Fifty thousand homes could face court challenge, builder warns

Planning system unlikely to settle down for two years, Cairn Homes chief executive says

Plans for about 50,000 new houses in the Republic could end up in court, Michael Stanley, chief executive of builder Cairn Homes, warned on Thursday.

Mr Stanley was speaking after Cairn confirmed its operations earned a €58.4 million profit last year from selling 1,120 new homes for a total of €424 million.

He noted that proposals for 11,000 new dwellings in the Republic faced High Court challenges, while 87,000 more were in the planning system.

Mr Stanley estimated that 50 per cent of the 98,000 total “could be stalled” by opponents seeking judicial reviews of planners’ decisions to allow those projects.


“The reality is that not all of those 50,000 homes are inappropriate for their particular locations or are badly planned,” he argued.

Mr Stanley observed that the planning system was nearing a point where Irish or European Union court judges were “being asked to opine on what’s best for the housing market”.

Builders, politicians and others have blamed the planning system for stymying efforts to tackle the Republic’s housing bottlenecks.

A fast-track planning scheme – the Strategic Housing Initiative – allowed developers intending to build 100 or more new homes in a single project to bypass councils and go straight to An Bord Pleanála.

Opponents of many developments granted planning through the scheme have gone to the High Court in a bid to overturn the planners’ decisions.

The scheme ended in February when the Oireachtas replaced it with a new law requiring builders to seek permission from local councils for big housing projects.

Mr Stanley predicted that “people who just want to stop building everywhere” could challenge the new legislation in the courts.

"I do not see the planning situation in Ireland settling down for at least two years," he said.

New homes

The construction chief executive agreed that 30,000 new homes could be built in the Republic this year.

However, he questioned if the current state of the planning system would allow builders to sustain that beyond 2022.

Official bodies, including the Central Bank, say the Republic should build 30,000 to 35,000 new homes a year to meet its needs.

Cairn sold its average starter home for €350,000 last year, despite sharp rises in building costs.

Mr Stanley said he did not share optimism that building cost inflation would ease by the year’s end.

Cairn builds mostly around Dublin, where its properties include land in the upmarket Donnybrook suburb sold by RTÉ.

It began work on its first site in Cork, at Castletreasure, Douglas, in 2021, and plans to build in Galway, Kilkenny and Limerick in the coming three years.

Last year it started building at Mercer Vale in Dublin, Whitethorn Village in Naas, Co Kildare, Archers Wood in Co Wicklow and other areas close to the capital. Cairn sold its 5,000th home in 2021.

Ciara O'Brien

Ciara O'Brien

Ciara O'Brien is an Irish Times business and technology journalist

Barry O'Halloran

Barry O'Halloran

Barry O’Halloran covers energy, construction, insolvency, and gaming and betting, among other areas