Enforcing planning rules

Most people seek the necessary planning consent, before commencing development. Sometimes we receive complaints about development taking place without planning consent, or contrary to planning consent conditions.

These complaints are investigated. Where appropriate, enforcement action is taken to resolve issues.

To raise concerns about a possible unauthorised development, or breach of planning control, see: Enforcement service request

These include:

  • a building, building works or any use of land;
  • an unauthorised advert;
  • unauthorised works to trees covered by a Tree preservation order ;
  • unauthorised works to a listed building;
  • alleged non-compliance with planning permission or conditions.

Before you complete the form

All names and addresses are kept confidential. If you wish to remain anonymous, your local Councillor can raise it on your behalf, see: Your Councillor .

Does the development, or use, already have planning permission?

Before completing the form, search Planning portal to check the site's planning history, visit: Search for planning applications .

Does the development, or use, need planning permission?

Not all development needs planning permission. Permitted development rights remove the need for express planning permission for certain minor building works, or changes of use.

For more information, visit: Permitted development rights .

Has a request already been submitted?

To search for existing enforcement notices, including any decisions and additional information, see: Search enforcement notices

For more information, read: PDFEnforcement policy [PDF 138KB] .


Enforcement guidance

Planning enforcement is not a statutory function of the Council. Unlike the determination of planning applications, it is discretionary. It is up to the Council, not private individuals, to determine to take formal action.

It is not an offence to carry out development before getting the necessary planning consent, except for:


Formal enforcement action cannot be taken just because the necessary planning consent has not been granted. Enforcement action can only be taken where:

Note: Breaches of planning control are governed by legislation. They are complex and can be open to interpretation.


General information about planning enforcement

Formal enforcement action is unlikely to be taken for minor breaches of planning control, such as:

  • fences;
  • adverts that do not cause any highway issues;
  • amenity issues;
  • development which marginally exceeds the tolerances for permitted development.


Once a complaint is registered, a site may be visited by an officer, if necessary, to verify the complaint.

The owner, or developer, will need to submit a planning application, if planning control appears to be breached.

Note: Planning enforcement is not a quick fix solution.

Planning legislation is complex, with required processes and procedures and investigations can take a long time. Due to this, it is not possible to provide regular updates. You will be notified of any significant issues and the outcome. The Council will try to deal with your concerns as quickly and efficiently as possible.


When an enforcement service request is received

Enforcement officers aim to visit sites within 4 weeks, to assess if planning regulations are being breached. If it appears that there is a breach, the person responsible will be asked to correct the breach. This can mean:

  • submitting a retrospective planning application ;
  • ceasing the unauthorised activities and / or removing any unauthorised development;
  • demonstrating that planning permission has been obtained, or is not required.

If no progress is seen to be made, formal enforcement will be considered.

Enforcement action is required to protect the public interest. Mainly, does the breach of planning control 'unacceptably' affect:

  • public amenity; or
  • existing use of land and buildings?

Enforcement action should not be taken for trivial or technical breaches of planning control. This is when breaches cause no harm to the surrounding neighbourhood.

Note: Enforcement action cannot be taken just because there has been a breach of planning control.

Main enforcement powers available

The main enforcement powers available are:

  • planning contravention notice;
  • breach of condition of notice;
  • enforcement notice;
  • stop notice.


Time limits

Development becomes immune from enforcement action:

  • 4 years after substantial completion;
  • 10 years for most unauthorised activities and breach of conditions.


Main enforcement powers available

  1. Planning contravention notice

    • This enables the local planning authority to obtain information about a suspected breach of planning control.
    • It is an offence to ignore: maximum penalty £1,000.
  2. Breach of condition of notice

    • This is served where a condition on a planning permission is not being complied with.
    • It requires compliance with condition within a specified timescale.
    • It is not appealable, therefore quicker than enforcement notice.
    • It is an offence not to comply: maximum penalty £2,500.
  3. Enforcement notice

    • This can be served where development is done without planning permission, or where a condition is not being complied with.
    • It requires the rectification of a breach, within a specified timescale.
    • The recipient has a right of appeal. For further guidance on appealing against an enforcement notice, visit: Enforcement notice appeals .
    • It is an offence not to comply: maximum penalty £20,000.
    • There are direct-action powers available to Council, if an enforcement notice is not complied with.
  4. Stop notice

    • This is a 'draconian' measure, used in exceptional circumstances where it is essential that:
      1. activities cease to safeguard amenity or public safety in the neighbourhood; or
      2. activities cease to prevent serious or irreversible harm to the environment.
    • This is always served with an enforcement notice.
    • It requires activities to cease within a minimum period, which is usually three days.
    • It cannot be appealed against.
    • It is an offence not to comply: maximum penalty £20,000.
    • There are compensation implications.
  5. Listed building enforcement notice

    • This is similar to an enforcement notice. It is used when work on a listed building is done without consent or in contravention of a consent condition.
  6. Injunction

    • This is an order of the High Court or the County Court. It can be used to restrain an actual or apprehended breach of planning or listed building control.
    • It is used where nothing short of an injunction would be effective to restrain breaches.
    • There are compensation implications.
  7. Penalties or other offences

    • For cutting down, uprooting or wilfully destroying a protected tree £20,000.
    • For other works to protected tree £2,500.
    • For unauthorised works to £20,000.
    • For displaying an advertisement in contravention of advertisement regulations: £1,000 with a further fine of £1,000 a day for continuation of the offence.


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