Fast-track planning process won’t be wound up until June next year

Sinn Féin accuses Government of delaying the abolition of SHD legislation

The State’s fast-track planning process will not be fully wound up until next June, several months later than expected.

Pre-planning applications for strategic housing developments (SHDs) will be allowed up until December 17th under the Government’s plan to abolish the SHD legislation, which has become mired in legal challenges.

This means developers could in theory submit planning applications under the SHD rules up until June 2022 with applications being decided on up until October 2022.

Introduced in 2016, SHD legislation aimed to speed up the planning process by allowing developers to apply directly to An Bord Pleanála for housing developments of at least 100 units or student accommodation developments containing 200 beds or more.


However, the system has been derailed by a litany of legal challenges and so the Government has now moved to end the process earlier than next February, when it was due to expire.

The Government’s new large-scale residential development legislation, which gives decision-making powers back to local authorities but with tighter timelines around decision-making, is expected to come into effect in December.

Sinn Féin criticism

Sinn Féin has criticised the Government and Minister for Housing Darragh O'Brien for delaying the abolition of the legislation.

“Contrary to what Minister O’Brien is saying, the flawed SHD planning legislation will unfortunately be with us through most of 2022, with the process open for planning applications until June 2022, with some applications continuing up until October, with the possibility of legal action late into 2022,” the party’s housing spokesman, Eoin Ó Broin, said.

“For those applications not yet in pre-planning but where developers submit pre-planning applications before the 17th of December, they will now have until June 2022 to get their applications in,” he said.

“This allows for the nine-week An Bord Pleanála pre-planning process, and if successful, a 16-week full planning timeline takes us up until June 2022,” Mr Ó Broin said.

“All this means that it is feasible that SHD applications will continue to be decided on up until October 2022,” he said.

He said his party would submit amendments at committee stage of the new legislation to limit these timelines.

The Department of Housing confirmed in September that almost two-thirds of the 210 housing projects approved under the SHD fast-track planning laws remained undeveloped. More than half have been halted by judicial reviews.

The replacement large-scale residential development process is similarly designed to deal with applications for housing developments containing 100 or more units or student accommodation developments comprising 200 bed spaces or more.

Under the new legislation, planning authorities will be required to complete the final consultation meeting within eight weeks of a request.

They will also have to give a decision on large-scale residential development planning applications within eight weeks of receiving them.

There will also be a 16-week mandatory timeframe for decisions on subsequent appeals to An Bord Pleanála, bringing the maximum possible duration of the process to 32 weeks.

Eoin Burke-Kennedy

Eoin Burke-Kennedy

Eoin Burke-Kennedy is Economics Correspondent of The Irish Times