Planning Enforcement


Certain developments (in particular some house extensions, and occasionally industrial extensions) can qualify for an automatic planning permission granted by the planning legislation, provided that certain criteria are met (‘permitted development’). However, upon confirmation of a Breach of Planning Control (breaking planning regulations) wherever possible the Council will attempt to resolve the breach by negotiation and voluntary action rather than instigating formal or legal action. This is often successful. It normally includes providing an opportunity to the owner or occupier to seek planning permission retrospectively.

However, if insufficient progress is made, formal action is taken, principally under the Town and Country Planning Act 1990. Such action will also be necessary if a planning application has been refused and the development is not removed or altered voluntarily. This legislation provides planning authorities with powers to investigate and to issue various notices in relation to breaches of planning control;

  • Planning Contravention Notice – Issued to formally require information related to a suspected breach.
  • Enforcement Notice –Used to require removal or modification of developments such as unauthorised construction works and changes of use.
  • Stop Notice – Used in circumstances where the continuation of unauthorised development, pending normal enforcement notice and appeal procedures, is extremely harmful.
  • Breach of Condition Notice – Used when conditions are not complied with e.g. restriction on hours of use, or a requirement to draw up and carry out a landscaping scheme.
  • Section 215 Notice- Used to require improvements to the appearance of derelict land and buildings, when its poor maintenance seriously harms the surrounding area.
  • Commence Prosecutions – In respect of unauthorised outdoor advertisements or works to Listed Buildings, as these involve prosecutable offences.

Resources do not allow all cases to be given equal priority. Some matters may cause considerably more harm to the environment, public safety, residential amenity, or heritage buildings, than others.

Report a suspected breach of planning control

If you are concerned about something which you suspect involves a breach of planning control (breaks planning regulations) you can report it for investigation.

To do this you will need to register online before you can complete our online Enforcement Complaint web form.

Once you have registered your details, please fill out the form in as much detail as possible. Within 15 working days your complaint will be logged and you will be notified of the officer who will be dealing with the case.

What happens if you have carried out building works or a change of use without Planning Permission?

When an enquiry is received or an Officer notices that development is being carried out, if there is no record of planning approval being granted the Planning Enforcement Team will investigate. This will usually include a site inspection by an Enforcement Officer in order to assess if planning permission is required. In some cases other Council Services, for example Environmental Health, or outside agencies, for example, the Environment Agency, will be advised.

If Planning Permission is not required

You will be advised in writing within 15 days of the Officers visit that planning permission is not required and that no further action will be taken under Planning legislation. Please note that all persons who have asked us to investigate will also be informed of our findings.

Planning Contravention Notices

During the course of investigating an enquiry, it is sometimes necessary for more information to be sought, in order that we can establish whether there has been a breach of planning control and be in a position to properly advise you. In these cases a Planning Contravention Notice may be served. If a Planning Contravention Notice is served it is a criminal offence not to comply with its requirements.

What happens if Planning Permission is required

Any works you have carried out that are unauthorised are at risk of enforcement action. You will therefore, be advised to undertake the following action:

  1. To remove the development or cease the use within a reasonable period of time, usually 28 days, or
  2. Submit a retrospective planning application within 28 days. You should be provided with planning application forms. An application will need to be accompanied with a fee and also scale drawings and location plans (officers can  advise you what is required).

You will also be given a preliminary indication on whether a planning application would be approved, if submitted.

If you are advised that the development is unacceptable then this means that it does not accord with the Unitary Development Plan policies and would be unlikely to be granted planning permission. You can still apply for permission. If it is refused you can appeal to the Planning Inspectorate who works on behalf of the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM). You will be advised of the procedures involved.

The majority of the enforcement investigations are resolved without the need for forDal enforcement action.

If Planning Permission is required and you do not submit an application

If a planning application is not submitted within 28 days (or longer period agreed by the Enforcement Team) and a Breach of Planning Control continues, a report will be submitted to the Planning Committee who might authorise Enforcement Action. Enforcement Action will, however, only be recommended where development is unacceptable, and it is expedient to do so. If an enforcement notice is served there is a right to appeal to the Planning Inspectorate.

If a Planning Application is submitted and approved

If the planning application is approved no further enforcement action will be taken under planning legislation, although it will be necessary to adhere to any conditions attached to the approval. A Breach of Condition Notice can be served if you do not comply with the conditions. There is no right of appeal against a Breach of Condition Notice and the Council can prosecute against failure to comply with the Notice.

If a Planning Application is submitted and refused

If a planning application is refused an Enforcement Notice will more than likely be authorised to be served at the same time.

If enforcement action is authorised

The procedure is as follows:

  1. A Requisition for Information Notice may be served in order to identify all persons with an interest in the land. It is a criminal offence not to comply with a Requisition For Information and the Council can instigate legal proceedings.
  2. The Enforcement Notice will be served setting out what steps are required to be taken and the time period for carrying out the requirements.

There is a right of appeal to the Planning Inspectorate against the serving of the notice, but you must appeal within 28 days of the date the Notice comes into effect. Information regarding appeal procedures will be sent to you when the enforcement notice is served.

At the end of the compliance period an Enforcement Officer will visit the site to ascertain if the Enforcement Notice has been complied with.

All authorised enforcement action will be revealed on any Local Search carried out on the property.

What happens if you do not comply with the Enforcement Notice?

It is a criminal offence not to comply with any step required by the Enforcement Notice, once the compliance period has expired. The Council may therefore instigate legal proceedings. The penalty on conviction, for being in breach of an Enforcement Notice is a maximum fine of £20,000 if tried in the Magistrates Court or an unlimited fine if tried in the Crown Court.

Immunity from enforcement action

If you are advised that planning permission is required for works or changes of use that have been carried out, and you do not agree with this view, or you consider that the development is immune from enforcement action because planning permission is not required, or has been there for more than 4 years in the case of residential use or development, or 10 years in the case of changes of use (please ask us for more information on this if required) you can apply for a certificate of Lawful Existing Use or Development, which is a legal determination. If you apply for a Lawful Existing Use or Development, the onus is on you to prove that the development has existed for the appropriate period of time. You will be required to submit supporting documentation.

What we do not investigate

Please note that the Planning Enforcement Team does not investigate;

  • Neighbour disputes
  • Land boundaries or ownership disputes
  • Works to party walls
  • Use of , or development on, highways, pavements or verges.
  • Dangerous structures
  • Fly-tipping
  • Graffiti

Contact us

Development Management
2nd Floor, Civic Centre
Darwall Street

Telephone 01922 652677
Textphone and TextBox 0845 111 2910

Visit us

At the First Stop Shop

Office opening times

  • Monday to Friday: 8.45am – 1.00pm

If you are unable to visit the office during the above hours, please email with your enquiry.

This page was last updated on 30 November 2016