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Enforcing planning rules

All planning complaints are investigated. If needed, enforcement action is taken to resolve a problem.

Most people seek the necessary planning consent, before commencing development. Sometimes we get complaints about development taking place without planning consent or contrary to planning consent conditions.

Planning Services is committed to improving the quality of its services to its customers and handle complaints in a timely fashion. Planning Enforcement is one of the most complex parts of the planning system. The Council has statutory powers to investigate breaches of planning control and the conditions attached to planning consents and to take formal action where a satisfactory outcome cannot be achieved by negotiation. However, enforcement is a discretionary power.

The purpose of planning enforcement is to resolve problems, not punish mistakes. That means that, even where there is a breach of planning control, the Council has to consider if it is in the public interest to take enforcement action. The Council is not required to take any particular action on a specific breach of planning control and, indeed, can decide that no action is necessary.

Our Enforcement Policy explains how the enforcement process works and sets out the legislation and explains what action might be taken at different stages of an enforcement investigation.

The Council has limited resources to deal with enforcement services and recognises that delays in advising what action, if any, will be taken can be a considerable source of frustration to customers. Making the best use of resources means reviewing operational practices to see if improvements can be made and the Council has decided to introduce a new system for the initial handling of service requests as follows:


Please note: If you want to submit a complaint, you are advised to read the planning enforcement complainant - privacy notice first. This explains how we deal with your information:

  • All complaints will get a preliminary checking. This including looking at the planning history and relevant planning legislation.
  • If needed, complainants will be asked to provide photos to help us.
  • Customers will then be advised:
    • Whether a breach of planning control has taken place;
    • or if a breach has occurred, but is considered too minor to take formal action and the reason behind the decision. (In these cases, no further investigations or site visits would be undertaken.)

Formal enforcement action is unlikely to be taken for minor breaches of planning control, such as:

  • Fences.
  • Adverts that do not cause any highway issues/amenity issues.
  • Development which marginally exceeds the tolerances for permitted development.

Once your complaint has been initially assessed, you will be advised if further investigations will take place.

Formal enforcement action cannot be taken just because the necessary planning consent has not been granted. Enforcement action can only be taken where:

Note: Breaches of planning control are governed by legislation. They are complex and can be open to interpretation.

For more details, please read: 

Before you complete the form

All names and addresses are kept confidential. If you wish to remain anonymous, your local Councillor can raise it on your behalf, see: Your Councillor.

Does the development, or use, already have planning permission?

Before completing the form, search Planning portal to check the site's planning history, visit: Search for planning applications.

Does the development, or use, need planning permission?

Not all development needs planning permission. Permitted development rights remove the need for express planning permission for certain minor building works, or changes of use.

For more about this, visit: Permitted development rights (GOV.UK).

Enforcement notices

To search for existing enforcement notices, including any decisions and additional information, see:

Search planning enforcement notices

Main enforcement powers available

  1. Planning contravention notice

    • This enables the local planning authority to obtain information about a suspected breach of planning control.
    • It is an offence to ignore: maximum penalty £1,000.
  2. Breach of condition of notice

    • This is served where a condition on a planning permission is not being complied with.
    • It requires compliance with condition within a specified timescale.
    • It is not appealable, therefore quicker than enforcement notice.
    • It is an offence not to comply: maximum penalty £2,500.
  3. Enforcement notice

    • This can be served where development is done without planning permission, or where a condition is not being complied with.
    • It requires the rectification of a breach, within a specified timescale.
    • The recipient has a right of appeal. For further guidance on appealing against an enforcement notice, visit: Enforcement notice appeals.
    • It is an offence not to comply: maximum penalty £20,000.
    • There are direct-action powers available to Council, if an enforcement notice is not complied with.
  4. Stop notice

    • This is a 'draconian' measure, used in exceptional circumstances where it is essential that:
      1. activities cease to safeguard amenity or public safety in the neighbourhood;
      2. or activities cease to prevent serious or irreversible harm to the environment.
    • This is always served with an enforcement notice.
    • It requires activities to cease within a minimum period, which is usually three days.
    • It cannot be appealed against.
    • It is an offence not to comply: maximum penalty £20,000.
    • There are compensation implications.
  5. Listed building enforcement notice

    • This is similar to an enforcement notice. It is used when work on a listed building is done without consent or in contravention of a consent condition.
  6. Injunction

    • This is an order of the High Court or the County Court. It can be used to restrain an actual or apprehended breach of planning or listed building control.
    • It is used where nothing short of an injunction would be effective to restrain breaches.
    • There are compensation implications.
  7. Penalties or other offences

    • For cutting down, uprooting or wilfully destroying a protected tree £20,000.
    • For other works to protected tree £2,500.
    • For unauthorised works to £20,000.
    • For displaying an advertisement in contravention of advertisement regulations: £1,000 with a further fine of £1,000 a day for continuation of the offence.

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