Varadkar promises law to block ‘vexatious’ planning challenges

Large projects approved in fast-track planning process have faced court challenges

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has promised new laws to tackle ‘vexatious’ court challenges to housing and other building projects. Photograph: Rui Vieira/PA Wire

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has promised new laws to tackle ‘vexatious’ court challenges to housing and other building projects. Photograph: Rui Vieira/PA Wire

 

New laws will tackle “vexatious” court challenges to housing and other building projects, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar warned on Wednesday.

Mr Varadkar told the Construction Industry Federation annual conference in Croke Park that the Government would publish a new planning Bill shortly.

He acknowledged that it was frustrating for builders and planners to see good projects end up facing sometimes “vexatious” judicial reviews in the High Court. “That’s something, in my view, that’s going to have to change and this Bill will change it,” the Taoiseach pledged.

Over the last year, large housing projects approved by An Bord Pleanála under a fast-track planning scheme have faced court challenges. These include a judicial review of developer Marlet’s plan to build more than 500 homes in Raheny, Dublin. The company made a fresh application for the project earlier this year.

The controversial fast-track planning scheme, which applies to all projects involving 100 or more new homes, allows developers seek permission direct from An Bord Pleanála rather than going through local councils.

Although the board’s decisions cannot be appealed, interested parties can ask High Court judges to review them to ensure planners have followed procedures properly.

Mr Varadkar also confirmed that the Government intended increasing spending on public construction projects by €900 million next year.

“It will happen, [Brexit] deal or no deal,” he added, referring to fears that the Government will rein in spending if the UK crashes out of the EU without an agreement at the end of this month.

The Taoiseach agreed that the Republic was still not building enough new homes to ease the housing crisis.

“About 20,000 new homes were built in the last year, but that’s from a very low base and far short of the 30,000-35,000 that we need to get to,” he said.