Information Leaflet 10: A Guide to Enforcement
Investigating Alleged Breaches
The purpose of the investigation is to establish if a breach of planning control or an offence has occurred and if so, who is responsible. The subsequent action in each case will depend on the nature of the breach/offence and its consequences/effects.
The Department has the power to seek further information regarding alleged breaches:
- Where the Department requires details on the ownership of the land in question an information notice may be served; and
- Where the Department suspects a breach of planning control has occurred, a planning contravention notice may be used to gain information about the suspected breach.
Both of these are discretionary procedures and do not constitute enforcement action. However, they do represent what might become formal action and may act as a clear warning that further action is being considered.
Where there is genuine doubt as to whether planning permission is required, and the owner is actively pursuing an application for a Certificate of Lawful Use or Development, any consideration of enforcement action may be deferred pending the determination of the application. However, where it considers a breach of planning control to be clearly unacceptable, there is no obligation on the Department to delay enforcement action pending the outcome of an application or subsequent appeal.
If the works/change of use do not require permission/consent, or are permitted by planning legislation, then no enforcement action can be taken.
Remedying the Breach
The Department has a general discretion on whether to take enforcement action against a breach of planning control. It does so when it regards it as expedient, having regard to the provisions of the development plan and any other material consideration.
Where a breach of planning control has been established, the Department may attempt to remedy it by issuing a warning letter. The letter will advise the recipient of the breach, what needs to be done to remedy it and how much time they have to carry out what needs to be done. This gives the recipient the opportunity either to rectify the breach or contact the Department and explain how the unauthorised development has occurred. If there is no reasonable prospect of the situation being resolved through negotiation the Department may move directly to formal action.
Where an initial assessment indicates that it is likely that unconditional planning permission would be granted for the development, the Department may serve a submission notice. This requires the submission of a retrospective planning application to attempt to regularise the unauthorised development. Where an application is submitted it will be processed in the normal manner, without prejudice. However, this does not imply that it will be granted planning approval. Where the retrospective application contains unacceptable elements, it may be refused or amendments may be sought, or approval may be granted subject to conditions.