Planning Bill poses ‘severe risk’ to 38,000 homes in pipeline, claims lobby group

Lobby group seeks provision to extend timeline for planning permissions delayed by judicial review

Failure to pause the planning clock for developments subject to judicial review under the new Planning and Development Bill poses a “severe risk” to the delivery of at least 38,000 homes in the construction pipeline, lobby group Irish Institutional Property (IIP) has warned Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien.

In a letter to Mr O’Brien, Pat Farrell, who heads the group representing institutional investors in the property market said the omission of such a provision would directly affect permissions for about 17,000 homes working their way through the courts system, as well as some 21,000 units in “pipeline permissions now clear and due to commence”.

The standard duration of a planning permission is five years from the date it is granted. An approved development must be substantially completed within that time.

The clock does not stop if a project is subject to a judicial review. IIP says the legal challenges could take between nine and 12 months to conclude on the fast-track list, extending to more than three years if appeals or references are made to the Court of Justice of the European Union (ECJ).


IIP described this time frame as “very tight” for schemes. It says that it takes 12 to 18 months to mobilise a project, with the construction phase taking between two and four years.

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In the letter, obtained by The Irish Times under the Freedom of Information Act, Mr Farrell said that as the construction industry was facing an “exceptional increase in the cost of finance”, there would be fewer planning applications brought forward over the coming years, with the focus shifting to delivering what is already permitted.

“These crucial extant permits are at risk of being redundant unless legal provisions exist that allow them time to be built out during this next period of subdued activity,” he noted in the letter, which was sent in November last year.

He noted that IIP members as well as other home builders countrywide have been “proactively protect[ing] expiring permits still stuck in the legal system” on the understanding that the Bill would include a provision to extend permissions for projects delayed by judicial review.

Mr Farrell also noted that the Bill would require any application for an extension of existing planning permission to comply with the development plan in force at the time of the extension application, rather than the plan under which the scheme was originally approved.

This requirement was, he said, “wholly unfeasible” and could render many schemes only partially complete. It would leave thousands of schemes unable to commence given the lack of certainty that they could be built out in full.

In a statement regarding IIP’s letter, a Department of Housing spokesperson said the Dáil committee stage of the Planning and Development Bill 2023 began on Tuesday and that a Government amendment to pause planning permissions that were subject to judicial review had been tabled for debate.

“If accepted, the new legislation will enable planning permissions to be paused where a judicial review is initiated —ensuring that if the judicial review is not upheld, a developer will have the full term of the permission to build the development,” said the spokesperson.

Ellen O'Regan

Ellen O’Regan

Ellen O’Regan is an Irish Times journalist.