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Doing Work Without Permission

In most cases, when someone wants to develop a piece of land or a building (including changing it's use), they will need to apply for planning permission to do so. A development without planning permission is known as 'unauthorised development'.

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If you do anything that needs permission, without getting that permission, it can be a potentially very expensive outcome.

Check if you need planning permission

There are six main situations in which someone may be considered to be in breach of planning control:

  1. They are developing a site without planning permission.
  2. They have permission but they are not meeting the terms of that permission (they are not following the plans, or meeting the conditions or legal agreement placed on the permission).
  3. They are carrying out external or internal works to a listed building without listed building consent.
  4. They are displaying a sign or an advertisement without advertisement consent.
  5. They are felling or carrying out works to a tree that is in a conservation area or the tree is protected by a tree preservation order.
  6. They are demolishing a building in a conservation area without consent.

It is important to note that most breaches of planning control are not criminal offences, however, the exceptions to these are when a developer is:

  • carrying out unauthorised works to a Listed building
  • displaying advertisements without permission
  • carrying out works to a protected tree

In these situations, the Council can take legal action.

Whether we take enforcement action depends on whether we think the work you have done is unacceptable, harmful or not in the public interest.

Planning enforcement is an important part of the planning process and whilst it is not always a criminal offence to carry out development without planning permission, it may still constitute a contravention of planning laws and the Council has the power to enforce those laws.

Planning Enforcement is a very complex area, because the Town and Country Planning Acts seek to strike a balance between the freedom of the owners to use or alter their property as they wish, whilst at the same time safeguarding the amenities of their neighbours, conserving historic buildings and protecting the natural environment of areas.

If you wish to raise an enforcement complaint please either complete the form on the link above or email

Find out more about enforcement, and how to appeal:

Enforcement's and appeals

Planning Enforcement Notice Register

Planning enforcement notices are legal documents that can be served on people who have carried out unauthorised works. They are used to stop unauthorised works, order the removal of unauthorised buildings and request development to be altered.

The Planning Enforcement Notice Register is available for inspection at Torridge District Council, Riverbank House, Bideford, Devon, EX39 2QG.


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