Report the breaking of planning rules

The role of the Planning Enforcement team is to deal with alleged breaches of planning that are reported by members of the public, councillors or other departments of the council.

We also monitor conditions that have been imposed upon planning permissions and check, that development is being built in accordance with the planning permission.

The enforcement service operates within the policies set out in the National Planning Policy Framework. This assists in the effective management of the Planning Enforcement team and helps to make best use of the available resources.

The council's decision to take enforcement action is discretionary and each decision to do so has to be justified as ‘proportionate' and ‘expedient'. This means that any action must be appropriate to the amount of harm caused by the alleged breach. Planning enforcement action cannot be taken simply because there has been a breach, particularly where this results in limited or no harm to local amenity

The Planning Enforcement team can consider issues including:

  • unauthorised development or uses
  • unauthorised works to a listed building - both internal and external works
  • unauthorised display of advertisements
  • non-compliance with planning permissions
  • untidy sites where these are considered to be detrimental to local amenity
  • works to trees, where they are protected by a Tree Preservation Order or are located in a conservation area.

Not all development requires consent. A great deal of building work can be undertaken without the need for planning permission. This development is commonly referred to as ‘permitted development'.

A breach of planning control occurs where planning permission is not obtained before development takes place (where it is not permitted development). This is not necessarily a criminal act.

The display of advertisements, work to protected trees or listed buildings which have taken place without consent is a criminal offence and can be prosecuted in the magistrates' court or a higher court. Such breaches can result in significant fines, an award of costs against the perpetrator and potentially a prison sentence.

Complainants must provide their name and address before any complaint is investigated. This will enable the council to update the complainant about the outcome of its investigation. The complainant's details will be kept confidential. Anonymous complaints will not be accepted.

What information is required for an alleged breach to be investigated?

  • The address of the land or building where the breach is alleged to have taken place.
  • Details of the alleged breach.
  • The name and address of the complainant..
  • Details of how the alleged breach is having an impact you
  • Please include photographs if you are able to do so.
  • Any additional relevant information or details of other interested parties.

What are the stages of an investigation?

  • Each enforcement enquiry will be prioritised 1 (high), 2 (medium) according to the nature of the alleged breach and the degree of harm caused. Individual cases may be re-prioritised as the investigation proceeds.
  • Research on the property will be carried out, including the planning history. Enquiries will be made, in order to establish the details of the owner or anyone with an interest in the land.
  • After this information has been obtained a site visit will be carried out (in the instance of high priority cases the initial site visit may be carried out with minimal research).
  • The complainant, and if appropriate the alleged offender, will be told of the likely course of action to be taken by the council. We aim to do this within the timescales of our prioritisation of enforcement enquiries. However, if we are likely to exceed that timescale, we will let the complainant know and give an approximate response timescale.  
  • Information about the intended course of action may include for example, that there appears to be no breach of planning control, that further investigations are required, or that there appears to be a breach of planning control and investigations are ongoing.
  • Specific details of an investigation will not be shared with any party.
  • The complainant will be advised of the outcome of the investigation, following our initial reporting of the likely course of action, at its conclusion.

What action is taken where a breach of planning control is found to have taken place?

Once a complaint has been investigated and a breach identified, then a number of things may happen, depending on the severity of the breach. The council may:

  • negotiate a satisfactory solution.
  • seek the submission of a retrospective planning application.
  • if no application is forthcoming or the breach is serious then the council may decide to serve an enforcement or other notice, which will require works or actions to be undertaken, in order to remedy the breach, the individuals or organisations on which this notice is served do have the option of making an appeal against it.
  • if an application is forthcoming, then the planning enforcement case may be held in abeyance pending the outcome of the council’s decision. Planning applications are the subject of separate timescales and lie outside the control of the enforcement service. If the application is not successful, and the planning harm resulting from the breach is significant/serious then enforcement action is likely to proceed as described above.
  • no action taken, if the harm resulting from the breach of planning control is ‘minor', then no action may be justified. The enforcement of planning control is a discretionary power and the exercise of it must be both proportionate and expedient.


The following criteria will be applied to the prioritisation of enforcement cases:

Priority 1

  • work that causes a danger to the public
  • significant works including alteration of or damage to listed buildings
  • unauthorised works to trees that are protected by a Tree Preservation Order or that are located in a conservation area
  • any other development that causes irreversible harm

We aim to make an initial response to the complainant within 21 days of the receipt of the complaint

Priority 2

  • unauthorised works, or breaches of condition, that are considered to cause a significant harm to amenity
  • councillor or MP referrals
  • significant development within a conservation area
  • all other development

We aim to make an initial response to the complainant within 35 days of the receipt of the complaint.

Report a planning breach

This page was last updated on 13 March 2023

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