The Warning Letter, which must be served within six weeks of receiving the complaint, allows a developer up to four weeks to rectify the offence or to make a submission. Regard must be had to any submission received when deciding whether or not to serve an Enforcement Notice.
An Enforcement Notice sets out the requirements of the Council to rectify the offence and also contains a timeframe within which the work must be completed. Non compliance with an Enforcement Notice is an offence. Should any person served with an Enforcement Notice fail to comply with its requirements, the Council may institute legal proceedings in the District Court.
In urgent cases, the Council may alternatively apply to the Circuit or High Court for an Order directing that particular actions take place or cease, as the case may be.
The making of a planning application for retention of an unauthorised development is no longer a reason to delay/suspend the taking of enforcement action by the council.
Any person who has carried out or is carrying out unauthorised development shall be guilty of an offence pursuant to Section 151 of the Planning and Development Act, 2000, as amended. The possible penalties involved where there is a conviction for such an offence are that a person shall be liable:
- on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding €5,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 6 months, or to both.
- on conviction on indictment to a fine not exceeding €12,697,380.78 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 2 years, or to both.
Where an unauthorised development involves the construction of an unauthorised structure, the minimum fine is:
- on summary conviction, the estimated cost of the construction of the structure or €2,500, whichever is less:
- on conviction on indictment, the estimated cost of the construction of the structure or €12,697.38, whichever is less, except where the person convicted can show to the court’s satisfaction that he, she, or it, does not have the necessary financial means to pay the minimum fine.
Further information regarding planning enforcement can be found in A guide to Planning Enforcement in Ireland