The following arrangements applicable to the operation of the planning system further to the Government decision to move to Level 5 of the Framework for Living with Covid-19 on a national basis.
For the purpose of giving legal effect to the Level 5 restrictions announced by the Government, new Regulations have been made by the Minister for Health entitled the Health Act 1947 (Section 31A – Temporary Restrictions) (Covid-19) (No. 8) Regulations 2020 (S.I. No. 448 of 2020) which will continue in operation until 1 December 2020.
Exemption of planning staff from Level 5 travel restrictions
Regulation 5 of the above Regulations makes provision for restrictions of movement of relevant persons in relation to travel from their place of residence and provides that a person shall not leave their place of residence without reasonable excuse. For this purpose, a reasonable excuse for travelling or moving includes travelling for work or employment relating to an “essential retail outlet” or an “essential service” and where it is not practicable to so work in the person’s place of residence. An “essential service” is a service specified in Part 2 of the Schedule to the Regulations which includes Class 14 relating to Public Administration, Emergency Services and Defence, within which the following is explicitly classified as an “essential service” -
“(x) specific statutory planning system activities, to the extent that they cannot be carried out remotely.”.
This classification therefore enables planning authority and An Bord Pleanala staff to travel to and from their offices as may be required for the performance of their statutory functions. It also enables such staff to perform related statutory functions including site visits and inspections as well as enforcement activity subject to public health and social distancing requirements.
Public participation in the planning process
For the purpose of facilitating continued public participation in the planning process during the Level 5 restrictions, Regulation 5(2) of the above Regulations further explicitly provides that a reasonable excuse for travelling or moving includes travelling or moving in order to - “(y) attend the offices of a planning authority or An Bord Pleanála to engage in a statutory planning process (including making or inspecting a planning application or appeal, making an observation or submission or participating in a Development Plan process) or inspect a site notice (within the
meaning of the Planning and Development Act 2000 (No. 30 of 2000)).”.
This will enable members of the public to view documentation at planning offices and facilitate planning application, appeal or other submissions to be made during the Level 5 period. These arrangements may include provision for attendance by appointment so that public health and social distancing requirements can be observed by both staff and customers. Updated “Frequently Asked Questions” document in light of Level 5 restrictions attached below