In recent weeks, we have seen the introduction of emergency legislation by the Irish Government in a bid to tackle the challenging reality of Covid-19. Planning and building control systems are facing significant challenges and the Government has had to act fast to preserve the integrity of these systems and to ensure their continued operation. The following legislation has been enacted in order to achieve this aim: -

1. Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (COVID-19) Act 2020 (the “2020 Act”)

The 2020 Act was signed into law on 27 March 2020. Part 3 of the 2020 Act provides for “calculation of time limits relating to planning and development”. Part 3 provides that specified statutory time limits contained in certain planning and development legislation shall be suspended from the date of enactment until a date that shall be specified by the Minister in accordance with the 2020 Act. The relevant legislation to which the suspension applies includes: -

  • the Planning and Development Act 2000;  
  • the Building Control Act 1990;
  • the Derelict Sites Act 1990;
  • the Urban Regeneration and Housing Act 2015; and
  • the Planning and Development (Housing) and Residential Tenancies Act 2016.

On 29 March, Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, Eoghan Murphy made an order suspending the time periods until 20 April 2020 (the “Disregarded Period”). Under the 2020 Act, this date may be extended before the expiration of the Disregarded Period. The Government in considering whether to extend shall have regard to, amongst other things, “the need to ensure the effective operation of  the planning system and provide in the interest of common good, for proper planning and sustainable development” and “the need to ensure the effective operation of the building control system and to protect the health, safety and welfare of building occupiers”.  

Practical Effects of the 2020 Act

Planning & Development Act 2000 

Planning applications submitted at least 5 weeks prior to the commencement of the Act (i.e. prior to 21 February 2020) which have been subject to the minimum period for public consultation can be decided within the Disregarded Period. The period for deciding may be extended up to the expiry of the Disregarded Period.

  • Planning applications submitted at least 5 weeks prior to the commencement of the Act (i.e. prior to 21 February 2020) which have been subject to the minimum period       for public consultation can be decided within the Disregarded Period. The period for deciding may be extended up to the expiry of the Disregarded Period.
  • Planning applications that were submitted less than 5 weeks prior to the commencement of the Act (i.e. lodged prior to 29 March 2020 but after 21 February 2020) cannot be decided by the planning authority until after the expiry of the Disregarded Period.  
  • Planning applications lodged after 29 March 2020 will be subject to the 5-week public consultation period, which said period will commence after the expiry of the Disregarded Period.
  • Where a decision has been made by a planning authority, but the final grant has not issued, the time limit for appealing any such decision will be extended until after the expiry of Disregarded Period.  
  • The statutory duration of existing planning permissions will be extended as will the time period for commencing any such planning permission.
  • The seven-year period for planning authorities to enforce a breach of planning will be extended until after the Disregarded Period.  

Building Control Act 1990 

The timelines relating to the following shall be extended until after the Disregarded Period: -

  • Furnishing of certificates of compliance;
  • Applications for dispensation under section 4; and
  • Initiation of proceedings by building control authorities.

Derelict Sites Act 1990

The various specified timelines relating to the power of local authorities to require measures to be taken in relation to derelict sites and objections to the compulsory acquisition of derelict sites shall be extended.

Urban Regeneration and Housing Act 2015 

This relates to the Vacant Sites Levy and the various specified time periods for setting out market values of sites listed on the register and the time periods for site owners to appeal decisions.

Planning and Development (Housing) and Residential Tenancies Act 2016.

This concerns the Strategic Housing Development System (“SHD”). The Disregarded Period will be applied to the time limits governing the decision-making process by An Bord Pleanala (“ABP”).

Where the public consultation period has ended in respect of SHD applications, ABP will continue to process cases and in some cases, make decisions, where Board members are able to convene meetings. Notifications of application and appeal decisions will be posted to participants will be progressed when ABP offices re-open on 14 April.

2. Statutory Instrument No. 92/2020 - Planning and Development Act 2000 (Exempted Development) (No. 2) Regulations 2020 (“S.I. 93/2020”)

S.I. 93/2020 allows restaurants and cafes to provide takeaway and delivery services in circumstances where previously this would have constituted a breach of planning. The Government has waived the requirement for restaurants to obtain planning consent for a change of use to take away service.

The purpose of the legislation is to allow retailers to provide an alternative service on a short-term basis and facilitate continuity of their business.

3. Statutory Instrument No. 93/2020 - Planning and Development Act 2000 (section 181) Regulations 2020 (“S.I. 93/2020”) 

S.I. 93/2020 provides that the Planning and Development Act 2000 (other than section 181) will not apply to the following classes of development carried out by or on behalf of a State authority during the Disregarded Period :-

  • Acute and other health and social care accommodation;
  • Self isolation or other COVID-19 related short stay accommodation;
  • COVID-10 and other step-down accommodation;
  • Medical testing centre or laboratory;
  • Emergency management coordination facilities;
  • Mortuary facilities;
  • Ancillary and other accommodation including storage facilities; and
  • Ancillary infrastructure and other works to support the above development.

Over coming weeks and months it will be very interesting to see the further inevitable knock on effects of this slowdown.  When will the NZEB deadline move? Will the SDZ legislation be continued and extended? Will we have a Government in place to formulate a mid year budget?  We will continue to keep our clients advised on progress with these and many other issues arising out of this crisis.  

Leman Solicitors are available to discuss any planning law related issues that may arise for you during this time of uncertainty. For further information, please contact Aoife O’Dea, on +353 1 639 3000 or visit www.leman.ie.