Developers risk losing fast-track permission unless start made

Minister set to signal extension to accelerated process for Strategic Housing Developments

Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy is  said to be examining how to further restrict possibilities for local objections. File photograph: Tom Honan/The Irish Times

Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy is said to be examining how to further restrict possibilities for local objections. File photograph: Tom Honan/The Irish Times

 

Developers seeking to avail of fast-track planning may be given just one year to start building or risk losing their permission.

Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy is expected to announce an extension to the availability of the sped-up process for Strategic Housing Developments (SHD) in the autumn. Such developments, comprising 100 or more new dwellings or student or shared accommodation of more than 200 bed spaces, can bypass councils in the planning process.

The system allows An Bord Pleanála to grant directly or refuse permission for these developments. The policy was introduced in July 2017 and was intended initially to apply until the end of this year, with the possibility of extending it to 2021.

Mr Murphy established a review group earlier this summer to assess the policy and he will report to the Dáil in September. He is said by Government sources to be “positively in favour of extending” the process, although the period for which it will be extended has not yet been decided. It was suggested, however, that the extension will be “conservative”.

Mr Murphy is also said to be considering introducing time limits on the planning permissions granted under the scheme. Although the details of how this could be done have also yet to be finalised, one suggestion is that developers would have to sign commencement orders – effectively giving notice of their intention to start construction work – within a year of receiving the permission. At present most planning permissions must be activated within five years.

Other changes to the scheme being considered by Mr Murphy include arranging a fast-track process to allow utilities such as the ESB, Irish Water and others to “open up sites more quickly”.

This would remove obstacles often encountered by developers who run into difficulties with utilities after they have been granted planning permission.

Challenges

Mr Murphy is also said to be examining how to further restrict possibilities for local objections, including for Traveller accommodation. There have been a number of court challenges to developments granted under the SHD system.

Last year, the High Court ruled An Bord Pleanála should reassess an application it had granted for 500 homes on playing pitches beside St Anne’s Park in Raheny, Dublin. It subsequently refused permission for the development and Crekav Trading last month submitted a new application for the site.

Earlier this month, a “fatal” error which meant a developer failed to publish online a report about bats resulted in a judge quashing permission for more than 220 homes in Blackrock, Co Dublin.

Southwood Park Residents Association took judicial review proceedings against An Bord Pleanála’s decision to grant Cairn Homes permission for 214 apartments and seven houses on the grounds of Chesterfield House, a protected structure on Cross Avenue.