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Category Archives: News

Planning enforcement – a simple guide

Planning enforcement – a simple guide


We conclude our 2018 series of simple guides to the labyrinth of planning procedures, with a focus on the subject of planning enforcement…


What is planning enforcement?

If any development happens without planning permission or one fails to comply with the requirements of a planning condition, the local planning authority can use its powers, as defined in Section 171A of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, to take enforcement action.

Enforcing planning law is a discretionary power of the local council – not a duty – so the council can decide when to take enforcement action. For instance, it can make a judgement about whether it is expedient to enforce. Ultimately however, the action should be in the public interest.

There are a number of reasons where planning enforcement will be brought to bear. For example:

  • If a development causes harm to public amenity or to the character or appearance of a conservation area or where there is a listed building, or,
  • There is a conflict with planning policy, or,
  • Any other material consideration.

The Council will form its judgement whether to take action based on planning and possibly legal advice, bearing in mind the quality of evidence, the likelihood of success, the importance to the public interest and, in these times of austerity, the cost and resources necessary to take the action might be a consideration.

What does the Council’s planning enforcement officer do?

An enforcement officer will have a number of roles. They will be there to offer guidance about a breach of planning law, seeking retrospective planning permission and enforcement action.

They will investigate any complaints to ascertain whether planning permission is needed for any works that has been started or completed and if so whether a breach of planning law has occurred.

The enforcement officers’ investigations can involve a review of evidence provided by third-parties, their own research via the serving of a planning contravention notice that requires requested information to be supplied by the operator/land owner, and observations arising from a site visit. They have a legal right of entry when they are investigating any alleged breaches of planning law, and can obtain a warrant if you refuse them entry.

If any planning laws are breached, good practice states the enforcement officer will enter into negotiations with the developer and will also be responsible for taking any enforcement action. They will also check that enforcement action is being complied with.

Why would the council seek to enforce against my development?

The council will do this if you have done anything that requires planning permission, without acquiring the permission first.

For example:

  • Construction of buildings or works such as a wall or fence
  • Change of use of buildings or land
  • Display of advertisements
  • Works to protected trees and hedgerows
  • Alterations and works to listed buildings
  • Demolition of certain buildings in a Conservation Area.

However, the role of the enforcement officer is not to arbitrate in neighbour disputes, land boundary or ownership disputes, deeds of covenant issues or works to party walls.

Will the Council automatically issue a planning enforcement notice?

Before this happens, the investigating officers will contact you to get an accurate picture of the facts.

If a breach of planning has occurred the council will decide whether to issue:

  • An Enforcement notice
  • A Stop notice (in relation to alleged breaches of planning specified enforcement notice and require their cessation within not less than 3 days)
  • A Temporary stop notice (which requires the immediate cessation of a breach of planning, and any flouting of its requirements may be prosecuted)
  • A Breach of condition notice (relating to planning conditions).

Within the notice you will be told what the breach of planning is considered to be, the steps required to remedy the breach or what activities are to be ceased and a timescale for this to be achieved. If you do not comply, then they will take formal enforcement action.

Can I negotiate with the Council and or seek retrospective planning permission?

A local authority can request that you apply for retrospective planning permission for the work that has already been carried out. However, there is no guarantee that this will be granted, and you could be forced to demolish any building or revert a site/building back to its original condition.

In other cases, it might be breaches of planning are a result of a genuine mistake, therefore, it might be easily remedied by ceasing the activity, removing an offending structure or restoring a site to its original state. If so, this can lead to no formal action by the council.

Negotiating with the council about this is best left to a planning consultant who has experience in these matters.

What are the planning enforcement time limits and what are my options?

Local authorities have to take action on enforcement:

  • within 4 years of substantial completion for a breach of planning control consisting of operational development;
  • within 4 years for an unauthorised change of use to a single dwelling house;
  • within 10 years for any other breach of planning control (essentially other changes of use).

You can see our previous blog in respect to the contravention of planning conditions where the time limit is 10 years.

What is a planning enforcement appeal?

If an enforcement ‘notice’ is served you have the right of appeal to the Planning Inspectorate. This must be lodged before the enforcement notice comes into effect, which should be at least 28 days from the date it is issued.

An appeal can be lodged under several different grounds and a person can argue one or more grounds. For example, they include:

  • planning permission ought to be granted or the condition or limitation concerned ought to be discharged
  • the matters stated in the enforcement notice have not occurred
  • copies of the enforcement notice were not served in accordance with the relevant statutory requirements
  • any period specified in the notice falls short of what should reasonably be allowed.

An Inspector from the Planning Inspectorate will study your case and decide whether the enforcement notice should be upheld. If your appeal is allowed, the Inspector will grant planning permission, meaning the council can take no further action.

However, if the inspector judges that you should adhere to the notice, then you must carry out the requirements of the notice or risk prosecution. The council cannot prosecute you for failing to comply to the notice, while an appeal is being considered.

You cannot appeal against a Breach of Condition Notice and you will risk prosecution if you do not comply with it. The only available right to challenge the serving of such a notice is by application to the High Court for a judicial review.

What if I ignore an enforcement notice and do not lodge an appeal?

This is not advisable as it is an offence to ignore an enforcement notice, and a person is liable to conviction and an unlimited fine. This is another reason to seek early professional advice from a planning consultant.

If you would like to discuss your own planning project with us, or just find out more about what we do, please continue to browse the website or drop us an email to: without obligation.

Planning Conditions – A Guide

Planning Conditions – A Guide

  We continue our series of blogs covering the ins and out of planning applications. This month, we look at planning conditions…   Not all planning permission is given automatically. Some applications will be granted permission, but with several conditions attached. Here, we answer some common questions about planning conditions: I have planning permission, but… Read more

Planning in Conservation Areas and Listed Buildings

Planning in Conservation Areas and Listed Buildings

  Our guide to what is special about these areas, and what you need to consider when planning to buy, extend or build there…   What is a Conservation Area? First of all, let’s examine what a conservation area actually is: Conservation Areas are designated to protect any special historic or architectural interest – and… Read more

Do I always need Planning Permission?

Do I always need Planning Permission?

We continue our easy-to-follow guide to applying for planning permission for development…     Do I always need planning permission for a development? Not always no. It is possible to carry out some types of work without having to apply for permission. This is where you use ‘permitted development rights’, which are conferred by The… Read more

How Does Planning Permission Work?

How Does Planning Permission Work?

Planning an extension or business project, but baffled by the complexities of the planning requirements? Follow our easy guide… Planning permission is there to ensure that inappropriate development does not take place. It applies to everything from extensions to residential homes, change of use for business properties right up to new housing, leisure, industrial, commercial,… Read more

Everything will become clear this summer with the new NPPF

Everything will become clear this summer with the new NPPF

The planning world is awaiting the publication of the revised National Planning Policy Framework with bated breath… Did you submit a response to the consultation draft NPPF? Then look to the end of July, when the revised National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), is expected to be published, to see if the Government listened to you.… Read more

The butterfly effect of government changes

The butterfly effect of government changes

Planning and development will be affected by a number of recent political moves… Recent changes within the Government could have seismic consequences, even when they appear at first to be seemingly unrelated to planning and development. For instance, after Sajid Javid’s promotion to Home Secretary we have a new Secretary of State for Housing, Communities… Read more

A greener and more pleasant land

A greener and more pleasant land

Could technological advances in auto engineering change the face of planning? The increase of cars on our roads has changed the places we live in. Just take a look at a road lined with Victorian terraces – not a driveway in sight – and compare it with modern housing estates, with drives instead of gardens… Read more

Housing Provision for the Elderly

Housing Provision for the Elderly

Care needs to be taken to ensure there are residences for older residents – and it is a particular issue for retiring farmers… We have heard that the Communities and Local Government Committee (CLGC) has called for a review of the provision of housing for older people. Over past years, the number of bungalows being… Read more

Awaiting the National Planning Policy Framework

Awaiting the National Planning Policy Framework

The planning industry is waiting for the draft of the National Planning Policy Framework to appear before Easter… Those of us in the planning and development industry are waiting with bated breath for the Government to publish the draft revised National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), which is expected before Easter (according to a letter from… Read more

Our Pledge To You

The primary aim of Apex Planning Consultants is to establish a clear and precise strategy that tackles the hurdles presented by the increasing complexities of the planning process and associated legislation.

This must be provided to retain our credibility and client trust, and this is achieved through our reliability to deliver, how well we keep our promise, and the expedient delivery of projects.

Important to this is our ability to be accessible to all clients and to communicate information quickly and as simply as possible.  A key focus of Apex Planning Consultants is to help clients find the solution that is right for them.

To learn more about individual projects, please take a look at our blog.

This is what just two of our clients have said:

“I contacted Apex Planning Consultants when my application to change the use of my rental property from a single dwelling household to a HiMO was refused by local authority planners.  Apex Planning Consultants launched an appeal with the planning inspectorate on behalf.  They demonstrated high standards of professionalism and great attention to detail in preparing and responding to submissions.  This led to a recent decision in my favour, which now allows me to operate the property as a HiMO.  In addition, they successfully negotiated to avoid the potentially expensive and crippling conditions which the local authority planners were seeking to impose with the inspectorate’s decision.  That is a result!”
George Bandasoah – Property Landlord – Milton Keyes

 “I used Apex Planning recently on a project, following a recommendation from my architect.  They provided planning advice, influencing the design of a large extension and additionally a planning statement to support the planning application.  I found them to be efficient, knowledgeable and very professional.  Their costs were very reasonable, given the result of achieving full planning permission on first application.  I would thoroughly recommend them.”
Darren Bishop – Homeowner – Aylesbury

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