Planning enforcement

Types of enforcement action

Where there is a clear planning breach, we will inform the person responsible and advise them of the most appropriate action.

This may be:

  • to submit a "retrospective" application for planning permission or advertisement consent, if the development is in line with planning policies and other considerations but conditions are needed to control its impact either now or in the future

  • to submit an application for a Certificate of Lawful Development, if action cannot be taken due to the passage of time (4 years for physical development, or 10 years for most changes of use and breaches of planning condition) and the breach was not deliberately hidden – the application would need documentary evidence to prove immunity

If planning permission is unlikely to be granted, we will ask that the unauthorised development be removed or stop being used. Depending upon the type the breach, we will either:

  • agree a deadline that the person in breach will comply with voluntarily
  • serve an Enforcement notice, Listed Building notice or Breach of Condition notice, with a period for compliance of up to 28 days
  • serve a Stop Notice or Temporary Stop Notice requiring work or usage to stop immediately
  • serve an injunction

Planning Enforcement Orders

If a person has deliberately tried to hide an unauthorised development so it would not be found until the normal period for enforcement action has passed, we may apply to the courts for a Planning Enforcement Order (PEO) within 6 months of the date. An Enforcement Notice can be authorised if the court is satisfied that a PEO is justified.

By law, we cannot apply for a PEO if a breach occurred before 6 April 2012 and the time limits for enforcement expired before that date. Where time is still running after 6 April 2012, however, then an unlawful use or development could be the subject of a PEO in the future.

Decisions to serve a formal notice are discretionary and made on a case by-case basis. Each decision will be taken only after proper consideration of relevant facts and the planning merits of the case. We must be able to justify taking formal action, and be sure that steps specified in the notice – including the compliance periods for each step – are reasonable.

Stop notices

We can serve either a:

  • Stop Notice, which requires relevant activity to end permanently
  • Temporary Stop Notice, which requires activity to end while the situation is being investigated and resolved

Both types of Stop notice "prohibit only what it is essential to safeguard amenity or public safety in the neighbourhood; or to prevent serious or irreversible harm to the environment in the surrounding area". Stop notices are useful if on-going unauthorised works would result in the further loss of environmental features.


Where appropriate, we may obtain a planning compliance injunction to restrain an actual or anticipated breach of planning control.