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Emergency COVID-19 Bill addresses Planning and Development and Building Control

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

The Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (Covid-19) Bill 2020 passed the first stage in the Dáil on 24 March 2020. Section 9 of the Bill inserts a new Section 251A in the Planning and Development Act 2000, as amended.

In effect, it is proposed to suspend time limits in specified legislation for the period of the Covid-19 emergency. As we do not know how long that emergency will last, the Bill has far-reaching implications for developers and individuals seeking permissions.

The Bill proposes to suspend any ‘appropriate period’, specified period or other time limit referred to in the following legislation:

  • Sections 4(4), 6 and 17(6) of the Building Control Act 1990, as amended
  • Derelict Sites Act 1990
  • Planning and Development Act 2000, as amended
  • Part 2 of the Urban Regeneration and Housing Act 2015
  • Chapter 1 of Part 2 of the Planning and Development (Housing) and Residential Tenancies Act 2016
  • Any regulations made under any of the above Acts or provisions

The suspension will occur as soon as Section 9 of the Bill comes into force by way of Order made by the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government.

When deciding the end date, the following criteria are to be considered:

  1. the nature and potential impact of Covid-19 on individuals, society and the State,
  2. the capacity of the State to respond to the risk to public health posed by the spread of Covid-19,
  3. the policies and objectives of the Government to protect the health and welfare of members of the public,
  4. the need to mitigate the economic effects of the spread of Covid-19,
  5. the need to ensure the effective operation of the planning system and provide, in the interest of the common good, for proper planning and sustainable development,
  6. the need to ensure the effective operation of the building control system and to protect the health, safety and welfare of persons using buildings, and
  7. the need to mitigate the likely impact of Covid-19 on the availability of the resources of the State to perform functions relating to the planning and building control systems.

In effect this will mean that the life of a planning permission, typically set at 5, 7 or 10 years from the date of grant, will be extended by the same period as this emergency suspension period. It also means that the time limits by which a planning authority or the Board must make decisions on an application or an appeal, and the time limit by which a party may seek to appeal a decision, will also be suspended by the same period.

The suspension will end, eventually, by 9 November 2020. It may end earlier than that, however, as the mechanism for defining the end date is that the Government will make an Order setting an initial end date, yet to be defined, but that end date may be extended from time to time by further Orders until 9 November 2020 when presumably further legislation would be required if the public health crisis continues.


Alice Whittaker


Rachel Minch SC


Leonora Mullett