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Home > Planning & Building Control > Planning > Planning Enforcement

Planning enforcement

Last Modified November 12, 2018

Planning enforcement

The Government produces legislation and regulations which govern what does, and does not, require planning permission. We have legal powers and duties to implement and enforce planning law. This includes protecting buildings of historic importance, controlling outdoor advertisements, dealing with untidy land and buildings, trees and high hedges as well as taking action when serious harm is being caused.

Planning enforcement exists to help control development which has been undertaken without permission, or the development constructed does not adhere to the original permission granted.

We have to decide whether it is right to take action. It is not a criminal act, in most cases, to breach planning control. However, unauthorised work to protected trees and listed buildings, and the display of unauthorised advertisements, do constitute criminal offences, as does failing to resolve an enforcement notice within a specific time. 

We will consider a number of issues (see priorities below) when deciding what proportionate and reasonable action to take. 

Central Government has set down how planning enforcement should operate in the National Planning Policy Framework (2012). A copy of this can be viewed on the Communities and Local Government website.  As per the recommendations of the National Planning Policy Framework, Hertsmere Borough Council has published its own Enforcement Policy.

Principles of enforcement in Hertsmere

An effective enforcement service ensures there are no adverse consequences on either your quality of life or the local economy.

We have:

  • Two enforcement officers and an enforcement team leader.
  • Planning officers, who deal with development control matters, are available to support the enforcement officers.
  • A legal department that gives advice and support to the enforcement team.
  • Counsel to advice and represent us if a case proceed to appeal or court action.

Most enforcement work arises from complaints to us. All complaints are treated in the strictest of confidence and the name of the complainant will not be revealed. Only complaints made in writing can be given any significant priority. If monitoring over a period of time is required, we may need to rely on members of the public to help provide information. In these cases it would be beneficial for details of the complaint, and complainants, to be made available in appeals or court action.

Complaints will only be recorded if they raise legitimate planning considerations. If complaints raise other issues which are more appropriately dealt with by another department, we will forward these to the relevant team.


This will usually involve a site visit together with research or interviews to establish:

  • whether there has been a breach of control; and
  • whether we should pursue the matter further.

We can serve formal notices requesting information on owners and occupiers about land interest or any other information concerning a possible breach of planning control. This is known as a Planning Contravention Notice. Failure to reply properly to such notices can result in criminal convictions. Authorised officers also have the power to enter land for enforcement purposes under various sections of The Town & Country Planning Act 1990.

Our Enforcement Charter


All planning enforcement complaints are kept confidential, unless the complainant agrees otherwise. We will:

  • acknowledge receipt of a complaint within 10 working days;
  • inform you of our investigation, either in writing or by telephone, following a site visit and when the course of action has been decided;
  • inform you of final actions, once the case has been signed off.

The planning enforcement system seeks to control both development that is carried out without planning permission and those that are done not in accordance with any permission granted. In deciding whether to take action, we will consider a number of priorities:

  • Priority 1: Serious harm to the condition of the local environment and/or harm to the built and natural environment that cannot be easily remedied e.g. unauthorised works to listed buildings, unauthorised works to protected trees, unauthorised building or demolition in the conservation area, change of use which creates serious harm due to visual impact, adverse traffic implications or through noise and pollution, advertisements creating significant visual harm
  • Priority 2: Harm that has a wide impact on the local neighbourhood and beyond e.g. change of use that create harm through visual impact or through noise and pollution.
  • Priority 3: Breaches of control which are not causing serious immediate harm .e.g. advertisements with limited adverse impact, householder extensions not complying with planning permission, minor operations such as fences and satellite dishes.

Taking action


Where it has been established that there is a breach of control, we will first consider whether the matter is serious enough to warrant further action. In all cases, we have to ensure that the decision to act, or not, is reasonable. There is no clear cut rule and each case is assessed taking into account the Local Plan and the harm being caused by the development.

Approval from the Planning Committee, which is made up of elected local councillors, is required before most enforcement notices can be served. However, council officers can take enforcement action subject to reporting what action has been taken.  

In many cases, matters are resolved through a negotiated process and are either regulated through the granting of permission or the breach of control is stopped. We will make every effort to resolve the complaint without serving a formal enforcement notice. Where a breach cannot be resolved, and enforcement action is justified, a formal notice may be served. Notices take effect 28 days from serving, during which you have the right to appeal. After this, you have a period of time to comply with the notice. We have to specify the precise steps required to remedy the breach of control. If the breach continues after this, we can take action through the courts as a criminal proceeding.

If an appeal is lodged, the notice is suspended and does not come into effect unless and until the appeal is dismissed. Appeals are the responsibility of the Planning Inspectorate.

In the most serious cases, where there is no other remedy, we have the power to step in to remedy the breach and recharge you for any costs caused. In such cases, we would consider a Stop Notice or apply to the court for an injunction to prevent further harm being caused.

Direct Action Guide 2017

Reporting a potential breach in planning


You can report an alleged breach in planning control using our form, which you will need to complete and email back to us. We cannot accept anonymous reports.

If you are not happy with our service...

You can make a formal complaint if you are not fully satisfied with something we have done. If you disagree with our investigation or receive an enforcement notice, you can appeal against it.

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