If you think that someone has broken planning regulations, you can submit a report about it to our Planning Enforcement team. We will assess the situation in relation to national and local planning policy, and will keep you updated with the actions we take and the reasons why.
Typical examples of breaches of planning control
Without the correct consents, all of the following may be breaking regulations:
- Building works affecting the external appearance of a building
- Internal or external works on a listed building
- Changes of use (such as from agricultural use to residential, or residential to commercial)
- Failing to comply with conditions attached to planning consents
- The display of advertising
- Substantial demolition in a conservation area
- The felling of protected trees
Things that Planning Enforcement does not deal with
We regret that we are unable to investigate the following:
- Neighbour disputes
- Land boundaries or ownership disputes
- Disputes under the Party Wall Act
- Smells, noise and pollution
- Use of development on highways or pavements
- Dangerous structures
If you have persistent problems with any of these issues, we advise contacting Citizens Advice, or a solicitor.
Make sure your report is valid
Some work on properties is classed as permitted development, and so does not need planning permission. There are further details of this on the Planning Portal. You should search our Planning Register, to check if the works you are concerned about are already the subject of a planning application. We also advise you to read about Planning Enforcement policy and implementation, before submitting a report.
If your report is about an unauthorised development (including listed buildings and protected trees)
Before you contact us about the development
The planning enforcement process can be very slow, and may not be the most effective way of resolving a problem. We recommend taking the steps below before you submit a report.
- Attempt to solve the problem by communicating directly with the property owner, using an intermediary you both trust, or one recommended by Civil Mediation Council.
- Research how you think the development has broken planning regulations. We will not investigate anonymous complaints, or reports that do not identify a breach of planning control. Please use the Planning Portal to check if the work is classed as permitted development, which needs no planning permission. If you are still unsure on this issue, email email@example.com to discuss it further.
- Make copies of all documents you wish to submit with your report. This may include emails, letters, or photographs you have taken of the development or its impact. You will have an opportunity to upload these documents when you make your report online.
- Read our Local Enforcement Plan, to give yourself a good understanding of how we will handle your report.
- Recognise that, while we will not disclose your identity to the property owner (subject to the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act and associated legislation), it may be easy for them to guess who has made the report.
If your report is about a high hedge
The GOV.UK website has extensive guidance on dealing with high hedge issues.
Before you contact us about a high hedge
We have a separate reporting process for issues caused by high hedges. If you’re the owner or tenant in a home affected by a high hedge, you should first speak to your neighbour about the problem. The GOV.UK website has advice on speaking to a neighbour about hedge problems. If this doesn’t work, contact a mediation service via Civil Mediation Council. If you can demonstrate that you have taken these steps and you still can’t come to an agreement, you can report the issue to us.
We may be able to act if all of the following are true.
- Someone else owns the land the hedge is growing on
- It’s acting as a barrier to light or access
- The part of the hedge that is causing problems is made up of a line of at least two trees or shrubs
- The hedge is mostly evergreen or semi-evergreen
- The height of the hedge is two metres or more
There is a fee of £400 for investigating high hedge reports. The fee is payable, whatever action we decide to take on the issue. Once your report is submitted, we will be in touch to arrange a convenient way for you to pay.
We’ll gather information to help us make a decision. This may include writing to people who are involved and visiting the site. We may talk to other neighbours and residents’ associations. We’ll then make a decision and let you know our reasons. Select a section below to learn more about how we work.
If we discover that there has been a breach of planning control, we will attempt to resolve the matter first of all by negotiation. The enforcement of planning law is particularly complex, and formal action is always our last resort, where lesser steps may have failed.
We work to create a balance between competing rights and responsibilities, as follows:
- The rights of individuals to use or alter their property in the way they wish
- The need to safeguard the character and quality of neighbourhoods
- The need to uphold the planning policies for the local area in such a way as to protect the public interest
In all cases, we assess what harm is being caused by any breach, and if the situation can be solved without formal legal action. Although we can and do sometimes take legal action, we resolve the majority of cases through negotiation.
There are four stages to the investigation process, as follows:
- Within 10 working days, we will register your report, allocate an Enforcement Officer and let you know that we are investigating the issue
- If the enquiry is valid, we will conduct a site visit
- We will contact the alleged offender to let them know we are investigating a complaint
- Our action can vary depending upon the case
Our investigation can take between 8 and 13 weeks, but in more complex cases this may be longer.
We may choose to do any of the following:
- Require the property owner to make a retrospective planning application to cover a development they have already made (please note that there is no guarantee we will grant retrospective permission)
- Order any work in progress to be stopped, temporarily or permanently
- Issue a formal notice requiring the owner to make their development compliant with planning regulations (in some cases, this may require demolition or removal of an unauthorised development, or banning its use )
- Prosecute or secure a court injunction against a property owner who fails to comply with orders or notices
- Decide to take no formal action
If, following our investigation, we think it is reasonable and practical to take action, we’ll send an Enforcement Notice to the property or land owner. This sets out what must be done and a time limit. We will give them a fixed time to solve the problem.
The notice applies to the property, not the owner, so it will still apply if the property is sold. In the example of an order to maintain a hedge, for example, this means any future owners of the property will have to keep the hedge at a height of 2m or below.
If we serve the owner with a notice and they don’t carry out the necessary work, we may choose to prosecute them. In extreme cases, we can carry out work and recover expenses from the owner.
If you’re not happy with the decision we’ve made, you can appeal against a Planning Enforcement notice or appeal against a high hedges decision at the GOV.UK website. For Enforcement Notices, only the person who receives the notice can appeal; for High Hedges Notices, both the person making a report, and the owner of the high hedge, can appeal against our decisions.
You must appeal within 28 days of any notices we issue, or the date on the letter telling you about our decision.
We’ll suspend any notices while the Planning Inspectorate makes a decision on any appeals.