Planning Enforcement

Planning enforcement investigates possible breaches of planning control and aims to resolve these using the most appropriate means of action.
It is your local planning authority that has responsibility for taking whatever enforcement action may be necessary in the public interest. Enforcement powers are mostly discretionary.

If you have concerns and wish to report a potential breach of planning control, you should contact your local planning authority who will then ask for further information such as the development address and details of the type of development that is being undertaken. Before pursuing enforcement action, a planning authority will consider the development and decide whether it is acceptable in planning terms.

The types of breaches that a planning authority can investigate include for example:

  • a material change of use of land;
  • a new structure, building or physical works e.g. erection of fences and buildings,
  • works that are not being carried out in accordance with plans approved as part of a planning permission;
  • a breach of a condition attached to a planning permission;
  • an untidy site;
  • works to a tree if it is within a conservation area or is protected by a Tree Preservation Order:
  • the display of some of types of advertisements without consent;
  • works to a listed building without consent.

There are different routes of enforcement that a local planning authority can take which include for example, issuing an Enforcement Notice, Breach of Condition Notice, Stop Notice or Injunction.

Local planning authorities must act within specified time limits and for most types of ‘operational development’ plus the change of use of a building to a single dwelling house, the time limit is 4 years after the development is completed. For any other breach of planning control, the time limit is 10 years after completion.

If you have been contacted by the local planning authority and you wish to claim immunity from enforcement action, it is likely that the local planning authority will require evidence of this such as receipts to show when work was undertaken. In some cases, you may be asked to apply for a Certificate of Lawful Development where you will need to provide enough evidence to support the application and for the local planning authority to determine whether the use is immune from enforcement action.

In other cases, you may be invited to submit a planning application which is termed a retrospective planning application. This type of application is made for a development after it has taken place when investigating a breach of planning control. In some instances, the local planning authority will find the development acceptable subject to planning conditions.

If you have been served with an Enforcement Notice this is a notice served against unauthorised development requiring the development to be demolished or the unauthorised use to cease. If you wish to appeal, this must be received by the Planning Inspectorate before the “effective date” given on the Notice. You may wish to view the Appeals section of our website for further information regarding Appeals.

Question not answered?

If you are still looking for advice, you may be able to get assistance via our free telephone Helpline.

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