Mallon announces extension to the temporary changes to major planning application process

Date published: 01 October 2020

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Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon has today announced an extension to 31 March 2021 of the temporary suspension of the requirement to hold a public event as part of pre-application community consultation on major planning applications.

The published guidance for applicants suggesting alternatives to this important element of the consultation process will remain in place.

Applicants will still need to comply with other requirements to ensure communities are aware of and can input to major development proposals for their areas, however, this will allow major planning applications to continue to be submitted during the COVID-19 outbreak.  

Minister Mallon said:

“The planning system will have a critical role in supporting our future economic and societal recovery from the COVID-19 crisis. My officials and local government officials are working together to ensure the planning system responds as effectively as possible.

“I have acted to introduce legislation today to extend the temporary suspension of the requirement to hold a public event as part of pre-application community consultation on major planning application.

“I am not convinced that this is necessarily the right time to remove the temporary suspension or that potential events would fully meet community engagement expectations. This is particularly the case in light of the current uncertainty surrounding current and future incidences and spread of coronavirus disease.

“This is an essential step that will continue to facilitate significant major planning applications across the region. If legislation is not implemented this may result in the application process being invalid, leading to a backlog of major applications which would hinder our economic recovery after COVID-19 restrictions are lifted.

“Public participation remains an important part of the planning process. To ensure that this is not compromised the published advice and guidance on appropriate measures to replace face to face public events, such as on-line engagement will remain in place. This will ensure that pre-application public participation in the planning process can continue during the emergency period and will facilitate a more consistent approach across the 11 Council areas.”

The Minister concluded:

“In planning and right across my Department's functions, we will continue to work closely with other jurisdictions, councils and stakeholders to explore the obstacles and the temporary solutions that are needed to get us through this period.”

Notes to editors: 

  1. The Planning (Development Management) (Temporary Modifications) (Coronavirus) (Amendment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2020 will temporarily amend the Planning (Development Management) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2015 and come into operation on 1 October 2020.
  2. The amendment will apply to proposal of application notices submitted to councils before or during the defined emergency period.
  3. The practice advice and guidance will be updated to coincide with the Regulations coming into operation. 
  4. Health advice and information on government services is available at: Public Health Covid-19 Coronavirus and nidirect - Coronavirus.
  5. All media queries should be directed to the Department for Infrastructure Press Office at press.office@infrastructure-ni.gov.uk
  6. Out of hours please contact the duty press officer on 028 9037 8110.
  7. Follow the Department on Twitter @deptinfra and on Facebook @DepartmentforInfrastructure.

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