The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC) has called for changes to a proposed bill on planning in relation to accommodation for the Travelling community.
In a statement, the commission said that the State “continues to fail” in the provision of accommodation to the Traveller community, describing the current system as “incoherent and inadequate”.
In a submission on the Planning and Development Bill 2022, the human-rights body calls for an amendment to put Traveller-specific accommodation in an exceptional category.
It points out that the vast majority of Traveller-specific accommodation is currently delivered through part 8 of the Planning and Development Regulations 2001, “ostensibly to assist public debate and scrutiny”.
“However, this often gives rise to significant challenges in terms of providing Traveller-specific accommodation, often due to local opposition and the consequent politicisation of the process,” the commission says.
Its proposed amendment would mean that Traveller accommodation would not be exempted from the need to be approved by An Coimisiùn Pleanála and could, therefore, be removed from the part 8 process.
IHREC says that an alternative direct route for Traveller-specific accommodation to An Coimisiùn Pleanála should then be considered.
It adds, however, that a route for planning approval for Traveller-specific accommodation through the planning authority should be retained, with certain provisions.
“The processes should be speedy and streamlined, and the Traveller-specific accommodation initiatives which have already been detailed in a local authority’s development plan should not be the subject of the public notice or confirmation procedures for a specified period,” the commission states.
It also wants the bill amended to reflect that local authorities are under obligations to put forward objectives in respect of Traveller-specific accommodation in their development plans.
“The provisions of the Bill that provide for enforcement procedures and measures are likely to have a significant and possibly disproportionately negative impact on the Traveller community,” IHREC says.
It calls for the bill to ensure that there is court oversight over “all actions in respect of alleged unauthorised developments where there is any possible interference with a person’s home or dwelling”.
IHREC also wants the bill to ensure that local authorities and the courts carry out a proportionality assessment, taking account of all relevant circumstances, before any interference with an alleged unauthorised development which may be a person’s home or dwelling.
The commission also calls for the removal from the bill of new requirements for non-governmental organisations seeking judicial reviews of planning actions or decisions.
“The cumulative nature of these new, more stringent requirements will result in significant hurdles, and even barriers, being put in the way of organisations seeking to advance legal challenges in this area,” it states.