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Enforcement actions and guidance

Confirmed breaches of planning control

If the breach is minor, we might take no further action, other than asking for a retrospective application, if it is:

  • in line with Local Plan policies or
  • immune from enforcement action due to the passage of time

Unacceptable breaches of planning control

If the breach is unacceptable and could not be resolved by an approved application, we will:

  • ask for a use to cease, or unauthorised development to be removed
  • issue a formal notice where necessary and expedient

We have a number of options available to assist in resolving the breach. Not all options will be suitable in each case.

Planning Contravention Notice (PCN)

This is the main method used to obtain information on a suspected unauthorised development. It will usually set out a list of questions about the site / development.

Breach of Condition Notice (BCN)

We can serve this on the developer or occupier when they do not comply with conditions imposed on a planning permission. If they do not comply with the BCN, we can take legal action. It can only be used to secure complete compliance. It does not apply to breaches of control related to listed buildings, advertisements, or protected trees. It is a criminal offence to fail to comply with a BCN within the period for compliance specified and there is no right of appeal against the notice other than to the Courts.

Enforcement Notice

An enforcement notice may be issued when a breach of planning control has taken place and that attempts to persuade the owner or occupier of a site to voluntarily correct the harmful effects of unauthorised development have failed. With an enforcement notice the recipient(s) must take the specified steps within a set time period. Failure to comply with a notice is a criminal offence. The recipient(s) of a notice have the right to appeal to the Secretary of State through the Planning Inspectorate. An appeal suspends the effect of the notice until it is determined.

Stop Notice

We can serve a stop notice with an enforcement notice, or after we have served an enforcement notice if we consider that continuing unauthorised development is causing irreparable and immediate significant harm. The stop notice continues to take effect even if an appeal is lodged against the enforcement notice. Work must stop immediately the notice comes into effect. There is no right of appeal; failure to comply with the notice is an offence.

Temporary Stop Notice

We can serve these where we consider that there has been a serious breach of planning control and it is necessary to stop the activity or development in question immediately to safeguard the amenity of the area. This differs from the normal stop notice as it is immediate and does not have to be accompanied by an enforcement notice. In addition, it is temporary and only lasts for 28 days. There is no right of appeal. A judicial review can challenge the validity and propriety of our decision.

Further technical guidance is available from the Department for Communities and Local Government