At a Royal Town Planning Institute NI event this week, a representative from the DoE’s Planning Reform Guidance Team set the legislative scene with an overview of the legislative requirements and regulations for Planning Application Notices (PANs) and pre-application community consultation for proposals that fall within the major category.

Requirements will include a period of 12 weeks for the PAN to be in effect before submission of the planning application, during which time the community consultation should take place. There should be at least 1 public event (with notice of the event advertised at least 7 days prior) and the council are given a period of 21 days to notify the applicant if they require further action in terms of the community consultation.

A Community Consultation Report outlining what has been done, how the results of the consultation have been fed into the proposals and demonstration of compliance with the regulations will be the second stage of the new processes. Section 50 of the Planning Act (NI) 2011 will give the local authorities the power to decline to determine an application if they consider that the legislative requirements have not been complied with so it will be in the applicants interest to get this right first time round.

It is thought that the developer-led PAN and pre-application community consultation will be strongly linked to the existing pre-application discussion (PAD) process, a non-statutory but integral part of the proactive planning process, with advice from the PAD process feeding in to the pre-application community consultation.

The aim of these new processes will be a speedier planning application process, with the community feeling that they are stakeholders in the process and therefore less likely to object to, and potentially slow down, a planning application. However, there is still an element of uncertainty as to guidance for developers on community consultation. Each council may produce their own guidance with potential for regional disparity.

A point of note is that the statutory requirements for PAN and community consultation will not be mandatory for any applications deemed major that are submitted and validated before 1st July 2015.

Contact the C60 planners if you require any advice on the upcoming transitional period and how the new statutory requirements could affect your current or future applications.