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Planning Enforcement Charter

A guide to enforcing planning controls.

A summary guide to planning enforcement

Planning permission is required for most development that takes place in Scotland. Sometimes, however, developers or householders undertake work without planning permission or fail to keep to the permission they have been given. Councils have powers to act in such cases, if they consider it is in the public interest to do so.

This Charter explains how the enforcement process works, our role and our service standards.

We will investigate breaches of planning control. These can include:

  • work being carried out without planning permission
  • an unauthorised change of use 
  • not following conditions imposed by a planning consent
  • not following plans approved by a planning consent

The community can play a vital role in reporting such incidents. Any report of an alleged breach will need to include:

  • the address of the property concerned
  • details of the suspected breach of planning control, (with times and dates if relevant)
  • the name and contact details for the person providing the information
  • whether that person wishes the matter to be treated confidentially. We will do their best to honour such requests but anonymity cannot be guaranteed where statutory enforcement action is undertaken, particularly where court action is required and that person may be called as a witness.

The purpose of planning enforcement is to resolve the problem rather than to punish the mistake. Action can involve negotiating a solution, asking for a retrospective planning application to be made, or more formal action such as the issue of an enforcement notice or a breach of condition notice. Even where there is a breach of planning control we may decide that no action is necessary.

The decision not to take action against minor breaches is a necessary tool to ensure that resources are targeted to matters that are serious in nature and scale while protecting the principles set out in planning legislation.

Formal action may require the agreement of elected members. This can include serving an enforcement notice on the relevant people, spelling out the action they are required to take. They can challenge this notice, through an appeal to Scottish Ministers. If so, enforcement action is suspended until a decision is issued. Failure to comply with an enforcement notice can result in prosecution.

In some cases, we are time-barred from taking action. Generally, work carried out more than four years ago or a change of use that took place more than 10 years ago is considered lawful and immune from action.

It is not always possible to anticipate how a particular case will develop, nor how long it will take. We will try to keep people informed of progress. We have set down procedures, service standards, and contact details in this Charter for Planning Enforcement. 

Page last updated:
17 Aug 2020

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