New housing project laws unlikely to be introduced before Easter

New laws designed to force the developers of large scale housing projects to act quickly on their planning permissions are unlikely to be introduced before Easter.

New housing project laws unlikely to be introduced before Easter

New laws designed to force the developers of large scale housing projects to act quickly on their planning permissions are unlikely to be introduced before Easter.

It will have been six months since the changes were announced by Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy, if the new timescale is met.

Mr Murphy announced the introduction of the new rule as part of a series of changes to the Strategic Housing Development (SHD) legislation at the end of October.

It will require developers to start construction on approved housing developments within 18 months or risk losing the permission for the build.

However, at the time when he announced the new laws, Mr Murphy conceded that they had not been fully "worked out".

A spokesperson for the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government has now confirmed that the department estimates that the new rules could be in place by Easter 2020 — some six months after they were announced.

"Legislative provision for the introduction of 'use it or lose it' arrangements in respect of housing developments will be progressed in a new Planning and Development (Amendment) Bill in early 2020 with a view to its enactment by Easter 2020," the spokesperson for the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government said.

"Other potential legislative changes further to the recommendations in the SHD Review Group Report will be considered in the context of the same bill."

The new changes are the result of a review of the efficiency of the SHD legislation, which was introduced in 2017 to increase the number of houses being constructed. Under the rules, applications of more than 100 houses or 200 student beds are made directly to An Bord Pleanála to speed up the application process.

While the scheme has resulted in a large number of planning applications and permissions, developers have yet to start construction in many cases.

The review group tasked with analysing the success of the fast-track planning system criticised the lack of construction undertaken on approved projects.

New figures issued by the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government show that as of the end of Nov 2019, An Bord Pleanála had received 158 SHD planning applications. Decisions have made in relation to 110 of these.

Of those, 83 were granted with conditions and one was part-granted. These 84 schemes have 6,311 houses, 13,931 apartments and 7,890 student beds associated with them.

However, analysis of these shows that in many cases, no construction has started, meaning that thousands of homes are going unbuilt.

While the review group acknowledged that SHD arrangements have "generally been a success" in accelerating the granting of planning permission, they also noted that it has not resulted in as many commencements as "might have been expected given the public resources put into the arrangements and the benefits provided for developers in terms of time-savings and consistency of decision making".

Between January 2018 and June 30, 2019, just 37% of the SHDs approved by An Bord Pleanála had commenced.

In his own conclusions on the scheme, Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy said a significant number of large-scale housing developments are being slowed for "up to two years" due to appeals.

He conceded, though, that there has been a "relatively lower than expected activation rate of [fast-track] permissions to date" and said that measures to encourage developers to act on permissions, including a "use it or lose it" clause for planning permission, are needed.

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