Developers damaging listed buildings face £100k fines
Courts can now fine developers up to £100,000 if they demolish a listed building or fell trees which are protected by a preservation order.
The new fines are three times higher than those previously in place.
They are part of the DOE's new Planning Act (Northern Ireland) 2011.
Environment Minister Alex Attwood said they would act as a deterrent to "unscrupulous developers" by denting or wiping out any potential profits.
The higher fines are part of a series of measures included within the Planning Act which strengthen enforcement powers.
While most of the act will not come into force until the assembly decides to transfer planning powers to councils, the higher fines will have immediate effect.
Mr Attwood said he thought the fines that were issued in the past were not a "significant deterrent" to those who demolished listed buildings and felled trees.
"They could still pay the fine and make significant profits from building on the ground they had razed," he said.
"These fines which are now on the statute book will act as a real deterrent to those who flout planning controls. They could either put a huge dent in or wipe out any potential financial gain by an unscrupulous developer, demolishing a listed building or felling trees protected by a tree preservation order."