The Development and Planning Authority ("DPA") has a duty under law to investigate and take action against possible breaches of planning control. Examples of such breaches include: works carried out without planning permission; unauthorised change of use; non-compliance with a condition imposed by a planning permission; and unauthorised advertising/signs.

The DPA will usually first attempt to resolve such matters by informal discussion but there are a number of enforcement tools available where it appears there has been a breach of planning control which should be remedied.

These include the issue of a number of notices but the one used most often is a "Compliance Notice". This notice is served on the owner of the land concerned, the occupier (if he is not the owner) and any person appearing to have an interest in the land. The Compliance Notice should set out the steps required to remedy the breach.

With regard to historic breaches, the DPA is prohibited from issuing a Compliance Notice after (1) 4 years of the date of the alleged breach or 10 years in respect of a material change of use, or (2) 4 years from the date the facts alleged to constitute that breach are first known by the DPA, whichever is the sooner.

A Compliance Notice must contain certain information as prescribed by law. If you think a Compliance Notice should not have been served or if you think it is incorrect and/or should be amended or withdrawn, you should get in touch with the enforcement team at the DPA. If the notice is not amended or withdrawn, there is a right to appeal against it to the Planning Tribunal. You have to act quickly as such appeal must be lodged and validated within 28 days of the date the notice takes effect.

Failure to comply with a Compliance Notice is a serious matter. The DPA has powers to enter the land and take the required measures to remedy the breach and it is entitled to recover expenses incurred in doing so from the owner of the land. Also, failure to comply with a Compliance Notice is a criminal offence and could lead to prosecution.