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Planning enforcement

2. What is a planning breach?

A breach of planning control will comprise ‘development’ which requires planning permission, and other matters which require the formal consent of the local planning authority.

“Development” is defined by section 55 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 and clarified by decisions of the courts. Breaches of control can include:

  • carrying out building or engineering works or the change of use of a building or land without planning permission
  • carrying out development not in accordance with a planning permission. This can be either failure to follow the approved plans or failure to comply with conditions attached to the permission
  • carrying out works (internal as well as external) to a listed building without listed building consent
  • the display of a sign or advertisement without advertisement consent
  • the unauthorised felling or carrying out of works to a tree which is protected by a Tree Preservation Order or which is within a Conservation Area
  • the unauthorised demolition of a building within a Conservation Area. In addition the local planning authority has power to act where land has become so untidy that it harms the amenity of the surrounding area.

Breaches of planning control are not offences, with the exception of unauthorised works to listed buildings, displaying unauthorised advertisements and carrying out unauthorised works to protected trees which are criminal offences.

General information on what may require planning permission can be found on the Planning Portal Interactive House

The process explained

The following are examples of activities, which are not normally breaches of planning control, and, therefore it is unlikely that enforcement action can be taken under planning legislation:

  • on street parking is a matter for regulation under the Highways Acts.
  • operating a business from home where the residential use remains the primary use and there are no staff employed there and visitors are kept to a minimum.
  • stationing a caravan within the grounds of a dwelling provided that it is used ancillary to the dwelling i.e. it is stored or used as an extra bedroom.
  • clearing land of undergrowth, bushes and trees provided they are not subject to a Tree Preservation Order and are not within a Conservation Area, or protected by a planning condition.

Breaches of planning control often occur in respect of:

  • changes of use, such as shops to offices or takeaways
  • building works
  • unauthorised advertisements
  • erection of fencing
  • alterations to listed buildings including the installation of UPVC windows

Immunity from enforcement action arises when a building or structure has been substantially completed for more than four years, and a change of use occurred more than ten years ago.