Planning overhaul proposed to cut red tape and curb housing delays.


A major overhaul of planning laws is being sought to reduce legal red tape and accelerate the delivery of thousands of new homes.

Minister of State for Planning Peter Burke is proposing the major changes to the Planning and Development Act. He believes the huge growth in lengthy and costly legal challenges is delaying key housing and infrastructure projects for years. The planning system will be rebalanced to reduce the stages at which a judicial review can be sought. There will be new limits on the entities that can take legal challenges, and a new cost-capping arrangement. 

Mr Burke said he had a “massive concern” that nine out of 40 High Court judges were dealing exclusively with judicial reviews at present. An Bord Pleanála is a notice party in 190 judicial review cases currently before the High Court. The Housing Minister is currently a notice party to 47 legal challenges. Meanwhile, local councils, in their role as planning authorities, are also subject to challenges by means of judicial reviews.

“You see advertisements in the front windows of practitioners [who are] ‘specialists in judicial review’. It’s almost becoming an industry now to take on the planning system at every step of the way. We have €165bn over the next decade in public infrastructure to deliver and we have to see how is the planning system delivering that.”

The minister said the changes “absolutely” would have the potential to deliver thousands of new homes more quickly over the coming years. “It will result in a more slimmed-down planning process that will deliver timelier decisions,” he said. “You have some housing developments years in abyss... it is incredible the amount of delays.” 

Under the planned changes, local authorities will be freed to adjudicate on planning applications – with an injunction only possible once a project reaches An Bord Pleanála. Motions on notice will also be reintroduced, meaning a defendant will be able to contest a judicial review leave application it considers to be frivolous or lacking substance. An applicant will also be required to demonstrate they have a “substantial interest” in the case, must be directly affected by a development, and have previously participated in the planning process of the case. The change is aimed at minimising last-minute judicial reviews by those not having previously been involved. 

Source: The Irish Independent - Hugh O’Connell,  January 31 2022

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