‘Painfully slow’ planning decisions are holding Ireland back, says Ryan

Minister rejects idea of ‘shame and blame’ for SUV owners after Senator calls for financial penalties for such cars

The inability of An Bord Pleanála to make timely decisions is the “greatest problem facing the country”, Minister for the Environment Eamon Ryan has said.

Mr Ryan warned that all major public transport infrastructure projects necessary to help Ireland reach its climate targets will be subject to considerable delays.

He told the Joint Committee On Environment and Climate Action that delays at the planning level were affecting critical decisions relevant to the future.

“It is the biggest problem in my mind in terms of meeting our climate targets, delivering housing, water and other infrastructure we need for our future,” he told the committee.


He admitted the rollout of BusConnects, the Government’s flagship programme to create fast corridors for buses has been “painfully slow and that speaks to a wider problem we have in our planning system”.

A planning decision on the Clongriffin to Dublin city centre BusConnects project, which was due last October, has now been postponed until this summer at the earliest.

Mr Ryan told the committee he is supportive of the planning bill coming before the Oireachtas which will given An Bord Pleanála extra resources to make decisions.

BusConnects in Dublin had a “difficult birth”, he admitted, and the original proposals which would have led to the loss of gardens and trees to facilitate bus corridors was a “mistake” by the National Transport Authority (NTA).

However, the NTA had learned from the original proposals and came back with revised plans which were more acceptable to the people involved.

Senator Alice Mary Higgins told the committee the failure to punish the owners of SUVs was part of the Government’s unwillingness to tackle the wealthy. She cited a UCC report which showed that half of all new cars sold in 2021 were SUVs.

Senator Higgins told the committee that other countries, France being one of them, were penalising the owners of SUVs by taxing the weight of the car.

“If there is a climate emergency, you don’t sell SUVs,” she said. “This isn’t a side topic, it’s very central.”

In reply, Mr Ryan said the response was not to “shame and blame people”. Any changes that would specifically tackle SUVs would be have to be through the Department of Finance and such a move was being looked at.

The size of SUVs was also raised at the committee by former minister for energy Richard Bruton who said the manufacture of the average SUV generated 35 tonnes of CO2 compared to 10 tonnes for an ordinary car.

“That is not in the conversation here at all, whereas it is making its way into the construction conversation,” he told the committee. “Should we try to broaden that conversation?”

Green Party TD Brian Reddin said 99 per cent of cars on the road have a larger cross-section than a standard Volkswagen Passat from the 1980s or 1990s which was regarded as a generously sized family car.

Huge amounts of energy are being expended building cars that are an average weight of two tonnes each and the Government should be incentivising people to buy smaller cars.

Senator Higgins said car owners who are driving cars more than 20 years ago old will be penalised from April 1st as their engines will not be able to use the E10 unleaded petrol here.

Many cars will have to be scrapped which she said will affect poorer car owners.

Mr Ryan said the only cars that will be affected by the change to E10 unleaded petrol will be vintage cars and there are a “tiny” amount of them on the road.

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy is a news reporter with The Irish Times