Further extension of time limits and appropriate periods in the planning process – Circular PL 02/2020

The Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government has further extended appropriate periods and time limits associated with the planning process in response to the Governments decision to extend the ‘stay at home period’  until May 5th 2020.

The original 23 day extension to timelines for making appeals submissions etc has been extended by a further 19 days until May 9th 2020. The further extension of time limits and appropriate periods is the logical response to the stay at home extension.

The effect of the further extension has the total effect of adding an additional 42 days (6 weeks) to prescribed time limits and appropriate periods set out in planning legislation.

https://www.housing.gov.ie/sites/default/files/publications/files/circular_pl_03-2020_april_2020_dhplg.pdf

Link to updated Departmental FAQ’s attached

https://www.housing.gov.ie/sites/default/files/publications/files/faqs_revision_2_170420_final_.pdf

FAQ’s on effect of an Order under Section 251A on the Planning and Development Act 2000 as amended

The Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government has published a FAQ relating to planning timelines affected by COVID19 refer to link https://www.housing.gov.ie/sites/default/files/publications/files/faq_planning_timelines_covid-19_30_mar_2020.pdf

Key Provisions

  • An Order with a duration of 23 days, means that a planning authority will have the normal
    period of eight weeks, together with an additional period of up to three weeks and two days
    i.e. up to eleven weeks and two days in total, to determine a planning application
  • Planning Applications may be posted to the relevant local authority principal office, even
    where public offices are closed
  • Planning applications may be decided during the period (29th March 2020 – 20th April 2020 inclusive) for applications lodged up to 21st February 2020 (i.e. public participation period had ended by the date of the order). The planning authority may decide the permission up to the duration of the order
  • Planning applications lodged after 21st February and before 29th March 2020 cannot be decided until after after 20th April 2020 at the earliest – this to ensure that the 5 week public participation period plus a further 23 days public participation be available
  •  Planning applications lodged after 29th March – the commencement period for observations shall be the date on which the application is received up to 20th April 2020 plus an additional 5 week period from 21st April 2020
  • Section 247 Pre-planning meetings may take place during the period of the order via electronic means
  • Observations may be made as usual by post and online (where facilitated by local authorities) – note the extended period for observations provided by the order
  • The period for appeals is extended for the duration of the order
  • Appeals may be decided during the period of the order where the period of public consultation has ended
  • Oral hearings shall not take place during the period of the order
  • Development Plans processes and other Plan Processes shall cease during the period of the order
  • Part 8 processes are affected by the order – the period of public display, reporting or decision making shall be extended for the duration of the period of the order

Extension of period for Public Participation in Planning Applications

The Department for Housing, Planning and Local Government on 29th March 2020 announced that the Government has agreed to make an order, which shall have the effect of extending the public participation period by 23 days.

Whereby;

  • If an application was lodged before 21 February 2020, the public participation phase is completed, and so a planning authority can make a decision within the extended deadline;
  • If an application was lodged after 21st February 2020, but before 29 March 2020, the decision cannot be made until after 20 April 2020 to ensure that the public participation element has been completed;
  • If an application is lodged after 29 March 2020, it cannot be decided by the Planning Authority until the five-week period for public consultation on the application commences, which will now be after 20 April 2020.

The Minister said: “We find ourselves in unprecedented times. People have been asked to remain at home, with older and vulnerable people cocooning and others only leaving their home for certain essential purposes. Given these new restrictions on the movement of people, it is important to extend the public participation periods in the planning system, to ensure that the integrity of decision making is upheld, and to ensure that plan making for new development can continueWork will continue through these new restrictions so that the planning system is well placed to play its vital role in supporting the recovery.”

Planning applications can continue to be made by post, and authorities can engage with applicants by electronic means, accepting submissions by post and electronic means. Most authorities have on-line systems for inspecting planning applications. The extended time will also apply to planning appeals, which An Bord Pleanála will continue to receive by post.

Minister Murphy concluded: “The planning and development system plays an important role in supporting the economic development of the country, and will play a vital role in supporting social and economic activity when this COVID 19 emergency is past.   I am deeply appreciative of the efforts of the staff of planning authorities in keeping the planning system operating and open for business at this time.  The measures taken today will support the integrity of decision making, by ensuring that public participation in the process is not diminished by the current restrictions.”

Interpretation of the announcements

  • Applications lodged before Feb 21st 2020 allowed for full public consultation (unaffected by COVID19) and engagement and shall not be delayed by the announced extension
  • Applications lodged between Feb 21st 2020 and March 29th 2020 shall have the statutory 5 week period of public consultation extended by an additional 23 days.
  • Applications lodged after March 29th and April 20th – shall have a consultation period of the remaining days between the date of lodgement and April 20th plus 5 weeks

 

Site Acquisition for Telecoms Masts

Site Acquisition for Telecoms Masts

Identifying potential telecommunications mast sites and securing planning consents

A significant part of our work involves supporting telecommunications clients in securing legal and planning consents for new telecommunications infrastructure. Here’s a brief overview of the work – we hope you find it interesting.

The process begins with a client instruction to identify potential buildings or lands upon which to situate a telecommunications installation. The driver of course is existing poor coverage and the desire to improve that, or it may be that the existing structure is too low or has been blocked by nearby high-rise building development.

We consider this a planning led rather than acquisition led process as having an acquirable site without planning prospects leads only to wasted time and resource. We focus first on the planning merits of various locations and structure types and once we have a good idea that the structure type will succeed at planning only then will we seek to enter into commercial agreements with building owners or landowners.

We start the planning assessment by reviewing local area development plans, reviewing Google maps and Google earth. We always look to site new infrastructure in areas with the least visual impact and this typically lends itself to better planning outcomes.

In an urban setting we’ll look for high buildings or existing infrastructure. In a rural setting we’re looking for sites within afforested areas or with the benefit of good natural tree or hedgerow screening. Bonuses include short electricity runs, existing accesses to site and proximity to fibre.

We’re always looking to situate sites in areas consistent with planning policies and objectives set out in the local Development Plan and with national planning guidelines.

Once we have qualified sites from a desktop planning perspective, we then seek to identify landowners supportive of telecommunications infrastructure and aim to work through telecoms specific commercial heads of terms. Once agreed the client instructs its legal representatives to draft the lease or licence agreement and we support our clients’ solicitors in concluding that agreement.

From here we apply for and secure planning consent for the telecommunications structure and hand the file over to the build contractor for build-out. More often both planning and legal processes are developed in tandem and invariably we work closely with radio, transmission and civils contractors throughout.

Seeing these sites developed nationwide is a source of pride to us. We’re all about supporting telecoms and broadcast clients roll out nationwide infrastructure. We see it not only as paid work but we see and appreciate the social dividend in this work.

Our office has extensive experience in both telecoms site acquisition and in the planning process. We have delivered hundreds of sites through both acquisition and planning processes. If you require assistance in the field of telecoms planning and acquisition do reach out to us by telephone or via any of our social media channels.

 

My land is being acquired for road widening purposes – what should I do?

My land is being acquired for road widening purposes – what should I do?

This is a problem faced routinely by landowners in Ireland. The local authority applies to acquire your land, either voluntarily or through compulsory purchase order, to widen a road. It can be the cause of some understandable stress and worry, as the application arrives out of the blue and is written in intimidating jargon.

However, once you receive proper and professional advice and direction, there is no need to panic. These applications can be resolved amicably, and the property owner can receive fair and just compensation for his or her acquired land. For those of you in this situation, find below some friendly and essential professional advice on how to proceed. However, firstly, let us examine the circumstances under which local authorities decide to widen roads.

Local authorities continuously monitor accident statistics for roads under their control. When they identify an area with a high propensity for road traffic accidents, they typically propose a variety of road-improvements aimed at addressing the worrying finding. Typical road-improvements, in these circumstances, could include everything from the repositioning of junctions to the improvement of sight-lines, many of which necessitate land acquisition.

Other developmental objectives, such as reducing traffic congestion and improving inter-city connectivity, may also require the acquisition of land. In these cases, larger and more substantial road infrastructure projects are required and funding through Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) is sought. These may include the creation of a town bypass, the introduction of a road widening scheme, or the creation of an entirely new road corridor.

Now, for that all important question: If the council attempt to acquire my land, how do I proceed so I get all my entitlements and my rights are respected?

Your first step should be the following: when your lands are required for road improvement (or for road construction) engage immediately with the local authority. Early engagement is vital! It offers you an opportunity to fully understand the proposal, and to take measures to limit the impact the proposal has on your property and land holding.

How you proceed, will partially depend on what kind of scheme the local authority is proposing. For small schemes, local authorities typically acquire land through voluntary agreement. While in the case of larger schemes, compulsory purchase order (CPO) is, at least initially, the favoured route. Once the local authority have decided on their course of action, property owners should do the following: seek out a suitably qualified professional to deal with both the negotiation of accommodation works and with the negotiations of the compensation settlement.

What is ‘accommodation works’? Accommodation works are the measures and works taken by a local authority to mitigate the adverse effects a scheme could or would have on a property owner. Accommodation works will always be determined by circumstances and the individual case. For farmers who find their land required, accommodation works could include the construction of an underpass or the providing of stock pins. For owners who find their family home adversely affected, mitigating measures could include reinstating a boundary wall, hedging or the provision of a soft landscaping allowance.

When it comes to the rewarding of compensation, compensation is typically allowed under the following three headings a) the value of the land taken b) the disturbance caused to the lands by the scheme and c) the effect of the severance on the retained lands (including ‘injurious affection’). Severance and injurious affection are deduced by calculating the loss of value to the retained lands caused by the land acquired. This figure (the cost of severance and injurious affection) is then added to the other heads of claim to give a total claim sum.

In summary, when faced with the prospect of a road widening scheme, take the following two essential steps; 1) engage as early as possible with the local authority, and 2) appoint an agent experienced in dealing with land acquisition claims to represent your interests.