Planning Enforcement Notices

Our consultants are experts in planning enforcement appeals


If your council suspects that you have carried out works without planning permission, or without complying with a planning permission, it can issue an Enforcement Notice.

The Notice will normally require that you demolish what you have built or reverse any change of use.

Enforcement Notices are very serious legal documents and you should always seek professional advice.

We are enforcement specialists. We submit hundreds of enforcement appeals each year, and win most of them.

If you have received an Enforcement Notice, email us a copy of fill in the form below for a free assessment of your case.

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Fill in our form to receive our assessment on your chances of success.

You will also receive a personalised fixed-fee quote for the preparation, submission and management of your appeal.

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Frequently asked questions

What is planning enforcement?

Every council planning department has a team of officers who deal with breaches of planning control. They investigate cases where people have built something without permission, or without complying with a planning permission. They also investigate breaches of condition or unlawful changes of use. If they find a breach, they can serve an Enforcement Notice, demanding that it be reversed. 

How do enforcement officers find out about a breach?

Councils don’t go around looking for breaches – there is no planning police force. The planners don’t go around checking that planning permissions have been built out properly. Most investigations start as a result of a complaint from a neighbour. In reality, most breaches don’t ever come to the planners’ attention – lots of people get away with it. 

How does a planning enforcement investigation work?

If a neighbour rings up to say that it looks like something has been built without planning permission, or not in accordance with a planning permission, a case officer will normally go around and visit the site. Sometimes they will write to the owner first, or serve a Planning Contravention Notice (PCN). 

What is a Planning Contravention Notice (PCN)?

A Planning Contravention Notice (PCN) is a document that asks you to provide information to help the council assess whether a breach of planning control has occurred. You are legally required to reply to the PCN, giving honest and complete answers, within the time limit set out on the notice (usually 21 days). You may be fined a maximum of £1,000 if you do not respond in full and honestly. 

If you receive a PCN, contact us for advice on how to respond. The answers you give in your response to the PCN may determine whether further enforcement action is taken and, though your answers must, by law, be complete and truthful, care should still be taken to ensure that you do not unnecessarily incriminate yourself. 

If a breach is found, does the council have to take action?

If the council’s investigation reveals that there has been a breach of planning control, it must decide what action to take. it does not have to take any action at all – it should only take action if it is ‘expedient’ (in the public interest) – minor breaches should be ignored.

What is the best way to deal with an enforcement officer?

Try to work with the enforcement officer – they are not the enemy and they are not there to make your life difficult. Try to build a rapport with them and ask them for their advice. Don’t be aggressive or lie to them – remember they are more likely to be helpful to someone who has been open and honest. 

How do I stop the council serving an Enforcement Notice?

You can try and avoid an Enforcement Notice by negotiating with the enforcement officer to see if the development could be changed to make it acceptable, or by submitting a planning application or a certificate of lawfulness for the development that has been carried out. 

Can I submit a retrospective planning application?

If you have a development that does not have planning permission, you can apply for permission retrospectively (i.e. after it is complete). A retrospective planning application is exactly the same as a regular planning application, except that the development is already in place. You submit the same application form, plans and application fee, and the application is assessed on the same policies, as if the development had not yet taken place. 

Can I resubmit a retrospective application, but with improvements/amendments?

If the council tells you that what you have built will not be granted permission, you can apply for it, but with amendments that might make it acceptable. For example, if you have built an extension and the council does not like the design of the roof, you could apply to keep the extension but change the roof. 

What is a Certificate of Lawfulness application?

If the development you have carried out has been in place for 4 years (the ‘4 year rule’) or 10 years (the ’10 year rule;), it is too late for the council to take enforcement action against it. You can apply for a Certificate of Lawfulness to confirm that your development is now lawful by virtue of the passage of time.

If you don’t have planning permission for your development, but you think it does not need permission because it is ‘permitted development’, you can also submit an application for a Certificate of Lawfulness to establish that fact.

What should I do if I receive an Enforcement Notice?

It is very important that you take professional advice. An Enforcement Notice is an important legal document that might require you to reverse an act of development. You normally have 28 days to appeal the Notice and, if it takes effect and you do not comply with requirements, you are at risk of prosecution and a fine. 

Should I appeal my Enforcement Notice?

It is almost always worth appealing an enforcement notice. At the very least, appealing it buys you some time – enforcement appeals take 9–12 months to be decided. Once you appeal, the enforcement action is paused and you can retain the unauthorised development while a decision is made. If you do not appeal within the time period set out in the notice itself (usually 28 days), the notice takes effect, and you are obliged to comply with its requirements.

Who decides planning enforcement appeals?

Councils will not generally withdraw an Enforcement Notice after they have gone to the trouble of serving it, unless they discover that they have made an error in the way it is drafted. They are also very unlikely to withdraw the notice if you have not appealed in time, or if the appeal has failed.

However, we are sometimes successful in getting it withdrawn after we have submitted an appeal and the council sees that we have made a strong case and are likely to win the appeal. 

What is the appeal process?

Most appeals are decided through written representations, meaning that both sides submit written Appeal Statements and the inspector makes a decision based on those arguments.

The inspector will usually carry out a brief site visit. The site visit is purely for the inspector to see the site and is not an opportunity for either side to make its case. 

The appeal process is generally straight forward and stress free. Our consultants will handle all correspondence and there is little for you to do. You may need to provide access to the inspector for the site visit but can otherwise just await the decision.

What are the grounds of an enforcement appeal?

Enforcement appeals can be made on 7 grounds (grounds a to g), as follows:

  • Planning permission should be granted for the development;
  • There has been no breach of planning control;
  • The breach alleged in the enforcement notice has not occurred as a matter of fact;
  • It is too late for the council to take action (under the 4- or 10-year rules);
  • The notice was not properly served;
  • The requirements of the notice are excessive;
  • The period for compliance is too short.


Do you have to pay to appeal an Enforcement Notice?

If you appeal under ground (a), that planning permission should be granted for the development, you will usually have to pay a fee to the council of double the usual planning application fee. For extensions, that is £412 (£206 x 2), for a new house or a change of use it is £924 (£462 x 2). 

Can you persuade the council to withdraw an Enforcement Notice?

Planning appeals in England and Wales are decided by the Planning Inspectorate, a central government agency based in Bristol. The inspectorate is entirely separate from local councils. When you appeal, an independent inspector is appointed to consider your case and make a decision.

The Planning Inspectorate has published a guide to the planning enforcement appeal process – available here.

How much do you charge for enforcement appeals?

If you have received an Enforcement Notice, email us a copy of it and we will take a look and give you some free advice on what it means and what we think you should do. 

We will also give you a quote for any application or appeal we recommend. We charge fixed fees (no hourly rates or hidden extras) so you know precisely how much you will have to pay.  

What kinds of developments are most likely to trigger an Enforcement Notice?

Every year, thousands of people make honest mistakes that cause them enforcement headaches. Often people carry out an extension to their house that they think is permitted development, but it is not, or they build it slightly larger than they should have. This is particularly common with dormer roof extensions, and with outbuildings in rear gardens.

Councils are also targeting ‘beds in sheds’, where people are renting out outbuildings as separate houses, or unlawful houses in multiple occupation (HMOs), where houses or flats are being rented to groups of sharers without planning permission. Finally, councils often target houses which have been converted into flats without planning permission. 

Contact us now to see how we can help with planning enforcement notices