A guide to planning enforcement

Plainview Planning regularly represent clients facing enforcement action. The two most important things to remember are:

  1. Don’t ignore it! Once an enforcement notice takes effect your options become limited
  2. Remember enforcement action is discretionary – early intervention and negotiation is generally preferable to taking the case to appeal

In this guide we provide you with a summary of the regulatory background to planning enforcement. If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to contact our enforcement team –


If the machinery of planning control is to be effective, some means of enforcement is essential.  The planning system exists to control the development and use of land in the public interest.  Not complying with or ignoring planning controls allows the developer to gain an unfair competitive advantage, and undermines public confidence in the planning system as a whole.  Councils view enforcement action as a crucial component of controlling development.  All reports of possible breaches of planning control are taken seriously and investigated as quickly as possible in accordance with a priority system.  More serious breaches such as the felling of protected trees or unauthorised work to statutory listed buildings are investigated immediately.  Other lower priorities are dealt with within agreed timescales, subject to the availability of Officers.

So what now determines 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”

Examples of breaches of planning control

  • Development that has planning permission but is not carried out in accordance with the approved plans.
  • Failure to comply with conditions or the terms of a legal agreement attached to a permission or consent.
  • Demolition within a conservation area without conservation area consent.
  • Building work, engineering operations and material changes of use that is carried out without obtaining planning permission.
  • Works carried out to a listed building, which affect the historical character, without listed building consent being approved.
  • Failure to comply with the requirements of a planning legal notice such as enforcement notices, breach of conditions notices and stop notices.

Enforcement Powers

Listed below are examples of the more common enforcement powers:

  • Enforcement Notices, Act (s 172(1) (b)): These can be served on unauthorised developments.  The notice might request the development breach to be remedied by alteration, demolishment or for the unauthorised use to cease.  You have the right to appeal to the Planning Inspectorate against such a notice.
  • Breach of Condition Notice, Act BCN (s 187A): This is when compliance of a condition attached to the planning permission already granted has not been met. The local planning authority may serve a BCN on any person who is carrying out or has carried out a development, or is the person in control of the land. The breach would have to be corrected within a specified timescale.  There is no right of appeal for these notices.
  • Stop Notice: The issuing of an enforcement notice may result in an appeal against it. In such cases the operation of the notice will be suspended until the appeal outcome, in the meantime allowing the operation or activity that the enforcement notice relates to, to continue without penalty.  In this situation the local authority may feel the need to take urgent action to prevent the continuation of the alleged breach and issue a stop notice.  A stop notice is a supplement to an enforcement notice and cannot to be issued independently.
  • S 215 Notice: Under this notice the local planning authority can take action against a party where land or building(s) adversely affect the amenity of the surrounding area.
  • Injunctive Action: This is when a breach of planning control is severe or the threat of it becoming severe is great.  Local planning authorities have been granted the power to apply to the High Court or the county court for an injunction to restrain a breach of planning control.  This is normally considered a last resort.

Planning Enforcement Procedure

What to do if you receive an enforcement notice?

Development undertaken without permission is not an offence in itself, but ignoring an enforcement notice or stop notice is an offence, and there is a maximum fine following conviction of £20,000.

It is important not to panic but to move quickly, seeking early professional advice can save you from the stress and expense of lost time on your development project.

Contact the team at Plainview Planning today for free initial advice –