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East Riding of Yorkshire Council

Planning enforcement and unauthorised development

What is unauthorised development?

Development is defined as ‘The carrying out of building, engineering, mining or other operations, in, on, over or under land or the material change in the use of any building or other land’. The planning system exists to control development and use of land in the public interest. As development affects the daily lives of individuals and business owners unauthorised development often gives rise to highly contentious situations.

Unauthorised development in the may include:

  • residential developments/extensions/outbuildings
  • breach of planning conditions (e.g. hours of operation, noise levels generated etc.)
  • commercial developments (unauthorised shops/offices/industrial operations/storage)
  • unauthorised changes of use
  • land uses adversely affecting the amenity
  • unauthorised advertisements
  • unauthorised structures (new buildings and extensions).


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Response to reports of unauthorised development

The Planning Enforcement Team generally receive around 1500 complaints a year. Decision making in response to unauthorised development is informed by a statutory framework, relevant government guidance and circulars, The East Riding Local Plan and other material considerations.

We will maintain strict confidence in our dealings with the complainant and will consider data protection for all parties when provided with information as part of an enforcement process. We will ensure that both the person carrying out the development and objectors are dealt with fairly. We will endeavour to resolve as many cases as possible by negotiation without recourse to costly and time-consuming formal enforcement action. We will endeavour to update all parties.

The council aim to acknowledge a complaint or enquiry within 2 working days of receiving it and we aim to visit the site within 6 working days. We also aim to keep the complainant informed of investigation progress at appropriate intervals, including when a formal notice is served and when there is an outcome of the investigation. 

Allegations of development causing immediate and irreparable harm to the natural or built environment or public safety would be responded to as a priority, whereas breaches causing more limited harm to amenity would be a lower priority. 

The scope of planning enforcement

Enforcement action cannot be used to remedy matters outside planning control where other remedies exist, for example, licencing.

It is not an offence to carry out development without first obtaining planning permission. It becomes an offence if there is a failure to comply with specific enforcement action undertaken by the council. 

Works carried out in breach of other controls may constitute an immediate offence, for example: 

  • display of advertisements
  • alterations to listed buildings
  • damage to trees covered by a tree preservation order or within a conservation area 
  • demolition within a conservation area. 

Enforcement action is rarely an instantaneous remedy to unauthorised development. It is often open to appeals, compliance periods may differ and the council may have to resort to prosecution or other action to achieve compliance.

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If negotiation fails, what other action is considered?

Where negotiation fails to resolve a breach of planning control formal enforcement action will be considered. We place a high priority on the importance of planning law and policy, however, if a breach is causing no or little planning harm then it is unlikely to be regarded as expedient to take formal enforcement action.

Such cases will be carefully considered and the reasons for the decision will be recorded. Where a breach is considered to be harmful and enforcement action is considered to be expedient the following notices or legal actions may be used:

  • A Planning Contravention Notice (formal notice requiring information) 
  • An Enforcement Notice 
  • A Breach of Condition Notice
  • A Stop Notice or Temporary Stop Notice
  • An Advertisement Removal Notice
  • An Untidy Land Notice
  • An Enforcement Injunction
  • Default action to secure compliance with an enforcement notice
  • Prosecution. 

Enforcement action is not mandatory and is at the discretion of the local planning authority.

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