The 5 most frequently asked questions about planning enforcement

We regularly receive enforcement enquiries from concerned clients who have been contacted by their local enforcement department but aren’t clear on what it means, what their options are, and what to do next.

In light of this we have compiled a brief overview of the most common enforcement questions we receive. Obviously this list isn’t exhaustive and each case is unique, if you have further queries then give one of our team a call.

1) What does ‘breach of planning control’ mean?

Essentially if you:

  • build something without the required planning permission;
  • have planning permission but fail to comply with the conditions or limitations subject to that permission;
  • fail to observe the strict conditions which apply to permitted development;

then you are in danger of committing a breach of planning control and enforcement action may be taken.

It is also worth remembering that a breach of planning control doesn’t just apply to what is physically built, it can also apply to the use of a building.

2) My enforcement officer is going to visit, what should I do?

We appreciate it sounds quite unnerving, but enforcement has a role for public good and encouraging positive development that benefits local amenity.

If an enforcement officer requests a visit to your property, what they are seeking to do is assess whether a breach of planning control has occurred. If it has, they will want to understand the degree of harm the breach may be causing. Then they will seek to regularise the situation.

It is always best practice to engage with your enforcement officer and be as honest as you can with them.  By being responsive and helpful, it shows that you are keen to rectify or remedy a breach of planning control, if one has taken place, which may help your case.

If you are unsure of how to respond to a request to visit by enforcement, then seek guidance from a planning professional.  We can get involved before formal enforcement action takes place and help to prevent the situation from escalating.

3) What are my next steps?

Your next steps will entirely depend on the type of enforcement levied against you. For example, two of the most common types of enforcement we get contacted about are:

  • Planning contravention notice (PCN): This isn’t a formal enforcement notice, but is a potential precursor to enforcement.  Therefore it is imperative that you respond swiftly and accurately.  It is wise to contact a planning professional at this stage to ensure that you don’t prejudice your case.
  • Enforcement notice (EN): The most crucial piece of information on an enforcement notice is the date when it will come into effect. The moment the enforcement notice takes effect, your options become severely limited. In terms of appealing the enforcement notice, you have to do so within 30 days of receipt and there are 7 different grounds you can appeal on. It is usual to appeal on multiple grounds as each ground applies to a different part of the planning process, therefore it is wise to discuss your options with a planning professional so that we can help you to prepare a robust case.

4) I have been served an enforcement notice but I have a planning application in already?

 If you are served an enforcement notice when you have already submitted a planning application to your council, it can have an impact on the amount of time you have to appeal the notice.  If you do find yourself in this position, then speed of action is vital.

 5) Why is early engagement so important?

Early engagement is key because even if your case seems difficult to win, there may be lesser steps that can be undertaken to remedy the planning breach, rather than full demolition of the unlawful works.

Enforcement is discretionary and intended to be remedial rather than punitive.  If you engage and negotiate positively with enforcement and provide a fall-back position that you are prepared to negotiate towards it can help your case.

It is also worth remembering that councils can withdraw an enforcement notice at any point, a further reason why positive engagement and negotiation are so key in these situations.


If you get contacted by your enforcement team then don’t ignore it.  Seek to resolve any perceived breach swiftly.  It can seem daunting, but with the right arguments in place, it should help you to negotiate your way to a positive solution.

The team at Plainview Planning have a decade of experience at dealing with enforcement cases and are well equipped to guide you through the enforcement process. If you do require planning assistance with an enforcement case then please don’t hesitate to contact the team via: