Ards and North Down Borough Council places great importance on protecting our communities, our heritage and the natural environment from unauthorised development that causes harm or which shows a disregard for the planning system. To ensure that we can take action when it is right to do so, the Borough Council provides a planning enforcement service which investigates complaints and provides expert advice on enforcement matters.

Although planning enforcement is a discretionary function, it is recognised that the integrity of the development management process depends upon our commitment to take effective action against unauthorised development.  In exercising discretion, our response to breaches of planning control will be proportionate to the extent of the breach and its potential impact on the environment. 

The Council’s approach to Planning Enforcement is set out in the following statement:

‘Ards and North Down Borough Council attaches great importance to the protection and enhancement of the natural and built environments of the Borough through the planning process.  Compliance with and respect for that process are both essential and expected, and the Council will not condone wilful breaches of planning control.

 While enforcement action will always need to be commensurate with the breach to which it relates, the Council will not hesitate to be firm and robust in its response in appropriate circumstances, including recourse to the courts.

Every effort will be made to resolve inadvertent or minor breaches through discussion and retrospective planning applications.  More serious breaches (including those considered to be wilful) are likely to result in formal enforcement action.’

It is important to note that the vast majority of breaches of planning control are resolved informally through negotiation with the owner/occupier or through the submission and consideration of a retrospective planning application.

The speed at which a breach of planning control can be resolved will vary depending on the complexity of the individual case and general workloads. Planning enforcement, by its very nature, can be a complex and lengthy process and cases can remain live for some time.  In most cases it will not be possible to advise on timescales but the Council will endeavour to process the case to conclusion as expediently as possible. 

Our Planning Enforcement Strategy (amended January 2023) can be accessed via the PDF doc BELOW. It sets out in more detail the powers available to the Council’s Planning Enforcement Section and how we will deal with complaints relating to breaches of planning control.

Can I Report A Possible Breach of Planning Control?

While the Planning Enforcement Team may be aware of breaches of planning control, there is also a role for the public in alerting the Council to unauthorised development. You can write, email or telephone us using the contact details provided below. You will need to provide information in relation to:

  • the location of the alleged breach;
  • a description of the development, works or other activities that constitute the alleged breach;
  • the person or business suspected of carrying out the breach (if known); and
  • any other information that may help with our investigation.

You have to provide your name and contact details as we do not investigate anonymous complaints. The Council will protect your identity in accordance with the Environmental Information Regulations 2004 and the Data Protection Act 1988. We may, however, be asked to disclose your details if the case goes to court, in such cases we will contact you in advance to provide advice in relation to this matter.

 What If Someone Complains About My Development?

We will visit the site to ascertain whether a breach of planning control has occurred and we will seek to contact you to discuss the matter. If you receive any communication from us regarding an alleged breach of planning control you are advised to:

  • Stop work on site immediately;
  • Telephone us to discuss an appropriate course of action;
  • Respond promptly to any request for additional information; and
  • Comply with any further requirements detailed in our communication.

Please note that we will not tell you the name of the complainant as this information is protected by the Environmental Information Regulations 2004 and applicable Data Protection Legislation. 

How To Contact Us

Please do not hesitate to contact the team for help and advice at:

Planning Enforcement Team
Ards and North Down Borough Council
2 Church StreetNewtownardsBT23 4AP

Tel: 02891 824006 (Mon-Fri 9.30am to 4.30pm)