Number of housing units stalled by judicial reviews jumps by 1,000%

Report by construction consultants Mitchell McDermott details massive jump in objections to planning decisions

The number of potential units in Strategic Housing Developments (SHDs) in Dublin that have either been quashed or held up by judicial reviews jumped by more than 1,000 per cent last year, according to a report by construction consultants Mitchell McDermott.

The SHD scheme, established in 2017 to ramp up the delivery of housing, allows developers seeking permission for 100 residential units or more to bypass local authorities and apply directly to An Bord Pleanála for planning.

However, developers have complained that the fast-track process is being frustrated by judicial reviews of the planning decisions, often for minor issues.

In its annual report on the construction sector, Mitchell McDermott said while only 508 potential housing units were affected by judicial reviews in Dublin in 2019, that figure jumped to 5,802 last year.


Nationally, there has been a seven-fold increase – from 1,048 units affected in 2019 to 6,969 in 2020, it said.

The report noted that almost 65,000 residential units have been granted planning permission under the SHD process since its introduction in 2017.

Worrying trend

Paul Mitchell, one of the authors of the report, described the increase in judicial reviews as a worrying trend.

“The SHD process was designed to fast-track the planning process for residential units in order to alleviate the current housing supply crisis,” he said, noting 30 per cent of units in these developments were stalled due to the judicial process, compared to 4 per cent in 2019.

“The country’s annual residential output is 20,000 units, so that puts that figure in context and shows the disproportionate effect these reviews are having on potential developments,” he said.

Mr Mitchell said an SHD application takes about 40 weeks.

“If a SHD planning permission is quashed, for whatever reason, the application has to be resubmitted to An Bord Pleanála. This will take four to six months, adding substantial costs to a development,” he said.

“We would like to see a more measured approach adopted whereby if permission is quashed due to relatively minor administrative issues, the applicant does not have to restart the process again,” he said.

According to the report, overall construction costs increased by 3.4 per cent last year and are predicted to rise by between 2.5 and 3 per cent this year but this could be higher because of supply chain bottlenecks and Brexit-related disruption.

It estimated the value of construction output in the Republic remained unchanged at €23 billion last year despite the impact of Covid-19.

Current lockdown

Output in 2021 is, however, forecast to fall to €20 billion because of the current lockdown, which has resulted in the closure of most building sites.

The report estimated that Dublin will see more than 4,000 new hotel beds in 2021 even though most new schemes are currently on hold.

It also predicted that more than €7 billion will be invested in the construction of data centres here over the next five years.

The report found that Dublin is still the largest data centre market in Europe with London its closest rival among the key FLAPD group (Frankfurt, London, Amsterdam, Paris and Dublin).

Eoin Burke-Kennedy

Eoin Burke-Kennedy

Eoin Burke-Kennedy is Economics Correspondent of The Irish Times