Steffan Harries

Show Cause Notices

Received an 'Education Letter', 'Show Cause Notice', or worse, an 'Enforcement Notice'?

If you’ve received one of these letters from Council, then it means they believe you’re doing something wrong and committing a development offence. Whether you are or not, you need representation and 9/10 times, it is something that a town planner can help you with.

What is a Show Cause Notice?

A show cause notice is a formal document from the Council that explains the alleged offense and asks for your response. The Council will review your response and decide whether to issue an enforcement notice for the offense. You have at least twenty business days to respond to the allegations. If you need more time, you must inform the Council before the notice expires. The notice is divided into three sections: offense details, compliance requirements (if an enforcement notice is issued), and making representations.

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Frequently Asked Questions

The first thing you can do is contact a town planning consultant. Our town planners have expert experience in guiding clients through the Show Cause process.

Unless you have received an Enforcement Notice, a Show Cause Notice is merely a claim that you have done something wrong. Until you make representations, you should not need to stop operating. Get in touch with one of our planners to help today.

The letter you receive from Council will have a deadline in it, usually 30 days after you receive it. 

Where Council is unsure if you have committed a development offence, they may opt to send you an ‘education letter’. This can sometimes be followed by a Show Cause Notice or Enforcement Action depending on the circumstances.

An education letter is a great opportunity to open a dialogue with Council about the issue.

When is a show cause notice issued?

A show cause notice is issued by the Council after examining facts and circumstances related to the Building Act (1975) and the Planning Act (2016). It can be issued for various reasons, including:

  1. Unauthorised building work without approval
  2. Dilapidated or unsuitable building work
  3. Lack of final inspection or certification for building work
  4. Non-compliance with approved plans or conditions
  5. Land use change without approval
  6. Unauthorised operational works (e.g., earthworks, vegetation clearing)
  7. Breach of development approval conditions
  8. Building work on a heritage home without planning approval
  9. Installation of permanent signage without approval on private property.

Responding to a Show Cause Notice

Recipients of show cause notices have the option to provide a response (representations), although it is not mandatory. This is an important opportunity to share information, including intentions to comply, any discretionary or mitigating circumstances, or to dispute the alleged violation. 

These representations can influence the decision to issue the notice or proceed with enforcement action. If you choose to respond and commit to resolving the matter, include a timeframe for resolution. 

When responding, it is recommended to provide supporting evidence, such as medical documents, statutory declarations, confirmation of engagement from a town planner or building certifier. 

Council will also consider responses from legal representatives or other parties acting on your behalf, such as a town planner or support person. Ensure your response is sent to the Council within the specified timeframe mentioned in the notice. Any representations received after this date may be considered at the Council’s discretion.

Steffan Harries has years of experience in assisting property owners in responding to Show Cause Notices. 

What is an enforcement notice?

An enforcement notice is a legal notice that mandates specific actions to address an offense within a given timeframe. It gives you a chance to assess your options and resolve the matter promptly. The enforcement notice consists of three sections: Part A: Details of the offense Part B: Requirements specified in the notice Part C: Rights to appeal.

When is an Enforcement Notice issued?

Council can issue an enforcement notice following a show cause notice for offenses. However, in certain urgent or dangerous situations, Council may directly issue an enforcement notice without a prior show cause notice. These situations may include:

  • Non-compliant swimming pool fencing
  • Significant ongoing unapproved building work (e.g., on a character-listed property)
  • Dangerous buildings that pose a significant health and safety risk
  • Illegal land use that poses a significant health and safety risk.

Does a Show Cause Notice have to be issued before an Enforcement Notice?

Council has the discretion to skip issuing a show cause notice for dangerous or urgent matters, such as pool fencing, ongoing works, or hazardous buildings. In some cases, Council may directly issue an enforcement notice without prior notification. It’s worth noting that, based on experience, Council may frequently choose to skip the show cause notice and proceed directly to issuing an enforcement notice, particularly for failing retaining walls deemed to be dangerous.

Frequently Asked Questions

show cause notice development issue

No. In some circumstances, Council may opt to move straight to enforcement action to expedite the cease of someone committing a development offence.

Most Show Cause Notices are pertaining to a town planning, or a building approval issue. Therefore, either a town planner or building certifier can assist. We always recommend reaching out to one of our town planners here at Steffan Harries who can help out.

What is an Education Letter?

Sometimes, Council will opt to issue informal ‘education letters’ prior to issuing a Show Cause or Enforcement Notice. These letters, as they are named, provide ‘education’ to you informing you as to why Council believe you might be committing a development offence. It isn’t necessarily true, but when you receive an education letter, it is something you need to take seriously and start investiging immediately.

Responding to an Education Letter

The best thing you can do to avoid Council taking any further action (e.g. issuing a Show Cause Notice) is to respond to the education letter with the assistance of a town planner or building certifier. In most instances, a town planner will be able to assist you with the issues raised in the education letter.

We recommend sending us a copy of your education letter along with a bit of background about the content of the letter (e.g. if it is true, or not) and we can provide a bit of free initial advice, and a quote as to how we might be able to deal with the issue from there.

What to do when you receive a Show Cause Notice? Get in touch with one of our town planners straight away.

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