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Planning enforcement action

Development carried out without a prior grant of planning permission, or works undertaken that do not comply with the terms of a planning permission may be the subject of enforcement action by the local planning authority. Councils have powers to serve an enforcement notice requiring the unauthorised use or works to cease and unauthoriused work removed. IN certain instances, the action can be made immediate by the service of a stop notice. There are similar provisions relating to listed buildings. Unauthorised works to a listed building may be the subject of a listed building enforcement notice.

In the event that you are served an enforcement notice, it is important that you act promptly. It is possible in certain cases to appeal against  the service of an enforcment notice (see below), but there are strict rules and deadlines governing such appeals. Failure to comply with an enforcement notice is a criminal offence, and you may be liable to a fine or even imprisonment. Councils also have powers to undertake to undertake the necessary work to comply with the terms of an enforcement notice and revcover the cost from you.

If you have been advised by the Council that you have breached planning controls, we are able to advise on the best course of action. Enforcement action is a last resort and in most instances there may be ways of avoiding such action, by for example seeking retrospective planning permission, revising your proposals, or, demonstrating that the work / use is lawful and therefore immune from enforcement action.

MSP are able to advise on the most appropriate strategey for you in the event that you find yourself in a potential enforcement situation. Contact Us

Enforcement Notice Appeals

If you have been served an enforcement notice there is a right of appeal against the service of that notice. Appeals must be lodged before the notice takes effect.  It is only possible to appeal against a notice on one or more of six specified grounds;

(a) that planning permission ought to be granted or the condition or limitation concerned ought to be discharged

(b) the matters stated in the enforcement notice have not occurred;

(c) the matters stated in the enforcement notice (if they occurred) do not constitute a breach of planning control;

(d) at the date when the notice was issued, no enforcement action could be taken;

(e) copies of the enforcement notice were not served in accordance with the relevant statutory requirements;

(f) the steps required by the notice to be taken, or the activities required by the notice to cease, exceed what is necessary either to remedy any breach of a planning control or to remedy any injury to amenity which has been caused by any such breach; and/or

(g) any period specified in the notice falls short of what should reasonably be allowed.

MSP are able to advise you on all aspects of the enforcement appeal process. In may instances, it is possible , as part of the appeal process, to seek planning permission for the works specified in the notice. There are strict appeal procedures and the circumstances of each case are likley to require a specific detailed response. MSP are able to handle the submission of an enforcement notice appeal on your behalf.Contact Us.

©MSP 2018

Certificate of Lawfulness / Lawful Development Certificates

In some cases, it may be an appropriate defence to an allegation of unauthorised development, that the alleged works are immune from enforcement action because they are 'lawful'. Building works may become immune fromenforcement action after 4-years. Changes of use may become immune after 10 years.A Certificate of Lawfulness application would in suitable circumstances enable you to demonstrate that a development or use is outside the scope of enforcement action by the passage of time. Such applications can sometimes represent a valid means of avoiding enforcement action. MSP are able to advise you whether such an application would be appropriate in the cicumstances of your case.   Contact Us


Our glossary is intended to explain a number of key planning terms and to direct you to the relevant main site pages.

The definitions and explanations are not a complete or definitive legal interpretation of the term.

Go to Glossary