What is unauthorised development?
Any development which requires planning permission and does not have that permission, or which is going ahead in breach of the specific conditions set out in its planning permission, is classed as 'unauthorised development'.
The carrying out of unauthorised development is an offence and any person who has carried it out may be subject to enforcement proceedings. Enforcement is simply the planning authority's way of making sure that unauthorised development becomes compliant with planning law.
Planning enforcement action can only be taken when something has been done without the appropriate permission or consent. It is important to appreciate that planning enforcement action cannot be taken if the work carried out does not require permission/consent in the first place, such as:
- A change of use of a structure where the change is not material
- Developments of a minor nature, such as a small extension to a house or the installation of solar panels on the roof of your house.
There are usually certain thresholds relating to, for example, size or height. Where these thresholds are exceeded, the exemptions no longer apply.
How do I make a complaint about unauthorised development?
All complaints in relation to unauthorised development need to be set out in writing (either by email email@example.com, or letter to the Planning department or by completing a Registration of Planning Complaint Form
When reporting a suspected breach of planning control, it is helpful if you have as much information as possible about the current and previous situation e.g. the exact address, when activities started, the nature of the building works or use and the names, addresses and contact details of the known owners or other persons responsible.
It is recommended that you state when writing to the planning authority that you are making a written representation under section 152 of the Planning and Development Act.
The knowledge and information held by individual members of the public and, for example residents' groups, can be very helpful. The planning authority will have information in its own records and your information can add to this.
All complaints are treated as confidential on request.
What is the procedure for the handling of complaints re. unauthorised developments?
Upon receipt of complaint, the planning authority must carry out an investigation into the alleged unauthorised development. A summary of the process is set out in the table below:
Written complaint received by planning authority
Warning letter to issue
Within 6 weeks of receipt of complaint
Response from alleged unauthorised developer
Within 4 weeks from date warning letter is sent.
Decision taken by planning authority on whether further action is required
Within 12 weeks, of issue of warning letter, if possible.
Further action will normally take the form of an Enforcement Notice requiring the person concerned to rectify the position. Where a person does not comply with an Enforcement Notice the planning authority can take the matter to court. The complainant is notified in writing of all the enforcement steps taken.
How can I tell if there is unauthorised development on a particular site?