 4.4 below).
4.4 Complaints will be prioritised in accordance with the following categories:
1. High Priority Complaints – Requiring Immediate Investigation
- Development resulting in concerns for public health and safety which are controllable through planning legislation.
- Works of demolition, significant alteration or extension causing substantial harm to, or total loss of, a heritage asset.
- Works to protected trees (either those covered by a Tree Preservation Order or those within a conservation area), important hedgerows and non-compliance with tree protection conditions where there is a likelihood of substantial harm to significant trees and hedgerows.
- Demolition of important unlisted buildings/heritage assets in conservation areas.
- Development that may adversely affect or destroy a site of nature conservation value.
- Development that has a significant impact on the natural environment.
- Significant unauthorised building works/structures.
- Uses and activities that cause significant disruption by reason of noise, smell, fumes or other forms of nuisance.
2. Medium Priority Complaints – Investigation to commence and complainant to be informed of progress within 15 working days
- Operational and building works not covered under A. above.
- Changes of use resulting in harm to residential amenity or the immediate environment.
- Non-compliance with conditions/planning obligations resulting in harm to residential amenity or where there is less likelihood of substantial harm to significant trees and hedgerows.
- New build and other works within conservation areas not covered under A. above.
- Where immunity from enforcement action due to the passage of time will come into effect shortly.
Other works causing less than substantial, or no, harm to the significance of a heritage asset.
3. Low Priority Complaints – Investigation to commence and complainant to be informed of progress within 25 working days
- Other changes of use.
- Other minor building works and structures e.g. garden sheds, walls, fences etc.
- Untidy land.
- Non-Compliance with other conditions.
- Satellite dishes.
- Works to listed buildings not carried out recently.