New Development Contribution Guidelines have been published by Ministers’ Hogan and O’Sullivan on 21st January 2012. These guidelines follow on from draft guidelines published on 27th June 2012. There are some important changes between the draft and finalised guidelines that are beneficial to the mobile telecommunications sector, these are set out below.
1. There is to be a waiver for broadband infrastructure and for the avoidance of doubt the words “masts and antennae” have been added.
2. Regarding temporary permissions, which we know are now no longer recommended except in exceptional circumstances (e.g. where particular site or environmental conditions apply) reduced rates will apply
a. 33% of normal rate for permissions of up to 3 years
b. 50% of normal rate for permissions of up to 5 years
c. 66% of normal rate for permissions of up to 10 years
3. Retention Permission: No exemption or waiver will apply to any applications for retention of development. It is important therefore that continuance-of-use permissions are lodged ahead of the expiry of temporary permissions. Local authorities will determine if the words “continuance-of-use” is acceptable in a development description – the wording does not enjoy universal acceptance from local authorities at present.
The culmination of the above points should lead to a nil liability in most circumstances for mast development.
On a point of caution however, note that Ministerial Guidelines do not have a statutory footing. Local authorities and An Bord Pleanala have to have regard to the guidelines but in the case of local authorities it is its elected members that have the reserve function of preparing development contribution schemes and it is possible that they will not comply fully with the revised guidelines, in this instance the operator would appeal the local authority decision to An Bord Pleanala who would remove any liabilities for development contributions for “masts and antenna” in keeping with the new guidelines parametres.