My role, as Minister, in relation to the planning system is primarily 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 the 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. My Department also issued a Planning Enforcement Policy Directive in 2013 under section 29 of the Act reminding planning authorities of the critical importance of planning enforcement and the need to assign sufficient and appropriate human resources for this purpose. The day-to-day operation of the planning system is, however, a matter for the planning authorities.
Under 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 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.
There are extensive enforcement provisions provided for in Part VIII of the Act, with a view to ensuring that works pertaining to permitted developments are carried out in accordance with the planning permission granted and any associated conditions and that no unauthorised development takes place. If a person is of the view that any development works being undertaken are not in compliance with the permission granted - including any violations of hours of work or related matters specified in a condition attached to a permission - or are unauthorised, s/he may make a written complaint to the relevant planning authority who shall investigate the matter and take any appropriate enforcement action. This includes the issuing of a warning letter and, where necessary, an enforcement notice requiring that the development is carried out in conformity with the planning permission and any condition pertaining to that permission.
If an enforcement notice is not complied with, the planning authority may itself take the specified steps and recover the expense incurred in doing so. A planning authority may also seek a Court order under section 160 of the Act, requiring any particular action to be done or not to be done.
I am satisfied that planning authorities have sufficient enforcement powers at their disposal under the existing legislation. Further to the Policy Directive referred to, it is a matter for planning authorities to ensure that they assign appropriate resources for effective planning enforcement.