The Planning and Development (Amendment) (No. 3) Act 2021 was expedited through the legislative process in June and July 2021 and was signed by the President on 10 July 2021. It provides for extensions to a number of time limits, including for the passing of development plans. Importantly however it also allows for extensions, or additional extensions, to existing planning permissions to allow projects be completed. The section allowing for those extension has now been commenced, effective from 9 September 2021.
Planning permissions have a fixed duration, usually five years. Section 42 of the Planning and Development Act 2000 (as amended) allows for a planning permission to be extended (once) in certain circumstances. An application has to be made before the planning permission has expired. Usually, "substantial works" have to have already been carried out, the development has to be capable of being completed within a reasonable time, and no environmental impact assessment related issues arise.
The effect of Section 7 of this Act is to permit planning authorities, on an application being made, to grant an extension (or further extension) to a planning permission for a period of up to two years or until 31 December 2023 whichever is the earlier on the same basis as before. The extensions will not be automatic, they have to be applied for the same way extensions are usually applied for. If the planning permission expired since 8 January 2021, then the application has to be made within six months.
During the passage of this legislation through the Seanad, there were calls for the public to be entitled to make submissions on extension applications, for decisions on such applications to be capable of being appealed to An Bord Pleanála, and for applicants to be required to show the specific COVID-19 related reasons why the relevant development was delayed. These were not accepted.
In relation to the meaning of "substantial works", Minister Darragh O'Brien TD noted:
"The question as to what is defined as "substantial works" comes up from time to time. Each local authority should have a good handle on that in their area as well. We allow an element of discretion in that regard. This is not the first time "substantial works" have been used as a definition to extend certain provisions that are there. Should this Bill pass into an Act, we will write to all 31 local authorities asking them to use their common sense and discretion in that regard."