Ireland’s national planning body granted approval for just under four in five applications for strategic housing developments in 2020.
An Bord Pleanála is set to tell the Public Accounts Committee on Thursday that of 126 such applications in 2020, 98 were granted approval.
Dave Walsh, chair of the body, is expected to tell the committee that those approvals will facilitate more than 20,800 residential units, three-quarters of which were for apartments.
Meanwhile, the planning board’s refusal of 28 applications is indicative of “evidence that the Board continues to assess all applications against the principles of proper planning and sustainable development and refuses those that fail those criteria”.
Strategic Housing Developments (SHDs) are planning applications, generally for large-scale housing builds, which are ‘fast-tracked’ to An Bord Pleanala in order to skip the local authority planning stage, which in itself typically could take more than six months, and so that a decision can be arrived at inside 16 weeks.
However, last November the Oireachtas housing committee heard that just 30% of SHDs had broken ground since the introduction of the legislation in 2016, with some developers facing accusations of hoarding planning permission without ever actually acting upon it.
An Bord Pleanála’s appearance before the PAC, ostensibly to discuss its 2019 financial statements, comes at a time of heightened dialogue nationally regarding the ongoing housing crisis.
On Tuesday the body came in for stinging criticism in the Dáil from the Labour leader Alan Kelly, who noted that just under half of its decisions which were challenged in the High Court were overturned, notably strategic development decisions.
In response, the Taoiseach Micheál Martin acknowledged that those overturned decisions represent a significant issue, and suggested that An Bord Pleanala “needs to reflect” as to the robustness of its decisions.
Mr Martin also suggested there are “deficiencies” with the strategic development legislation, and said that in many cases the planning process takes “far too long and then… deficiencies arise at the eleventh hour which perhaps should have been spotted much earlier and should never have got to the stage of a High Court or Supreme Court case before they were highlighted”.
Meanwhile, the PAC is expected to hear on Thursday that An Bord Pleanala had a total income in 2019 of just over €25 million, comprising a State grant of €18.6 million and €4.5 million in submission fees from the public.