Subscriber OnlyHousing & Planning

Glenveagh waiting more than 600 days for An Bord Pleanála decisions

More than 22,000 homes in strategic housing developments that are designed to fast track delivery of homes remain stuck in the planning process due to backlogs at the board

One of the State’s biggest housebuilders has said it is waiting more than 600 days for An Bord Pleanála to decide whether to grant permission for some of its large developments.

The head of planning at Glenveagh said there continues to be “serious delays” in processing strategic housing development (SHD) applications and requests to build projects of less than 100 homes.

Speaking to The Irish Times, David Caffrey, whose primary role is to obtain “implementable” planning permissions, said Glenveagh was vocal in its criticism of the lack of decisions being made by An Bord Pleanála during 2022, which has affected the firm’s housing delivery this year.

There continues to be significant delays associated with applications made directly to the board under the now-extinct SHD process, designed to fast-track the delivery of homes, and for smaller projects that have been appealed from local councils.


These smaller applications were taking an average of 500 to 600 days to determine and this uncertainty in timelines was a “critical concern”, he said. The company has SHDs in the system for more than 600 days, despite the statutory mandate requiring the board to deliver decisions within 16 weeks.

The Irish Times reported last month that applications for more than 22,000 SHD homes remained stuck in the planning process due to An Bord Pleanála backlogs.

However, Mr Caffrey commended a “pretty impressive turnaround” in 2023 regarding the board’s capacity to quickly consider proposals under the new large-scale residential development (LRD) regime, in which local councils are first-instance decision-makers.

He believes the planning authority has placed a “huge emphasis” on upholding the integrity of the LRD process and delivering appeal adjudications within the 16-week statutory objective.

“To be fair, our experience in 2023 has certainly been that they have achieved... It is clear, from the outside anyway, that An Bord Pleanála has placed significant time, effort and resources in the LRD process, which obviously Glenveagh would welcome,” he said.

The challenges faced by the board, particularly in 2022, had a “marked impact” on the financial side of the business, said Jack Gorman, head of investor relations and corporate affairs at Glenveagh.

In January the company revised downwards its forecast for 1,700 suburban completions this year to about 1,350, he said. This reduced expected profits by about €20 million, which was a “very significant hit to our own expectations”.

Investors seek certainty about unit delivery this year, next year and the year after, he said. These numbers come with a risk when you layer in the possibility of a permission being challenged in the High Court through the judicial review procedure, he added.

Mr Caffrey said the company has two permissions under judicial review challenge that are live in the High Court’s planning and environment division.

One of these was awaiting answers to legal questions referred to the Court of Justice of the EU in another case, unconnected to Glenveagh permissions, that was dismissed in recent weeks.

Mr Caffrey said he keeps a “very close eye” on any planning questions referred to Europe or the superior courts, as “we know that is going to have implications for any current cases or future cases we may have”.

He welcomed the 2023 Planning and Development Bill as “broadly positive”, while acknowledging “nobody can get away from the fear of those unintended consequences”, such as it creating fresh legal issues to litigate.

“New Bill, new Act – it inevitably means new challenges, because we have all become so familiar with the Planning and Development Act from 2000, albeit amended numerous times,” he said.

The Bill is designed to bring clarity to the wider planning system, and Glenveagh would broadly encourage measures such as extending local development plan lifespans from six years to 10, he added.

In its latest annual report, An Bord Pleanála said it received 135 SHD applications in 2022 and disposed of 80. In 2021 it received 126 SHD requests and gave decisions in 115.

The board sustained one €10,000 penalty for missing its 16-week statutory objective for determining an SHD applications. In 2022 it had to make 134 such payments, totalling €1.34 million.

The board blamed the “significant number” of SHD cases received at the same time during 2022, in part due to the ending of the SHD legislation at the end of 2021.

  • Sign up for push alerts and have the best news, analysis and comment delivered directly to your phone
  • Find The Irish Times on WhatsApp and stay up to date
  • Our In The News podcast is now published daily – Find the latest episode here
Ellen O'Riordan

Ellen O'Riordan

Ellen O'Riordan is an Irish Times reporter