Councils have comprehensive powers to enforce against breaches of planning control. In practice, how far can councils go? 


Enforcement is about remedying the breach rather than punishment. If the breach is erection of a building, the remedy can be demolishing the building. 

A recent example involves demolition of 5 houses, described by the media as "£1million luxury mansions". A planning inspector recently upheld the enforcement notices issued by Bolton Metropolitan Borough Council for land at Grundy Fold Farm, Horwich.

The inspector weighed up the difficult circumstances: 

  • the houses were inappropriate development in the Green Belt, even taking into account the planning permission for 4 houses on the site. 
  • the human rights of the people involved, the best interests of the children, and the Public Sector Equality Duty in relation to an individual with a protected characteristic. 
  • the loss of the appellants’ homes and significant disruption to family life, both in financial terms and in terms of the physical and emotional wellbeing of the appellants and their children
  • demolition would result in wasted resource and noise and air emissions 
  • benefits to biodiversity from the development 

This appeal might be on the extreme end of the scale, but it does show that enforcement powers are comprehensive and effective (although it remains to be seen whether the houses are demolished in compliance with the enforcement notice, or if the Council need to take further steps). 


One of the stranger enforcement cases is the shark art installation in Hackney. It illustrates the width of what requires planning permission. It is also an example of the planning authority using the statutory provisions to obtain an interim injunction (interim interdict in Scotland). 

"Sharks!" was inspired by the Headington Shark in Oxford, which was ultimately granted planning permission after a long battle. The decision included the famous quote: 

"But any system of control must make some small place for the dynamic, the unexpected, the downright quirky." 


Neil Collar