The purpose of Circular PL02/2018, which issued to planning authorities on 9 March 2018, was to remind planning authorities and elected members that they are required to consider planning applications in accordance with the open, transparent and verifiable written process, set down in planning legislation. The circular also highlights that planning authorities, when making their decisions, are restricted to considering the proper planning and sustainable development of the area concerned.
The circular indicates that, while the Development Management Guidelines issued to planning authorities under section 28 of the Planning and Development Act 2000, as amended, recognise that elected members may be informed by planning staff of factual matters relating to particular planning applications, the provision of such information is intended to inform elected members who may wish to make substantive comments on planning applications by way of formal written submissions or observations to the planning authority.
In this regard, the circular points out that discussion of the merits of individual planning applications at Municipal District and Area Committee meetings or at full Council meetings does not form part of the statutory process for the consideration of planning applications, and that the practice could be viewed as an attempt to undermine due process and exert undue influence on the planning authority to make a decision that would not be in the interests of the proper planning and sustainable development of the area concerned. The circular also states that the practice of discussing planning applications at relevant Council meetings could convey an erroneous impression to the public of the role of elected members in the statutory process for deciding on planning applications.