Planning Law & Appeals

Planning can feel like a bit of a maze, but with in-depth knowledge of policies across the country, our planning consultants can provide the tools you need to succeed.

Offering specialist advice on a full range of services from planning applications and appeals, to permitted development, pre-application advice and representations, we will prepare your applications and find solutions that bring your ideas to life.

We also know that for every project, there’s a bigger picture beyond planning. Our planning consultants will guide you and your proposals through each stage of the planning process, giving complete honesty at all times. This way, you can be confident your project is heading in the right direction.

With our planning consultants working in both public and private sectors, we offer expertise in everything from residential and commercial, to agricultural, leisure and renewables. We love any opportunity to tackle new and exciting projects, so whatever your planning needs, we have you covered.


One of the most common planning enforcement measures actions issued by local authorities is a Planning Enforcement Notice. 

If you have already received an Enforcement Notice or are concerned that your building plans might incur one, don’t worry – we can help. Read on for expert guidance on what Enforcement Notices are and your next steps.

Lewis Mitchell Solicitors can help you appeal an Enforcement Notice. We offer expert Enforcement Notice guidance. Click the link below to learn about appealing an Enforcement Notice. 

What is an Enforcement Notice? 

Enforcement Notices are legal documents that inform the recipient that their building development is in breach of planning control. This will either be where development requiring planning permission has been carried out without planning permission, or where the development has been carried out without complying with conditions attached to a grant of planning permission. The notice orders actions that the developer must take to remedy the breach.

An Enforcement Notice is one of the first steps taken by a council when there is a development or part of a development that they feel is in breach of planning control. This notice is just one of many actions that authorities can issue depending on the circumstances and status of your planning project. You may receive a Planning Contravention Notice first if the council suspects a breach but seeks more information from you about the development before it decides to commence enforcement action.

The notice may order the building developer to cease any unauthorised use of the development or in some cases instruct that it must be demolished.

Note: An Enforcement Notice can require the demolition of a building erected without planning permission. A Stop Notice cannot do so.

The Enforcement Notice will typically detail several key pieces of information that are relevant to why it has been issued. They will include an explanation of the alleged breach of planning control, instruction on how to comply with the notice, a time period for compliance and guidance on how to appeal the notice if you think it is unwarranted. We dissect an Enforcement Notice letter below so you know exactly what is being communicated.

An Enforcement Notice explained

If you’ve received an Enforcement Notice, you may not know where to start and be feeling panicked. We’ve broken down an Enforcement Notice that you might have received into carefully explained sections, to help you understand the notice better.


There are several different types of planning enforcement actions that may be taken by a local planning authority. These include planning contravention notices, enforcement notices and stop notices. But how does planning enforcement actually work? Why might you get a notice in the first place? And most importantly, what should you do if you receive one?  

At Lewis Mitchell Solicitors we are here to help and provide answers to your questions. Read on for expert planning enforcement guidance from our specialist planning lawyers. Or, if you’d like to speak to us today call 01200 428102.

Planning enforcement is made up of actions taken by a local council (or sometimes a court) when a building or structure has been developed in breach of planning controls. These actions involve notices and orders being issued to the individual who is seen to be at fault. We will look at these planning enforcement measures in more detail.

Planning Enforcement Orders explained

Planning enforcement is the process of investigating and resolving possible breaches of planning control. When a building or structure is built without planning permission or in breach of a condition attached to a planning permission, the owner may receive a Planning Enforcement Notice.

What is a Planning Enforcement Notice? 

A Planning Enforcement Notice is a legal document served by local council officers that informs the individual concerned of the reasons why their development is in breach of planning control, and requires steps to be taken within a specified timeframe to remedy that breach.

What are planning enforcement orders?

Planning Enforcement Orders are legal documents made by a Magistrates’ Court in response to an application by a local council. They enable a local authority to take action in relation to a breach of planning control even if the time limits for doing so may have expired. They arise where there has apparently been deliberate concealment of an unauthorised development.

The application may be made within 6 months, starting with the date on which sufficient evidence of the apparent breach came to the local planning authority’s knowledge. The appropriate officer must sign a certificate on behalf of the authority which states the date on which that evidence came to the local planning authority’s knowledge, and the certificate will be conclusive evidence of that fact.

The application must be made to a magistrates’ court and a copy must be served on the owner and occupier of the land, and on anyone else with an interest in the land which, in the local planning authority’s opinion, would be materially affected by the taking of enforcement action in respect of the breach. The applicant, any person who has been served with the application, and any other person the court thinks has an interest in the land that would be materially affected by the enforcement action have a right to appear before, and be heard by, the court hearing the application.

Different Planning Enforcement Notice types

There are several types of Planning Enforcement Notices that can be issued to building developers. Depending on which law you have breached, a specific notice is issued.

Here are some of the most common Planning Enforcement Notices that are issued.

Enforcement Notices

Enforcement Notices are documents served by a local council to an individual that has breached planning control. Enforcement Notices detail how the developed structure has breached planning control and what needs to be done to fix the problem.

Stop Notices

A Stop Notice orders an individual to cease any or all of the activities which are the cause of any breaches of planning control detailed in the related enforcement notice. They can require cessation in advance of the deadline for compliance with the Enforcement Notice. They cannot be served independently of an Enforcement Notice.

Planning Contravention

Planning Contravention Notices are documents that are served when the council requires more information about the development that is thought by the local authority to be a breach of planning control.

Breach of Condition Notices

If you fail to comply with a condition in a planning permission partially or completely, you may receive a Breach of Condition Notice from your local planning authority. This will need careful attention and prompt action to ensure that it does not have a major impact on your development. Unlike an Enforcement Notice, there is no right of appeal against a Breach of Condition Notice – so the only remedy is an application for judicial review in the High Court.

Tree Preservation Order

Trees and Tree Preservation Orders can often cause significant problems when it comes to planning a new development on your land. The subject is covered by cases and legislation and can provide a useful tool for objectors to schemes for development. We can assist with any queries you might have about trees and legal protections against tree damage.

Who can issue a Planning Enforcement Order?

Only the Magistrates’ Court can issue a Planning Enforcement Order, and only if a local planning authority applies for one. A copy of the application will be served on the owner and occupier of the land, and anyone else who might be materially affected by taking enforcement action. This will enable those served with the application to appear in Court to resist the making of a Planning Enforcement Order.

By contrast, an Enforcement Notice and the other enforcement measures can be undertaken without the involvement of the Court.

What powers do planning enforcement officers have?

Planning enforcement officers may make site visits to assess developments that are claimed to be in breach of planning control and institute planning enforcement action where appropriate. Enforcement officers have a legal right of entry to investigate alleged breaches of planning law. If entry is refused, a warrant may be obtained.

Planning enforcement: who is liable?

You might receive a Planning Enforcement Notice if you have:

  • Not sought planning permission for building work that requires official permission (including; listed buildings, advertisements, protected trees, solar panels or building extensions).
  • Not carried out works in accordance with a permission.
  • Not complied with planning conditions or other limitations.

Changing the use of a site or buildings without obtaining planning permission when it is needed may leave you liable for planning enforcement action.

Lewis Mitchell Solicitors: planning enforcement experts

At  Lewis Mitchell Solicitors we’re experts in dealing with planning enforcement. Whether you’ve just received a Planning Enforcement Notice or you think you might get one, we can help you.

If you’d like to talk to us about planning enforcement and how it might affect you call us on 01200 428 102.

If you want to appeal a Planning Enforcement Notice call us today.


We are experienced practitioners who deal with local and national planning authorities in the UK. From small householder proposals for extensions, to large industrial, agricultural buildings, barn conversions and residential schemes, we achieve regular success throughout the planning permission appeals UK process and can ensure you receive an expert and knowledgeable service throughout the process of how to appeal a planning decision.

Planning Permission Refused

If you have been refused planning permission, it does not have to be the end of the road for your proposed development, as you can always pursue the appeals process.

We can help you through the appeal process, using our practical knowledge and expertise to get the planning decision overturned.  Our team is supportive and friendly and no matter what, we’ve got your back.

Have You Been Refused Planning Permission?

When a local authority refuses planning permission, or imposes certain conditions, you must be given a written explanation of their decision. If you are unhappy with the decision, you can make an appeal.

You may also want to make an appeal if your local authority does not make a decision within the required timeframe. This is called non-determination.

Appeals are made to the Secretary of State and must in most cases be submitted within six months of the application decision letter. This means it is essential not to delay, or you may miss your chance to have the decision overturned.

Planning Permission and commencement of development

Lewis Mitchell Solicitors, answers the question of what counts as ‘commencement of development’ and why it matters.

Planning permissions are granted subject to a condition that they must be implemented within a set period of time, usually three years from the date on which planning permission is granted. In the case of outline planning permission, reserved matters must be submitted for approval within 3 years of the grant of the outline permission and the works must be begun within 2 years of the final approval of the last reserved matters. Please note, however, that these time periods can vary, so please pay careful regard to what your planning permission actually says.

Failure to implement a planning permission within the required time limit leads to the planning permission lapsing. In that case a further planning application would need to be made to the local planning authority. A fresh application carries with it a risk that the new permission could be granted subject to different and more onerous planning conditions. In the intervening period the local planning authority may also have updated its local plan, or there may now be a neighborhood plan, which can mean that any fresh application may be refused owing to a change in the relevant policies.

What constitutes “commencement”?

In order to lawfully ‘commence’ development it is necessary to satisfy the legal requirements in section 56(4) of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990. This says that “development is taken to be begun on the earliest date on which a material operation is carried out”.  A material operation can include any works of construction, demolition, digging foundations, laying out or constructing a road and a material change in the use of the land.

In practice, very minor works are usually sufficient to commence development. This could be as simple as putting in footings or even just pegging-out a roadway. Caution should be had though, as any works done must reflect what was actually permitted by the planning permission. This means crucially that any pre-commencement planning conditions must be complied with before works commence on site. Otherwise any works done to implement in accordance with section 56(4) may not be lawful and may then be subject to challenge by the local authority.

If the planning permission contains ‘pre commencement’ conditions which are not likely to be complied with before the date on which the planning permission would (but for implementation) expire, then in the alternative an application could instead be made to vary the planning condition.  This could be dealt with by way of a s.96a application (an application for a non-material amendment) to vary the wording of the relevant conditions to perhaps delay the date for compliance.

The CIL risk

Commencing development has become an even hotter topic in light of the Community Infrastructure Levy (“CIL”) because commencement of development triggers the requirement to pay any CIL. It is important to note that the CIL regulations also provide that before commencing development, a valid ‘Commencement Notice’ must be submitted. Crucially, such a notice must be in the form required by the regulations and so a simple email to the local authority will not suffice. Historically, failure to serve such a notice prior to commencement would have also resulted in any reliefs or exemptions from CIL being lost: this is no longer the case, but new surcharges do apply.

S.106 Planning Agreement risk

In addition to CIL, if any s.106 planning agreement was entered into in connection with the relevant planning permission, then it is likely that obligations in it (which may include the payment of certain sums) are triggered by the commencement of development. Often, however, s.106 agreements do provide other tests of what amounts to ‘commencement of development’ for that purpose, and so whilst you might be able to commence development to keep a planning permission alive by doing minimal work, you might not have yet triggered any of the obligations in the s.106.   In such a case it is key to ensure that the terms of the planning permission, any s.106 agreement and the impact of CIL are all carefully considered with the benefit of legal advice.

Proving ‘commencement’

So, how do you prove that commencement has taken place and that the planning permission has been lawfully implemented and so kept alive? Here are a few suggestions:

  • Keep evidence – this could be time stamped photographs, correspondence from contractors or engineers who have actually done the work etc.
  • Obtain a comfort letter from the local authority
  • Seek legal advice
  • Apply for a certificate of lawfulness from the local authority

Refused Planning Permission – Talk to a Solicitor

If you would like advice about the appeals process, or you would like a legal professional to act on your behalf, please get in touch with us today.

At Lewis Mitchell Solicitors we have considerable success with planning permission appeals, ranging from barn conversions, small household proposals to large industrial schemes. We will use our knowledge and experience to construct a well-presented planning appeal that promotes your case.

If we believe you are unlikely to be awarded permission based on your current plans, we can reformulate the appeal case, providing the relevant advice to help you improve your claim.

With our professional attitude and extensive industry experience, we are confident that we can help you win your appeal. If your planning permission has been refused, get in touch today. If you’ve received a planning notice and want to object, you can get in touch.

How We Use Our Experience in Planning Appeals

If clients are struggling with the planning permission appeals process or they would like advice on how to appeal a planning decision, they often come to us and we help them reduce the stress placed upon them. Our knowledge, experience and commitment to the world of planning law can help you transform your scenario and assist in the winning of your appeal against planning permission.

  • If your planning permission appeal is highly unlikely to succeed, we will be honest about the situation and provide realistic, appropriate and relevant advice to help you improve your claim. We have a high rate of success because we are experts at reformulating planning permission appeal cases based on years of experience in the industry. Our extensive knowledge of planning permission appeals and enforcement notices provides you with the safest and most honest method of presenting your case – and has been proven to succeed for a range of clients when it comes to appealing a planning decision.
  • Planning Inspectors have many cases to determine on a daily basis, and it is therefore vital that your appeal against planning decision case stands out. We construct well presented, accurate and honest planning appeals which can help make the difference between success and failure.
  • We can help you in the common case of lapsed planning permission. If you applied for planning permission more than five years ago and it has now ceased to be usable, we can help you through the stages of reapplication.
    With our expertise, knowledge and professional attitude to the world of planning appeals, we are confident in providing you with the best prospect of success when it comes to advising on how to appeal a planning decision. Indeed, we will also make sure the expenses involved in making planning permission appeals are kept to a minimum and are worthwhile.

How Can Lewis Mitchell Solicitors help you

Lewis Mitchell’s success rate in the field of planning law is second to none. This is because, for every new case, we take great pains to appoint solicitors , litigators and planning consultants with direct personal experience of the industry and the issues in question. This careful matching process ensures that whatever the nature of the dispute, you can always count on the support of experienced legal representation and a thorough understanding of the relevant laws.

If you need help with any aspect of planning Law or Appeals, please contact  Lewis Mitchell Solicitors today.

Lewis Mitchell Solicitors also specialises in  Commercial Property, Construction Disputes, Agricultural Law,  Residential Conveyancing, Family Law, Divorce, Children Law, Wills & Probate, Land Disputes,  in Clitheroe, Longridge, Skipton, Blackburn, Preston, Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham, Bristol & London

For further information please telephone us 7 days a week from 9.00 am – 10.00 pm on 01200 428102

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