Information Leaflet 8: Handling of Major Planning Applications
How is the process route decided?
The procedures involved in the processing of a planning application provide the Department with substantial information on the nature of the proposal; their impact on the environment and the amenity of residents; and the views of the public and elected representatives.
The vast majority of applications, including Article 31 cases, can be determined on the basis of current plans and policies, taking account of the views of consultees, the public and elected representatives.
In practice, most Article 31 applications in the past have been dealt with by Notice of Opinion, indicating that the Department proposes to either grant or refuse planning permission. This is likely to remain the case in future.
However, the Department may cause a public local inquiry to be held where it is considered that the inquiry process will provide additional information to inform the Department in making a final planning decision.
A key test for the Department in deciding the process route will be whether a public local inquiry is necessary to provide all the information to enable the planning decision to be taken.
The volume of public objections received to a planning application will not be a determining factor in the decision as to whether a public local inquiry is required. An important issue for the Department in respect of public comment is the content of all types of representations rather than the volume, and whether they raise issues that cannot be satisfactorily considered through normal consultation arrangements.