Information Leaflet 11: Applications raising matters relating to National Security
The objector to an application believes a certificate is required from the SoS in relation to a third party’s application.
The potential objector will become aware of the proposed development when the planning application is advertised or when they are consulted about the application. Upon receipt of the application, where the Department considers it might have implications for matters relating to national security or the measures taken or to be taken to ensure the security of any premises or property, it will consult the relevant interests.
The potential objector will discuss the application with the Department to reach a view on whether the Department’s consideration of the application, or more particularly of the objection relating to it, is likely to require the public disclosure of information relating to matters of national security or the measures taken or to be taken to ensure the security of any premises or property and the public disclosure of that information would be contrary to the national interest.
Where the objector is satisfied that the foregoing would NOT be the case, the application will continue to be processed in the normal way by the appropriate divisional planning office.
However, where the objector considers that there would be public disclosure of information that would be contrary to the national interest, he will request a certificate from the SoS under Article 123B of the 1991 Order.
The validation and advertising of the application by the Department normally ‘starts the clock’ on an application for the purpose of time periods specified in Article 11 of the Planning (General Development) Order (Northern Ireland) 1993 (the GDO) and elsewhere, after which an applicant can lodge a non-determination appeal (Article 33 of the 1991 Order) with the Planning Appeals Commission who will then determine the application. In this case the Department is likely to have already validated and advertised the application thereby inviting objections or representations. Unlike the first scenario, the clock will already be running in relation to the specified time periods. It is essential in this case that the applicant does not proceed to an appeal until the SoS has decided whether to issue a certificate. The Planning (Application of Subordinate Legislation to the Crown) Order (Northern Ireland) 2006 (at Articles 2 – 6) has therefore amended all relevant provisions relating to such periods to provide that the period does not start until the Department has been notified of the Secretary of State’s decision on the request for a certificate. Moreover, where a certificate is issued by the SoS the right of appeal under Article 33 of the 1991 Order no longer applies (Article 123B (4)).
The request for a certificate must be submitted to the SoS in writing and must contain:
- a written statement setting out the grounds on which it is considered the certificate should be issued;
- an explanation of the information, the public disclosure of which would, in the view of the objector, be contrary to the national interest.
The SoS will:
- acknowledge receipt of the request;
- notify the Department of the request and the date by which representations must be received.
The Department will:
- notify the applicant that a request for a certificate has been made and of the manner and time in which representations may be made; and
- provide the SoS by the date notified (unless it is extended by the SoS) with documentation relevant to the request including the application and any representations made in relation to it.
The SoS will inform the Department, the applicant and the objector of his decision. In doing so he is not required to give reasons for his decision where that would result in the public disclosure of information that would in his view be contrary to the national interest.
Should the Secretary of State refuse to issue a certificate, the objector will have to consider whether to withdraw his objection. The processing of the application will be completed by the relevant divisional planning office in the normal way.
Where the Secretary of State issues a certificate and there are objections and representations in relation to the application the Department will arrange an inquiry for the purpose of determining it. The processing of the application will transfer from the divisional planning office to Planning Service Headquarters.
The procedure at an inquiry required as a consequence of a certificate issued under Article 123B is provided in the Planning (Inquiry Procedure) Rules (Northern Ireland) 2006.
It is anticipated that in these circumstances the objector will request the Secretary of State to direct under Article 123A (2) of the 1991 Order that at the inquiry, “evidence of the description indicated in the direction shall only be heard or, as the case may be, be open to inspection at that inquiry or examination by such persons or persons of such descriptions as he may specify in the direction”. The procedure to be followed by the Secretary of State before he gives a direction and the functions of ‘appointed representatives’ are provided in the Planning (National Security Directions and Appointed Representatives) Rules (Northern Ireland) 2006.
Provision is made in the Certificate Rules that where a document is to be provided in writing it may be done electronically - see relevant definitions and provisions in Rule 1 (3) – (5).