Enforcement – how Planning Geek can help


The very fear of a letter dropping through the letter box from the local authority isn’t good. When the local enforcement team get in touch, it is probably not wise to ignore the letter.

However what you do next, depends upon the type of letter that has been sent.


We do not however recommend sending an email or letter in response, unless it is a brief email to acknowledge receipt. Do not comment on the content of the letter in case you do more harm than good. However innocent it might seem.

Instead, we urge you to get professional advice first. You can contact us or another planning consultant. But please take advice. If you have received a PCN (see below) do not hesitate in making contact.


Why do enforcement get involved?

Usually this is as a result of a complaint from a neighbour or passer-by. The council do not routinely go out looking for breaches. They have more important things to do! However they will usually follow up upon any complaint. But this must be proportionate to the breach of planning to which it relates.

They may opt to take no formal action, write a more informal email or letter, or go down the more formal route via say a PCN. However they could issue items such as a Stop Notice, a Temporary Stop Notice, Breach of Condition Notice. Further potential action might be relevant to listed buildings, adverts, trees, hazardous substance and more. Or it could be a combination of any of these.

Whichever type of correspondence you receive. Stop and take advice



PCN – Planning Contravention Notice

A local planning authority (LPA) can issue a Planning Contravention Notices (“PCN”) under Section 171C of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 to establish whether any development or other breach of planning control has been carried out on the land in question.

A PCN will be served on either the owner as per the Land Registry title or the occupier or both. It is one form of enforcement that should never be ignored. Not that we suggest you ignore any other version. Ignoring doesn’t make the issue go away.

A response must be sent to the LPA within 21 days. It is a criminal offence to ignore a PCN. A fine of up to £1,000 can be levied if you fail to respond, therefore we urge you to make contact with us as soon as possible. The sooner we are instructed, the sooner we can help.

If you make a false or misleading response and this can be proven, the fine can be far higher with ultimately prison if you do not comply and exhaust all the options.

The PCN needs to include the following information

  • Details of the land to which it relates
  • The alleged breach
  • Reasons for issuing the notice
  • What you are required to do
  • Time for compliance
  • When the notice takes effect
  • Details on your right of appeal


Other forms of communication

You may receive various other more informal communications from the enforcement team. These may come before a PCN or may be in place of one. Either way we recommend getting advice. Often a reply is requested within 28 days. As long as some response is made, the local authority is often prepared to work with you to resolve the issue.


Right of access

Planning enforcement officers have extensive powers to enter land to investigate enforcement breaches under Section 196 of the TCPA 1960.  Withholding permission, which must be at a reasonable hour, may result in a warrant being provided by the court.

As with everything else it is best to work with the local authority. These days with drones, they may not even need access and can fly a drone over the land to establish any potential breaches. This is quite legal as long as the drone laws are adhered to.


Ways to resolve the situation

In order to resolve the enforcement action and sleep easier, there are a few options that might be open to you.

  • You could cease the operation or remove the offending item(s). This might not always be so easy or what you would prefer to do.
  • You can apply for a certificate of lawfulness. Planning Geek can assist you in this process. You will need either 4 or 10 years worth of evidence at least to satisfy this option.
  • You can apply for retrospective planning. The local authority is not under any obligation to provide this option. But they usually will.
  • Appeal the situation. We are all human and occasionally local authorities can get it wrong.
  • Work with the enforcement officer to resolve the issue.


Appealing the enforcement notice

There are various grounds to appeal the decision notice:-

  • Planning permission ought to be granted for the breach
  • The condition that is breached should be removed from the permission
  • The alleged breach doesn’t actually require planning permission and is not a breach of planning control
  • The breach alleged hasn’t actually happened
  • The time limit for enforcement has passed – see this page for more information
  • The enforcement notice was not properly served on those with an interest in the land
  • The requirement for compliance is excessive
  • The period for compliance with the notice is too short

Enforcement appeals are dealt with the inspectorate. This might consist of written representations, informal hearing or a public enquiry. Expect the inspector to visit the site and any other parties involved. Once you lodge an appeal the enforcement notice is suspended. Any enforcement period will continue should the appeal fail. If it is won then happy days, the enforcement ceases.

It is vital that you get this correct, therefore please do get in touch for a fee proposal for your situation. We are here to help.


Further action

At the end of the day however Planning Enforcement contact you, stop think and then make contact with Planning Geek. We might recommend a Zoom session to discuss the situation with Ian or we might recommend a simple letter with evidence to resolve the situation.

Planning Geek has extensive experience of dealing with Enforcement across the country. Often a simple letter might suffice, other times we need to submit for a certificate of lawfulness or retrospective planning. Virtually every planning department has had interactions with Planning Geek and therefore know that we will work for the best outcome.

The final point is do not panic. We are here to help you!

Contact us today for help. 




Enforcement – Page Updated: 17th January 2024