New guidance for Pre application discussion for Planning Applications

The Environment Minister has launched simpler, clearer planning guidance that it is hoped will save applicants time and money.

The Environment Minister launched, simpler, clearer planning guidance that it is hoped will save planning applicants time and money, yesterday at an event at the Construction Employers Federation.

It is proposed that this will also help deliver the Minister’s vision for a better environment and stronger economy. Lending support to the belief that the two do not have to be in opposition.

The revised planning guidance on Pre-application Discussions opens up the process to a broader range of development proposals, provides guidance on the type of matters to be addressed and the information required. The importance of engaging with local communities before applications are submitted is also highlighted. This is not yet mandatory but will be from April 2015 and so it is being advised that planning applicants get used to operating the new system in advance.

At the event in CEF Mark H Durkan said: “Front loading the planning system through constructive discussions before applications are submitted will save applicants time and money. Issues can be caught at an early stage and worked through. Communities can be involved from the outset about development proposals in their area. Better quality, more accepted schemes will ensure improved outcomes for communities and the environment.

“Developers benefit as submitting higher quality applications means planners can turn these around more quickly. Whilst the formal Pre-application Discussion may not be relevant in every case, it is particularly relevant for economically significant and large scale investment proposals. A quicker turn around on these types of applications will be a welcome boost to the economy.

“We have already seen the benefit of Pre-application Discussions. The Windsor Park planning application was turned around in only 11 weeks following extensive community consultation. The more user friendly guidance launched today should encourage more developers to do this. It also helps prepare for the transfer of planning powers to local councils when pre community consultation will be a statutory requirement. I encourage developers and indeed individuals to engage with this process now.”

John Armstrong, Managing Director of the Construction Employers Federation said: “I warmly welcome the introduction of new guidelines for Pre-application Discussions. This will help bring clarity to the processing of planning applications. It will speed up the decision-making process, as all of the issues to be considered will already have been flagged up and addressed prior to submitting a formal planning application.”

The Minister concluded: “Earlier this year I set out my agenda for delivering key improvements to the planning system. A system which is less complex, more effective, more efficient and more customer focused. This revised guidance is one of these improvements which will help ensure a fast, fair and fit for purpose planning system that builds towards my vision of a better environment and a stronger economy.”

The revised Pre-application Discussion Guidance is available from the Department at: (Opens PDF document in a new browser window 97 KB)