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Zoning and planning ‘embedded’ in legal system
Pic: RollingNews.ie

16 Feb 2023 / property Print

Zoning and planning ‘embedded’ in legal system

A Mason Hayes & Curran (MHC) webinar on property has heard that Ireland now has a “three-way approval process” for construction.

Ronan Lyons (Associate Professor of Economics at Trinity College Dublin) said that some countrieshada zoning system,whileothershada planning system

“We have both, and we seem to have embedded both into the legal system now, resulting in a three-way approval process,” he told the event.

Lyons suggested that Ireland needed to go from at least three down to two, and ideally from two down to one, just as in other countries.

“It doesn’t have to be zoning or planning, let’s pick one and do it well, and learn from other countries,” he said, adding that he would favour a good zoning system that would allow medium to long-term construction to happen.

Mandatory timelines

An MHC survey carried out for the webinar found that three-quarters of agents, developers, and property managers believe that the new planning authority should have a mandatory timeline of less than 16 weeks to determine a planning appeal.

The draft Planning and Development Bill proposes mandatory timelines for all planning applications submitted to the new an Coimisiún Pleanála, but the exact length of the timelines has yet to be decided.

The survey also found that 60% of those attending the webinar believed that appeals for large-scale residential developments should be prioritised for mandatory timelines.

Asked about the most pressing planning issue, 38% of those surveyed cited the number of judicial-review challenges to planning decisions, while 27% cited delays in appeals.

On viability challenges in the construction sector, almost half of respondents said that reforming the planning system to make it more cost-efficient would have the biggest impact on viability, while 20% favoured a reduction in the VAT rate on the purchase of new homes.

Rising costs

Joanne McGilloway (senior associate at MHC) said that rising material and labour costs, labour shortages, high interest rates, and the high cost of capital were all having a direct impact on the costs faced by developers and the tender prices received from contractors.

“Contractors are taking a more considered approach to pricing terms, and it is having a material effect on the time it takes to get contracts agreed and signed.

“In fact, in the first three quarters of last year a lot of contractors were simply refusing to enter into fixed-price contracts.

“Now contractors appear to be more comfortable with supply-chain risk and, as a result, we are seeing contracts being signed that would not have been signed six months ago.”

Lyons told the webinar that it was “really expensive” to build in Ireland, relative to our own incomes.

“We were a cheap place to build in the 1990s, and by the 2000s we were an expensive place. The problem with costs is that they can go up easily, but it is very hard for them to come down,” he concluded.

Gazette Desk
Gazette.ie is the daily legal news site of the Law Society of Ireland