Last updated:

20th July 2023

Planning enforcement request

Planning enforcement and reporting unauthorised building work

Tell us about unauthorised development

Planning enforcement deal with:

  • Development that has taken place without planning permission - including building works or the change of use of land or buildings
  • Non-compliance with conditions attached to an approved application
  • Unauthorised works to listed buildings
  • Unauthorised advertisements
  • Unauthorised work to protected trees or trees in conservation areas

What we don't investigate

We don't investigate:

  • Disputes between neighbours
  • Land boundaries or ownership disputes
  • Work to indoor and outdoor shared walls. These are often known as party walls - see the Party Wall Act 1996 
  • Dangerous structures - these are buildings that have become a danger to the public

Local Planning Enforcement Plan

Read this document to understand how we manage planning enforcement enquiries read the Adopted Local Planning Enforcement Plan (PDF document).

Report a breach of planning control

To let us know about building work you think breaks planning rules, use the link below. If you need to send supporting information, for example photos, you can include them with the form.  

Report an alleged breach of planning control

What happens when a breach is reported:

  • Alleged breaches are allocated high, medium or low priority
  • We acknowledge enquiries within 3 working days and try to update you within 28 days of acknowledgement
  • Investigations can take a long time due to the legal requirements of enforcement
  • Your identity is kept confidential and will not be disclosed by us - unless you are required to give evidence at a public inquiry. However, we cannot accept anonymous requests.
  • If an enforcement notice is issued and not complied with we can take further action to secure compliance

More about planning enforcement

See frequently asked questions about planning enforcement below:

What happens if a building was different from what planning permission was for?

We only take enforcement action if the building results in unacceptable harm. This includes:

  • Excessive overlooking of windows or gardens
  • Loss of light
  • A building which is out of character compared to other buildings in the area
  • Causing harm to or making the road unsafe
  • Causing a flood risk
  • Harm to protected areas such as conservation areas
  • Harm to heritage buildings and sites

The original planning permission isn't the only proposal on the site that may be acceptable to us. If the new building doesn't cause unacceptable harm we may not take any action

However it is important to note that although we don't condone building anything that is different to a proposal that has planning permission and it is extremely unwise and risky to do so.

What happens if someone breaks planning regulations?

According to planning law, carrying out building works or a change of use to a property without the necessary planning permission isn't a criminal act. The only type of works that might be are unauthorised advertisements and works to listed buildings. 

This would mean that initially most breaches of planning regulations wouldn't result in fines or prison.

If an enforcement notice is served and isn't complied with then it can lead to court action or fines.

Planning enforcement is a power we use with discretion. This means we only use them to put right any harm caused by not complying with planning control.

When there's little or no harm we normally wouldn't take enforcement action. We would take action if the breach of planning means that the original planning application would have been refused.

Does this mean some people get away with breaking regulations?

The main aim of planning enforcement isn't to punish people who break planning regulations. Instead the aim the is to set right any harm caused.

However, not getting planning permission could result in:

  • Enforcement action which can be very costly
  • Court action and fines if they don't comply with the enforcement
  • It can be very difficult or even impossible to sell your home if you don't follow or get the right planning permission

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