Planning laws are designed to control the development and use of land and buildings in the public interest.  For example, carrying out work or changing the use of land and buildings without planning permission could adversely affect visual amenity, compromise highway safety or cause irreversible damage to the historic or natural environment. Breaches of these laws constitute a breach of planning control, and the Planning and Development Department can under law take enforcement action to remedy or correct the breach.

What is a breach of planning control?

A breach of planning control occurs when:

  • development is carried out without the required planning permission; or
  • there is a failure to comply with any condition or limitation subject to which planning permission has been granted by the Board, Minister or under permitted development rights.
  • Displaying certain signs or advertisements without planning consent.

The Act defines development as:-

  • the carrying out of building, engineering, mining or other operations in, on, over or under any land;
  • the making of any material change in the use of any building or land, for example changing a house to a shop; or
  • the subdivision of land.

What matters need to be considered before action is taken?

Before a decision can be made on what is considered to be the best course of action to take, a number of questions will need to be addressed, such as:

  • Does the development/work carried out actually require permission under planning legislation? – Many minor building works may be covered by ‘permitted development’ and certain 'changes of use' do not require expressed planning permission.
  • Has permission already been given? - Most planning permissions can be taken up at any time within five years of being granted and, once partially put into action, there is no time limit on its final completion
  • Is the matter serious enough to warrant action?
  • Where planning permission has not been granted, can the development satisfy planning requirements which would allow for permission by the Planning department?
  • Where the activities or development are undesirable yet controllable by our planning enforcement power under the Act, what is the most appropriate action to take?

What we will do if you carry out unauthorised development?

A planning officer will visit the site of the alleged unauthorised development to assess whether there is a breach of planning control. There are a number of courses of action available to pursue:

  • Invite the person carrying out the unauthorised work to regularise the development
  • Issue a Warning Notice - this is where more information is required before deciding whether to take enforcement action
  • Serve an Enforcement Notice - this is where the person is unwilling to remedy a breach of planning control and where we consider, having regard to the development plan and other material considerations, that planning permission would not have been granted
  • Issue a Stop Notice
  • Take direct action to remedy the breach and place a legal charge on the land to recoup all reasonable costs involved
  • Injunctions

We consider formal planning enforcement action as a last resort. It is almost always more appropriate to seek a solution by negotiation, by regularising acceptable unauthorised development through the submission of an appropriate application or the developer taking steps to remove the unauthorized works and returning the land to its original state. On occasion, however, immediate prosecution/direct enforcement action will be necessary, and we will use the statutory powers available to us where appropriate.