Modernizing the Planning Process

March, 02, 2018

In June 2016, new Planning Authority laws were introduced which made the planning process fairer and faster. These new laws have changed the way planning applications are submitted and processed, enabling the public to have a bigger say on what happens.

The ‘Development Notification Order’ (DNO) has been re-organised and down-sized into 12 class types, depending on the amount of development work proposed. To inform and involve the public many of the previously classes within the DNO have been transferred to what is now known as the ‘Summary Procedures’.

Following these changes a notice is now placed at the site where works are proposed to be carried out and a 15 day period has been introduced giving the right to anyone who may want to submit an objection on the proposed works. The Authority then considers the submitted objections on planning grounds. The application has to be decided within 42 days. If an objection is filed and turned down, an objector has the right to appeal that decision.

The full development application has also witnessed some changes. While the objection period has increased to 30 days, an application must be determined not more than a 100 days from the date of its validation. Every application now gets sent to 10 statutory consultees for their comments and recommendations. Any person objecting within the registered timeframe is considered as a registered objector and has every right at law to appeal a decision of the Authority. All permits are suspended for 30 days to allow third parties to appeal and to prepare the necessary documentation in relation with the Building Regulations. Any application which does not respect the 100 day timeframe may claim a refund of the fees paid. This change in procedure put the onus on the Planning Authority for any inefficiencies.

The previously used screening process system has only been retained for major projects unless the applicant is in possession of an outline development permit. An applicant can still apply for Outline development permit.
The Planning Authority received 9,102 and 11,305 development applications in 2016 and 2017 respectively. In 2016, it approved 7,588 and rejected 477 applications while in 2017 it approved 10,785, and rejected 648 applications.

To ensure more transparency, all planning applications are accessible from the Authority’s web portal to architects, Local Councils and any person who has an e-ID. With a totally paperless planning process, the Planning Authority boasts of one of the best online systems around.

Enforcement procedures were also revised through the amended laws. More importance is being given to the compulsory notice that has to be submitted in the commencement of work. This notice needs to be submitted five days before works at a site commence. Another very important tool is the emergency enforcement notice which allows the Planning Authority to take immediate action if in the opinion of the Authority there may be an imminent danger to the environment or public safety.

These above procedures came into force along with several organisational changes, which include the setting up of an Executive Council, and the introduction of the Agricultural Advisory Committee and the Design Advisory Committee. These measures ensure that the Council performs an in-depth analyses of planning policies, scheduling and decisions with a view to transparency and fairness. One must also mention that the Environment and Resources Authority the environmental NGOs and the Local councils also have a vote on the Planning Board and therefore have an influence on major decisions within the planning process.