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Bill to shake up planning system is published
Pic: RollingNews.ie

26 Jan 2023 / legislation Print

Bill to shake up planning system is published

The Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage has published a draft bill that would make major changes to the way the planning system operates.

The department said that the proposed legislation, if enacted, would bring “greater clarity, consistency, and certainty to how planning decisions are made”.

It added that the Planning and Development Bill 2022 would make the planning system more coherent and user-friendly.

The Government had approved the drafting of legislation in December, when the proposals were welcomed by business group IBEC, but criticised by environmental group An Taisce.

‘More strategic’ local plans

The bill would give ministerial guidelines stronger legal status, while it would also extend the lifespan of local-government plans from six to ten years, with a review after year five.

Local plans would be “more strategic in nature”, according to the Department of Housing, in order to give a sense of what was being planned for a particular area before any planning applications emerged.

The bill would introduce statutory mandatory timelines for all consent processes – including An Bord Pleanála (ABP) decisions.

If ABP failed to make decisions with these timelines, it would face fines. The exact timelines will be included in the finalised bill.

Judicial-review timelines

There would also be changes to judicial reviews (JRs) – including timelines for various steps in the process.

Under the proposals, ABP would be able to correct an error of fact or law in a planning decision, and would be able to apply for a stay on the determination of JR proceedings while making these corrections.

The bill will include costs protection for judicial-review cases, with no order for costs, except where the court considers that the proceedings are frivolous or vexatious, or an abuse of process.

ABP itself would also be restructured, and renamed An Coimisiún Pleanála. Its decision-making and governance structures would be separated.

Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien has now formally requested pre-legislative scrutiny of the draft bill by the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Housing, Local Government and Heritage. This will begin in the coming weeks.

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