Anonymous tip-offs alleging planning breaches may not now be investigated as part of a shake up of enforcement procedures for Derry & Strabane.
A new Planning Enforcement Strategy was unveiled at the first meeting of the Derry & Strabane Council’s new Planning Committee on Thursday as it officially took over functions from the Department of the Environment as the new local planning authority.
It emerged during the meeting that there are currently 166 live planning enforcement cases being dealt with by Planners in the Derry & Strabane area.
Performance targets under the new strategy include bringing 70% of enforcement cases to conclusion within 39 weeks of receipt of the initial complaint.
The new strategy states: “All alleged breaches of planning control will be investigated, with the exception of anonymous complaints unless the breaches relate to unauthorised works to a listed building or works to trees which are in a Conservation Area or protected by a Tree Preservation Order.
“However because of a legal test of ‘expediency’ formal enforcement action will only be taken where it is fair and reasonable to do so.”
During the committee meeting at the Guildhall, a planning officer elaborated that at the moment they received a lot of anonymous complaints via letter and phone call, and for each of these a case has to be opened and an investigation conducted.
“Obviously if there is a major public interest in the breach we are informed of, we will be investigating.”
The council was told that there would be a review of the strategy within six months.
SDLP Derry-Strabane Councillor Gerry Diver said there had ben issues with public confidence in enforcement procedures within the old dispensation.
“This will be very important- that the public and local community have confidence this will stand up to those who want to flout it.
“What is set out in this strategy is a very clear way forward,” he added.