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Planning and building

Planning enforcement

We enforce planning control in order to safeguard the quality of the landscape and buildings in the area.

Download the planning breach investigation form if you're concerned that a development is proceeding without the necessary consent, or if something is not in accordance with the consent already granted.

You should provide:

  • clear details of what is causing you concern
  • details of the location and address of the land or property
  • your name, address and email address so we can contact you about the investigation
  • if known, details of the landowner/developer's name and address

Anonymous complaints will be only be recorded on file and investigated where it appears that there could be significant harm to the special qualities of the City of York and/or residential amenity.

Your details are confidential and will only ever be given out with your agreement. This is a requirement of the Local Government Act 1972 which protects informant's details.

Dealing with planning control breaches

When assessing possible breaches of planning control, we have to find a balance between the rights of the developer, user or owner of the land or buildings, and the wider public interest.

What we look for

Our power to take 'formal enforcement action' is discretionary, and only to be used when it is 'expedient' to do so. Government advice is that any action taken should be appropriate to the scale and impact of the unauthorised development.

This means that we must make a judgement in each case about the extent of how a development harms:

  • amenities of nearby residents
  • the special qualities of the landscape and buildings in the area

What we will do

If you raise a concern about planning control breaches we will:

  • treat all complaints as confidential
  • acknowledge your complaint
  • prioritise your complaint depending on category A, B or C
  • let you know when formal action is to be taken
  • inform you when and why a case is closed
  • provide an update on an investigation at least every 3 months

To deal with any planning control enforcement we may:

  • check the planning register to make sure that planning permission has not been granted for the development, and that it is not a permitted development
  • establish the facts; we will make a site visit and, if necessary, hold discussions with the owner and/or complainant
  • serve a Planning Contravention Notice, or PCN, which requires the developer to provide further information to the authority
  • try to get a full picture of the situation by investigating the planning history of the site, photographs and information from other agencies
  • pass on any relevant information to other agencies, such as the Highway Authority or Environment Agency, who may have an interest in the case
  • decide on an appropriate course of action

If we establish that there has been no breach of control you will be advised in writing.

Case prioritisation

Investigating complaints is often complex and time consuming. In order to make most effective use of staff resources, it is usually necessary to give priority to those cases where the greatest or irreversible harm is being caused. The following is a guide to how cases are prioritised:

Category A

  • unauthorised demolition, substantial or irreversible alterations to a listed building
  • unauthorised works to protected trees or trees within a conservation area
  • unauthorised demolition within a conservation area causing irreparable harm

Where these unauthorised works are not in progress or they have been completed, they will be dealt with in accordance with Category B. This does not however reduce the level of enforcement action that may be taken against the breach.

Category B

  • unauthorised removal of protected landscaping features
  • minor alterations to a listed building
  • ongoing unauthorised engineering works
  • non-compliance with approved plans
  • breaches of planning conditions

Category C

  • material change of use, for example a business is being operated from a dwelling
  • unauthorised development which is complete
  • adverts
  • satellite dishes
  • untidy land
  • any other breach of planning control

Listed buildings and tree preservation orders

It is a criminal offence to carry out unauthorised works to a listed building or to a tree protected by a tree preservation order. Prosecution will always be considered for any breach of this type and can ultimately lead to a conviction in the criminal courts.

It is not a criminal offence to carry out other works or changes without planning permission (unless a formal notice has been served).

However any unauthorised work is carried out at the owner's risk, and if there is proven harm, enforcement action may be pursued to rectify the breach of control.

Type of action we can take

There are several courses of action available to the authority where a clear breach of control is established:

  • take no further action, for instance, where the breach is minor in nature and does not harm the amenities of adjoining occupiers or the landscape or buildings in the City of York
  • request a retrospective application to regularise the development where the breach could be made acceptable by amendment or the imposition of conditions
  • negotiate a solution to mitigate the impact of the development or secure its removal altogether
  • formal action to stop and/or remove the development, which involves serving a notice on the relevant parties

The notice specifies what action is required to correct the breach and by when. A register giving details of all Enforcement Notices served is available for inspection online or at the Planning Department Offices.


It is not always possible to anticipate how a particular case will develop and the timescale for resolving a complaint can be difficult to predict. Factors that can delay progress include:

  • collection of relevant and satisfactory evidence
  • negotiation to resolve a complaint without using formal enforcement powers
  • the submission of a retrospective application
  • an appeal against a formal notice

Planning enforcement register

See the planning enforcement register which shows details of planning breaches and subsequent compliance.

Also see

Planning Enforcement Team

West Offices, Station Rise, York, YO1 6GA

Telephone: 01904 551553