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Planning enforcement

What is a planning breach?

A planning breach usually occurs when:
  • A development that requires planning permission is undertaken without the permission being granted - either because the planning application was never applied for, or was refused
  • A development that has been given permission subject to conditions breaks one or more of those conditions

If you want to report a suspected breach of planning control, use our online form. The Enforcement register details enforcement action taken since January 2002.

A planning breach in itself is not illegal and the council can permit a retrospective application where planning permission has not been sought. However, if the breach involves a previously rejected development (or the retrospective application fails) the council can issue an enforcement notice. It is illegal to disobey an enforcement notice unless it is successfully appealed against.

In considering any enforcement action, the decisive issue for the local planning authority (LPA) will be whether the breach of control would unacceptably affect public amenity, or the existing use of land and buildings meriting protection in the public interest.

Where development or change of use has been established for:

  • 4 years for change of use of a dwellinghouse
  • 10 years for a material change of use, or for enforcing conditions,

We are only able to take action before these time contraints have lapsed. Beyond these time limits, any of the above breaches are not enforceable (unless they apply to a Listed Building, where enforcement action may be taken at any time.)

Enforcement action should always be in proportion with the breach of planning control it is related to. For example, it is usually inappropriate to take formal enforcement action against a trivial or technical breach of control which causes no harm to amenity in the site's area.

Download the Planning Enforcement Leaflet from the website.

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