Planning system from last century stalls housebuilding – report

Irish Homebuilders Association calls for urgent overhaul of permissions

The Irish Homebuilders Association estimates that Ireland needs 33,000-36,000 new housing units a year to meet demand. Photograph: Alan Betson

The Irish Homebuilders Association estimates that Ireland needs 33,000-36,000 new housing units a year to meet demand. Photograph: Alan Betson

 

The Republic is attempting to meet 21st century housing demand with a 20th century planning system, according to the Irish Homebuilders Association (IHBA).

In a report, the industry body claims the delivery of new homes is being impeded by “unnecessary delays” within the planning system.

It points to the high level of paperwork involved in a typical application and the fact that most of the application process is still manual rather than digital.

It also claims that underfunding at a local authority level is creating a backlog in applications.

IHBA director James Benson said the current design guidelines, which favoured high-density development, needed to be more “bespoke”.

He also said planning permission was no guarantee of viability because of the myriad of processes, including judicial reviews, that could stall a project.

The IHBA’s report – Planning Reform Necessary to Expedite the Delivery of Housing – recommends the State adopt greater use of outline planning permissions to help define strategic design and planning issues at the outset, rather than at the end, in order to reduce costs.

In its report, the IHBA estimates the Republic needs 33,000-36,000 new housing units a year to meet demand and calls for an urgent overhaul of the planning system to deliver this.

The report makes several key recommendations aimed at unblocking the system, including setting up an electronic planning system “to speed up and promote greater participation in the planning process”.

It also calls for the introduction of “viability testing” on all plans to ensure equitable weighting to market requirements.

Vacant site levies

The IHBA wants the Government to introduce a more equitable treatment of vacant site levies, which would reflect the reasons why there might be delays progressing on a site.

Local authorities should provide a schedule of all zoned lands to identify any barriers to delivery of homes, it said, while highlighting the bureaucracy around Irish Water as an impediment to developing sites.

“It is agreed that Ireland needs on average between 33,000-36,000 new homes across all tenure types delivered annually for the next two decades,” Mr Benson said.

“But we are trying to meet the demands of the 21st century with a 20th century planning system. The result is unnecessary delays to homebuilding up and down the country,” he said.

“This landmark report identifies the need for certainty and speed in the delivery of viable housing schemes, while respecting the importance of the planning process,” he said.

“We have identified practical, achievable solutions to improve the planning system in Ireland and help meet our common goals of much needed new homes in Ireland,” Mr Benson said.