THE backlog of over 1,800 outstanding planning enforcement cases in Bradford has been described as "horrifying" by a top councillor.

New figures show the extent to which planning laws in Bradford are being flouted in the district, and how the Council is struggling to stay on top of the many breaches of planning law.

An annual report on how Bradford Council deals with planning applications shows that in the last 12 months, planning officers issued 153 enforcement notices. In the same time period they only made four prosecutions. Just six years earlier, in the 2011/12 municipal year, there were 14 breaches taken to court after 106 enforcement notices were issued.

The most up to date number of cases in Bradford that have yet to be dealt with stands at 1,827.

The report will be discussed by the Council’s Regulatory and Appeals Committee on Wednesday.

The figures show that despite the high number of active cases, the past year saw 1,043 cases closed.

Enforcement notices have been issued for a variety of planning breaches, from illegal roller shutters being installed to businesses trading outside their allocated operating hours to inappropriate changes to buildings and shop fronts.

Councillor John Pennington, leader of the Conservatives on Bradford Council, said: “These figures are quite horrifying. The rules and regulations are there to protect the heritage of our district, but it seems like there is a system of getting around the regulations. We really need to toughen up. When rules are broken there always seems to be an excuse afterwards, but we shouldn't be getting to the 'afterwards' stage. We need to remember, that once something is gone, it's gone.

"The reason the rules are flouted so much is because people are never seen to be prosecuted when they break them."

One recent high profile enforcement case saw the Council issue an enforcement notice when a historic shop front was torn down on Ivegate, and replaced with a modern frontage. Last month the issue finally ended when the owner successfully applied for permission to build a more sympathetic frontage. However, the sage took over 19 months to come to an end.

Si Cunningham, chair of the Bradford Civic Society, said: “The figures show that enforcement is an ineffectual process, and we’ve had some high profile cases in Bradford recently that highlight how divisive things can become when the council has to go down such a punitive route.

“Prevention will always be better and much cheaper than cure, so we really need a more proactive approach to planning and design matters. Within the Civic Society, we’re currently forming a new design review panel – something we’re hoping to work closely with council officers and developers on. But we’d also urge the council to update its own city centre design guide or at least make it more accessible.”

A Bradford Council spokesperson, said: “The vast majority of complaints (over 90 per cent) received by the council’s Planning Enforcement Team are resolved by officers without the need for formal enforcement action this means the number of prosecutions taken by the council is kept low. The number of outstanding enforcement cases is falling year on year.”

The Telegraph & Argus has been shown correspondence between a resident asking for an update on an enforcement notice and an enforcement officer. It says: "Unfortunately there are many such cases requiring court action and due to very limited staff resources and high workloads, it is not always possible to progress such matters as quickly as the Council would like.

"In most cases the Council attempts to resolve outstanding matters without having to resort to court action, due to the costs involved and demand on officer time."

The meeting will be held at 1.30pm on Wednesday at City Hall.