Minister Murphy: Public participation period in Planning returns to normal

From today, Monday 25 May 2020, the normal periods for public participation processes for planning applications under the Planning and Development Acts will apply to new applications.

In making the decision not to extend recent planning orders Minister Murphy considered the following:

  • the decision by Cabinet to proceed with Phase 1 of the Government Road Map for Reopening Society and Business on 18 May 2020;
  • the decision to amend the ‘stay at home restrictions’ by adding “construction and development work” and “the provision of support services relating to construction and development work” as essential services, effective from 18 May 2020;
  • confirmation from An Bord Pleanála and officials representing all 31 planning authorities that they will reopen their planning public counters from Monday 25 May 2020, with appropriate arrangements in the light of public health advice, and they will also provide supplementary measures to support public participation, including the online publication of application documents; and
  • legal advice from the Office of the Attorney General.

In this context the Department has worked with local authorities and An Bord Pleanála to confirm that the following supplementary measures will be put in place to ensure effective public participation after 23 May 2020:

  • development of Standard Operating Procedures for the planning service in all 31 local authorities, which have taken into account the Government’s Return to Work Safely Protocol, to ensure a consistent approach to opening of public offices and access to planning services by the public on Monday 25 May 2020;
  • the requirement, in the form of new Planning Regulations, that all planning application documents submitted to a planning authority will (except in exceptional circumstances) be made available online to the public within 5 working days after the documents are received;
  • the provision of dedicated email addresses / public assistance phone lines relating to planning applications, to be maintained by each planning authority and the Board for the period of the Covid-19 pandemic; and
  • the communication of such measures by planning authorities online and in the press, emphasising the availability of online mechanisms.

Minister Murphy said:

“I want to thank the staff of planning authorities and An Bord Pleanála for having progressed as much work as possible through the planning system during the past 8 weeks when public participation periods were extended by Government Order.  Decisions requiring public participation can now advance, aided by enhanced communication measures, including online publication of planning applications and opening of public offices for planning purposes. This will happen in accordance with public health guidance, which may involve appointment-based access, from this Monday 25 May 2020.  Such measures will continue to support the integrity of the planning system by ensuring that public participation in the process is not diminished while, at the same time, securing the role of the planning system in the post-Covid-19 economic recovery.”

An updated ‘Frequently Asked Questions’ document is available on the Department’s website providing information on the new post-Section 251A working arrangements from 25 May 2020.