Applying for Planning Permission: Background
This section gives general advice about the kinds of work for which you need to apply for planning permission and those for which you do not.
If you have any queries about a proposed development, you should contact your Local Area Planning Office.
It is your responsibility for seeking, or not seeking, planning permission. If required, planning permission should be granted before development commences.
Planning permission in context
The Planning System provides society with a way of controlling how we use land, what we build and where we build it. The Department of The Environment prepares and adopts documents called development plans, consisting of maps and written policies, which show where and in what quantity various types of development will be permitted. The Department also administer a development management system to make sure that proposed development conforms to the development plan, current planning policies and other "material" considerations.
The development management system helps to balance our need for uses of land and buildings such as homes, offices, factories and schools with our wish to protect and improve the environment.
Decisions on whether to allow proposals to build on land or change the use of buildings or land are made by the Department. In determining whether, or not, to grant planning permission, the Department will refer to a number of planning policy documents which include the:
- Regional Development Strategy
- Planning Policy Statements
- A Planning Strategy for Rural Northern Ireland
- Development Plans
and Supplementary Planning Guidance such as
The Department of the Environment strongly recommends that you should obtain planning permission, where necessary, before commencing development. While it is not a criminal offence to carry out development without first getting the necessary permission, if you carry out unacceptable development it is likely you will have to take remedial action. This could include demolition of a building.
The Department endeavours to ensure that planning regulations are followed, for example, that planning permission has been given for the development and that the development is being carried out in accordance with the terms of the permission. If you think someone has not complied with the regulations, contact your local area planning office.
The Department will decide the appropriate action it should take if planning regulations are not complied with. Normally, the Department will attempt to resolve the issue by discussion rather than initiate enforcement action. The Department may, for example, suggest that an application for "retrospective" planning permission be submitted so that development can be authorised, if it is acceptable. Alternatively formal enforcement action may be initiated. It is important to remember that a failure to obtain planning permission could affect the value of your property.
This usually involves issuing an enforcement notice setting out the measures needed to remedy the breach, and the date by which these must be implemented. You may be required to cease your activities, or demolish all or part of a building. If you have not complied with a condition imposed on the grant of planning permission, the Department may require you to carry out work to observe the terms of the condition.
There is a right of appeal to the Planning Appeals Commission against an enforcement notice. If an appeal is dismissed or no appeal is made and the notice becomes effective, it is an offence not to comply with it, and the Department may decide to prosecute. As enforcement proceedings are likely to be expensive, time-consuming and disruptive, it is advisable to consult the Department before going ahead with any proposed development.
If you are concerned about a legal problem involving planning, the local Citizens Advice Bureau or a Solicitor may be able to help.