PPS 9: The Enforcement of Planning Control
Where unathorised development is unacceptable
6.1 Where unauthorised development has been carried out which, in the view of the Department, is unacceptable and for which planning permission is unlikely to be granted, a formal warning letter will be issued. This will advise the owners or occupiers of the land that the Department is not prepared to allow the development, operation or activity to remain, or where appropriate, continue at its present level of activity. The warning letter will also indicate the measures considered necessary to remedy the breach of planning control and will normally include a timescale for their implementation.
6.2 Where owners or occupiers ignore formal warning letters and the unacceptable unauthorised development continues or is retained the Department will normally initiate formal action through the service of an enforcement notice 1. Where any person fails to comply with an enforcement notice they are guilty of an offence and the Department will normally pursue court action. On summary conviction that person is liable to a fine with the potential for continuing daily fines.
6.3 On certain occasions, for example where an unauthorised development provides local employment, the Department may be prepared to negotiate with owners or occupiers regarding the length of time it is prepared to wait before the cessation and/or removal of the development, operation or activity, provided such negotiations do not introduce undue delay into the process. This may facilitate the possible relocation of a small business or enterprise to a suitable alternative site or premises. What is reasonable will depend upon the particular circumstances, including: the nature and extent of the unauthorised development; the time needed to negotiate for and secure an interest in an alternative site; and the need to avoid unacceptable disruption during relocation. If written agreement can be reached between the Department and the operator on a time-scale, formal enforcement action may be avoided. The Department will however also bear in mind the statutory time limits for enforcement action. If no written agreement can be reached or where an agreed timescale is subsequently ignored, the Department will normally proceed with the issue of an enforcement notice, allowing a realistic period for the unauthorised operation or activity to cease. Any subsequent difficulty with relocation will not normally be a sufficient reason for delaying formal enforcement action to remedy unacceptable unauthorised development.
1 Where the Department intends to issue an enforcement notice and has made a determination that the matters constituting the breach of planning control comprise or include EIA development as defined in the Planning (Environmental Impact Assessment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1999, special provisions exist for the service of the notice (Regulation 22).