Show cause notice

Council is committed to being fair to you and provides the opportunity to respond, before taking any further action. A show cause notice is a formal document which:

  • sets out the basis for Council’s understanding of the alleged offence;
  • invites you to respond to Council, explaining why no enforcement action, such as issuing an enforcement notice, should be taken to resolve the issue; and
  • carries no penalty, but is the first step in the enforcement process.

The legislation requires that we give you a response time frame of 20 business days. 

However, if there is a compelling reason that may cause you to require further time to respond, please notify Council prior to the date in the notice and we can discuss the possibility of an alternative response time frame.


Reasons for receiving a show cause notice

As a local authority, Council has responsibility for investigating matters under the Planning Act 2016. During an investigation, Council will examine the facts and circumstances to determine whether any enforcement action is necessary.

An investigation might relate to:

  • change of a use of land contrary to the Planning Scheme;
  • operational works which have been carried out without a development approval; and/or
  • a breach of development approval conditions.

As part of the investigation, Council will have given you a show cause notice because it reasonably believes there may be a contravention of the Planning Act 2016 for which you may be responsible.

The opportunity to hear your perspective is an important part of the investigation. Please note that while you may not have originally commenced the use/undertaken the works, responsibility passes to a new owner upon completion of a property transfer.


Responding to a show cause notice

Whilst a show cause notice is an opportunity for you to respond to Council, you are not obligated to respond. However, it is a valuable opportunity for you to advise Council what steps you intend to take to resolve the issue, or why you believe Council should take no further action.

If you do not dispute that there has been a contravention of the legislation, you might choose to advise Council:

  • what steps you intend to take to resolve the matter; and
  • the time frame for resolution.

Providing a response to a show cause notice enables Council to determine whether it is reasonable to proceed with formal enforcement action, such as giving you an enforcement notice which will require particular actions, by assessing all of the information at hand. Council will always first consider any advice of intentions to comply, discretionary or mitigating circumstances or defences that you raise in your response to the show cause notice.

If Council needs clarification on some point, we will contact you by telephone or email. However, if you would prefer a meeting to discuss the show cause notice, you are welcome to make an appointment with the Council officer named in the notice.


Resolving the matter

To resolve the matter, you may wish to employ the services of a consultant town planner, engineer, or solicitor to give you advice on the matter. These professionals may be able to give you an understanding of the required time and costs involved, if any, in resolving the matter.

Alternatively, you may wish to speak with a Council Technical Advice Officer on 131 872 regarding town planning or engineering matters.

If you resolve the matter before the date within the Show Cause Notice, we encourage you to notify Council to arrange for a further inspection, so that the investigation can be finalised as soon as possible.

An example case study is provided below of how a matter can be resolved with as little difficulty as possible, as well as avoiding any further unnecessary costs.

In October 2018, Council conducted an inspection and identified that a business, employing one staff, was operating without a development approval from a house. Council sent the property owner a show cause notice, stating that it believed a development offence had occurred under the Act. The notice requested a response by the end of November 2018.

The owner then attended a pre-lodgement meeting at Council, at which they were advised the requirements of a development application and associated costs.

At the end of November 2018, the owner wrote to Council confirming that they had decided to lodge a development application for a Material Change of Use to make the use lawful. Council decide not to take any enforcement action whilst the application was being assessed.

At the end of November 2018, the required development application was lodged with Council.

After the development approval for a home based business was given in March 2019, Council closed its investigation into this matter.




Council deals with the personal information of all parties in an investigation in a strictly confidential manner. We will not disclose your personal details, or the details of any complainant, to any party.

Council will not reveal the source or details of a complaint or complainant to a third party. You may be able to make a Right to Information request about the matter. However, details such as the name and address of the complainant will generally not be available to an applicant under the privacy legislation.

For detailed information on privacy matters, please contact Council’s Customer Service Centre on 131 872.


Related information

Development - Development show cause notice information sheet INFO 033 (PDF for print)

Queensland Government Department of State Development, Manufacturing, Infrastructure and Planning website - Information about planning laws

Building show cause notice information

Building enforcement notice information

Development enforcement notice information



The information contained in this sheet is a guide only.

This information has been prepared by Toowoomba Regional Council to help customers gain an understanding of Council’s responsibilities for investigating matters under the Planning Act 2016. Please consult the relevant legislation for detailed information as the content of this information sheet is not intended to replace the provisions of such.