Planning enforcement

We investigate alleged breaches of planning control. Please let us know about any concerns you may have about unauthorised developments.

As a local planning authority, we have the power to take action against breaches of planning control if development has occurred without the necessary planning permissions. We also have the power to take action against unauthourised works to a protected tree or a tree in a conservation area.

A breach of planning control is not a criminal offence and planning enforcement action is discretionary.

We will investigate whether there is a breach, establish what harm is caused as a result of it and then how the situation can be remedied. Immediate enforcement action is sometimes necessary, however in most cases planning authorities allow a person reasonable time to remedy the situation. This may mean submitting a retropective planning application, removing an unauthorised structure or stopping any unauthorised use.

What types of complaint will be investigated?

For a breach of planning control to have occurred, it must be established that development requiring planning permission has taken place. Such development could include building an extension, alterations to a building or changing the use of a building. A breach may also occur if planning permission has been granted, but the conditions attached to the permission are not being complied with. This is a breach of condition.

What we can investigate:

  • Unauthorised building 
  • Unauthorised changes of use
  • Unauthorised works to a Listed Building
  • Display of unauthorised advertisements/signage
  • Untidy land
  • Unauthorised works to Protected Trees
  • Unauthorised works to trees in a conservation area
  • Noise nuisance or pollution from construction work

What we cannot investigate:

Make a complaint

If you would like to make a complaint regarding a possible breach of planning control, fill in our enforcement complaint form or download a complaint form, returning it to the address provided. We need you to fill this in so we get enough information to investigate. Any anonymous complaints are dealt with, but as a low priority. The name and address of a complainant is confidential, although if you decide to comment on any subsequent planning applications, these comments will be available for the public to read. We will acknowledge the receipt of your complaint within three working days and give you of the name of the officer dealing with it. We visit the site to investigate the alleged breach and our records will be checked.

What action can we take?

It is a criminal offence to carry out unauthorised works to a listed building or a tree protected by a Tree Preservation Order (TPO). Prosecution may lead to a conviction in the criminal courts.

It is not a criminal offence to carry our unauthorised works or changes without planning permission. However any unauthorised work is carried out at the owners risk and if there is proven harm, enforcement action may be pursued to rectify the breach of planning control. When taking enforcement action the government requires us to be able to show that the breach of planning control is causing harm. This is especially important when we are considering formal enforcement action to remedy a breach.

Types of formal enforcement action

There are several options available to us where a clear breach of control has occurred:

  • Planning Contravention Notice - These may be used where there could have been a breach of planning control and information is required about the activities on the land or the nature of the recipient's interest in the land.
  • Enforcement Notice - These notices require the steps to be taken to remedy the breach in a set time period.
  • Stop Notice - These immediately stop any activity that is in breach of planning control and are served in conjunction with an enforcement notice.
  • Temporary Stop Notice - Similar to a stop notice except they last a maximum of 28 days. During this period the we will decide whether it is appropriate to take enforcement action.
  • Breach of Condition Notice - These notices are issued where there is a failure to comply with any condition or limitation imposed on a planning permission.
  • Listed Building Enforcement Notice - Similar to enforcement notice but is used when works to a listed building have occurred without the benefit of listed building consent or in contravention of a condition of such a consent.

The final resort for planning enforcement action is prosecution, which is referred to the courts. This can lead to conviction and a fine. Enforcement action we have taken can be viewed using the Public Access system.