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What is a breach of planning control?

A breach of planning control can be defined as:

  • carrying out a development without the required planning permission, or
  • failing to comply with any condition or limitation to which planning permission has been granted.

It is defined within section 171A of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990.

Breaches of planning control are not a criminal offence, but it is a criminal offence not to comply with an Enforcement Notice, Breach of Condition Notice, display unlawful advertisements, or work on a listed building or protected trees without consent.

Examples of unauthorised development we can investigate

  • building works without planning permission. Note that not all development needs planning permission. Visit the planning portal to find out more about permitted development rights and when planning permission may not be needed
  • unauthorised works to trees which are in a conservation area, protected by a Tree Preservation Order (TPO), or conditioned as part of a planning permission. Find out more about Trees with TPOs and Trees in Conservation Areas
  • unauthorised land use.  For example where the use of the land has changed such that it is materially different from what it was before, and planning permission has not been granted. Note that running a small business from home is unlikely to constitute a breach of planning control - the key test for any home run business is whether the overall character of the dwelling has changed as a result of the business
  • breach of condition after planning permission has been granted, for example a developer may fail to comply with plans or conditions which are incorporated into the decision notice of a planning permission. Search for planning applications online
  • an untidy site which adversely affects the public visual amenity of the area
  • works to a listed building without listed building consent
  • the display of some types of advertisement.

Common queries we cannot investigate

We receive a lot of enquiries about issues over which we have no control under the Town and Country Planning Act 1990. The following lists some of the most common queries we receive and provides links to who may be able to help resolve your issue.

Please contact Surrey County Council to report a highway problem.

You should call the police if there is an immediate road safety issue on 999.

For non emergency issues which may require police presence call 101 or if you’re deaf or hard of hearing, use the textphone service on 18001 101.

Please Note: We can investigate vehicles parked on the road or on grass verges if they are associated with the unauthorised use or development of a property.

Please contact Surrey County Council to report a problem on a public right of way.

You should call the police if there is an immediate safety issue on 999.

For non emergency issues which may require police presence call 101 or if you’re deaf or hard of hearing, use the textphone service on 18001 101.

Please contact the Health and Safety Executive to report Health and safety concerns on building sites.

Persistent working outside of permitted working hours (8am to 6pm Monday to Friday and 8am to 1pm on a Saturday) should be reported to the Environmental Health customer support team by emailing, or calling 01483 523393.

If the development in question has planning permission and there is a condition included in the Decision Notice which restricts the working hours, please keep a log over a period of at least two weeks of the following information:  

Date Time Nature of work taking place

In order to take formal enforcement action we need strong evidence to prove that a developer is persistently working outside of the approved working hours, how long before or after the approved times they are working AND we need to understand the nature of work taking place at these times. By completing the above table over a period of time, you will be providing us with a stronger evidence base to be able to determine whether formal enforcement action is likely to be successful. 


Once you have sufficient evidence, please submit your log to us via our online complaint form.

We do not have the power to address poor quality of work or concerns you may have over the security of a site.

Please report dangerous structures to the Building Control team.


We can only take action once a breach has occurred. We are unable to prevent development that has not happened yet and cannot investigate based on speculation alone.

This is because we always have to have good reason for using our powers of enforcement since our justification for investigating somebody’s private property has to be balanced with the privacy of the public.

Find out more about these issues and report problems in our Environmental concerns section:

  • Noise
  • Smells and odour
  • Pollution from constructions sites
  • Dealing with bonfires
  • Street cleaning and flytipping (includes links to report abandoned vehicles and graffiti)

You can also contact the Environmental Health Customer Support team by emailing, or calling 01483 523393.

These are civil matters which are not enforced by Waverley Borough Council or any other local government department and so you will need to seek advice from a solicitor or Citizen's Advice Waverley. These matters include:

Restrictive covenant

A restrictive covenant is a private agreement between land owners where one party will restrict the use of its land in some way for the benefit of another's land. The enforcement of a restrictive covenant is a civil matter. They can only be enforced by the original contracting parties and against any successors in title. They are not a material planning consideration so cannot be considered when determining a planning application and are not enforceable by any public body.

Boundaries and boundary wall issues

Local Planning Authorities are only essentially concerned with the use and/or development of land and therefore the ownership of that land or the location of the boundaries is a minor matter in the determination of an application.  We are allowed to take the plan submitted with an application as correct without the need to check with Land Registry because every applicant has to submit a Certificate of Ownership which is essentially a declaration of the ownership of the land outlined in red on the location plan. It is an offence to knowingly or recklessly sign the wrong certificate and if the owners of land adjacent to that boundary believe the ownership to have been misrepresented, it is for them to prove that that is the case.  If sufficient information is provided to suggest that the declaration is inaccurate then we can invalidate the application provided it has not already been determined.  The neighbours would then need to enter into a boundary negotiation and come to an agreement before the application is resubmitted with the correct certificate (declaration).  If the application has already been determined before the boundary issue has been identified, then it is a private legal matter and is not something we as a planning authority can help with. 

It is important to note that anyone can submit an application for planning permission on any piece of land. They do not need to be the owners of that land, merely to sign the correct certificate of ownership (declaration) at the time the application is submitted.  It is worth noting however, that the granting of planning permission does not give the applicant of that permission the right to build on other peoples land without their consent, but again, this is a private legal matter and not something we are able to enforce against.

Issues arising through building works on or adjacent to a boundary and are dealt with through the Party Wall Act. This Act provides a framework for resolving disputes in relation to party walls, party structures, boundary walls and excavations near neighbouring buildings. You will need to follow the guidance set out in the Part Wall Act in order to achieve a conclusion that is to your satisfaction.

Unless the trees are in a conservation area, protected by a Tree Preservation Order (TPO) or the vegetation is protected by a condition of planning permission, the clearance of vegetation is not considered to be development. If land is cleared, possibly in anticipation of a development receiving planning permission, we will only be able to take action if an application is submitted and development actually begins before permission is determined.

If you have concerns over trees or hedges that have been cleared, please visit our Tree advice pages. 

The removal of trees from the countryside or woodlands may require a felling licence from the Forestry Commision. To find out if a licence for tree felling is required, please see Tree felling overview on for further information and guidance. 

Suspected tree felling without licence can be reported to the Forestry Commission, who can also be contacted by calling 0300 067 4000 or by emailing

If you believe a wildlife crime has occurred, please see guidance on Surrey Police website, where you can report a crime online, or report it to Surrey’s Wildlife Crime Officer by calling 101.

Immunity from enforcement action

If you believe any activity or work you have carried out without getting planning permission is immune from enforcement action, because it has exceeded the time limit (10 years in respect of a change of use or 4 years for building or other operations and a change of use to a domestic residence) you can formally apply for a Lawful Development Certificate.