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This is a much-welcomed update from Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon, who has announced temporary changes to the current process for major planning applications which will see the temporary removal of the requirement to hold a public event as part of the pre-application community consultation process.
The Planning (Development Management) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2015 (‘2015 Regulations’) state that any prospective planning applicant who proposes to apply for permission for any major development must, “hold at least one public event in the locality in which the proposed development is situated where members of the public make comments to the prospective applicant as regards the proposed development.” Due to the current COVID-19 pandemic lockdown and social distancing measures imposed by the Government, such events cannot take place. This of course poses great difficult to those applicants for major development who were unable to hold a pre-application community consultation event; however, the recent announcement by Minister Mallon provides comfort and reassurance.
The changes, which come into effect on 1 May, will apply for five months and will be accompanied by guidance for applicants suggesting alternatives to this important element of the consultation process. Applicants will still need to comply with other requirements to ensure communities are aware of and can input to major development proposals for their area. This will prevent one delay in major planning applications being submitted during the current pandemic.
The Minister has said, “the planning system will have a critical role in supporting our future economic and societal recovery from the COVID-19 crisis. It is vital that the process continues to function, keeping an eye to the future and to keep Northern Ireland moving forward at this difficult time.”
The Minister has confirmed that advice and guidance on appropriate measures to replace face to face public events, such as online engagement will follow shortly. Further, the Minister has said that “this will ensure that pre-application public participation in the planning process can continued during the emergency period and will facilitate a more consistent approach across the 11 Council areas.”
The Planning (Development Management) (Temporary Modifications) (Coronavirus) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2020 will temporarily amend the 2015 Regulations and come into operation on 1 May 2020. The practice advice and guidance will be made available and published to coincide with the 2020 Regulations coming into operation.
This article has been produced for general information purposes and further advice should be sought from a professional advisor. Please contact our Planning & Environment team at Cleaver Fulton Rankin for further advice or information.