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Have your say on three planning public consultations before the respective deadlines. Read our article for more details on each consultation and how to respond.
Improvements to the processing times of planning decisions is much needed in Northern Ireland. In January 2022, the Department for Infrastructure published its first Review of the Implementation of the Planning Act (NI) 2011 (“the Review”) which contained 16 recommendations aimed at refining the planning system, including considering the use of validation checklists.
The Department’s overall objective with this consultation is to make amendments to The Planning (General Development Procedure) Order (NI) 2015, which will provide the statutory basis for a planning authority to be able to prepare and publish a validation check list to address ‘poor quality’ or ‘incomplete’ applications entering the planning system and in turn assist statutory consultees to provide substantive responses earlier.
Changes and implications
The proposed amending Order would enable the relevant planning authority to prepare and publish ‘checklists’, above the current minimum statutory requirements, setting out the additional supporting information and/or evidence which would be required to accompany different types of planning application. Councils will have flexibility so this will inevitably lead to inconsistency for applications across Council areas.
Belfast City Council has already piloted an Application Checklist and whilst there are obvious benefits to doing many planning applicants already ‘front-load’ the decision making process so the main difference will be the mechanism for dealing with disputes.
The questions requiring responses are as follows:
1. Do you agree with the proposal to provide a statutory basis for planning authorities to introduce a Validation Checklist for planning applications?
2. Do you agree that a ‘dispute mechanism’ should be available to applicants who disagree with the information/evidence requirements to be submitted with an application?
3. Would you prefer a dispute mechanism linked to ‘non-determination’ of the application as in England or a ‘stand-alone’ approach as in Wales?
In England applicants have a right to dispute ‘non-validated’ applications with the planning authority itself by requesting that the checklist information be waived if it is considered unreasonable.
The planning authority would then either issue a validation notice or non-validation notice. Should the latter apply, the applicant can appeal against non-determination with the person hearing the appeal dealing with both validation and the merits of the appeal itself. If the application is found to be invalid, the appeal is automatically dismissed.
In Wales, there is a ‘stand-alone’ dispute mechanism following a non-validation notice. An applicant must appeal a non-validation notice within two weeks from the date of the notice to the equivalent of what is our Planning Appeals Commission.
A form of appeal mechanism is sensible as otherwise an applicants’ only resort would be to appeal non-validation via judicial review proceedings which can be costly and unpredictable.
Planning applicants and their consultants should definitely consider responding as this will have ramifications for every single planning application going forward.
The closing date for the receipt of comments is 6 January 2023 and responses can be emailed to Legislation.Planning@infrastructure-ni.gov.uk.
The consultation document itself can be found here.
This consultation forms part of the continuing review of permitted development rights being undertaken by the Department for Infrastructure in relation to permitted development rights and seeks views on:
The questions requiring responses are as follows:
1. Do you agree with the proposals in relation to air source heat pumps?
2. Do you have any additional amendments you believe should be included for air source heat pumps?
3. Do you agree with the proposals in relation to ground or water source heat pumps?
4. Provide details of views on whether permitted development rights for domestic wind turbines should be considered.
5. Do you agree with the introduction of new development rights for reverse vending machines?
6. Do you have any amendments or additional restrictions you would propose to such permitted development rights?
Installation of domestic microgeneration equipment
The Energy Strategy’s Action Plan contained a commitment for the Department for Infrastructure to review permitted development legislation for low carbon heat installations. Compared to the rest of the UK, Northern Ireland is the most restrictive.
Permitted development rights for the installation of domestic microgeneration equipment are currently contained within Part 2 of the Schedule to the Planning (General Permitted Development) Order (Northern Ireland) 2015 (“GPDO”). The new proposals would ensure that ASHPs no longer have to be more than 30m from a dwelling house and a 1m distance is instead considered appropriate. Other changes include height restrictions to increase from 2m to 3m and for ASHPs to be compliant with MCS Planning Standards.
For ground or water source heat pumps, (Class F, Part 2 of the Schedule to the GPDO), the proposals are to amend the legislation to allow for such permitted development rights within the curtilage of a dwelling house with no conditions or limitations. This would be consistent with the rest of the UK.
Reverse vending machines
The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs has plans to introduce a Deposit Return Scheme for single-use drinks containers alongside England and Wales in 2024. Under the proposals, Deposit Return Scheme retailers would be responsible for providing a means to take back containers through reverse vending machines, or for small premises through manual take back.
This consultation proposes adding a new Class D to Part 3 (minor operations) of the Schedule to the GPDO to allow for the installation, alteration or replacement of a reverse vending machine in a wall of a shop or within the curtilage of a shop, subject to certain limitations and conditions including height and distance restrictions, as set out in detail in the consultation.
Domestic wind turbines
The Department does not intend to bring forward proposals to provide for permitted development rights for domestic turbines but welcomes views on whether there is a demand for this. Other jurisdictions in the UK do provide for such rights subject to limitations and conditions.
The proposed changes are aimed at protecting the environment by encouraging the use of low carbon heat technologies and promoting the recycling of drinks containers, whilst ensuring the provision of such infrastructure is sited and designed to keep environmental impacts to a minimum.
Reducing the need for Councils to assess low-carbon heat installation applications, while also reducing the cost and time for prospective planning applicants seems like a win-win. However, the small detail must be reviewed in order that the Department gets things right first time around.
However it is unlikely that there will be changes any time soon in relation to domestic wind turbines given that many feel that noise and amenity concerns are best dealt with via a planning application.
The closing date for the receipt of comments is 23 December 2022 and responses can be made online or by email to Legislation.Planning@infrastructure-ni.gov.uk.
The consultation can be found here.
The Planning Fees (Deemed Planning Applications and Appeals) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2015 (“the 2015 Regulations”) prescribe the fees to be charged for planning appeals and deemed planning applications from 1 April 2015 and only relate to the PAC.
The present consultation relates to proposed legislative amendments to the 2015 Regulations which would be effective from 1st April 2023. This follows previous increases by Councils and the Department for Infrastructure to the planning fees charged for applications.
Fees will rise across many applications and some notable increases are set out below. Whilst they appear modest, it is important that should the draft 2022 Regulations come into force, planning applicants and consultants ensure they are submitting payment for the updated fees in order for the application to be validated.
The Department will consider the responses to this consultation and depending upon the outcome of that consideration, will take forward the draft Regulations.
The closing date for the receipt of comments is 20 December 2022 and the form to respond can be found at the following link.
28 November 2022
Senior Associate Belfast
News 05 OCTOBER 2022