Planning Portal

More Planning Enforcement Powers From November

Published on Thu, 23 Oct 2003
DOE Planning Service announced today that more powers relating to planning enforcement and the protection of trees will be in operation from 12 November 2003.
A Planning Service spokesperson said: "These powers are part of the Planning Act introduced earlier this year and are a significant step forward in the enforcement of planning control in Northern Ireland.
"There is a substantial increase in the penalties that the courts can impose for breaches of planning control. For certain offences they include a six-fold increase in the maximum fine to £30,000 and no limit on fines that can be imposed by a Crown Court. For the first time, anyone found guilty of the unauthorised demolition of listed buildings and buildings in a Conservation Area could be sent to prison.
"There will also be stronger protection for trees. Duties to replace trees protected by Tree Preservation Order (TPO) will mean that the existing protection automatically applies to replacement trees. The unauthorised removal of trees will therefore not in itself render land suitable for development. Maximum fines for breaches of TPOs will be increased in line with those for other breaches of planning control. For the first time it will be an offence to cut down or lop trees in a Conservation Area unless prior notice is given to the Planning Service."

Notes to Editors

The Planning (Commencement) (Amendment) (2003 Order) (Commencement No.2) Order (Northern Ireland) 2003 S.R. No.443 (C. 34) along with the following Statutory Rules come into operation on 12 November 2003; The Planning (Trees) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2003, S.R. No.444; The Planning (General Development) (Amendment No.2) Order (Northern Ireland) 2003, S.R. No. 445; The Planning (Fees) (Amendment No.2) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2003, S.R. No. 446.
The provisions of the Planning (Amendment) (Northern Ireland) Order 2003 brought into operation by this Commencement Order include:
Enforcement : Planning Contravention Notices significantly enhancing the DOE’s ability to obtain information needed to take enforcement action and specific enforcement powers to deal with breaches of planning conditions are introduced by Articles 3 and 4 of the Planning (Amendment) (Northern Ireland) Order 2003. Simplified rules on time limits for enforcement action are introduced by Article 6 and Article 7 is aimed at reducing the legal complexity involved in the drafting, issue and service of enforcement notices. Under Article 9, maximum fines for breaches of enforcement notices on summary conviction increase from £5,000 to £30,000. There is no limit on the fine that can be imposed on conviction on indictment. The Courts are also required to take account of any profit which the offender has obtained from acting illegally.
Stop Notices : So that the planning Service can deal quickly with unlawful development, Article 11 strengthens the current stop notice arrangements by providing that a stop notice will have immediate effect unless the DOE states otherwise.
Certificates of lawful use or development : Under Article 12, a person may now apply to the DOE for a certificate to find out whether an existing use of buildings or other land, or operational development, or some activity in breach of a planning condition, is lawful. In the case of a proposed use or operational development, the grant of a certificate would establish the lawfulness of the proposed use or operational development. Accompanying Regulations provide for an application process and fees for such applications.
Listed Buildings : Article 14 provides for the following possible penalties for a person found guilty of an offence involving demolition, or alteration or extension of a listed building affecting its character: on summary conviction, to be given a term of imprisonment not exceeding 6 months or a fine not exceeding £30,000 or both; or on conviction on indictment, imprisonment for not more than 2 years, or a fine. There is no limit to a fine that can be imposed on conviction on indictment (in a Crown Court).
Trees : Article 26 together with Article 16, which deals with enforcement of duties in relation to the replacement of trees, updates the DOE's powers in relation to the protection of trees and tree preservation orders (TPOs). There is a new duty on the landowner to replace trees subject to a TPO that are removed. The existing TPO will automatically apply to the new trees planted as it did to the original trees, thereby providing that the removal of trees in itself does not automatically render the land suitable for development. In addition, the provisions introduce higher penalties for breaches of TPOs including an increase from £5,000 to £30,000 in the maximum level that can be imposed on summary conviction. There is no limit to a fine that can be imposed on conviction on indictment. There is a new provision in respect of the protection of trees in a conservation area and a new provision in respect of restrictions on compensation payable where consent to fell trees is refused. New regulations prescribing a revised model Tree Preservation Order are set out in the Planning (Trees) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2003. SR No. 444.
Copies of the legislation can be found on the DOE Planning website
For further information contact Paddy Murphy DOE Press Office telephone 028 9054 0014, e-mail
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