Eoghan Murphy, T.D., Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government confirmed today (26 March, 2020) that the planning and building control systems remain open for business. Measures being brought through the Dail today will only be activated if necessary and do not halt the planning system when passed. They are precautionary in nature and require a further Government decision before they can take effect.
Every effort is being made to ensure that these systems can continue to operate, taking account of public health advice. Local authority public offices and the Offices of An Bord Pleanála remain open.
Many of the systems including the Building Control Management System can be accessed remotely over the local authority network, while in the case of planning, there are established systems in place that enable people to view planning applications and make submissions on-line in many planning authorities, which can be maximised.
To further ensure we have the necessary flexibility to adapt our planning and building systems during this emergency, some specific provisions are included in the Bill before Dáil Eireann today. These proposed provisions will provide powers to the Government, at the Minister’s request, to set a defined period during which statutory timelines under various Acts, will be extended.
This power may be necessary to protect the integrity of decision making and public participation in an escalating situation and the Government will have to weigh a number of considerations before making an order under this proposed legislation. At all times the Minister will seek to protect the operation of the planning and building control systems insofar as is possible.
Importantly, if the order is made, the effect is to not to freeze everything in the planning and building control systems, but rather to extend certain time periods, so that the integrity of decision making or public participation process are not compromised. Planning and building control authorities can continue with many aspects of their work in such circumstances. This is particularly important so that work, that can be undertaken appropriately, continues and that the systems are ready to reactivate and support social and economic activity when the period defined in the order has passed.
At an operation level, even if the order is made, it is intended that the building control system would continue to function as normal, in so far as is possible, with particular prioritisation given to commencement and completion activity. These processes are facilitated by the Building Control Management System (BCMS) which can be accessed remotely and are supported by the National Building Control Office.