Planning enforcement

Planning enforcement is an important part of the planning process in protecting the environment.  Whilst it is not always a criminal offence to carry out development without planning permission it may still constitute a contravention of planning laws and the council has the power to enforce those laws.

Planning law can be very complicated and so this information is only a guide to the enforcement procedures and the powers of the council. This local planning authority has planning inspectors who deal with enforcement investigations and action in accordance with our enforcement policy statement. Find out more by using the links below.

A development carried out without the relevant planning permission is a breach of planning control.

The execution of unauthorised works is not defined in law as a criminal offence unless the works are being made to a listed building; constitute 'total or substantial demolition' of a structure in a conservation area; involve the felling of protected trees in a conservation area; or involve the erection of unauthorised advertisements.

A breach may involve:

  • Building works affecting the external appearance of the building.
  • Internal and external works to a listed building.
  • Material changes of use.
  • Non-compliance with conditions attached to planning consents.
  • The erection of advertisements.
  • Substantial demolition in a Conservation Area.
  • The felling of protected trees.

Our planning enforcement team investigates these breaches.

It is important to be aware that certain works or changes of use may not require consent. Where permission is not required from the local planning authority, or where planning legislation permits the development, the council will not be able to take enforcement action. Please see our frequently asked questions for further information.

The planning enforcement team does not investigate:

  • Neighbour disputes.
  • Land boundaries or ownership disputes
  • Works to party walls.
  • Smells, noise and pollution.
  • Fly-tipping.
  • Use of development on highways or pavements.
  • Dangerous structures.

Information about who to contact regarding these issues can also be found in the planning enforcement frequently asked questions.

If you believe that a breach of planning control has occurred, you can make an enquiry to our planning enforcement team. Our frequently asked questions further explain what can be done without permission and may help to give you a clearer idea as to what information will be useful to us.

Submit your enquiry by completing our report a breach form.

Please include as much detail as possible: the majority of successful investigations are aided by information supplied by the complainant, and you can help the council by being prepared to collect information and give evidence for appeals or prosecutions. It is for this reason that the council cannot accept anonymous enquiries.

If it is established that a breach of planning control has occurred, our planning enforcement team will attempt to negotiate an informal resolution by inviting a retrospective planning application or requesting that remedial works be carried out. If informal negotiations fail to reach a positive conclusion, the council may decide to take formal action.

Although many cases can be resolved informally, the council often has to take action, serving many notices every year, as well as instigating a variety of legal proceedings including prosecutions and injunctive relief.

Need further help or information?

Contact the team directly on 01773 841571 or email