Causeway Coast and Glens Planning Committee’s held it’s first meeting since the COVID-19 crisis began in June. At the meeting it emerged that advice presented to the Chief Planner and Infrastructure Minister, Nicola Mallon, by the planning committee at the beginning of lockdown was disregarded and failed to be acted upon. Council’s Head of Planning had written to the Chief Planner at the beginning of lockdown to highlight elements of time limited planning legislation which may have to be amended to protect applicant’s rights during the lockdown and the aftermath post lockdown.
Sinn Féin Councillor Kathleen McGurk, who is a member of the Planning Committee said “it is very disappointing that the detailed advice provided to the Department of Infrastructure was not acted upon by Minister Mallon. Planning is an essential function of the economy and it is vital that planning services continue to operate and provide the necessary decisions so that the economy can be supported particularly in the current climate. However there are elements of planning legislation which have very rigid time limitations which could be very clearly affected by the current Pandemic. There were several issues highlighted that could impact upon applicants including expiration dates of planning permission already granted where works cannot commence due to restrictions during lockdown and post lockdown the inability to engage contractors with backlogs, material shortages, etc. I would have expected the Minister to have looked at these issues and amended legislation to ensure applicants are not adversely affected by deadlines”.
The Planning Committee expressed its frustration at the failure to take onboard this advice and agreed to write to the Minister to urge her to reconsider and implement changes to legislation where appropriate. Cllr McGurk added “ I very much welcome the committee’s representation to the Minister. It is clear the Committee recognises the importance Planning can play in the economic recovery period”.