The Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (COVID-19) Act 2020 (the Act) was implemented to allow the Government, at the request of the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, to introduce a period during which statutory planning deadlines could be extended.
A new section 251A of the Planning and Development Act 2000 was inserted by Section 9 of the Act which stipulated that the emergency period would not be taken into account when "calculating any appropriate period, specified period or other time limit" in relation to the specified legislation.
How long did the suspension last and when were statutory timelines resumed?
The Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government decided on an initial suspension period from 29 March 2020 to 20 April 2020, but this was subsequently extended to 9 May 2020 and then further extended to 23 May 2020 (inclusive). Statutory planning timelines resumed on 24 May 2020 and all local authority planning offices and offices of An Bord Pleanála reopened to the public during normal office hours from 25 May 2020.
Effect on planning applications made during or after the suspension period
As of 24 May, a planning authority has the normal statutory planning period of eight weeks to determine any planning application either made during the suspension period or made on or after 24 May. As of 24 May, any interested person has the normal statutory period of five weeks in which they can make a submission or observation on any planning application either made during the suspension period or made on or after 24 May.
Effect on planning applications made prior to the suspension period
Where a planning application was submitted prior to the suspension period, up to eight additional weeks may be applied to deadlines for planning determinations. The date for determination of such applications depends on the amount of days of the eight-week statutory planning period which remained on 29 March. The public participation period remaining for any planning application submitted less than five weeks prior to the 29 March continued to run from 24 May. The exact calculation of such a period depended on the date on which the planning application was submitted.
Effect on appeals to An Bord Pleanála
Any determination by a planning authority which was made not more than four weeks prior to 29 March could have been appealed to An Bord Pleanála from 24 May. The appeal period is extended by the full duration of the Order (ie 8 weeks). The calculation of the final appeal date in each case will depend on the period of duration of the normal four-week appeal period remaining on the date of cessation of the Section 251A Order, ie 23rd May 2020.
Effect on applications for Judicial Review
Time limits for making an application for leave to seek judicial review of a planning decision were extended by the duration of the suspension period.
Effect of the Act on the duration of existing Planning Permissions
Where the life span of an existing Planning Permission is prescribed for in statute (ie pursuant to section 40 of the Planning and Development Act 2000), the life span will automatically be extended to include the suspension period of eight weeks (56 days).
The Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government has issued an FAQ document explaining the impact of the resumption of statutory planning timelines, which can be accessed here.