Planning enforcement

The planning enforcement team’s key role is to investigate and try to resolve breaches of planning control. Whilst we will try to resolve these to bring people within the law, where it is appropriate and in the public interest we will start legal action to secure compliance with planning legislation.

A breach of planning control is defined as:

  • carrying out development without the required planning permission,
  • failing to comply with any condition or limitation subject to which planning permission has been granted.
Planning enforcement table detailing what we can and cannot investigate
What we can investigate  What we cannot investigate (follow the links to report it) 
Breaches of condition The parking of vehicles on the highway
Breaches of planning permission/approved plans Dangerous structures
Breaches of the General Permitted Development Order (GPDO) Internal refurbishments of buildings which are not listed
Unauthorised uses of land or buildings Disputes between neighbours relating to land ownership or the siting of boundaries
Unauthorised works to a tree in a conservation area or covered by a tree preservation order (TPO) The treatment or removal of trees or hedges which are not located in a conservation area or covered by a Tree Preservation Order. This is a civil matter involving private homeowners. For more information, contact our Trees and Woodlands team.
Unauthorised works to a listed building Noise, smell or pollution
Unauthorised advertisement displays
Untidy land  

Reporting a breach of planning control

To make a complaint or raise a query about a breach of planning control, please use our:

Breach of planning control complaint form

All complaints about alleged breaches of planning control must be made in writing. Discretion may be used in some cases to waive this requirement, but this will usually be limited to those cases where there is the prior knowledge or existing involvement of an officer, or where the complaint relates to unauthorised works to a listed building or trees protected by a Tree Preservation Order.

We cannot accept anonymous complaints. Any complaint you do make will be treated in the strictest confidence in accordance with the procedures outlined in the Local Enforcement Plan. 

Local Enforcement Plan

This document sets out our response to the National Planning Policy Framework, and how we will investigate alleged cases of unauthorised development, take action where it is appropriate to do so and monitor the implementation of planning permissions.

The policy details what businesses, residents and others affected by its regulatory responsibilities can expect from the service and assists staff in applying enforcement powers in a consistent and fair way.

For more information, please download the  Local Enforcement Plan (PDF 4MB). Please note: This file may not be suitable for users of assistive technology. If you require this document in a more accessible format, please email and tell us what format you need.

Unauthorised encampments

An unauthorised encampment is where any person camps (in vans, trailers or any other moveable accommodation) on land that they do not own, and where they do not have permission to reside.

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  • Advice to landowners

    For encampments on privately owned land, we will expect the landowners to decide on the appropriate action, including seeking an eviction order from the County Court, if appropriate. We will not normally act for private landowners under these circumstances.

    Trespass on land itself is not a crime - it is a civil matter. Prevention of trespass is the responsibility of the landowner.

    The Police may activate their powers under section 61 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 to require gypsies/travellers to leave.

    The Police are able to activate these powers where they are satisfied that two or more people are trespassing on the land, and the landowner has taken reasonable steps to make them leave (and they have failed to do so). In addition, one of the following also has to apply:

    damage has been caused to the land or property, or

    threatening / abusive / insulting behaviour has been used against the occupier, his family or agent, or the trespassers have six or more vehicles.

  • What can I do if unauthorised encampments occur on my land?

    We will not usually take action to evict where there is an unauthorised encampment on privately owned land. The Gypsy and Traveller Liaison Officer from Hertfordshire County Council will notify the owner of the land and provide information on how to effectively manage unauthorised encampments and the powers available to landowners to recover possession of their land.

    We will leave plastic bin bags for the Gypsies/Travellers and make arrangements to collect the waste in accordance with our own local policies.

    Where the owner does not take action to recover the land, we will consider planning enforcement powers against the landowner. Where the encampment is giving rise to serious disruption or a nuisance, we will discuss possible solutions with the Gypsy and Traveller Liaison Officer and the Police.

  • What happens if gypsies/travellers occupy their own land without planning permission?

    If the Gypsies/Travellers own the land, then there is no issue of trespass and therefore powers under the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act or Civil Procedure Rules do not apply. Instead, a breach in planning control is likely to have occurred.

    As the Local Planning Authority, it is at our discretion to take formal enforcement action. If we opt to take enforcement action, we have a range of powers available.

  • Who do I complain to about unauthorised encampments?

    Hertfordshire County Council has a Gypsy Service - it is the first point of contact for complaints about unauthorised encampments. To contact them, call 01707 897367.

    You can also report this through our complaints web form (above).

    Instances occurring on council-owned land will be directed to the service responsible for its management. It will investigate the complaint and instigate any legal action.

    If you wish to report an unauthorised encampment out of normal office hours, please call the police non-emergency number 101.