What is a planning control breach?

Development without planning permission

If you have gone ahead without the required planning permission, necessary consent, or in conflict to any planning conditions attached to an approval, it could be that we may simply ask you to apply in retrospect. We consider whether any such application would have originally been granted or refused permission, even though the work may have already been carried out.

Formal planning enforcement action is seen as a last resort. It is almost always more appropriate to seek a solution by negotiation or by regularising acceptable unauthorised development through the submission of an appropriate application. If, however, we decide to refuse permission, an enforcement notice may be served, setting out the measures needed to remedy the breach, and the date by which these must be implemented.

Breaches of planning control

Any unauthorised works or uses that need planning permission or prior consent may be a breach of planning control. Examples would include the following:

  • Development works being carried out without planning permission.
  • Unauthorised changes of use.
  • Non-compliance with conditions imposed by a planning permission.
  • Works not being carried out in accordance with the plans approved as part of the planning permission.
  • Carrying out works to a listed building without listed building consent.
  • Display of unauthorised advertisements.
  • Felling, or carrying out works on a tree, which is the subject of a Tree Preservation Order, or is situated within a Conservation Area (meaning the tree is automatically protected).

Enforcement action cannot be taken under the planning legislation for any activities that are not breaches of planning control. Some examples of these are listed below:

  • The parking of a commercial vehicle on the highway, in a residential area, or on a grass verge.
  • Operating a business from home where the residential use remains the primary use and there is no adverse impact on residential amenity.
  • Disputes about boundaries, or the blocking of rights of way.
  • Clearing land of undergrowth, bushes and trees, provided they are not subject to a Tree Preservation Order.

Considerations before enforcement action

  • Does the development/work carried out actually require consent under planning legislation?
  • Many minor building works may be covered by 'permitted development', certain 'changes of use' and many advertisement signs do not require consent.
  • Has permission already been given? (Most planning permissions can be taken up at any time within 3 years of being granted, and once partially put into action, there is no time limit on its final completion).
  • Is the matter serious enough to warrant action?
  • Where planning permission has not been granted, are the activities generally acceptable in planning terms?
  • Where the activities or development are undesirable yet controllable by our planning enforcement power, what is the most appropriate action to take?

A member of the Planning Department staff will visit the site of the alleged unauthorised development to assess whether there is a breach of planning control. There are a number of courses of action available:

  • Invite the person carrying out the unauthorised work to regularise the development.
  • Issue a Planning Contravention Notice. This will not necessarily stop the breach, but gives us more information to help us decide what to do.
  • Serve an Enforcement Notice. This is where the person is unwilling to remedy a breach of planning control and where we consider, having regard to the development plan and other material considerations, that planning permission wouldn't have been granted.
  • Issue a Stop Notice. This can be used only in particularly urgent or serious cases, where the unauthorised activity has implications for public safety or related issues and therefore has to stop immediately.
  • Issue a Breach of Condition Notice.
  • Injunctions.

How to report an alleged breach of planning control

It is the applicant's responsibility to adhere to the plans as approved and comply with the conditions imposed. We monitor new development as much as we can, but given the limited resources available to us, we cannot monitor every development that takes place. If, therefore, you suspect that a breach of planning control is taking place, please:

Report an alleged breach of planning control online.

Contact the Duty Planning Officer on the details below or email or write to Planning Enforcement using the address below.

Please be assured that all complaints are handled in the strictest confidence.

The enforcement process

Registration and processing

  • Within 2 working days of receiving a complaint, we will register the report and acknowledge its receipt in writing (unless received anonymously or by telephone).
  • Thereafter, you will be updated accordingly, as and when any significant progress and/or any intended action occurs.
  • If a breach of planning control appears to have occurred, and we intend to pursue the matter further, we will normally seek to remedy the breach 'informally' in the first instance. If this cannot be achieved, we will decide whether or not to pursue the matter further with formal enforcement action. If we decide that formal enforcement action is not expedient, reasons will be given for having reached that decision.
  • In situations where formal action is deemed expedient by officers, authorisation for formal action will be sought at the next meeting of the Planning Applications Committee. Formal action could include the service of an Enforcement Notice, Breach of Condition Notice, Stop Notice and Temporary Stop Notice, and an Injunction. Failure to comply with the requirements of a served notice is an offence and this will result in the consideration of formal legal action through the Courts being taken by us.

See the planning enforcement policy for further information.

Read how to appeal against an enforcement notice if you are served with an enforcement notice.

Last updated: Tuesday, 11 April, 2023.