Breach of planning

Page updated on: 17/04/2024

Enforcement is one of the most complex parts of the planning system and is an issue that concerns many members of the public, given the need to ensure that appropriate action is taken against unacceptable breaches of control in the wider public interest.

While all valid complaints will always be investigated, it is not however always possible or expedient for the Authority to take action against unauthorised development.

Our planning enforcement team will research the background of a case and carry out a site visit/s where necessary, following this a decision will be made on whether further action will be taken.

We prioritise each case based on the nature of the issue. It is necessary to prioritise complaints in terms of impact and harm. Therefore the most urgent cases will be visited first.

Should you report a breach, we will not be able to provide any updates during the investigation. You will only be updated by email once it has been established that a breach of control has or has not taken place.

Please note that enforcement matters can take up to 12 weeks to conclude the investigation stage due to the procedure that must be followed and the volume of cases the Council receives.

read the Planning enforcement statement

A breach of planning control could involve such matters as the unauthorised erection of a building or extension to a building, engineering operations, a ‘material’ change of use of land, or the display of unauthorised advertisements and works to listed buildings.

Additionally, a failure to comply with a condition on planning permission may be relevant to planning enforcement. Residents often report issues to the Council which, although they relate to buildings or land, are not always covered under planning enforcement powers.

Below is a guide to the complaints which can, and cannot,be investigated by planning enforcement.

Our planning enforcement team can investigate possible breaches of planning control such as:

  • Unauthorised works to listed buildings;
  • Unauthorised Demolition of buildings or structures in a conservation area;
  • Unauthorised Works to trees subject of a Tree Preservation Order (“TPO”) or any trees in a conservation area;
  • Unauthorised Building works (i.e. extensions, outbuildings, fences, walls);
  • Unauthorised Change of use of buildings and/or land without planning permission (inc. sub-division of houses to flats / Houses in Multiple Occupation or residential caravans) where the change of use is not permitted development*;
  • Unauthorised advertisements and signage;
  • Non-compliance with conditions attached to planning permissions;
  • Not building in accordance with the approved plans of planning permissions;
  • Unauthorised Engineering operations, such as raising of ground levels or earth bunds;
  • Deliberate concealment of unauthorised building works or changes of use
  • Unauthorised mineral extraction
  • Unauthorised treatment or disposal of waste

Non-planning enforcement issues, which we cannot investigate:

  • Internal works to a building. This does not include listed buildings; (possibly Building Regulations)
  • Parking of commercial vehicles on the highway or on grass verges;
  • Land ownership/boundary disputes or trespass issues; (Civil issue)
  • Infringements of covenants in property deeds; (Civil issue)
  • Temporary structures/fencing associated with building works; (Highways Section)
  • Dangerous structures or other health and safety issues; (Building Regulations/HSE)
  • Running a business from home where activities do not include employees and the main use is still residential;
  • Devaluing of property; (Civil)
  • Issues relating to party walls (Civil)
  • Issues relating to damage of property or (potential) injury to persons (Housing/civil)
  • Invasive non-native plants (civil unless the plants originate from Local Authority land)

Before you ask us to investigate a planning issue, did you know that some building work does not require planning permission. This is known as permitted development. If you're not sure what is and isn't allowed please read the above guide on the type of development that can be undertaken without planning permission.

You should also check if the site has planning permission. You can search for a planning application online by location, date and more. It won't take long and you'll be able to see if planning permission has been granted and what conditions are in place.

If you're concerned about bats being disturbed, nesting birds or owls you can report this to the Wildlife crime officer in the police.

Below is a list of the type of information that would assist us in dealing with your complaint:

  • An accurate description of the location or address for the particular site;
  • A detailed description of the activities taking place and why they are cause for concern;
  • Names, addresses, phone numbers and email addresses of those persons responsible for the alleged breach or the landowners;
  • The date and times of when the alleged breach took place;
  • Any other information or evidence (including photos) that may be able to assist;
  • Your name and contact details as set out above - please do not we do not investigate anonymous complaints

The details you provide will be used to follow up your complaint. If you can provide photos this will help us with our investigation.

We may have to work with partner organisations such as the police. We will not share your personal details with anyone else without your consent.


When investigating an alleged breach of planning control the Authority always seeks to ensure that decisions are taken concerning the most appropriate way forward in an effective and timely manner. This does not, however, mean that formal action will be taken. Such action is limited to the most serious cases where harm arises and action is warranted in the public interest.

When we investigate complaints, and these are found to require planning permission (‘a breach of planning’) or a breach of condition, we will undertake an initial assessment to determine whether the development would be acceptable judged against the Policies within the Council’s adopted Local Development Plan. Although the nature of such assessment will vary depending on the breach, this may involve consideration of matters including: - the principle of development; and the impact on visual amenity / local character, highway safety, and residential amenity.

There will often be cases, however, where the nature of the breach is considered to have no unacceptable impacts, and we will conclude that it would not be ‘expedient’ in the public interest to take any action (including requiring submission of an application).

In such ‘non expediency’ cases, we appreciate that complainants will not always agree with our decision. Officers will, however, always be happy to explain the reasoning behind such conclusions with a complainant.

Where Officers have decided that a breach has occurred and it is expedient to take action, the Council will then seek to resolve the breach through one of the following actions:

  • Removal of the breach through informal negotiation
  • Serve Notice in respect of the alleged breach - The most appropriate Notice will be used to remedy the harm being caused. This could take one of the following forms:
    • Enforcement Notice (Operational Development or Material Change of Use)
    • Stop Notice (including Temporary Stop Notice)
    • Section 215 Notice (‘Amenity Notice’)
    • Breach of Condition Notice
    • Listed Building Enforcement Notice
    • Injunctions
  • Planning permission is subsequently granted through an application (or following an appeal against service of an Enforcement Notice)
  • By taking prosecution action e.g. against unauthorised display of an advertisement, or Unauthorised Works to a Listed Building
  • By the Authority taking Direct Action to remove the breach of control

In the majority of cases, even where breaches are identified, we will seek to resolve these informally, which may include: -

  • Informal negotiation with an owner / developer to remove a breach, or to make changes to a development such that it no longer constitutes a breach, or no longer causes material harm;
  • Seeking the submission of a planning application to regularise a breach, which may include the need to comply with conditions to mitigate any harm caused by the development;
  • Concluding that no harm arises from the breach, such that it is not expedient for the Council to take the matter.

If you have received an enforcement notice which you disagree with, then you can appeal to the Planning and Environment Decisions Wales.

The Planning and Environment Decisions Wales must receive an appeal before the date the enforcement notice comes into force.

Once an appeal against an enforcement notice is lodged, the matter is on hold until the decision is issued. Prosecution is not possible at this time.

Appeal a planning enforcement notice

A hedge can be an ideal boundary to your home and attract new wildlife to your garden. Unfortunately, some hedges can cause you, or your neighbours, unwanted problems such as subsidence and loss of light.

Under Part 8 of the Anti-social Behaviour Act you can make a complaint and ask us to evaluate if the 'reasonable enjoyment' of your home is being affected by the height of a neighbouring hedge. This service costs £320. The fee is non-refundable and regardless of the outcome you cannot claim this back from the owner of the hedge.

We cannot help with boundary disputes or subsidence; we recommend you contact Citizen’s advice on 0800 702 2020 or visit their website.

Asking us to get involved should be your last resort, if you do decide to make a complaint you will need to provide evidence that you’ve tried to resolve the situation with your neighbour. Keep a diary with dates and a brief description of what you’ve done, how you contacted them, who attended if you met and what the result was.

You must either own or live in the property to make a complaint. If you don’t own the property, please let your landlord or the owner know before you complete this form.

You will need the following:

  • Your details.
  • Owner/landlords details if it's not your property.
  • Evidence that you've tried to resolve the issue with the owner of the hedge.
  • Details/photos of the hedge and how it is affecting your home.
  • Information about any previous complaints.
  • £320 payment

We will review the information you’ve provided and may carry out a site visit. If we agree with your complaint, we will send a formal remedial notice, this will include:

  • measures to be taken
  • a timescale for when this must be done
  • any future work that needs to be carried out to prevent the problem happening again.

We cannot ask that:

  • the hedge is removed altogether.
  • the hedge is cut to below 2 metres.
  • you have the power to cut your neighbour's hedge.

Both you and the owner of the hedge have the right to appeal our decision to the planning inspectorate.