Planning enforcement

Planning enforcement

Development carried out without the benefit of planning permission or listed building consent, or the failure to comply with conditions, can result in the council serving an enforcement notice.

If you suspect that an unauthorised development has taken place you can report it to us online. You can also call us on 01246 345008 or email

The council will investigate where a breach occurs and will normally give the owner or person carrying out the works the opportunity to rectify the matter informally. This can be either through the submission of an application for permission or by ceasing the activity or removing the unauthorised works. In some cases the breach may be so minor or of so little consequence that no further action will be taken. Where matters cannot be resolved informally, the council has recourse to formal powers to issue notices to secure a satisfactory remedy.


How will a complaint be investigated?

  • we will usually carry out a preliminary investigation and acknowledge all written complaints within five working days
  • when a complaint alleges a danger to the public and/or significant works involving damage to a protected site or building we aim to carry out a preliminary investigation and consider action on the day the complaint is received; normally the property owner will be advised that investigations are taking place if the site has to be entered or observed more than once
  • once we have carried out an investigation we will inform you of our intended action

The most common outcomes are:

  • no further action if a breach cannot be substantiated or formal intervention under planning law is not warranted
  • negotiation of a solution
  • submission of a retrospective application
  • formal enforcement action

If no further action is necessary we will explain the reason why. In the event of a retrospective application we will consult you if appropriate under the normal consultation process. In the event of formal action we may ask you if you are willing to provide evidence in the form of a written statement and/or as a witness at a planning appeal or court hearing. However, the identity of a complainant is not disclosed unless you wish to take part in the formal process.

Sometimes we find there is no breach of planning control but other issues need to be addressed. In such cases we will pass the matter on to the relevant department or authority.


What do we ask of the complaints?

  • we ask that you provide your name, address and contact number, and put your complaint in writing or send it by email
  • please provide a clear statement of what you think is wrong; this can include, for example, photographs or records of activities from the past - from the date of your complaint, however, you will not be asked by the council to "spy" on your neighbour
  • where feasible we ask that you assist us in trying to achieve a negotiated solution
  • some enforcement cases may take some time to resolve, particularly if they involve a planning appeal or a court hearing; we will keep you informed of likely timescales - please be patient if proceedings seem to be taking a long time
  • all complaints are registered and processed on a strictly confidential basis


What can developers or property owners expect from us?

If we receive a complaint about your development or property we will visit the site and contact you to discuss our findings and to seek your views on the complaint received. Our findings will be confirmed to you in writing and we will make clear what, if anything, we expect of you.

Where necessary and feasible we will try and negotiate a satisfactory solution. In case of unauthorised development that may be approved, we will invite you to submit a retrospective application for formal consideration. As a last resort, if a negotiated solution cannot be achieved, we may take formal enforcement action which can result in prosecution.


What do we ask of developers and property owners?

  • we ask you to work with us to resolve the problem
  • we ask that you co-operate with us in allowing us to visit the site of the complaint to discuss the matter with you; we cannot help you resolve a breach of planning control without an 'open book' approach
  • if the complaints are valid, to work with us to try and achieve an acceptable solution
  • to supply any information we request either by letter or by formal notice within the specified timescale
  • not to depart from approved plans or planning conditions without first obtaining formal approval
  • not to commence or continue with development in advance of planning approval as this may add considerable risk to the development costs


How is formal enforcement action taken?

If as a last resort the council pursues formal enforcement action the following types of formal notice may be served.

Enforcement notice

This is a formal notice used to bring about the cessation of an activity or secure removal of an unauthorised development and requires specific steps to be taken within specific time limits. There is a right of appeal on specified grounds that is dealt with by the planning inspectorate. If an enforcement notice is not appealed or is confirmed then the council has the power to prosecute for noncompliance.

Stop notice

If the council considers it necessary whilst serving an enforcement notice to ensure that the use or activity stops as soon as possible, then it can serve a stop notice. Such action is rare and only taken when significant damaging effects are being caused and immediate action is essential. Failure to comply with such a notice is an offence.

Breach of condition notice

This notice is used where the breach involves noncompliance with a condition on a planning permission. The notice will require compliance with a condition. There is no right of appeal against such a notice and it is an offence not to comply.

Planning contravention notice

This notice gives the council the power to compulsorily obtain information from an individual about suspected breaches of planning control and to endeavour to secure co-operation and compliance. Failure to answer such a notice, truthfully, within 21 days is an offence.

Section 215 amenity notice

This notice can be served on a property owner when the condition of land or buildings is considered to be seriously damaging to the amenity of the locality. There is no right of appeal against such a notice other than to a court.

Find out more about Section 215 notices.

Last updated on 11 October 2022