Tuesday, 16 January 2007

Naming and shaming those convicted of planning breaches

Paul Cullen writign in The Irish Times tells us that Dublin City Council has become the first local authority to "name and shame" people convicted of planning breaches.
The council yesterday published the names of six property owners against whom District Court convictions were obtained under the planning Acts. A number of other convictions are under appeal to the Circuit Court.
It is council policy to take enforcement action in all cases of unauthorised development and to prosecute breaches of the planning Acts, according to Brian Hanney of the council's planning enforcement branch.
Last year the council received 1,200 complaints about alleged planning breaches. It referred 140 cases to a solicitor for enforcement.
The council also pursues the costs of issuing enforcement orders and subsequent court proceedings.
Last year €123,000 was collected in costs and fines, equivalent to about €1,000 a case, Mr Hanney said.
The main types of breach occurred when people exceeded the limits for exempted development or deviated from specified planning permission.
Failure to adhere to the working hours permitted for a development is an increasing cause of complaint.
When a local authority receives a complaint about alleged unauthorised development, it sends out a letter to the property owner or developer. After four weeks an enforcement officer visits the site to determine its status. If the development is exempted (ie it doesn't need planning permission), the file is closed.
If, however, a breach is discovered, the authority can issue an enforcement notice, and is entitled to recoup the costs of doing this.
Owners have the option of seeking retention permission but this cannot be used as a defence in the event of court proceedings. However, Dublin City Council grants retention permission in more than 85 per cent of cases.
Last year the council issued 370 enforcement notices. If the problem is not remedied within a stated period, the matter goes to court.
A staff of 25 work in the planning enforcement section, of whom 10 are enforcement officers. Running costs are over €2.6 million a year.
Paul Cullen
© 2007 The Irish Times

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