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Planning Permission: Suspension of statutory timeframes

The Minister for Housing, Planning & Local Government has made an order commencing the timeframe provisions set out in the new emergency legislation. The order takes effect from 29th March and remains in place until 20th April, a period of 23 days. The Minister has the power to extend this period should that prove necessary.

A summary of the main provisions is that where there is a statutory planning timeframe that affects any current planning application or process that time frame is now extended by 23 days.

To elaborate further for your information;

  • This order extends the duration of all statutory planning timeframes by 23 days. It will operate similar to the existing provision whereby time frames are extended by 9 days during the Christmas/New Year period.
  • The order does not freeze the planning system, it extends the timeframes within which applications and plans are processed and during which the public can make observations or objections during the current emergency. It is a welcome provision for Planning Departments trying to operate in the face of ever decreasing resources.
  • The order applies to all statutory timeframes and has implications for planning applications, Development Plans, Planning Enforcement and An Bord Planeala.
  • It also applies to the Derelict Sites Act, Vacant Sites Levy and the Strategic Housing Development (S.H.D.) process.

Planning Applications:

The following are some examples to illustrate how applications are affected:

  1. Applications already in the system and where the 5 week period for public submissions has passed – these applications can be processed to a decision. The decision date is extended by 23 days so for example if a decision is due by 1st April it now becomes due by 24th April.
  2. Applications in the system that are still within the 5 week consultation period – these applications cannot currently be processed to a decision as the consultation period has been extended – so if the 5 weeks is due to end on 1st April it now ends on 24th April.
  3. New applications lodged after 29th March – these applications will be registered and validated but, for now, will generally not be processed beyond that.

Local Authorities will continue to register, validate and upload new applications as resources allow. They will also try to get the decisions out where they can ((1) above), again subject to having resources to do so.

Final Grants / Appeals to An Bord Planeala:

The period during which a decision can be appealed to An Bord Planeala is also extended from the current 4 weeks to 4 weeks plus 23 days. Therefore we cannot issue Final Grants now or at any time during this extended period other than in cases where the appeal period ended before 29th March.

Enforcement:

All statutory enforcement processes including the timeframes specified for the serving of warning letters or enforcement notices are extended by 23 days.

There are some other enforcement matters dealt with in the legislation:

  • Change of use of a premises (e.g. restaurant) providing food for consumption on the premises to one providing take away food is deemed to be exempt.
  • Development by or on behalf of a State Authority deemed necessary for the provision of essential infrastructure required as part of the emergency response is deemed to be exempt.
  • Any premises engaged in providing or supplying essential services and which have their opening or operating hours limited by a planning condition, in such cases operating outside of those permitted hours should, unless considered to be a danger to public health and safety, be accepted as being minor in nature and no enforcement proceedings should be taken. This includes Childcare for essential workers.
  • These exemptions/concessions appear to apply for the period of the emergency only.

As pointed out above the Minister has the power to further extend these provisions if necessary.

Also attached is an FAQ Document which might answer any queries you may have.

FAQ 29 March 2020 Section 28 Guidelines Enforcement during Covid 19 Emergency

by Richard Hatch

Planning Permission: Suspension of statutory timeframes

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