If a Local Authority believes that building work undertaken or use of land or buildings is unauthorised ( does not have the required planning permission) they have the power to pursue enforcement action to rectify the breach of planning control.

A breach of planning control is defined as:

  • the carrying out of development without the required planning permission; or
  • failing to comply with any condition or limitation subject to which planning permission has been granted.

Planning Enforcement

Except in the case of works to listed buildings and certain other heritage assets, carrying out development without the necessary planning consent is not a criminal offence.  However, where an Enforcement Notice is issued, failure to comply with the Notice is an offence that is open to prosecution. There are strict time frames for responding to an Enforcement Notice which require action as soon as the notice is received.

In cases where planning permission was required but has not been obtained there is the opportunity to submit a retrospective planning application to regularise the development. This can in some circumstances stop further enforcement action being taken. However, if an enforcement notice has been issued you can appeal against the notice on a number of specified grounds.

As with planning appeals, there are three routes for appealing against an Enforcement Notice. The most common route is written representations but if it is a complex case or one that requires evidence to be tested in person  a Hearing or Public Inquiry can be pursued.

A breach of planning control becomes immune from enforcement action if no formal action has been taken within certain time limits set out in legislation. For more information on this please see our fact sheet on Lawful Development Certificates.