30 March 2020
By Bryan Smyth
The Government yesterday agreed at the request of Eoghan Murphy T.D., Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, to make an order, which has the effect of extending public participation periods in the planning system for a period of three weeks.
The Minister said: “We find ourselves in unprecedented times. People have been asked to remain at home, with older and vulnerable people cocooning and others only leaving their home for certain essential purposes. Given these new restrictions on the movement of people, it is important to extend the public participation periods in the planning system, to ensure that the integrity of decision making is upheld, and to ensure that plan making for new development can continue. Work will continue through these new restrictions so that the planning system is well placed to play its vital role in supporting the recovery.”
Planning applications can continue to be made by post, and authorities can engage with applicants by electronic means, accepting submissions by post and electronic means. Most authorities have on-line systems for inspecting planning applications. The extended time will also apply to planning appeals, which An Bord Pleanála will continue to receive by post.
The Orders made by the Minister and the Government, will add 23 days to the statutory time periods for processing planning applications within the Planning Acts. This is to reflect the period up to Easter Sunday, during which time people have asked to stay at home, other than leaving for essential purposes and includes a short period thereafter to ensure that there is adequate notice of revised arrangements.
This will impact on the time taken to process planning applications, in the following ways:
If an application was lodged before 21 February 2020, the public participation phase is completed, and so a planning authority can make a decision within the extended deadline;
If an application was lodged after that date, but before 29 March 2020, the decision cannot be made until after 20 April 2020 to ensure that the public participation element has been completed;
If an application is lodged after 29 March 2020, it cannot be decided by the Planning Authority until the five-week period for public consultation on the application commences, which will now be after 20 April 2020.
These are short-term but necessary accommodations to the planning processes to ensure that the planning system can continue to function and to ensure the integrity of decision making in the weeks ahead.
The Department is also recommending to planning authorities that public meetings on all Plans, are deferred for the period of the extension. This includes Development Plan, Development Plan Variations and Local Area Plan processes. This is considered necessary because such processes require engagement with members of the public, and in particular public meetings.
Minister Murphy concluded: “The planning and development system plays an important role in supporting the economic development of the country, and will play a vital role in supporting social and economic activity when this COVID 19 emergency is past. I am deeply appreciative of the efforts of the staff of planning authorities in keeping the planning system operating and open for business at this time. The measures taken today will support the integrity of decision making, by ensuring that public participation in the process is not diminished by the current restrictions.”