Guide to Planning Applications and Decisions
You may wish to build or extend your house or a neighbourhood development is taking place that may affect you. Either way, you wish to know more about how the planning system works. This is a simple guide to understanding it.
This is intended as a practical guide. It is not a definitive legal interpretation of planning law. For more information, consult your local planning authority.
When Planning Permission is Required
Generally, you need planning permission for any development of land or property, unless the development is specifically exempted from this requirement. The term 'development' includes the carrying out of works (building, demolition, alteration) on land or buildings and the making of a material, that is significant, change of use of land or buildings.
Exempted development is development for which planning permission is not required. Categories of exempted development are set out in planning law. There are usually certain thresholds relating to, for example, size or height. Where these thresholds are exceeded, the exemptions no longer apply. The purpose of exemptions is to avoid controls on developments of a minor nature, such as small extensions to houses. Leaflets PL.5, PL.6 and PL.7, which are available from your local planning authority, give details of the main exemptions.
Types of Planning Permission
There are three types of planning permission. An application may be made for:
- Outline permission
The most common type of application made is for permission, sometimes referred to as full permission. There are circumstances when you may want to make an application for outline permission, such as when you want to see whether the planning authority agrees with your proposal in principle before you go to the trouble of making detailed plans. If you obtain outline permission, you must obtain full permission before starting work. In most cases, a subsequent application for permission must be made within three years of the date of grant of outline permission. However, outline permission cannot be sought for retention of a structure, works to a protected structure or a proposed protected structure or developments requiring an environmental impact assessment, integrated pollution control licence or waste licence.
Getting Planning Permission
You get planning permission from the planning authority in your local area. A fee is payable with an application for planning permission. Fees for different classes of development are listed with the application form. You must pay the correct fee with your application, as the planning authority is prohibited by law from deciding an application until the fee is paid. Voluntary organisations may qualify for an exemption from the fee.
Length of Time
The length of time it takes to get planning permission is affected by the completeness of the application and by whether or not there is an appeal. Generally, a valid application will be dealt with by a planning authority within twelve weeks, from the date the application is made to the final granting of permission. However, the period can vary, particularly if the planning authority seeks further information from the applicant (which must be done within the first eight weeks).
The planning authority then has four weeks from the day the further information is received to make a decision on the application. The following table illustrates the timescale involved in most cases.
|Notice published in paper and site notice erected
|Two weeks later
||Latest date for lodging application
|Between two and four weeks
||Application is validated by the planning authority.
Submissions or objections are considered.
|Between five and eight weeks
||Planning authority issue notice of their decision on the application. (Alternatively, they may request further information.)
|Four weeks after issue of notice of decision.
||If no appeal is made, the planning authority will issue granting of permission, or outline permission, except where they have already indicated a decision to refuse.
An appeal may take longer than an application to decide, but An Bord Pleanála has an objective to decide appeals within 18 weeks of receipt of an appeal.
Consulting the Planning Authority
You do not have to consult the planning authority before making a planning application, but it is often advisable to do so where you are unsure of local planning policies and application procedures. Depending on the type of development, you may need to discuss connections to the public water supply and sewer. The larger the development proposal, the greater the need for prior consultation.
Local Planning Policies
The development policies and objectives of the planning authority are contained in the local development plan. You can view the plan at any time during office hours at your local authority offices and local libraries. Copies and extracts from the plan are available at a reasonable cost from the planning authority. For more information on the plan see the leaflet 'The Development Plan
Making a Planning Application
Forms and information are available from the planning authority. For more information see the leaflet Making a Planning Application (PL.2).
Your application will be acknowledged and placed on the Planning Register in the planning authority offices, for public inspection. It will also be included on the lists of planning applications displayed in council offices, public libraries and circulated to certain interest groups. The lists may also be available on the planning authority's web site. A planning authority official will usually inspect the development site. You may be asked to make an appointment to allow access.
If your application is in any way inadequate or lacking in the required documentation, it will be invalid and returned to you. The statutory eight-week period for deciding the outcome of the application begins from the time you submit a valid application with the required information in full, pay the correct fee and give appropriate public notice of the application.
Any person can see a copy of your application and make written submissions or observations. This must be done within five weeks of the making of the planning application and on payment of the appropriate fee, to the planning authority. Public submissions must be considered by the planning authority when determining a planning application. For more information, see the leaflet 'Commenting on a Planning Application, (PL.3)'.
Planning Authority Decisions
In making their decisions, planning authorities take a number of matters into account, including the following:
- Proper planning and sustainable development of the area, for example, appropriate land use (zoning), road safety, development density, size, location and adherence to established planning and development practices.
- The planning authority's own development plan.
- Government policy.
- The provision of a Special Amenity Area Order.
- Any European site, such as Special Areas of Conservation and Special Protection Areas.
- Submissions and observations made by members of the public on the application.
Non-planning issues may also be taken into account, such as boundary and other disputes or questions that are more properly resolved through legal means.
Granting of Permission
The decision to grant permission, with or without conditions, will be notified to you and to anyone who commented on the application. You receive a notice of intention to grant permission. During a period of four weeks, beginning on the date of the making of this decision, you or anyone else who has made a submission or observation on the application and has paid the appropriate fee may appeal it to An Bórd Pleanála.
Where there is no appeal, the planning authority will formally grant permission at the end of the appeal period. You must not commence work until you receive this notification. If the decision is appealed, you will receive from An Bórd Pleanála either the granting of permission, with or without whatever conditions considered appropriate, or refusal of permission.
Where the planning authority decides to refuse your application, its reasons will be included in the notification sent to you. The same period of four weeks for appeal will apply.
Planning permission may be subject to certain conditions, which will be listed on the decision. These may require changes to your proposal. Examples of such changes are new arrangements for the disposal of surface water; revised height, colour or material for boundary walls; or improved landscaping of the site.
You may also be required to make a contribution to the local authority for services such as water and sewerage. These contributions differ from place to place and for different types of development. You must comply with all of the conditions attached to the permission and finish work in accordance with them. Even if you have more than one permission for a site, you cannot pick and choose the conditions which suit you best.
Duration of Permission
The standard duration of planning permission is:
||Full Planning Permission: 5 years from the date of the granting of the permission by the planning authority or An Bord Pleanála.
||Outline Planning Permission: where outline permission has been granted by the planning authority or An Bord Pleanála, any subsequent application for permission consequent on the grant of outline permission must be made not later than 3 years beginning on the date of the grant of outline permission, (or such longer period, not exceeding 5 years, as may be specified by the planning authority). The outline permission will cease to have effect at the end of the above period unless the subsequent application for permission consequent on the grant of outline permission is made within that period.
In certain circumstances, the planning authority may extend the life of a planning permission, but only where the following conditions apply:
- Substantial works have been carried out during the lifetime of the permission.
- The planning authority is satisfied that the development will be completed in reasonable time.
If planning permission expires and you apply for a new permission for the same development, the planning authority may refuse permission or attach significantly different conditions. This can happen if planning policies or the requirements for the proper planning and sustainable development of the area have changed in the interim.
Copies of Planning Applications
Planning authorities are required to sell, on request, copies of any part of a planning application file at a fee not exceeding the reasonable cost of making a copy. This includes plans or other drawings and photographs. Any documents for sale will be available while they are open for public inspection.
The enforcement of planning decisions is the responsibility of the planning authority, which has wide enforcement powers to ensure development is carried out in conformity with planning permission and to halt and rectify unauthorised development. However, any legal action must be started within seven years of the breach of the planning laws taking place.
Care should be taken to ensure that each condition of a permission is fully complied with, in order to avoid incurring such action, and also to avoid difficulties when the property is being sold at a later date. See the section on rectifying a planning error below.
Stopping Unauthorised Development
If you think somebody is developing or using land without, or contrary to, planning permission, you should contact the planning authority in writing. The planning authority will issue a warning letter to the person carrying out the development. They will investigate the matter to determine if an enforcement notice should be issued.
Any person may apply in either the Circuit or High Courts for an order restraining unauthorised development or use of land, or requiring compliance with planning permission. Court orders can, depending on the circumstances, be obtained at extremely short notice, and the courts will ensure compliance with any order made.
Penalties for Breaches of Planning Law
It is an offence to undertake any work needing permission without that permission. Planning authorities have powers to stop unauthorised development, and this can be a costly experience for the offender. You may be required to rectify any unauthorised works, and will have to pay whatever costs are involved. On conviction in the District Court, fines of up to €1,905 can be imposed, together with fines of up to €507 per day for continuing offences or to a term of imprisonment of six months. On conviction in the higher courts, the maximum fine is €12,700,000 (€12,700 per day for continuing offences) and up to two years imprisonment ,or both.
Rectifying Planning Errors
Genuine mistakes can be made in relation to the need for planning permission. If you undertake unauthorised development, you may apply for permission to retain it. However, this approach should not be relied upon to avoid seeking planning permission before starting work, as you may not necessarily be granted permission for retention or be required to carry out costly modifications.
The application fee for retention is also three times the fee for an application made before development starts. Permission for retention does not automatically absolve you from prosecution if enforcement action has already been taken against you. If you are buying property, check that the building itself and any extensions or alterations to it have proper planning permission or are exempt from planning permission. You, as the new owner, may be liable to enforcement action.
You will not be entitled solely by reason of planning permission to carry out your proposed development. You may need other approvals, depending on the type of development. For example, all new buildings, extensions, alterations and certain changes in the use of existing buildings must comply with building regulations, which set out basic design and construction requirements. Non-residential developments will probably require a Fire Safety Certificate under the regulations. You may also need permission if making a connection to a public water main or sewer.
See 'A Guide to the Building Regulations, PL. 11' for more details, or click here for more information about building control. Further information may be obtained from Cork County Council's Planning Department at the following address:
Tel (021) 4276891
Fax (021) 4867007
An Rannóg Pleanála,
Halla an Chontae,
Bóthar Charraig Ruacháin,
Fón (021) 4276891
Faics (021) 4867007
The law governing the planning system can be accessed on the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government Website by clicking on the link below: