Individuals could be blocked from objecting to Traveller community housing being built in their areas unless complaints meet strict new rules under Government plans.
Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy is considering the new limits as part of a series of “strategic” housing sector changes which could also see builders told to use specific sites within one year to prevent land hoarding and fast-track new homes.
The plans are contained in an initial review of the Government’s Strategic Housing Development system, which has been outlined to Mr Murphy in recent days and is due to be finalised when the Dáil returns in September.
The review is examining the successes and difficulties of the Strategic Housing Development system since it was introduced in 2017 to speed up the construction of certain new homes.
The system, which sees applications for developments which are deemed strategically necessary fast-tracked to An Bord Pleanála, is focused on a number of areas including commuter belt, student, and Traveller housing units.
However, due in part to delays in pushing through these plans to date, the Irish Examiner understands the review has made a number of initial overview recommendations, including:
- New rules “further restricting” the opportunities for local communities to make objections to strategic housing developments in their areas, “including in particular for traveller accommodation”;
- Land-hoarding prevention laws giving developers one year to use land set aside for strategic housing developments or risk losing the site completely;
- The “fast-tracking” of utilities for planned housing developments to help speed up construction;
- A likely extension of the strategic housing development once the group’s current timeframe runs out in 2021.
The review group — which is chaired by ex-Department of Housing principal planning adviser John Martin and made up of ex-Fingal County Council CEO David O’Connor, Clare County Council director of services Liam Conneally, Housing Agency policy director David Silk —has been examining the potential changes since early June.
It has based its initial findings in part on 180 written submissions from members of the public in recent weeks, and will meet with key stakeholders including An Bord Pleanála, local authorities, the Construction Industry Federation, and the Irish Home Builders Association over the coming two months before finalising its report in September.
It is understood that while no decisions on the exact details of the potential changes will be made until they are debated in full by the Dáil and Seanad in September, Mr Murphy is open to the initial proposals.
Government sources last night accepted that among the most controversial of the review group’s recommendations is the plan to potentially further limit the right of members of the public to object to Traveller community housing developments in local areas.
However, they stressed there is a need to ensure the units are built in response to a series of high-profile Traveller community housing development disputes and fears that millions of euro in funds ringfenced for the work are failing to be used.
The Strategic Housing Development review group recommendations follow a similar report by the Traveller accommodation expert review group which was published last week.
The Traveller accommodation review, which was commissioned by junior housing minister Damien English, said that the Government must create a National Traveller Accommodation Authority and draw up new laws to better protect Traveller community housing development plans.
Between 2009 and 2018, less than 60% of funding set aside for Traveller community housing was used.