An Bord Pleanála denies delaying large-scale planning decisions until law changes

An Bord Pleanála denies delaying large-scale planning decisions until law changes

An Bord Pleanála said there was 'no linkage between delays and any proposed legislative amendments'.

An Bord Pleanála has denied suggestions it has been delaying decisions on large-scale construction applications so that forthcoming legislation changes will make it harder to object to those developments.

The strategic housing development system, which is currently being phased out, has seen the planning board come in for criticism given the number of its decisions relating to such large developments subsequently being overturned in the courts at the expense of the taxpayer.

At present there are 106 such SHDs still to be decided upon by the planning authority. Some 75 of those have passed their expected decision dates – 16 weeks from the date of application - which mandates a fine of at least €10,000 against ABP payable to the applicant developer, per data released to Sinn Fein housing spokesperson Eoin O Broin.

All told, An Bord Pleanála is thus set to be penalised a minimum of €750,000 due to the tardy nature of its decision-making.

Mr O Broin, a frequent critic of the SHD process, said the delays are “simply unacceptable”, and alleged that there is a “widespread belief in planning circles” that the delays are “directly related” to legislation in the pipeline which will amend the system of judicial review by which SHDs have fallen foul repeatedly.

Whether this is the case or not, the fact that these delays could result in up to €1m of taxpayers’ money being paid out to applicants in late decision penalty fines is totally unacceptable.” 

A spokesperson for An Bord Pleanála said the board was “currently experiencing a backlog of cases due to both a general increase in the volume of cases received and the complex nature of certain types of cases”.

They said there was “no linkage between these delays and any proposed legislative amendments”, adding the delays to SHDs in particular have resulted from a glut of applications due to “that system ending for such applications in quarter three of this year”.

SHDs, developments of a minimum of 100 residences in size, were introduced by the previous government as part of its Rebuilding Ireland housing plan in 2016 with a view to fast-tracking residential construction.

However, the system has become bogged down in legal objections. Nearly a fifth of SHD applications have been judicially reviewed in the courts, with An Bord Pleanála having lost more than 85% of those cases which have been decided upon, a fact which has seen the authority’s legal costs spiral to nearly half its State funding of nearly €19m.

Last July the Government came in for heavy criticism after pushing through planning legislation amendments, with minimal debate which will see, among other things, the threshold for taking judicial reviews raised significantly.

That legislation is expected to be enacted before the end of this year, Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien said this week.

Speaking in Limerick on Thursday, Mr O’Brien said he did not “believe planning decisions should be made in the courts, it’s not the right place for them”.

“Planning decisions should be made in our local authorities and in An Bord Pleanála,” he said.

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From florist to fraudster, leaving a trail of destruction from North Cork, to Waterford, to Clare, to Wexford and through the midlands ... learn how mistress of re-invention, Catherine O'Brien, scammed her way around rural Ireland.

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