An Bord Pleanála backlog delays construction of more than 22,000 homes

The largest number of strategic housing apartment applications is in Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown

Applications made under the Strategic Housing Development system, designed to fast-track the development of homes, are now waiting an average of 79 weeks for determination by An Bord Pleanála.

Applications for more than 22,000 homes in strategic housing sites, the majority in Dublin, remain stuck in the planning process due the decision-making backlog in An Bord Pleanála.

The applications made under the Strategic Housing Development (SHD) system, designed to fast-track the development of homes, are now waiting an average of 79 weeks for determination by the board, which had a statutory mandate to issue decisions within 16 weeks.

Under the SHD system introduced in 2017 applications for large-scale house, apartment and student accommodation schemes were made directly to An Bord Pleanála, instead of being first submitted to county and city councils. The system was introduced to speed up the delivery of homes, as most large schemes were the subject of appeals to the board.

The SHD system was scrapped last year, but 58 applications submitted before the deadline, accounting for a total of 22,135 homes are still awaiting decision by the board. The vast majority of applications were for apartments, at more than 15,000, with another 1,489 duplex units, 4,231 houses and 1,280 student accommodation units.


Almost 60 per cent of all SHD applications still pending decision are in Dublin. The highest number of delayed homes in the Fingal County Council area at 4,576, followed by Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council at 3,940, Dublin City Council at 2,631 and South Dublin County Council at 2,118.

The largest number of apartment applications still awaiting decision are in the Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown area, where some of the largest single developments are planned. Here the fate of 3,625 apartment proposals remains undecided. Dún Laoghaire also has a higher wait time for decisions than the Dubin average with applicants waiting 85 weeks for a decision compared to 81 across the capital as a whole.

Local Fine Gael councillor Barry Saul said the backlog was having a “disastrous effect on housing, job creation and increased rates income to Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council.”

Prime development areas such as Cherrywood and Sandyford were being held back with no clear timeline for when decisions would be made “There are thousands of apartments being held up in the middle of a housing crisis.”

Mr Saul has written to Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien urging him to provide additional resources to the board to clear the backlog.

A spokeswoman for Mr O’Brien said the board had been allocated additional resources. “With the increase in the number of Board members and, in conjunction with the significant increase in resourcing and the filling of these posts in a timely manner, An Bord Pleanála is working to address the backlog of cases that are currently awaiting a decision as quickly as possible,” she said.

“The Board have advised that it is running simultaneous board meetings and now has the capacity to hold board meetings in both the morning and evening to progress decision-making on cases. They are accelerating their work in addressing the backlog and have said they intend to restore ‘normal’ levels of operation by year-end.”

A spokeswoman for the board said it was working to reduce the backlog of cases. “In the above context, improvement in compliance with statutory time objectives is expected to begin to manifest itself in 2024.”

The board would be applying “different prioritisation” to cases “and therefore will not deal with all cases in chronological order,” she said.

“In relation to SHD cases, several SHD cases have recently either been determined or will be determined in the coming weeks. The Board’s ability to determine all remaining SHD cases (50+) has been impacted as it awaits the outcome of certain legal issues concerning the SHD legislation by the Supreme Court in December.”

Olivia Kelly

Olivia Kelly

Olivia Kelly is Dublin Editor of The Irish Times