The announcement follows representations to the Minister by NIFHA, both on behalf of housing associations and as part of wider sector lobbying.
Mr Collins commented: “I’m pleased to say that the Minister has decided to introduce these temporary changes, especially in relation to Pre-Application Community Consultations.”
The key section from the Chief Planner’s Update is as follows:
“I have received a number of queries about the holding of pre-application community consultation (PACC) events during the COVID-19 emergency.
“If developers cannot hold an event then their PACC process is invalid and their subsequent application for planning permission must be declined to be determined. This could lead to a backlog of major applications that cannot complete PACC and cannot be submitted for consideration for some time, even after the COVID-19 crisis is over.
“The Department, therefore proposes to amend The Planning (Development Management) Regulations (NI) 2015 by accelerated process to temporarily remove the requirement for a public event. In doing so, we are mindful that active pre- application public engagement is a very important part of our planning system.
“Therefore, councils are strongly advised and will be expected to exercise their existing powers to specify additional steps for developers to consult the public as part of PACC (e.g. advertising online and seeking written feedback) to ensure the benefits to communities continue to be realised during the current crisis.”
Mr Collins concluded: “This should be a positive change to help ensure progress for the Social Housing Development Programme (SHDP) as we seek to get through the Covid-19 crisis.”
Click on the graphic below to download the full update.