NEVER ignore an Enforcement Notice

Enforcement Notices

Councils have the power to issue a Planning Enforcement Notice if officers suspect a breach of planning control. The most commonly understood breach is building a structure without first obtaining planning permission. However, you may also be in breach for failing to carry out a development exactly as shown in your approved plans, for failing to comply with a condition applied to a planning approval (breach of condition) or by changing the use of a property or piece of land (unauthorised change of use).

The Initial Investigation

The Council will normally attempt to make contact with the property or landowner before considering enforcement action. An enforcement officer may visit the property, or attempt to write to the owner. Councils may also send a ‘Planning Contravention Notice’. This is a form asking specific questions about the alleged breach of planning control – such as when a building was erected, or what it is currently used for. It is an offence to fail to respond (or to respond untruthfully) and you may be fined.

Retrospective Applications

If, following its investigation, the Council believes that a breach has taken place, it may suggest that a retrospective planning application is submitted. If the application is approved, the development becomes authorised and no further action is required. If officers feel certain that retrospective planning permission will not be granted, they are unlikely to suggest submitting an application. However, if you prepare and submit an application the Council is bound to make a decision and may postpone enforcement action while the application is assessed.

The Enforcement Notice

An Enforcement Notice is a legal document requiring you to carry out certain steps (to resolve an alleged breach of planning control) within a particular timeframe.

An enforcement notice can require you to take steps such as:

  • to alter a building or remove it completely;
  • to re-instate a building that has been demolished;
  • to cease an activity that is being carried on.

The actual steps that the council requires will depend on the breach of planning control it alleges.

Time Limits

If it decides to serve an enforcement notice, the council must do so within the time periods set down in the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 (“the Planning Act”).

These are:

  • in the case of the construction or alteration of a building or other structure, or the change of use of a building to a house, 4 years; or
  • for any other change of use, or for breach of a planning condition, 10 years.

Right of Appeal

You have the right to appeal an enforcement notice. Appeals must normally be submitted within 28 days. If you appeal, the requirements of the notice as put on hold while the appeal is considered. Appeals are made to the planning inspectorate ( The inspectorate is a government body entirely independent of your local council. The appeal will be decided by an impartial inspector.

You may appeal on the following grounds:

  • planning permission should be granted for whatever has caused the breach of planning control;
  • the matter(s) that the council say amount(s) to the breach of planning control has / have not occurred;
  • if they have occurred, they do not amount to a breach of planning control;
  • the council has not served the enforcement notice within the time limit set out in the Planning Act;
  • copies of the enforcement notice have not been served in the way required by the Planning Act;
  • the steps required in the enforcement notice exceed what is required to remedy the breach of planning control;
  • the time allowed by the council for compliance with the enforcement notice is insufficient.

If you do not appeal the enforcement notice, it will take effect and you will be required to carry out its steps in full. Failure to comply with the terms of an enforcement notice is a criminal offence, for which you may be prosecuting.

Many clients approach us for help with an enforcement notice after it has taken effect (that is, after the time within which you have the right to appeal). It is very important to submit an appeal before the initial 28 day period has elapsed. The planning enforcement system is complex and you should take professional advice. Just Planning work on many enforcement appeals every year. We are happy to provide free and unbiased advice on any enforcement problems.

Check out our planning enforcement page or contact us now.

Most importantly, NEVER ignore an enforcement notice…