Cantillon: ‘Rebuilding Ireland’ a tall order

Planning disputes a regular feature of system

Developer Michael O’Flynn:   planning system seems to pitch councils against builders. Photograph:  Daragh MacSweeney/Provision

Developer Michael O’Flynn: planning system seems to pitch councils against builders. Photograph: Daragh MacSweeney/Provision

 

O’Flynn Capital Partners’ planning victory over Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council and the Construction Industry Federation’s (CIF) repeated warning that a lack of infrastructure is hindering housing development show that we are a long way from tackling the biggest crisis facing the State.

Last month the Government pledged that more than 130,000 new homes would be provided between now and 2021, that is 26,000 a year, in a plan called “Rebuilding Ireland”. It is a tall order in light of yesterday’s news.

The High Court found that Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council’s decision last year to refuse the Michael O’Flynn-led O’Flynn Capital Partners permission to build 164 new homes in Cabinteely in Dublin was unlawful, and should be set aside, paving the way for the developer to make a fresh application for the project.

The council refused permission just over a year ago. Mr Justice Robert Haughton said the the authority misapplied its own planning scheme, had regard to improper motive or had taken irrelevant considerations into account in doing so, and failed to give adequate reasons for part of its decision.

At the same time, the CIF reiterated its warning that a lack of infrastructure, a direct consequence of cuts dating back to 2008, is holding up house building. In an exercise in 2015, it identified sites dotted around the capital, where the construction of new homes cannot go ahead because they have no services such as roads, drainage and water.

The two are typical of the problems facing development around the State: a planning system that seems to pitch councils against builders and a lack of services that means no-one can yet build houses in areas actually zoned for that purpose.

The Government’s plans, announced by Minister for Housing Simon Coveney include €200 million to tackle the infrastructure shortfall that is holding up development in areas that already have planning permission for housing. Nonetheless, we have no real idea of how long that might take.

When it comes to actually getting planning, disputes such as that between O’Flynn Capital and Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown seem to be a regular feature of the system, despite efforts to take the adversarial edge out of it.

The Government’s targets to tackle the crisis had to be ambitious, but you get the feeling that the politicians have little sense of the difficulties involved in even getting us moving towards them, let alone actually hitting them.

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