uses cookies to make the site simpler. Find out more about cookies

Planning Enforcement - unauthorised work and planning complaints

Planning enforcement action can have considerable consequences for those on the receiving end. Whilst there is provision for prosecuting for ‘development’ without planning approval, the main purpose of the Planning Enforcement Section is to resolve the breach. This can be summed up as 'meet, talk, explain and persuade'. It is the cessation of the breach that is important, and an amicable solution is the best solution.

In almost all cases, the Department allows the submission of a retrospective application seeking to regularise the breach. Only after the planning process has been exhausted will the Department look to formal enforcement procedures by the serving of an Enforcement Notice or the initiation of Legal Proceedings.

It should be remembered that, in almost every breach, there are two or more parties, the offender and the person(s) being affected by the breach. It is unlikely that, when a matter is resolved, all parties will be satisfied with the outcome.

Should an offender fail to respond by compliance with, or appeal against, the requirements set down by the issue of a Requisition of Information, Enforcement or Stop Notice, within the period set by that Notice, they will be deemed to be guilty of an offence. Accordingly, the case can be referred immediately to the courts for prosecution and the person may be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding £40,000.

In determining the amount and imposition of any fine the Court shall have particular regard to any financial benefit which may have accrued or appears likely to have accrued by the consequence of the offence. 

Should you wish to report a matter where you think a planning breach may have occurred please complete the Planning Enquiry form (see downloadable documents). The form should be sent to the address below where the matter will be investigated as appropriate.

Planning and Building Control Directorate

Department of Environment

Food and Agriculture

First Floor

Murray House

Mount Havelock


Isle of Man


Telephone:+44 1624 685950

Email:Send Email

Requests to investigate

It is current policy to keep the identity of complainants’ confidential**(in certain circumstances when a breach is pursued to prosecution a complainant may be asked to act as a witness, this would only be with the agreement of the complainant).

If you wish to make a complaint you should:

  • Give your name and address and contact number;

  • Give the address of the site of the alleged breach, and the name of the owner/developer if known;
  • State clearly what the alleged activity is and why you think it is a breach of control
  • State what harm you consider it is causing;
  • Any other relevant information.

A request to investigate should only be made when someone feels the development is unlawful, and harmful or unacceptable. Complaints made simply because someone thinks permission should have been sought take up valuable officer time and prevents officers concentrating on harmful breaches. The Department reserve the right not to investigate anonymous complaints.

How we will investigate an alleged breach

Requests will be acknowledged and investigated in accordance with the priority to which it is afforded in accordance with the types outlined below.

When investigating a potential breach of planning control the following questions need to be addressed:

  • Does the work constitute development*?
  • Is there a breach of planning control?
  • Is the breach causing harm?
  • What level of action is appropriate? (is enforcement expedient?)

If a breach appears to be very harmful, extensive; or irreversible then the Department may issue a Stop Notice and Enforcement Notice immediately.

In other instances, officers will first seek compliance through negotiation and only resort to formal action when all other routes have been exhausted. It will be normal to allow for a retrospective application to be submitted to regularise the development. Retrospective applications will be dealt with on their planning merits. The applicant will neither gain advantage nor be disadvantaged by the fact that the application is retrospective.

How long does it take?

Whether permission is required for works or an activity is not always clear cut, in addition, the means of resolving the complaint will nearly always differ depending on the circumstances of each case. Therefore the length of an investigation will vary depending on:

  • The nature of the concerns;
  • The extent of investigations to be carried out;
  • Time given for compliance;
  • The resources available; and
  • The legal powers available.

In many cases it is appropriate to allow for the submission of an application for a Certificate of Lawfulness or a retrospective application, and allow time for a subsequent appeal before issuing an enforcement notice. Consequently some cases may take a few months, or longer, to reach a conclusion. If an enforcement notice is served, a reasonable time must be given for compliance.


The level and speed of the investigation will be determined by the extent and urgency of the alleged breach of control.

Type 1

  • Development that results in serious harm to amenities
  • Development that could result in irreversible harm, eg to a Registered Building. Wherever possible all high priority (Type 1) developments will be visited on the day of receiving the complaint.

Type 2

  • Development that is unlikely to receive approval without significant modification.
  • Development that results in widespread harm to amenities.

 Type 3

  • Development that only has a localised impact.
  • Development that falls outside of the above priorities.


The conclusion to an investigation will be logged. Potential outcomes are categorised as follows:

  • No breach (no development, or development permitted by virtue of the Permitted Development Order)
  • No further action
  • Breach Resolved 1 (activity ceased, development removed or rendered Permitted)
  • Breach Resolved 2 (planning permission granted)
  • Enforcement Notice Served and complied with
  • Prosecution

In each case the reason for closing the investigation will be made clear. In some instances it may be decided that it is not appropriate to pursue action. This may be because the breach may be minor or technical; or even when the breach is clear, the harm it causes may not be significant, or that formal action may not be in the public interest. In reaching the decision the balance of harm must be weighed against the likely success of any formal action; the availability of resources, and other cases that might be causing a greater level of harm, but whose progress may be delayed as a result. If a case is to go to court the Attorney General must be satisfied that there is sufficient evidence to substantiate the breach.

The complainant will be notified of the outcome of the investigation.

What the Enforcement Service cannot deal with:

Planning enforcement is restricted to matters associated with Town and Country Planning Legislation. For this reason it is not possible to deal with matters relating to:

  • Neighbour disputes;
  • Land ownership and boundary disputes;
  • Legal Covenants;
  • Civil Matters.

Further information

Contact: general enquiries +44 1624 685950

See Downloadable Documents for the following:

* development is defined in Part 2, paragraph 6 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1999 as ‘the carrying out of building, engineering, mining or other operations in, on, over or under land, or the making of any material change in the use of any buildings or other land.’

** refer to Code of Practice to Government Information.

Did you find what you were looking for?
Back to top