Planning authorities, including the new An Coimisiún Pleanála, will face penalties if they do not meet statutory deadlines for processing planning applications, the acting assistant secretary for planning at the Department of Housing will tell an Oireachtas committee on Tuesday.
The Draft Planning and Development Bill 2022 will provide users of the planning system with “greater certainty through the introduction of a range of mandatory timelines”, Paul Hogan will tell the housing committee.
“An Bord Pleanála will be renamed An Coimisiún Pleanála and will have a revised organisational structure and these new timelines are of central importance to this process,” Mr Hogan’s opening statement submitted to the committee ahead of his appearance states. “Penalties will apply for non-compliance with these timelines and the details for both the penalties and timelines are presently being worked through by the department.”
Details of the penalties are expected to be submitted to the committee early next month, it says.
The new legislation is intended to reduce the number of judicial reviews, which have been blamed for slowing down development of housing and other infrastructure. However, concerns have been raised, including by the Green Party, that it restricts public participation in the planning process. Mr Hogan will tell the committee the Bill will bring “increased clarity” as to who can seek to take a judicial review.
“In the future, a case can be taken either by an individual or an environmental NGO or association where there is sufficient interest in the case and other requirements such as being incorporated as a company are met.”
Groups such as residents associations will still be able to seek a judicial review, “but must comply with these requirements. If they do not, the members of the association may seek review either individually or collectively, as the provisions in the draft Bill do not prevent this,” the statement says.
The Bill will also limit the circumstances in which local authorities and An Coimisiún Pleanála can make planning decisions that contravene the development plan approved by councillors, Mr Hogan’s submission says.
“Overall, these changes should be seen in the context of other policy developments, including greater consistency of approach with regard to planning policy and more limited grounds for material contravention in planning decisions, and should reduce the instances in which citizens feel that they have no option but to resort to judicial review, while protecting their rights to do so should they consider it necessary.”