My role, as Minister, in relation to the planning system is mainly to provide and update the legislative and policy guidance framework. The legislative framework comprises the Planning and Development Act 2000, as amended, (the Act) and the Planning and Development Regulations 2001, as amended.
With regards to policy guidance, my Department has issued a large number of planning guidelines (available on my Department’s website, www.housing.gov.ie) under section 28 of the Act, to which planning authorities and An Bord Pleanála are obliged to have regard in the exercise of their planning functions. The day-to-day operation of the planning system is, however, a matter for the planning authorities.
In this regard and in accordance with planning legislation, enforcement of planning control is a matter for the relevant planning authority which can take action if a development does not have the required permission, or where the terms of a permission have not been met.
Under the Act, it is obligatory for the planning authority to follow up substantive written complaints of breaches of the planning code, unless it considers the complaint to be trivial or vexatious, or without substance or foundation.
Once a planning authority has received a written complaint and forms the view that unauthorised development may have been, is being or may be carried out, it must issue a warning letter to the owner or person carrying out the development unless the development in question is of a trivial or minor nature.
After issuing the warning letter the planning authority will carry out an investigation with a view to deciding whether further action is required. In making its decision, the authority must take into account the original written complaint received and any representations from the person who was served with the warning letter.
Where the planning authority establishes, having carried out an investigation that unauthorised development is being carried out which is not trivial or minor, and the person carrying out the development does not move to remedy the situation (e.g. by removing the offending development or by applying for permission), the planning authority must in general take further action e.g. issue an enforcement notice or seek a court order.
Under section 30 of the Act, I am specifically precluded from exercising any power or control in relation to any particular case, including an enforcement issue, with which a planning authority or An Bord Pleanála is or may be concerned.
In May 2013, a Ministerial Policy Directive was issued to all planning authorities under section 29 of the Act, reminding them of their statutory obligations under Part VIII of the Act relating to enforcement. The Policy Directive required that planning authorities ensure that sufficient and appropriate human resources are made available for enforcement purposes. It also required planning authorities to undertake appropriate monitoring of planning enforcement and directed them to prioritise large-scale unauthorised development and enforcement cases.
Further to this Policy Directive, it is a matter for planning authorities to ensure that they utilise resources appropriately for efficient and effective planning enforcement.