What to do if you erect an house extension or detached garden building that is not permitted
development - and the planners come calling.
This is a very common scenario and happens more often than you would imagine. Most
Planning Departments have an enforcement or compliance section. Some take their roles more serious than others so
there is no one size fits all approach to ensuring damage limitation of your scheme.
Most homeowners caught out by completing non compliant Permitted Development works seem to fall into two camps.
Those that wilfully and knowingly completed the works and took a chance and those that completed the works in good
faith but have fallen foul of a technicality.
Those of you in the first camp need to take advice from a Planning Consultant and you probably will be required
to submit a retrospective Planning application to regularise the situation.
Those in the second camp usually have a better chance of ’playing the game’ and could play the system a bit to
avoid submitting a retrospective Planning application.
First, you have to understand what the enforcement section is trying to achieve. They simply need to decide if
the works are PD or it requires formal Planning Permission. If they do decide that your operation or works should
have received formal Planning Consent, they will explain exactly why. Maybe, you simply need to adjust a small
element of the scheme for it to comply with Permitted Development. If that is the case do it if it does not
adversely affect your requirements then do it and let them close the case swiftly for everyone to get on with their
more important lives.
If the technicality cannot be easily adjusted for compliance then they will request that your either remove the
works or submit a retrospective planning application within a certain time period. The secret is not to panic.
Remember that the enforcement team are not the case planning officers who will handle your planning application so
no matter how positive they are for your scheme treat it with a pinch of salt - they just want to close their
All potential Planning contraventions are tested expediency. Is it expedient for the Council to take enforcement
action. As taking action by the Council involves resources and costs, they are obliged to give all cases the
So what is the expediency test? To understand this you need to realise that expediency is in two parts. The
first part is for the council to decide of the breach of planning control (your works) causes any harm. This could
be to neighbours or the local area (Green Belt, Conservation Area, adjacent a listed Building for example).
If they decide that there is no harm caused then does the alleged contravention fall in line with Planning
Policy - the question is would the council likely recommend approval of the works within a Planning Application? If
the answer is yes then should the homeowner decide not to play ball and not submit a retrospective planning
application then probably the Council will fail the expediency test and not pursue you.
The other part of the expediency test is will the Council likely win any enforcement appeal. If the Councils
stance is not at least 90% secure then again many Planning Departments will not pursue enforcement and consider the
case not expedient. Examples could be cloudy issues on dates or timings of the works, what has actually been
committed within the alleged infringement.
Therefore, if any of these issues applies to you and you are not certain that a retrospective planning approval
would be forthcoming then you may want to call the planners hand by stating your case and confirming that you would
prefer to appeal on the enforcement first. If they are minded to proceed with any enforcement action they will let
you know. Alternatively you may just get a letter claiming ‘not expedient’ and the council will close their
The secret is not to panic, do not divulge too much too quickly about the background and take time to consider
your options. Use all the time limits given by the Council and do not be afraid to request extended time for
producing additional information provided you have reasons (you or your design agent is on holiday).
For a diagram of the restrictions affecting detached garden
rooms click here.