The Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (COVID-19) Act 2020 (Act) has allowed the Government, at the request of the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, to set a defined period during which statutory timelines will be extended.
The objective of the provisions is to avoid statutory deadlines being breached and the planning and building controls systems being compromised in the event of further impacts of COVID-19 on the community and the workplace.
Statement from Minister, Eoghan Murphy – 26 March 2020
In his statement, the Minister clarified that the measures do not halt the planning system. The effect is not to freeze everything in the planning system, but rather to extend certain time periods, so that the integrity of the decision-making and public participation process is not compromised. The Minister described the measures as precautionary in nature and noted that further Government action, by way of ministerial order, is required, before the suspension periods can take effect.
The key amending provision provides that the emergency period shall be disregarded when calculating any appropriate period, specified period or other time limit in relation to the specified legislation (new section 251A of the Planning and Development Act 2000 as inserted by Section 9 of the Act).
How long will the suspension last?
The deadlines will be set aside for the duration of the defined emergency period. The Minister for Housing Planning and Local Government has decided on an initial period to 20 April, but it is likely that this will be extended beyond that. The Act provides that the suspension cannot go beyond 9 November 2020.
Effect of the Act
Statutory deadlines for all matters pursuant to the Planning Acts are suspended. Deadlines for applications including permission, observations and decisions are halted for the duration of the emergency period. In short, no deadline can be applied during the period. This will result in the suspension of any development application either currently in the application process or intended to be lodged, given that no decision can be made, as the public consultation window cannot close. However, the suspension does not prevent developers from making fresh applications for permission.
For pending applications, the legislation does not prevent the relevant authority from making decisions where the public consultation window has closed before the commencement of the emergency period, subject to capacity to do so. However, an appeal will remain available until the conclusion of the emergency period. The Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government has issued an FAQ document explaining the impact of the new rules, which can be accessed here.
Legal Challenges to recent decisions
This legislation does not affect extant legal proceedings before the High Court. However, such matters listed throughout the emergency period are subject to separate restrictive measures, as per Government guidelines, in respect of Court sittings.
To discuss any other COVID-19 related issues impacting your business, please get in touch with Barry Cahir (Litigation and Insolvency), Thomas O'Dwyer (Litigation), Sharon Delaney (Litigation), Dorit McCann (EU, Competition & Procurement), Damian Maloney (Corporate and Commercial), Aidan Marsh (Commercial Property), Gerry Gallen (Commercial Property), Sandra Masterson Power (Employment), Paul Gough (Employment), Edward Evans (Corporate & Commerical), Fidelma McManus (Housing) or your usual Beauchamps contact.