All regionally significant planning applications will be subject to pre-application community consultation (PACC) under Section 27 of the Act. PACC is the responsibility of the planning applicant in advance of the submission of a planning application. Any representations made to the applicant during the PACC period are not representations on the planning application itself.
Regionally significant planning applications are subject to similar planning procedures and processing as for local and major applications up until the point of recommendation but differ somewhat thereafter. Following completion of a planning report and recommendation to the Minister, two main options are open to the Department in determining the application.
Firstly, a Public Local Inquiry (PLI) can be called before the Planning Appeals Commission (PAC), or other person so appointed. Further information on when a Public Local Inquiry may be called is available in the Department’s Statement of Community Involvement.
Secondly, where a Public Local Inquiry is not called, a Notice of Opinion to either grant or refuse planning permission will issue to both the applicant and the relevant council(s). Each will have not less than 28 days to request a hearing before the PAC, or other person so appointed, into the Department’s decision. If no hearing is requested, the final decision can issue.
In the event of a hearing or a Public Local Inquiry, the PAC or other person so appointed, will prepare a report for consideration by the Department. The planning decision will then be taken by the Department taking into account the report. The decision of the Department will be final.
The Department also has the power to call in planning applications from councils under Section 29 of the Act. Such applications will follow the same process route as regionally significant applications. Depending on what stage of the process an application has been called in, it may not be necessary for the Department to undertake further consultation with the public or other relevant bodies.
The Department also deals with a range of other applications. Where the Department previously determined an application it would also determine:
- applications under Section 54 of the Act for the development of land without complying with conditions of the application;
- applications for further consent, agreement or approval of the application;
- applications for the discharge of a planning condition of the application; and
- applications relating to the above where the application was deemed Article 31 under the Planning (NI) Order 1993.
Separately the Department also determines applications for Demolition Consent made by Councils under Section 105(3)(a) of the Act.