Category: FAQ

I Received A Planning Enforcement Notice What Should I Do?

If you have received a planning enforcement notice for breach of planning control, it is important to understand you are not alone, around 15-20% of the applications we do are retrospective! In some cases, a planning contravention notice may be issued to gather information about the alleged breach.

You should seek advice as soon as possible from a chartered town planner who will be able to advise whether they agree there has been a breach and in which case what the options are going forward of whether it would be appropriate to appeal the enforcement notice. It is important to determine the occupier of the land to ensure that the correct course of action is taken, including exercising the right of appeal against a Discontinuance Notice if deemed necessary.

99% of enforcement notices are for developments that people were sure would be Permitted Development and therefore wouldn’t need any permission but unfortunately got it wrong. However, in some cases, an alleged breach of planning regulations may have occurred, leading to the enforcement notice being issued.

Usually, it’s because they have misunderstood the planning portal or were given bad advice from someone other than a chartered town planner, who doesn’t understand the complex and ever-changing planning laws, such as the town and country planning act 1990 and the General Permitted Development Order or GPDO. It’s important to seek guidance from local authorities or a qualified town planner to ensure compliance with the applicable regulations.

What is a planning enforcement notice and what does it mean?

A planning enforcement notice is a formal document issued by a local planning authority which is a department of your local council. It means that they believe a planning breach has occurred and sets out what needs to be done to remedy the situation within a specified time period. Every copy of the enforcement notice must also be accompanied by an Explanatory Note containing the information specified in regulation 5 of the Town and Country Planning (Enforcement Notices and Appeals) (England) Regulations 2002 (as amended). Temporary stop notices, which are a powerful enforcement tool, may also be included in the enforcement notice and prohibit certain activities until the breach is remedied. In some cases, failure to comply with a Breach of Condition Notice may result in legal action being taken. It is important to take the notice seriously and seek expert advice from an RTPI chartered town planner as soon as possible to limit or avoid any further formal enforcement action related to the relevant activity.

How much time do I have to respond to a planning enforcement notice?

You typically have a specific timeframe, known as the time limit, to respond to an enforcement notice, which is usually only 28 days. It’s important to act promptly and seek professional advice from a chartered town planner as soon as possible. Failure to respond within the given timeframe can result in further legal action or penalties such as unlimited fines or even custodial sentences for breaches related to listed buildings. Additionally, if you fail to comply with an enforcement notice, you can be tried in either the Magistrates’ or the Crown Court, with the latter having the power to impose an unlimited fine and confiscate any income received from non-compliance. It is also important to note that the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government has the power to intervene in enforcement cases if necessary.

What is a breach of planning control?

A breach of planning control refers to any development or change in land use that goes against the regulations set out in the town and country planning act 1990 and other relevant legislation. This can include things like building without planning permission, using land for purposes not permitted, or not following conditions imposed by previously approved applications. It’s important to note that amenities such as parks, schools, and community centres may also be subject to planning control regulations. Ignorance of planning laws is not a valid defence, so it’s crucial to seek guidance from experts such as chartered town planners to ensure compliance with regulations.

What are my options if have been contacted by an enforcement officer? 

If you have received an enforcement notice, usually the letter will give you just 28 days to submit a retrospective planning application/lawful development certificate or comply with the enforcement order and put the property back to its original state. 

Often the first step in the process is a site visit from the enforcement officer who will then take some time to put together the case against you before issuing a formal enforcement notice.

It is important to bear in mind, that once you are in the system the wheels are in motion, and usually it is a case of when, not if, you receive a formal enforcement notice. For this reason, it is strongly recommended that you seek professional advice from a chartered town planner as soon as possible.

The first question to ask is, would you feel comfortable putting your property back to its original state? If the answer is yes, this could be a suitable solution, and for minor low-cost developments, such as a cheap fence, this could be a good option.

If your development is important to you or you have invested a significant amount of time or money, then you may want to consider either an enforcement appeal or a retrospective planning application. You can view some of our previous retrospective applications and what was required for each of these in our Portfolio, including the grounds of appeal.

It is also important to note that if your enforcement relates to a change of use, then you will not be able to use the property for the new use until such time as retrospective planning permission is approved, which could take 3-6 months or more. For example, short-term lets are a very hot topic at the moment and many people are being caught out.

If a retrospective application is refused with no scope of appeal, it is important to carefully consider your options. One possible course of action is to seek legal advice from an experienced planning lawyer who can assess the grounds for refusal and advise on the best way forward.

Can I appeal a planning enforcement notice?

In some cases, it may be necessary to make modifications or amendments to your development in order to address the concerns raised by the enforcement notice. This could involve working closely with a professional architect or town planner to develop a revised proposal that meets the requirements of the local planning authority.

Alternatively, if you believe that the enforcement notice was issued unjustly or based on incorrect information, you may have grounds for an appeal. If the appeal is won you would not need to put the property back to its original state or restore it to its original use.

Appeals would be determined by the Planning Inspectorate rather than your local council, to ensure the assessment is impartial and unbiased.

What are the chances of securing retrospective planning approval?

Unfortunately, there is a huge difference between knowing you need planning permission and knowing whether it is likely to be approved or not. 

One of the most challenging things about retrospective planning applications is that we can’t advise you on what you should do to meet the required policies. Instead, we can only justify to the best of our ability, why we feel your project does meet the relevant policies and why it should be approved.

The trouble is, let’s say for example you have built something that does not meet the required planning and design policies, it’s not simply a case of amending a drawing and resubmitting to the council, as we would with a normal application. It’s also likely impossible to amend the build to meet the required policies or at least not without significant expense.

Another consideration is that there may be further constraints, objections or complaints, which could make securing retrospective approval much more difficult.

In order for us to be able to give you an indication of whether a retrospective application is feasible and the likelihood of success, we can conduct a Planning Appraisal to give you the answers you need within a day.

The best-case scenario is that although you are in breach of planning, what you have done is feasible and has a chance of securing retrospective approval. Providing a strong application is submitted to clearly demonstrate why it should be approved, it would have a strong likelihood of success.

However, if your application has no little to no chance of success, we will tell you before you invest any more time and money on something that is unlikely to be approved.

Ultimately, if you still wish to try no matter how unlikely it is to be approved, we can of course submit the strongest possible application. If it is refused, there will still be the option of appeal, subject to the reasons for refusal. 

What are your options if retrospective planning permission and planning appeal are refused?

If you are unable to secure retrospective planning approval and subsequently lose a planning appeal you are fundamentally left with two options;

Comply With The Enforcement Order

The enforcement order may stipulate specific alterations that need to be made to make the development compliant, depending on the nature and scale of the breach. If modifying the design to meet the relevant planning policies is not feasible, you must revert the property to its original state and use.

Seek A Judicial Review

If you disagree with the decision and believe it is wrong based on legal reasons, another option is to request a judicial review in the high court. This may not be a feasible choice for many individuals due to the significant expenses associated with legal assistance and court fees. Nonetheless, in cases of substantial projects with a compelling argument, taking the chance and bearing the costs could be worthwhile.

What would be required to submit a retrospective planning application and how much will it cost?

As with any application, the answers to these questions will depend on exactly what is required. You can see what is typically required as a minimum for any application here.

To get an indication of cost you can use our Free Online Cost Calculator for an instant online estimate for most project types.

However, it is important to bear in mind this doesn’t mean it is feasible and this is only an estimate based on the minimum requirements. Subject to what is required, it could cost less and it could also cost more.

The best starting point is to Contact Us for a free no-obligation consultation ASAP because time is very much of the essence with any enforcement case.

Here are a few example news articles relating to planning enforcements;

With a quick Google, you can find many more examples. Of course, most breaches and enforcements don’t make the news.

So, while at a glance planning permission laws and the general permitted development order might look straightforward, unfortunately, it’s much more expedient and complicated than most people realise. Understanding the intricacies of planning laws and permitted development can take a significant period of time, and it’s important to seek professional advice to ensure compliance with regulations.

Where possible we always do our best to help clients secure retrospective approval, however not only can this never be guaranteed but retrospective applications typically have a much lower chance of success, with significant consequences. It is important to note that carrying out development without formal notice of consent or permission can be a criminal offence and could result in enforcement action being taken against the property owner. This can also have negative impacts on the surrounding area, as it may not comply with regulations and could have a negative impact on the overall aesthetic and function of the neighborhood.

Even with all the best intentions, it’s very common for people to find out after construction is complete that their design did not meet all of the criteria for permitted development or there were constraints that restricted or removed their permitted development rights. Meaning planning permission was required before starting the building work. If this happens, it is important to take further action to rectify the situation and ensure compliance with the relevant regulations.

Another common reason is that the planning policies can change at any time at the discretion of the local authority, in accordance with government guidelines. This means, although the development may have been permitted development at the time, their permitted development rights can be removed in the future, resulting in a breach of planning permission and an enforcement notice. It is important to stay up-to-date with any changes of use of the land that may affect your property’s development plan, especially to avoid unauthorised development that could lead to planning enforcement action and impact the amenity of the area. Effective enforcement is crucial in maintaining the integrity of the decision-making process and ensuring that public acceptance of the process is maintained, as well as tackling any breaches that could negatively impact the amenity of the area.

It is for these reasons that a Lawful Development Certificate is always recommended for anything that ‘might be’ permitted development. This is the only way to obtain a legal determination that the development is lawful and does not need correct planning permission. Obtaining a Lawful Development Certificate is an important step in ensuring that you have the necessary legal documents to proceed with your development plans and have further control over the legality of your project. Additionally, it can provide further control over the legality of your project by obtaining a Lawful Development Certificate.

If approved a lawful development certificate or certificate of lawful use, would protect against retrospective planning issues and enforcement action for life. It is also usually required to sell or remortgage a property.

Depending on the nature of your development and the reasons for enforcement action this may still be an option. However, the requirements and costs are virtually the same as planning permission so, what you really want to do is submit the application that will give you the best chance of success.

Milana Semco


With over 15 years marketing experience Milana brings a huge amount of experience to the team. With heavy focus on our customers needs and interests, she helps Planning By Design to reach, engage and educate clients on all things planning and design in new and innovative ways.

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