Planning system threatens State’s reputation abroad, says IDA

Agency tasked with attracting foreign direct investment criticises ‘protracted’ process

IDA Ireland chief executive Martin Shanahan: the agency says the efficiency of Ireland’s planning system has become an area of reputational risk to the State.

IDA Ireland chief executive Martin Shanahan: the agency says the efficiency of Ireland’s planning system has become an area of reputational risk to the State.

 

Ireland’s planning system and, in particular, the “protracted nature” of the judicial review process has become an area of “reputational risk to the State” and threatens international investment here, IDA Ireland has said.

Reports at the weekend suggested US microchip giant Intel is becoming increasingly concerned about delays in the Irish planning system and the rising number of judicial review cases being taken against planning decisions.

The company met employers’ group Ibec last week to outline concerns about the system, and in particular the increasing number of legal challenges being taken by environmental groups and other objectors against large infrastructure projects.

Intel’s plans for its Leixlip site have been subject of a number of planning appeals and judicial reviews over the past 10 years.

Planning delays

Intel is believed to have told Ibec that the long delays in the Irish planning system, coupled with the sharp rise in judicial review cases against large projects, was a key risk in how the company viewed Ireland as a location for future decisions on FDI.

IDA Ireland, which is the State agency tasked with attracting foreign direct investment, said on Monday that “an efficient planning system is extremely important to Ireland’s economic competitiveness”.

“Multinational investors require certainty in relation to the timelines for delivery of their planned capital projects,” said a spokeswoman. “IDA Ireland fully supports the need for appropriate checks and balances within Ireland’s planning processes.

“However, in recent years the efficiency of Ireland’s planning system, particularly the protracted nature of the judicial review process, has become an area of reputational risk to the State.

“In an increasingly competitive international marketplace, this has the potential to hinder IDA Ireland’s efforts to attract significant overseas investors.

“It may also present an additional obstacle to expansion and second-site investments from existing multinational clients.”

Judicial review

The spokeswoman added that the judicial review process “can be conducted in a more efficient manner that adheres to certain well understood timelines, while continuing to respect public participation rights and fully complying with our obligations under EU law”.

“In this regard it is essential that we do not allow a situation to develop where judicial review could be perceived as a de facto additional step in Ireland’s planning process for strategically important projects,” she said.

“Equally, we must guard against any potential for litigation to become a mechanism that delays investment and increases costs to such an extent that projects become commercially unviable, notwithstanding that the planning decisions underpinning those projects may ultimately be upheld by the courts.”

IDA Ireland addressed this issue earlier this year in its submission to the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform in relation to the forthcoming National Development Plan.

Intel chief executive Pat Gelsinger said in recent weeks that the Republic is in the running to land a major new multibillion-dollar Intel investment.

Investment

The company is planning to invest as much as €80 billion in Europe over the next decade to boost the continent’s semiconductor production capacity, with plans for two major new European fabrications plants to be announced by the end of the year.

There has been speculation that Germany and France would be most likely to land the investments, with Poland – where Intel has had operations for many years – also up for consideration.

However, speaking to The Irish Times on a visit to the company’s facility in Leixlip, Co Kildare, in recent weeks, Mr Gelsinger indicated that Ireland was also in the running to secure the microchip plant, which could bring 10,000 jobs with it.

However, the Business Post has reported that the US technology giant has warned that delays in the planning system are a key reason why Ireland may not be selected.