Planners will clear bottlenecks that are stalling home building and other key building projects early next year, Minister for Housing and Local Government Darragh O’Brien said on Wednesday.
An Bord Pleanála has 15 full-time board members and has stabilised since recent controversies that dogged it, the Minister told the Irish House Builders’ Association’s (IHBA) Prospects 2024 conference in Dublin.
He said planners had told him they expected to clear bottlenecks that have delayed new home building and other projects “by quarter one or early quarter two” next year.
“They are working through that backlog now,” Mr O’Brien added. “There are 250 people working in An Bord Pleanála, with 60 new posts approved.”
Organisations including the Construction Industry Federation (CIF) – of which the IHBA is a part – have consistently argued that the planning board and councils need resources to handle applications to build badly needed new homes.
Other groups have warned that planning delays threaten the National Development Plan and the State’s efforts to boost green energy, a key part of its climate policy.
The Minister said he would bring the Planning and Development Bill 2023 to second stage in the Dáil on Thursday. The Oireachtas is scheduled to pass the 700-page Bill, one of the biggest published in the State’s history, early next year.
“This will bring three things: confidence, clarity and consistency, to our planning system,” he added.
Claragh Mulhern, acting principal planning adviser in Mr O’Brien’s department, told the conference that, if it is passed, the new law would come into force in phases. She added that officials were working on secondary legislation needed for this.
She explained that the legislation, meant to overhaul the current system, took a plan-led approach to development “so that everybody has clarity upfront in terms of what’s being proposed and where it’s being proposed”.
Mr O’Brien confirmed to the gathering that the State would build more than 4,000 affordable homes this year, the largest number since the early 1970s.
Overall, the Government is confident the Republic will beat its target of building 29,000 new homes in 2023, the Minister said. “And we have a very strong pipeline into next year and beyond.”
Mr O’Brien argued that various Government schemes to boost building and affordability were working. Some 500 first-time buyers are now drawing down mortgages every week, said.
Cost Rental, Affordable Housing and the Secure Tenancy Affordable Rental schemes were all having an impact, he said, adding that the Government stuck with them despite stiff criticism from several quarters.
The Minister noted that in Budget 2024 the Government had pledged to spend €5.1 billion on continuing schemes that were securing homes for thousands of families.
He warned that “abolition” was the only alternative that political opponents offered to these schemes.