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Planning breaches

Show all parts of this guide

1. Enforcement action

Please read this guidance note carefully before reporting a breach. It will help you understand how we are able to action your enquiry.

Breaches of Planning Control

A breach of planning control occurs when a person starts work on a building or undertakes a new use without obtaining the necessary planning or related permission.

Not all works or new uses need a planning application; the Town & Country Planning (General Permitted Development) Order 1995 grants a range of ‘blanket’ permissions that allow householders and commercial operators to carry out certain works and uses without the need for a planning application, provided certain criteria are met.


Enforcement Plan

Our Planning Enforcement Plan sets out our priorities for investigations in relation to planning enforcement matters, explains what will be investigated, our policies and procedures when investigating and remedying breaches and also outlines our general powers with regard to planning enforcement.

Our investigations will usually result in one of the following:

  • no breach of planning has taken place.
  • there is a breach but it happened some time ago and is now immune from action.
  • a breach has occurred, but we do not consider it expedient to take enforcement action. A planning application will be requested to regularise acceptable development, the legislation however cannot compel a person to submit a planning application.
  • there is a breach and we decide to take enforcement action.


When taking enforcement, action the Government requires us to show that the breach causes clear harm, specifically harm to the amenity of an area. Harm would not, normally for example include loss of value to a property, competition to another business or loss of an individual’s view. This is important as the legislation provides any person served with an Enforcement Notice the right to appeal. To successfully defend the Notice we must be able to provide evidence of harm. It is thus important for you to be as clear as possible in describing the harm caused by the breach.


Planning matters

What we can and cannot consider in deciding whether to take enforcement action

The Local Planning Authority can only take into account matters relevant to land use planning. The planning system cannot be used to protect one person’s private or commercial interest against another. The Local Planning Authority cannot:

  • resolve neighbour disputes
  • investigate land ownership/boundary disputes
  • investigate internal alterations to houses (unless a listed building)


Similarly, it would not be appropriate for the Local Planning Authority to take into account matters that are covered by other legislation; for example, complaints of noise or the improper use of a public highway.