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Landmark planning legislation may not be passed by Oireachtas until 2024 – The Irish Times


Landmark planning legislation may not be passed by the Oireachtas until next year, Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien has said.

The planning and development bill, which has not yet been published, will now be considered by the Oireachtas, but Mr O’Brien said it will take “certainly until the end of the year, if not into early next year, to get the legislation passed through the Dáil”.

Mr O’Brien said the legislation was “for the future” and was designed with the next 20 to 25 years in mind, rather than making an immediate tangible difference on the ground. He said greater investment in planning authorities and reform of the planning courts would come on stream beforehand.

Launching the bill, which has been criticised by some in Government and some environmental groups, the Coalition insisted that communities and individuals will not see their rights to object to planning applications curtailed under landmark legislation agreed at Cabinet on Tuesday morning.

Speaking after Cabinet, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said the reforms would see fewer vexatious cases being taken, arguing that important housing and infrastructure projects were being delayed with the costs landing on the taxpayer and those in need of services and housing.

It is among the largest pieces of legislation ever put forward, with the Coalition promising it will overhaul the planning system and make it fit for purpose, as well as reducing the number of judicial reviews of planning decisions being taken – and speeding up those that are pursued.

Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien said residents’ associations would still be able to take judicial reviews – although they must have a vote passed by two thirds of members casting a ballot, as well as other hurdles such as having a Constitution underpinning the association.

“That in my view actually helps give access to justice,” Mr O’Brien said, adding that planned environmental courts and a new scheme to meet the costs of taking a legal case and safeguards for the place of environmental Non-Government Organisations (NGOs) would also safeguard participation.

Describing the bill as “well balanced”, he said: “Central to that is individuals and indeed groups having their right to have their say.”

The Government has promised that a new Environmental Legal Costs Scheme will not be “prohibitively expensive”, but while it has signalled the level of contribution to costs from the scheme could be up to 100 per cent, the bill will not set out exactly what level they will be paid out or if litigants will be asked to meet them upfront and then claim them back.

Minister for the Environment and Green Party leader Eamon Ryan, who has faced opposition in his party to aspects of the bill, conceded there have been concerns and that there may be more to come, but said the legislation was needed for environmental justice and to deliver on climate targets.

He said the level of costs would be sketched out in secondary legislation that would be drawn up as the primary legislation works its way through the house. He promised there would be increased support for An Bord Pleanála – which will be renamed An Comisiún Pleanála under the bill – and local authorities. He said a “bigger state” was one of the objectives he had set for the budget and that this would be reflected in investment in the planning system.

The bill will introduce new deadlines for decisions by An Bord Pleanála, as well as the possibility of fines for not complying with them. However, there is no clarity on exactly when the system of fines will come online or what level they will be at.

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