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09/05/2022

Planning applications should be ‘well prepared’ so the system is efficient, says OPR

Words: Laura Edgar
Invalid planning application / Castleski, Shutterstock_617641928

A report by the Office of the Planning Regulator (OPR) in Ireland has outlined that local authorities, applicants and agents need to work together to ensure that planning applications are valid on receipt to improve the efficiency of the planning process.

OPR Case Study Paper CSP06, Planning Application Processing: An Analysis of Planning Authority Validation Processes emphasises the importance of getting a planning application right from the start.

This means that attention to details is vital to guarantee that applications comply with regulatory requirements. If applications don't comply, they are deemed invalid and returned to the applicant.

According to the report, average invalidation rates nationally increased from 13.9 per cent to 17.1 per cent between 2015 and 2020. In this period, 13 out of the 31 local authorities saw invalidation rates increase, with a number of local authorities reporting invalidation rates “consistently and significantly” above national average rates.

A number of practical steps to streamline the process are set out in the report, including:

  • Vigilance by those preparing applications in meeting legal requirements.
  • Provision of over-the-counter and online checking services by local authorities, so applicants are clear about the required application documentation.
  • Dedicated local authority staff with the knowledge to spot potential errors.
  • Prompt attention to complaints where errors may have been made, as well as systems to avoid the recurrence of same.
  • Monitoring the validation performance to ensure a consistent and proportionate approach to validations.

Planning regulator Niall Cussen said: “Invalid planning applications cost applicants and local authority resources. Careful preparation of applications and availability of helpful advice is key to avoid that missing document or piece of information resulting in your planning application being returned and delays resulting in your project. There is a considerable onus on applicants, their agents and local authorities, to ‘get it right’ at the initial stage.”

The report analysed local authority statistics over the 2016-2020 period and includes consultation with planning staff from a sample of authorities and other OPR data.

OPR Case Study Paper CSP06, Planning Application Processing: An Analysis of Planning Authority Validation Processes can be found on the OPR website (pdf).

Image credit | Castleski, Shutterstock

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