Judges dealing with planning disputes must see ‘will of Oireachtas’, department says

Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien says new planning Bill will be delivered before the summer recess ‘come hell or high water’

Judges dealing with planning challenges will in future have to “very clearly understand” what the will of the Oireachtas is if Taoiseach Simon Harris’s housing targets are to be met, the Department of Housing has said.

Mr Harris has pledged to build 250,000 homes over the next five years, a target expected to be backed in revised estimates to meet demand by the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) in the coming weeks.

Paul Hogan, who is acting assistant secretary and head of the planning division at the Department of Housing, told the Irish Home Builders Association’s house-building summit in Croke Park on Tuesday that this “step up” will require a “more robust planning system”.

“It’s going to be really, really important that the judiciary very clearly understand what the will of the Oireachtas is and what the local authority ambitions are in any development plans,” he said.


Dr Kieran McQuinn, research professor with the ESRI, said the target, when coupled with targets for retrofitting, will require 200,000 workers in the construction industry, which would represent an increase of about one-third on current numbers.

Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien also told the conference that “the last place” where planning decisions should be made is in court.

“We need a planning system that has certainty, that has consistency, and that has clarity,” he said. “We need a set time for investors, that if you know if you lodge an application, it goes to An Coimisiún Pleanála – that it will be dealt with in a timely manner.

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“We also need to make sure that continued objections and delays to schemes through judicial review and through other mechanisms do not continue at the level they have. The last place planning decisions should be made is in court,” the Minister said.

“I do not want a situation continuing that we have continued serial objections holding up schemes, holding up homes, and holding up strategic infrastructure that we need.”

In that context, Mr O’Brien said the new planning Bill would be delivered by the Oireachtas before the summer recess, “come hell or high water”.

Mr O’Brien said the Help to Buy and First Home schemes – both of which offer financial supports to first-time buyers seeking to get on the property ladder – would be extended for another five years.

He added he had received approval at a Cabinet subcommittee on housing on Monday night to extend the waiver of development levies and the refund of the Uisce Éireann connection charge until the end of the year.

The temporary waiver of development contributions – levies charged by local authorities on new housing developments – was introduced last year but is due to lapse later this month.

The suspension of the levies was intended to stimulate the building of new housing developments, and the level of commencements has increased sharply in the last 12 months. Ministers and senior officials believe the measure is working, and want to extend it.

Colin Gleeson

Colin Gleeson

Colin Gleeson is an Irish Times reporter