Planning enforcement

About planning enforcement

Planning permission is needed for most development that takes place in Scotland, with the exception of some minor works known as 'permitted development'.

Consent is also needed for:

  • Most work carried out to a listed building (internal and external)
  • The display of most advertisements and signage
  • All work carried out to trees in a Conservation Area or covered by a Tree Preservation Order

Sometimes a developer will undertake work without permission or fail to keep to the terms of the permission they have been given. This is a breach of planning control. Where a breach has happened, we can take enforcement action if it is in the public interest to do so. Not all breaches will result in formal action being taken.

When we investigate an alleged breach, an assessment is made to work out what action, if any, is necessary.  In many cases where a breach has taken place, there is no adverse effect on the character of the surrounding area, or on residential amenity. We may then decide not to take formal enforcement action.

Where a breach has occurred and we are taking action, we will usually try to resolve the matter through negotiation, rather than immediate statutory action. This may involve a retrospective application or a requirement to take steps to address specific problems with a development. In cases where a breach is serious or must be brought under control and it cannot be resolved informally, we will take appropriate formal action.

Most planning breaches, other than those relating to listed buildings, trees and advertisements, do not initially constitute a criminal offence. There are also a number of issues often perceived to be 'planning matters' over which we have no control.

We will often monitor development and other work being carried out to make sure planning requirements are being met, but there is also an important role for the public in alerting us to any problems that may occur. We welcome the reporting of potential breaches by members of the public.

Read our planning enforcement charter 

This charter explains how the enforcement process works, our roles and responsibilities and the service standard that we have set ourselves.