Investigating complaints about mineral extraction and processing, the management of waste and our own developments, such as schools and nursing homes.

Complaints may range from development without planning permission or a breach of the terms of a planning permission.

Your local district council deals with planning enforcement for residential, commercial and industrial developments.

Report a suspected breach of planning control

Email if you suspect unauthorised development or a breach of planning control.

It is important you provide as much information as possible about the issue. Please include:

  • your name, address, telephone number and email address;
  • the address or location of the alleged breach (mark on a plan if possible);
  • the name and address of the person(s), company, developer carrying out the breach (if known);
  • the nature of the complaint and what you believe is the breach of planning control;
  • when the problem started or took place;
  • your assessment of the ‘harm’ the alleged breach is causing; and
  • whether you would like to be kept informed of the progress of your complaint.

Once a breach of control is confirmed, you may be asked to make a note of your observations and keep a log of any relevant activities. In particular, times, dates, names, addresses, telephone numbers and the registration details of any vehicles are helpful.

The main breaches of planning control investigated by the monitoring and compliance officer include:

  • building or engineering work and the change of use of land without a planning permission;
  • unauthorised deposit of waste or mineral extraction;
  • breach of conditions attached to planning permissions or the terms of a section 106 obligation;
  • non-compliance with approved plans attached to planning permissions;
  • unauthorised change of use of land or buildings;
  • unauthorised works to a listed building; and
  • unauthorised demolition work.

Situations that do not involve a breach of planning control such as land ownership disputes and breaches of a covenant attached to deeds will not be investigated, as these are civil issues.

  • To remedy the undesirable effects of unauthorised development.
  • To strike a balance between protecting amenity or environment and other interests of acknowledged importance throughout the authority’s area, and enabling acceptable development to take place, even though it may initially have been unauthorised.
  • To ensure the credibility of the planning system is not undermined.
  • To be both proactive regarding the monitoring of development to ensure compliance with conditions imposed on planning permissions and also reactive in the investigation of complaints.
  • To work with other agencies and organisations, both internally and externally to deliver the acceptable outcomes

Enforcement activities are operated within Government guidelines and in accordance with County Council policy. This means:

  • we must decide whether the breach of planning control unacceptably affects amenity;
  • action will not be taken just because development has started without planning permission;
  • we do not always have to take action but the particular circumstances of the case must always be considered; and
  • it is not normal to take formal action against a minor breach of control that causes no real harm, however, any breach of planning control will be recorded and drawn to the attention of the developer.

If it appears there is a breach, then the person responsible will be asked to take action to resolve the breach. This could include:

  • submitting a retrospective planning application (where appropriate);
  • ceasing the unauthorised activities; or
  • removing any unauthorised development and/or complying with the condition.

If an enforcement notice has been issued, the recipient has a right of appeal. You may be contacted to ask if you wish to submit additional information or appear at an inquiry or hearing to support the enforcement team’s case. Once an appeal has been lodged, any subsequent representations received become public documents, available for public inspection, including the appellant and their legal representatives.

Planning enforcement issues are usually resolved without resorting to formal enforcement action or prosecution. However, if negotiation fails to resolve the problem, the monitoring and compliance officer has a number of tools available to obtain information or remedy the breach. These include:

Planning Contravention Notices (PCN)

This notice seeks information about suspected breach(es) of planning control.

Enforcement notices

This notice is issued against breaches of planning control and sets out steps that the recipient should take to remedy the breach and a timetable for doing so.

Breach of condition notices (BCN)

These notices can be served where a condition attached to a planning permission is being breached. A BCN will set out the steps the recipient should take to remedy the breach of condition and a timetable for doing so.

Listed building enforcement notice

This notice is similar to an enforcement notice but is used where works have been carried out to a listed building without listed building consent or in contravention of a condition of a consent.

Stop notice

This notice is only served in conjunction with an enforcement notice in exceptional circumstances where it is essential that activities cease to safeguard amenity or public safety or to prevent serious or irreversible harm to the environment.

Temporary stop notice

Similar to the stop notice, this notice can be served in exceptional circumstances where it is essential that activities immediately cease, for a period of up to 28 days. This allows the County Council to make further investigations and consider whether to take further action.


Prosecutions are normally brought in the Magistrates Court against the failure to comply with one of the notices listed above or the unauthorised display of advertisements, unauthorised works to a protected tree or unauthorised works to a listed building but some serious cases may be brought in, or referred to the Crown Court. Failure to respond or comply with the requirements of the notices above will result in prosecution.


An injunction is only sought, in the County or High Court, in the most exceptional investigations and used as a last resort if it is necessary to restrain an actual or anticipated breach of planning control. The breaking of an injunction is contempt of court and the court can levy an unlimited fine or impose a custodial sentence.


An appeal may be lodged with the Planning Inspectorate against an enforcement notice before it comes into effect on one of seven specified grounds. If an appeal is made the requirements of the notice are suspended until the appeal is heard. Appeals against enforcement notices may sometimes take up to a year to be heard.

If an appeal is allowed, no further action can be taken by the County Council in regard to that breach. If an appeal is dismissed, legal action can only be taken if an individual then fails to comply with the requirements of an enforcement notice.

There are time limits for taking enforcement action:

  • four years after substantial completion in relation to the erection of buildings and change of use of buildings to residential use; and
  • ten years for most changes of use of land or buildings and breach of condition.

Anonymous complaints

To avoid malicious complaints, anonymous allegations of breaches of planning control are not normally investigated, but will be recorded. You should, however, be aware that if you give your name, address, or any other details, they will be treated in the strictest confidence so far as legislation permits. Should you still wish to remain anonymous, you are encouraged to refer the matter to your local member.

Anonymous complaints may be accepted at the discretion of the service if the matters raised constitute a criminal offence, such as works to protected trees and listed buildings.


Legislation requires that the name and address of the person making the complaint, or any other contact details, will not be disclosed. However, when you have been asked to collect evidence to support your complaint, you may be asked to give that evidence at a hearing but only when you are sure that you want to do so.

Most complaints are dealt with without the need for formal action, so in most cases confidentiality can be maintained. However, you should remember that the person whose activities you have complained about may know you have made the complaint because of things you have said to them, someone reported what you have told them or the nature of the complaint makes it obvious you are the person who has complained.