Planning applications across the Republic up 20%

Decisions given within eight weeks in 88%of cases in Dublin city; national average 67%

While the fee for a one-off house is €65, and €34 for an extension, fees for larger residential and commercial developments increase in line with the size of the development. Photograph: The Irish Times

While the fee for a one-off house is €65, and €34 for an extension, fees for larger residential and commercial developments increase in line with the size of the development. Photograph: The Irish Times

 

The number of planning applications made to local authorities across the State rose by 20 per cent last year, with Dublin City Council receiving almost 50 per cent more applications than in 2014.

The number of applications submitted to local authorities in 2014 grew for the first time since the economic downturn, but the increase was modest at just under 4 per cent, according to figures from the Department of Housing and Planning

However, in 2015 the number rose throughout the Republic from 22,001 in 2014 to 26,451, and while almost all counties saw some increase – albeit from a very low base in some cases – Dublin city saw a dramatic increase of nearly 47 per cent, up to 2,734 applications.

Increases were modest in the neighbouring local authority areas of Dún Laoghaire Rathdown, where applications rose by just under 1 per cent to 1,342, and Fingal where applications increased by 8 per cent to 1,066.

But there was a substantial increase in South Dublin, up 22 per cent to 735, and in the commuter counties of Meath, where applications were up 32 per cent to 1,101, and Louth, which saw an increase of almost 29 per cent to 678.

The department’s figures encompass all planning permissions sought. These range from large scale residential and commercial developments to domestic extensions, alterations such as putting a new sign on a shop, applications for change of use of a premises, extensions of the duration of permission, permission to retain work already undertaken, and many other developments.

This makes it difficult to extrapolate from the figures an increase in large scale housing or commercial developments.

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“It is a significant increase, but a far more important determinant of an increase in construction activity is the number of large scale applications, that’s what indicates the economy is coming back in the city,” Dublin City Council’s head of planning Jim Keogan said.

The increase in fees collected from applicants indicates a rising number of large scale developments in the city. The council collected €2.34 million in fees in 2015, an increase of more than 90 per cent on 2014, as compared to the 47 per cent increase in applications.

Fees

In addition, the number of applications hitting the €38,000 ceiling more than doubled last year, from eight in 2014 to 19 in 2015. “This reflects a very significant increase in commercial and large scale housing applications in the city,” Mr Keogan said.

Seán O’Leary, Irish Planning Institute executive director, said while the increase was welcome, the number of applications remained low.

“Planning applications are still half 1997 levels, for example, and around a third of the 2006 peak. Numbers alone do not tell the full story, the focus must be on the development in the right place with the right infrastructure.”

The throughput of applications, and the fact that more than 90 per cent are granted, demonstrated that the planning system was not presenting a block to development, he said.

“With nine in 10 applications granted by local authorities last year and two thirds of them decided within eight weeks, the planning system cannot be said to be the main constraint on supply.”

Dublin City Council has the best turnaround on applications with almost 88 per cent of decisions given in eight weeks, against a national average of 67 per cent.

Hubert Fitzpatrick, director of the Construction Industry Federation, said commencement notices, which are filed when work starts on a development, are a better indicator of construction activity.

“Recovery in planning activity shows that the owners of lands want to get up and running, but it doesn’t tell you anything in terms of actual construction activity on those lands; what measures that are commencement notices.”

From January to May this year work started on 4,066 homes, compared to 2,930 in the same period last year.

“While the increase in commencements is very welcome, we must remember that it is coming from a very low base,” Mr Fitzpatrick said.