Under the Planning and Development Act 2000, as amended (the Act), all development, unless specifically exempted under the Act or associated Regulations, requires planning permission.
Section 4 of the Act and Schedule 2 of the Planning and Development Regulations 2001, as amended (the Regulations), set out various exemptions from the requirement to obtain planning permission. In this regard, Class 31 of Schedule 2 of the Regulations provides that certain classes of development carried out by a statutory undertaker authorised to provide a telecommunications service are, subject to specified conditions, exempted development from the requirement to obtain planning permission. Where the conditions and size thresholds specified in the exemption class are not complied with or are exceeded, planning permission is required.
Exemptions from the requirement to obtain planning permission in respect of specific forms of development are provided for when they are considered to be consistent with proper planning and sustainable development.
While access roads are not listed under Class 31 of the Regulations, article 9(1)(ii) of the Regulations states that any development that would:
"consist of or comprise the formation, laying out or material widening of a means of access to a public road the surfaced carriageway of which exceeds 4 metres in width"
shall not be exempted development.
In addition, article 9(1)(iii) of the Regulations provides that where a development would endanger public safety of road users by reason of traffic hazard or obstruction, planning permission is required.
The Telecommunications Antennae and Support Structures Guidelines, issued under section 28 of the Act by my Department to Planning Authorities in 1996, state that:
"access roads should be permitted only where they are absolutely necessary and great care should be taken that they will not appear as a scar on a hillside. It should normally be a condition of permission that such roads are grubbed up at the end of the construction period".
Where a question arises on whether development is or is not development, or is or is not exempted development, any person may seek a declaration from the relevant planning authority under section 5 of the Act. A planning authority that is in receipt of a section 5 application is required to make its decision in respect of the application within four weeks of the date of receipt of the application. A decision made by a planning authority in respect of such an application may be appealed to An Bord Pleanála.
Under section 152 of the Act, it is obligatory for the planning authority to follow up substantive written complaints of breaches of the planning code, unless it considers the complaint to be trivial or vexatious, or without substance or foundation.
Once a planning authority has received a written complaint and forms the view that unauthorised development may have been, is being or may be carried out, it must issue a warning letter to the owner or person carrying out the development unless the development in question is of a trivial or minor nature.