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 applications.
“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.”