Wednesday, 20 May 2020
Department of Housing, Planning, and Local Government
1347. To ask the Minister for Housing, Planning, and Local Government if his Department will consider reintroducing planning permission processes in certain limited circumstances; if he has considered the use of libraries as part of the process due to the fact that libraries are to reopen soon and persons could make an appointment to view ongoing applications in a similar manner to the way in which the public routinely make appointments to view active planning permissions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6086/20]
In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and the associated public health restrictions introduced by the Government, three Orders have been made to date under Section 251A of the Planning and Development Act 2000, as amended (the Act), disapplying the period from 29 March 2020 to 23 May 2020 inclusive (i.e. a period of 8 weeks or 56 days) in the calculation of any appropriate period, specified period or other timeline in the Act or other related planning legislation.
The signing of these Orders is primarily aimed at ensuring that the public participation requirements in the planning processes are not diminished during the period of the COVID-19 public health restrictions. Taking account of national and sectoral return to work protocols, planning is underway to allow for certain decision making processes under the planning system to advance shortly. This will include the inspection of planning application files in the offices of the planning authority in accordance with Article 18(1)(e) of the Planning and Development Regulations 2001, as amended (the Regulations).
Provision is already made under Article 27(5) of the Regulations for the making available of the weekly lists of planning applications for inspection for a period of not less than 8 weeks, beginning on the day on which it is made available, in or at the offices of the planning authority, and in each public library and mobile library in its functional area and at any other place or by any other means, including electronic form, that the authority considers appropriate.
In the context of the Government's Roadmap for Reopening Society and Business, published on 1 May last, my Department is working with planning authorities on various options to support public participation in these circumstances and facilitate the advancement of certain decision making processes on expiry of the period under the Orders made under Section 251A. This may include, in the context of the phased return to full opening of planning offices, the putting in place of arrangements, by appointment, for the viewing of planning application files either in hard copy or electronically at the public counters of the planning offices or the local public libraries, subject of course to adhering to physical distancing and other public health and health and safety protocols in place to protect both local authority staff and members of the public. This would be in addition to the making available of the weekly lists of planning applications at local libraries as referred to above.
The final detailed arrangements in relation to facilitating public participation in the planning system, including the viewing of planning files by members of the public, will be publicised in advance of the expiry of the period under the Orders made under Section 251A.