Planning approvals about to expire should be extended to facilitate applicants during the Covid-19 crisis.
That is the message has gone out to Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon from one local MLA.
Any planning approval has attached to it conditions and these include a timeframe within which work should start.
On the whole, the standard time is five years.
It means applicants would then have to reapply for permission after that, which would prove costly and might not necessarily result in approval being given a second time.
Due to the current lockdown, Newry and Armagh MLA Liz Kimmins said the Minister should act now to put people’s minds at ease.
The Sinn Fein MLA said that it is imperative that the Department for Infrastructure extend the duration of any extant planning application which is in danger of lapsing.
She added: “Concerns have been raised about the impact the current coronavirus situation will have regarding time conditions on planning applications.
“When an application is approved there is a time condition placed on when work has to commence. However, planning applications will expire as construction has stalled as a result of the necessary measures taken to address the Covid-19 outbreak
“In Department for Infrastructure (DfI) updates to chief planners on Covid-19, the Department stated that there is no facility to extend the duration of an extant planning application in the north.
“This will lead to many people having to submit a renewal application before the expiry date, however it is important that flexibility is provided during these unprecedented times.”
The MLA confirmed that she has written to Department Minister Nichola Mallon requesting she look at the issue.
She added: “I understand that the Dublin government has taken some measures to extend the planning process, and Scotland’s emergency Coronavirus Bill extends any planning permission that would lapse within the next six months so that it will not expire until April 2021.
“I have written to the DfI Minister Niochal Mallon urging her to explore measures that could be taken which could assist the planning process during this outbreak, and in particular the extension of current planning applications.”