Work started on just one-third of fast-track housing developments since 2017

Work started on just one-third of fast-track housing developments since 2017

A total of 277 developments have been approved under the strategic housing development  programme, but just 100 have begun construction. Picture: PA

Just over one-third of housing developments approved since the Government's controversial fast-track scheme was introduced in 2017 have broken ground.

A total of 277 developments have been approved under the strategic housing development (SHD) programme, which was set up as part of then-housing minister Simon Coveney's Rebuilding Ireland scheme, but just 100 of them have begun construction, according to figures released to the Irish Examiner.

The figure stood at 30% 21 months ago, according to the Department of Housing.

The flawed scheme, designed for developments of 100 homes or more, was slated for cancellation in December 2021. Despite this, 41 new schemes comprising almost 12,000 new units have been granted permission since. Planning permission for an SHD lasts for five years and many have been beset by legal problems, facing repeated judicial reviews.

Sinn Féin spokesperson on housing Eoin Ó Broin described the new figures as “deeply disappointing”, claiming they show that SHDs have “only served to enrich a small number of developers”.

‘Use it or lose it’

Mr Ó Broin said that the Government “needs to bring in legislation for ‘use it or lose it’ penalties regarding hoarded planning permission”.

“What’s clear is that a large number of these developers weren’t genuinely applying for planning permission in order to build, but rather to speculate on the value of land,” he claimed.

One high-profile SHD site at Temple Rd in Dublin's Blackrock was purchased for €30m in 2017. It was put back on the market for €45m after planning permission was received.

Conor O’Connell, director of housing with the Construction Industry Federation (CIF), said that any issues with delivery of SHDs have resulted from “supply constraints” in the aftermath of the Covid pandemic.

“If you look at projects with SHD approval, our members are reporting major challenges to us in terms of delivery,” said Mr O’Connell, adding that apartment-specific developments, which comprise the majority of SHDs, are proving particularly difficult to bring to fruition.

The Department of Housing said the figure for SHD commencements is higher (57%) if you look at permissions granted in 2018-2020 only, with a spokesperson adding that delays in breaking ground can result “for various reasons” such as the phasing of development.

Approvals

The data released to the Irish Examiner shows that State planning authority An Bord Pleanála approved 41 SHDs between the official date for the phasing out of the controversial system in December and July 12. Prior to the stepping-back of deputy chair Paul Hyde from the decision-making process on May 9, he had green-lit 27 of the 28 schemes approved in that period. 

Those approvals equate to just under 11,900 residential spaces.

In total, An Bord Pleanála has received 125 SHD applications since the beginning of last December, more than a quarter of the 496 bids lodged since the system began in 2017, suggesting a surge in activity among developers immediately before the beleaguered process was to be phased out of existence.

One of the most recent applications was from Cork County GAA board, for 319 homes on the outskirts of Cork City. The board said at the time that permission was being sought so that it could sell the land in a bid to help to finance its €30m debt.


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