On Friday April 17th, a further extension of 19 days was announced to the public participation period in the planning system. More information can be accessed here.
This further extension impacts in the following ways:
If an application was lodged before or on Friday 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 9 May 2020 to ensure that the public participation element has been completed;
If an application is lodged after 29 March 2020, it cannot be determined by the Planning Authority until after the expiration of the five week period for public consultation, which now commences on 10 May 2020, so subject to the date on which an application is submitted, the earliest a decision could be made would be Monday 15 June 2020.
The extended time will also apply to planning appeals, which An Bord Pleanála will continue to receive by post.
The Department continues to recommend to planning authorities that public consultation and council meeting activity on all Plans be deferred until after the extension period, which will now end on 9 May 2020.
COVID-19 Emergency Legislation overview
On Sunday 29th March, the Government approved a request by Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy to extend by 23 days the statutory time period for processing planning applications under the Planning Acts.
In brief, this means that if a planning application was lodged prior to February 21st, the public participation phase is completed, and the relevant planning authority can make a decision within the extended deadline. However, if an application was lodged after February 21st and before March 29th, the decision cannot be made until after the 20th of April.
If the planning application is lodged after March 29th, it cannot be decided by the relevant planning authority until the five-week period for public consultation on the application commences, which will commence after April 20. Essentially the order applies to all applications lodged after the February 21, with decisions on these not be made until after April 20.
All public meetings associated with planning, or appeals are now officially deferred until the restrictions on the movement of the public are lifted. The changes also apply to appeals to An Bord Pleanála. The Department has also recommended to planning authorities that public meetings on all Plans be officially deferred for the period of the extension. This includes Development Plan, Development Plan Variations and Local Area Plan processes. As such Cork County Development Plan 2022 – 2028 has had its submission deadline to the public consultation phase extended to the 2nd June.
The emergency legislation was passed to safeguard the integrity of decision making, to ensure the ongoing work and function of planning and development processes and its role in supporting social and economic activity when this COVID 19 emergency is past.
In more detail, here are the key points and applications of the emergency legislation:
The circular published on March 29th from the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government outlines the actions across the planning functions being taken in response to COVID-19 and the evolving situation.
New Section 251A of the Planning and Development Act
A new provision (Section 251A) has been inserted into the Planning and Development Act, 2000 as amended (the Act).
1. To the effect that the period from 29th March 2020 to the 20 April 2020, inclusive, may be disregarded when calculating any appropriate period, specified period, or other timelines in the following Acts, or provisions, or in any regulations made under those acts or provisions:
I. The Planning and Development Act 2000, as amended;
II. The Derelicts Sites Act, 1990;
III. Part 2 of the Urban Regenerations and Housing Act, 2015 (which relates to the vacant site levy);
IV. Chapter 1 of Part 2 of the Planning and Development (Housing) and Residential Tenancies Act, 2016 (which relates the Strategic Housing Developments)
Government confirms that the planning system has not been paused, instead the timelines have been extended wherein decisions can be made.
2. The second focus of the measures relates specifically to two regulations geared at addressing developments during this emergency.
I. The Planning and Development Act 2000 (Exempted Development) (No.2) Regulations, 2020 – during the period of the COVID-19 emergency, a change in use from a premises selling food for consumption on the premises to one providing food for takeaway is considered an exempt development.
II. The Planning and Development Act 2000 (Section 181) Regulations, 2020 states that the Planning and Development Act 2000 will not be applied to certain classes of development by or on behalf of a State authority.
i. This may include the change of use and repurposing of existing buildings and facilities, and/or the provision of temporary new-build accommodation and structures to address the COVID-19 civil emergency.
Guidance on enforcement
This relates to essential retail operators and refers to the ongoing efforts to ensure that food and other supplies can be delivered in a safe and timely manner. In some instances, this may lead to a technical contravening of planning conditions that restrict times of deliveries. Such technical contraventions may also occur outside of retail, such as in the case of childcare facilities, those established for front line workers.
I. The approach to enforcement in this will be pragmatic and measured, and the discretion available to planning authorities under the relevant Sections of the Planning Act, should be applied insofar as possible, other than in circumstances where such operations could seriously impact on public health and welfare. The Minister has issued guidance under Section 28 of the Planning and Development Act 2000, as amended.
Urban Regeneration and Development Fund (URDF)
This is due to take on increased importance post the pandemic shock. It is recognised that the URDF has unique potential to accelerate economic and social revitalisation in cities and large towns.
I. As such, the Department’s objective is to continue the URDF supported programme and is committed to progressing the projects already approved under Call 1 and to the continuation of the programme under Call 2.
II. There has been an extension to the deadline for receipt of applications under Call 2 to 29 May 2020.
Foreshore applications will continue to progress in accordance with health guidance.
Finally, the Planning Division will continue to work with planning authorities.
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