Planning enforcement

Planning enforcement action can only be taken when building works have been carried out without the appropriate permission/consent.

Find out more about where planning permission and/or listed building or advertisement consent maybe required.

Our role

The Planning Enforcement Service’s key role is to investigate breaches of planning control. We aim to resolve breaches through negotiation and where it is in the public interest we initiate legal action to secure compliance with planning legislation.

The Planning enforcement team cannot investigate alleged breaches from anonymous sources or issues following outside of the remit of the planning legislation:

  • Party wall disputes and boundary issues should be referred to the civil courts
  • Noise and smells should be referred to Environmental Health (020 8359 7997 or 020 8359 2000 for out of hours noise problems)
  • Damage to the public highway should be referred to the Highways department (020 8359 7995)
  • Fly tipping should be referred to the Priority Intervention Team (020 8359 7485)
  • Concerns about Dangerous Structures should be referred to Building Control (020 8359 4500)

What is a breach of planning control?

For a breach of planning control to have occurred, the Council must first establish if there has been an unauthorised material change of use of the building or development. Not all development requires planning permissions and in some cases building works can be undertaken without planning permission.

The following are examples of activities which are not breaches of planning control.

Therefore enforcement actions may not be taken under planning legislation:

  • Parking of commercial vans in the highway in residential areas
  • Operating a business from a home where residential use remains the primary use and there is no adverse impact on public facilities
  • Parking a caravan within the residential boundary of a property providing that it is ancillary to the house
  • Clearing land of undergrowth, bushes and trees, providing they are not protected trees
  • Undertaking works that are permitted development, specific works that are exempted by legislation from the need to obtain planning permission (e.g. some householder developments including some extensions, outbuildings and fences depending on their size and location)

What happens when you report a possible breach of planning control?

When we receive your request, we will carry out an initial investigate to establish if there has been a breach of planning control. Your request will be acknowledged within 5 working days.

Reporting a potential breach of planning control, you can help by:

  • Filling in the online or paper request form or providing as much information as possible in your letter or email
  • Collecting information and being prepared to give evidence (if required) if legal action is taken

Report a breach of planning control

Correspondence can also be addressed to:

Planning Enforcement, London Borough of Barnet, Planning Department , 2 Bristol Avenue, Colindale, NW9 4EW

Tel: 020 8359 3000


Your personal details will be kept confidential.

Planning Law

Planning law can be a complicated and lengthy process. It is not unusual for a number of weeks to pass before a complete response can be provided. Only in very exceptional circumstances can the council stop work being undertaken.

Investigations into alleged breaches of planning control may include:

  • Site inspections
  • Detailed site history checks
  • Land registry services
  • Liaison with other agencies
  • Seeking additional legal advice

What is considered before a decision is made on the action to be taken?

Once it has been established that a breach of planning control has taken place, the council must assess the extent of the breach before deciding on the action to be taken.

What does formal enforcement action involve?

This usually involved serving an Enforcement Notice, which requires certain steps to be taken within a specified period of time. The Notice can only require a return to the lawful position and specify conditions which are designed to remove the elements of harm.

There is a right of appeal against the notice, when an appeal is made the effect of the Notice is suspended until the appeal is determined. If no appeal is made or the Notice is upheld, prosecution can take place if the terms of the Notice are not complied with.

Decision options available to the Council

  • Where the development causes little or no harm the council may take no further action
  • Many unauthorised developments can be resolved by negotiation. Often this proves to be the quickest and most effective method
  • Where a development could be adequately controlled, the council may suggest the submission of a retrospective planning application. If necessary, conditions can be applied if the application is approved
  • Where the matter cannot be resolved, the council may take formal enforcement action

Cases which take priority

  • Alleged damage to a listed building or a tree protected by a Tree Preservation Order (once damage occurs it can often be irreversible)
  • Alleged unauthorised works that are taking place at the time of the complaint and involve significant public harm
  • Alleged breached that have an impact on more than any immediate neighbours

Other alleged breaches will be allocated priority according to the nature and impact of the works

Our service commitment is to:

  • Deal with all enquiries in a courteous, confidential and efficient manner
  • Acknowledge written requests within 5 working days
  • Carry out an initial site inspection according to the priority
  • Keep complainants informed at key stages of the process
  • Resolve 70% of cases within 8 weeks
  • Notify all parties when the investigation is completed


Barnet Council will collect and use the information you give us to undertake our functions as a local authority and deliver services to you. It is our responsibility to ensure that your information is kept safe. Where necessary and legally allowed, we will share your information with trusted external organisations, commissioned partners and contracted service providers in order to deliver services and support to you.

The information we collect may be used to better understand your use of our services and assist us in improving our services. This is to ensure we are using public funds in the best possible way. Under our duty to protect public money we may use the information you have provided for the prevention and detection of crime. For further details of how we use your information and to understand your rights please visit

Comments on planning applications and the name and address of the commenter are published online. Please do not include any personal information you would not be happy to be publicly available in your comment. Please do not include personal information of others without their permission. People requesting to speak at planning committee will need to consent to their name and email address to be disclosed to other individuals who have requested to speak.