Planning enforcement - What we can and can't do

Enforcement powers

Many people do not realise that enforcement powers are discretionary, to be used only when needed.

In considering appropriate action, the Council has to bear in mind the particular circumstances of businesses and the self-employed.

In respect of householders, the degree to which an unauthorised development exceeds the 'permitted development' allowance in the Permitted Development Order (1995 and as subsequently amended) will be an important consideration.

In recent years, planning enforcement has received in excess of 800 requests for service per year and workload is on the increase.

This level of workload means we do have to take prioritising seriously.

We have invested in resourcing the team to show that unacceptable development will not be tolerated but to best utilise the limited resources available, when a breach of planning is established it will be assessed with regard to the level of harm that the unauthorised development is causing.

The factors we will consider include:

  • any associated risks or dangers to the public
  • it's effect upon neighbouring individuals or businesses
  • the effect upon the general amenity of the area
  • any impact on the highway network
  • assessment of appropriateness against current local, London and National Policy

What we investigate

  • Unauthorised building or engineering works
  • Unauthorised changes of use to a building or land
  • Unauthorised advertisements
  • Unauthorised works to Listed Buildings
  • Unauthorised demolition
  • Unauthorised traveller and roadside encampments
  • Untidy sites that are harmful to the amenity of the neighbourhood
  • Non-compliance with plans and conditions imposed on planning permissions
  • Hedgerow/tree removal

What we do not investigate

  • Anonymous allegations where there is no supporting evidence to substantiate an allegation 
  • Neighbour boundary disputes
  • Property and land ownership issues
  • Persistent complaints that we have previously investigated and we consider have been resolved
  • Breaches of covenants between landowners or trespass issues
  • Malicious or vexatious reports
  • Loss of views
  • Alleged reduced value of property or land
  • Competition between businesses

Read our planning enforcement policy

What we can't do

There are many types of uses and developments and building operations which are permitted without planning permission.

It is important that before you report an alleged breach of planning controls to us that you check that it is not in fact a 'permitted development'.

The GOV.UK website regularly updates its guidance and detailed information on when permission is required.

When is permission required?

You can also look up the Planning Portal for an interactive house and other useful tools to assess whether what is being carried out is permitted or whether it requires permission.

Do you need permission?

Boundary or party wall disputes

A typical example would be a shared boundary where a new extension overhangs or encroaches onto neighbouring land.

The planning service does not police private development to this extent and cannot become involved in covenant or deed disputes.

We recommend that you take further advice, perhaps in the first instance from the Citizens Advice Bureau.

Obstruction of the highway

Typically this problem would relate to a shared driveway or private access.

Obstruction of a public highway is a breach of The Road Traffic Act (1988), this is a matter which must be dealt with by the police.


The impact of development upon a neighbours light is always considered when determining planning applications, and there are guidelines and rules that are used to judge the impact of proposals upon neighbouring properties.

The 'Right-to-Light' legislation dates back to 1832, and there are many misconceptions around this ancient area of English law.

Above all it must be noted that planning law is separate from Right-to-Light law, therefore, legal advice should be sought, before contacting us.