The Government, HSE, health services and other public services have to be commended for leading Ireland’s national response to coronavirus Covid-19. It has been a collective national exercise in courage, determination and pragmatism. This week, the Taoiseach announced further measures to look to combat the spread of the virus with a range of measures, which are in the national interest and are welcomed.
As part of the Government’s response, emergency legislation is being brought forward this week: “the Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (Covid-19) Bill 2020”, to provide legislative backing for the measures that are taking place. “Broadly these make sense and are to be supported, but I have a concern that the current Planning Act and the Building Regulations Act will be impacted, which will have an impact on Development Plans or Local Area Plans and the timing of these plans. The Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government will have the power to freeze all time-limits in the planning code,” said Joe Corr, who is the immediate past president of Irish Planning Institute and a non-party election candidate on Seanad Éireann’s Industrial and Commercial Panel.
“This part of the emergency legislation will bring uncertainty to Section 34 planning applications through the Local Authorities, in that they may be able to disregard the current eight-week decision period and leave it open ended until the freeze is over. This will bring planning during a housing crisis to a standstill. Consequently, at a time when we are trying to grapple with the housing issue, it brings uncertainty to the market, may discourage people from lodging planning applications and negatively influence funders who might be financing projects. An additional concern is that once this legislation is adopted, it can be extended by Ministerial Order. That means the Dáil will not have control of the decision to be made by the Minister of the day. This promotes a more centralised approach in regard to the Irish Planning System, and removes decisions from the Local Authorities,” he said.
“As a solution I would suggest that all Development Plans, Local Area Plans and any plans requiring public consultation be suspended and all resources redeployed to the Development Management sections of our councils so the planning system can be sustained during this health emergency. By doing this, we are prioritising planning permissions for residential development during a housing crisis. The crisis in housing supply is still there and requires attention even more so during this uncertain time.”
“The public keep themselves informed as to what is going on in their communities and it is likely that they have more time to see a Site Notice or read a newspaper’s planning advertisement in the current climate. If we put the Irish planning system on freeze for what might be a lengthy period, we are running the risk of having no residential permissions in place to allow residential development commence and the recovery required from this will be immeasurable,” he concluded.
Joe Corr has been nominated to contest the forthcoming Seanad election by the Irish Planning Institute (IPI); the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland (SCSI); and the Royal Institute of Architects in Ireland (RIAI).