Planning Portal

PPS 9: The Enforcement of Planning Control
The general approach of the Department to enforcement

3.1 The Department has a general discretion to take enforcement action against a breach of planning control when it regards it as expedient to do so, having regard to the provisions of the development plan and any other material considerations. Private citizens cannot initiate planning enforcement action but may advise the Department of a breach of planning control that they believe has occurred. The Department will pursue cases involving alleged unauthorised development, and any resulting enforcement action, without undue delay.
3.2 In considering whether formal enforcement action is an expedient remedy for unauthorised development, the Department will be guided by the following:
  • whether the breach of control would:
    1. be clearly contrary to planning policy; or
    2. unacceptably affect public amenity (including road safety) or the existing use of land and buildings meriting protection in the public interest.
  • the extent of the breach. The Department will only pursue enforcement action commensurate with the breach of planning control to which it relates. For example, it will usually be inappropriate to issue an enforcement notice for an insignificant or technical breach of planning control which has no material, adverse planning implications. However in those cases where harm to public amenity has occurred, or is likely to occur, then formal enforcement action will normally be promptly initiated.
  • the willingness of the offender(s) to remedy the breach of control voluntarily. Where initial attempts by the Department fail to persuade the offender(s) to remedy the harmful effects of unauthorised development voluntarily, protracted negotiations will not be allowed to hamper or delay whatever formal enforcement action may be required to make the development acceptable on planning grounds, or to compel it to stop.
  • the statutory time limits for taking enforcement action (see Annex A).
3.3 The integrity of the development control process depends upon the readiness of the Department to take effective enforcement action when it is appropriate. Public respect for the development control system is quickly undermined if unauthorised development, which is unacceptable on planning grounds, is allowed to proceed without any apparent attempt to intervene before serious harm to public amenity results. The Department will therefore assess in each case which power (or mix of powers) is best suited to dealing with any particular apparent or actual breach of control, to achieve a satisfactory and lasting remedy. Prompt initiation of enforcement action will normally be necessary to prevent an unacceptable breach of control becoming well established and more difficult to remedy.
3.4 The Government remains committed to fostering business enterprise and the Department will bear this in mind when considering how best to deal with unauthorised development by small businesses. However, in order to maintain a fair and safe trading environment, business activity must take place within the context of current planning policies and without unacceptable harm to public amenity. Accordingly in certain cases effective enforcement action may be the only appropriate remedy for unauthorised businesses where there is no willingness on the behalf of operators to negotiate a satisfactory solution.
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