New planning laws and a separate planning court are to be presented within a year

Major changes to the planning system will come into effect by the end of the year as the government strives to reduce the number of legal challenges to major developments.

Business Secretary Peter Burke outlined the timeframe for company representatives, telling them that the number of judicial reviews granted in Ireland was “scary” compared to other European countries.

He told a meeting hosted by the British Irish Chamber of Commerce and energy company Statkraft that a new unit was being set up within An Bord Pleanála with additional staff to handle major energy-related developments.

A review of the planning laws and current appeals mechanisms would be completed by September.

A new planning and development law should be in place by the end of the year.

A new environmental and planning court is to be set up next year.

Details of the new legislation have yet to be announced, but a draft prepared by Fine Gael in 2019, ahead of the formation of the current government, attempted to limit access to the courts for objections, by imposing strict criteria on who could file a judicial Review could request and in what cases circumstances.

The plan at the time was also to make the cost of conducting judicial reviews much more prohibitive.

Mr Burke said he had very strong personal views on the cost but they might not make the final cut.

“Some coalition partners have a particular view and they are very firm in that view,” he said. He was referring to the Greens.

But he said the current provision for “ex parte” motions, which allows objectors to seek permission from a judge to appeal a planning decision without inviting the developer to oppose the motion, is “unsustainable.” .

Mr Burke said that in other European countries less than 25 per cent of requests for judicial review were granted, while in Ireland the figure was 96 per cent.

He said the delays will hold up housing, bypasses, greenways and other vital infrastructure.

“It gives us a very bad reputation as a country for investors,” he said.

The participants called on the minister to apply binding decision times for planning decisions.

They also called for the activation of powers that would allow the government directly on board Pleanála to prioritize decisions on planning applications of strategic national importance.

But Mr Burke said the approach to increasing the Planning Authority’s staff and resources should speed up procedures without resorting to emergency powers.

He urged the assembly to speak up in debates about the upcoming legislative changes and to better articulate the benefits their developments would bring to communities.

“It’s so important that we have business leaders and business people on the front line,” he said.

Acknowledging that judicial reviews have revealed weaknesses in the law, he said much work is being done to consolidate the existing planning law, which has been amended piecemeal over the past 20 years.

He also said work is underway to ensure the EU directives are properly transposed into Irish law.

Developers’ failure to comply with EU environmental laws has been a major reason for judicial review in recent years. New planning laws and a separate planning court are to be presented within a year

Fry Electronics Team

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