COVID-19 Related Extensions to Planning Permissions 

June, 2021 - A&L Goodbody LLP

The Planning and Development (Amendment) (No. 3) Bill 2021 is being expedited through the legislative process. It will provide for extensions to a number of time limits, including for the passing of development plans. Importantly however it will also allow for extensions, or additional extensions, to existing planning permissions to allow projects be completed.

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 the Bill 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. If the planning permission expired since 8 January 2021, then the application has to be made within six months. The position for permissions expiring before then remains uncertain.

In a statement made by Minister Darragh O'Brien to the Seanad on 18 June 2021, he said:

"The General Scheme of the Bill, as approved by Cabinet last week, had originally provided for a single year extension. We have gone further to provide a two year extension because if we look through COVID, we have had 15, 16 or 17 months of disruption and by the time capacity is built up, particularly on construction sites, there is a further lag time. Again, this is a practical measure that will help people to extend their planning permissions and then we can get back out, effect those permissions and get them building. Two years was considered a reasonable period, not only due to the direct delays and construction but as I said, also due to the possible disruption to logistics and supply chains, etc. The provisions will allow for the further extension of permissions which have expired or are due to expire during the period from 8 January 2021 to the day before section 7 comes into operation"

In relation to "substantial works", the Minister noted as follows: "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."

For more information please contact Alison Fanagan, Partner or any member of ALG's Planning and Environmental team.  


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