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Planning Enforcement Procedures

The procedures for planning enforcement, including inspection, warning letters, enforcement notices, and potential legal actions for unauthorised development, as well as guidelines for making a complaint and addressing planning errors.

Making a Complaint

If you wish to make a complaint regarding possible unauthorised development you must complete a complaint form. The following should be noted:

  • Anonymous Complaint Forms will not be accepted.
  • All questions on the form must be answered in full to enable the Planning Authority to decide whether the complaint has substance and foundation.
  • A Warning Letter will be issued to the person(s) named by you on the Enforcement Complaint Form based on the information submitted in the form. Therefore, it is important that the information given is accurate and detailed.
  • The planning reference number, Site Location Map and photographs should be included where possible.
  • Should legal proceedings be instituted, the person making the complaint may be required to give evidence in court as to the date of commencement of the unauthorised development.
  • Waterford City & County Council will endeavour to maintain as confidential any complaints made to it in confidence and in good faith. However, this information is subject to the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act, 1997-2003 and accordingly may be subject to disclosure.
  • The information given must be clear, signed and the name and address of the person making the complaint given, otherwise the complaint may not be investigated by Waterford City & County Council. • Civil matters will not be adjudicated by the Planning Authority and therefore issues such as encroachment, private rights of way, trespass, private nuisance and civil boundary disputes will not be investigated.

Rectifying Planning Errors

Genuine mistakes can be made in relation to the need for planning permission. If you undertake unauthorised development, you may apply for permission to retain it. However, this approach should not be relied upon to avoid seeking planning permission before starting work, as you may not necessarily be granted permission for retention or be required to carry out costly modifications. If retention of an unauthorised development is refused, the unauthorised development must be removed and/or the unauthorised use ceased.

The application fee for retention is also three times the fee for an application made before development starts.

Permission for retention does not automatically absolve you from prosecution if enforcement action has already been taken against you. If you are buying property, check that the building itself and any extensions or alterations to it have proper planning permission or are exempt from planning permission. You, as the new owner, may be liable to enforcement action.

What happens after a complaint is made?

On receipt of a written complaint, a Planning Enforcement Officer carries out an inspection at the location of the alleged unauthorised development and a course of action is decided upon. Every effort is made by the Planning Department to encourage compliance with planning legislation without having to resort to enforcement action. However, if sufficient compliance measures are not undertaken and the unauthorised development is continued, enforcement action commences.

There are a number of steps that are followed:

  1. After an initial inspection, if it is deemed necessary, a ‘Warning Letter’ is issued to the individual/s in question. The letter allows the developer time to respond to the alleged unauthorised development.
  2. Having carried out the necessary investigation and considering any submissions received, the Planning Authority may decide to issue an ‘Enforcement Notice’.
  3. Should such an ‘Enforcement Notice’ be served, such a notice will require the developer to remove the unauthorised development, and also to refund the costs of the Council’s time and resources expended on the enforcement file.
  4. Any outstanding works which are not carried out or costs unpaid will result in non-compliance with the Enforcement Notice.
  5. The Planning Authority can take court proceedings for non-compliance with an ‘Enforcement Notice’ and if found guilty, could result in a criminal prosecution and a fine and/or a prison sentence.