Planning enforcement

The planning enforcement service deals with alleged breaches and cases where alterations have been made or something has been built by individuals or businesses without permitted development rights or planning permission.

More about permitted development on our check if you need planning permission page.

A breach can also occur when the use of land or a building has altered without permission, where conditions attached to planning approvals have not been complied with, and where unauthorised advertisements have been installed.

Defining a breach of planning control

A breach of planning control is defined in the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 as the carrying out of a development without the required planning permission, or failing to comply with any condition or limitation subject to which planning permission has been granted.

Breaches of planning control occur in many ways and an enforcement complaint can be made when:

  • building work, engineering operations and material changes of use are carried out without planning permission
  • development has planning permission, but is not carried out in accordance with the approved plans
  • failure to comply with the terms of a legal agreement (S106 obligations) attached to a permission or consent
  • demolition takes place in conservation areas without the required planning permission
  • works carried out on a listed building, which affect the historic character or setting, without listed building consent
  • removal of, or works carried out on, protected trees and hedgerows without consent or proper notification
  • advertisements that require express consent under the advertisement regulations, which are displayed without consent
  • flyposting
  • failure to comply with the requirements of a planning legal notice - for example, a planning enforcement notice, a planning contravention notice, a breach of condition notice, or stop notice.

It's not an offence to carry out development without planning permission; an offence will only occur if the development involves unauthorised advertisements, works to protected trees or listed buildings, or if a formal notice has been served but has not been complied with.

When development has been undertaken without planning permission, it can't be assumed that retrospective planning permission will always be granted for that development.

Complain about or report a suspected breach

If you're concerned about a development near you which you think doesn't have planning permission, you can check if permission has been granted and what the conditions are before reporting it, by using our online planning system

If you think that the correct planning permission has been breached or that work has been carried out without the correct permission, you can tell us:

  • Telephone: 01223 457163
  • Make an appointment to see a planning enforcement officer

We'll need the following information:

  • the precise location of the site or property to which the complaint relates
  • the exact nature of concern - for example, the potential breach of planning control
  • an indication of any harm caused by the breach
  • how long ago the activity was undertaken
  • any information about the identity of the person or organisation responsible and the date when the breach began (if possible).

The best sources of crucial information into investigations of suspected breaches of planning control are members of the public. So please be prepared to provide as much information as possible. 

Confidentiality

  • All investigations are carried out on a strictly confidential basis and the investigation team will not reveal the complainant's details.
  • On serious breaches of planning control - which may warrant prosecution, or result in an appeal - the complainant may be invited to give a witness statement. Such occasions are rare, however, and involvement in those cases is on a voluntary basis.

Anonymous complaints

Anonymous complaints will not normally be investigated unless the complainant has a reason for not giving their details and explains this to the investigating officer.

Appeal an enforcement notice

Enforcement appeals in England and Wales are dealt with by the Planning Inspectorate, a government agency who take an unbiased approach to the procedures.

There's more information about the appeal process and how to submit an online enforcement appeal through the GOV.uk appeals page.

Contact us

Planning service