Planning Portal

Information Leaflet 8: Handling of Major Planning Applications
What are the 'Scale and Nature' Thresholds in Assessing Applications against Article 31?

Large developments involving industrial, mixed retail use, retail food, leisure/recreational uses.

The Department will apply Article 31 procedures to large developments whose scale and nature are of more than local importance and which have impacts beyond local areas. It is difficult to be specific as to thresholds of proposed floorspace beyond which Article 31 procedures would be applied since the circumstances of applications, including the make up of the proposed uses, location etc, often vary considerably. However, the Department will use the following floorspace limits as indicative of the scale of development to which it may apply Article 31 procedures:
  • developments exceeding 15,000 sq metres gross floorspace
  • retail food stores exceeding 3,000 sq metres gross floorspace
  • other retail developments over 10,000 sq metres gross floorspace, for example mixed retail, retail warehouses, factory outlet centres and warehouse clubs.
In exceptional circumstances the Department may apply Article 31 procedures to developments below these limits. Such circumstances may arise, for example, where development is proposed in a sensitive location, or where a number of competing proposals are made to meet a specific regional or sub-regional need and it is necessary to undertake a comparative assessment.


The Department will, only in exceptional circumstances, apply Article 31 procedures to exclusively housing proposals. The RDS sets limits to housing growth by District Council area and Area Plans allocate this growth to specific locations. Lands zoned and left unzoned in development plans are tested through the public inquiry process. In consequence, the Department considers that planning applications for housing can be effectively judged against prevailing plans and policies.
Therefore, the Department will only apply Article 31 procedures where:
  • an application raises major issues with respect to the housing strategy in a development plan, for example a challenge, post adoption, to the plan’s phasing
  • an application is made to change significant zonings
  • an application has major implications for infrastructure provision
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