An Bord Pleanála criticised for delay in online planning system

System still not in place, five years after Government housing strategy pledge

An Bord Pleanála has been sharply criticised over the delay in the rollout out of its online planning system, five years after the Government's Rebuilding Ireland housing strategy pledged the implementation of Plean-IT.

Independent Senator Victor Boyhan also criticised the failure to implement the National e-Planning System which would provide a single online portal for the State's 31 local authorities to deal with all planning issues.

An Bord Pleanála, the independent planning appeals authority, received almost €1 million in funding over two years up to 2019 to develop the one-stop shop website where members of the public can make submissions, observations and appeals, view current third-party applications and make payments.

But the board’s progress had been “exceptionally disappointing”, Mr Boyhan said.


There were extra challenges given the restrictions imposed by the pandemic, but other sectors had managed to move online overnight, and “if the onset of Covid-19 has taught us one thing, it is that when we are put under pressure and are forced to engage with technology, then we embrace it,” he said.

The Rebuilding Ireland strategy stated that it would “support the development of online planning services for the local authority sector and An Bord Pleanála”.

It also pledged to have an “accelerated rollout of e-planning across local government and An Bord Pleanála”, which was to happen in quarter four of 2017.

Mr Boyhan said “we should have a compatible e-planning system around the country, because we want to engage and encourage rather than frustrate people involved in this process”.

Minister of State Malcolm Noonan said the appeals board last November introduced an online facility to accept public observations relating to strategic housing development applications, together with the required fee, but only for such cases.

This pilot project will be expanded later this year to include other strategic infrastructure development cases and planning appeals, he said, adding that An Bord Pleanála is also in the process of finalising the development of a more user-friendly upgraded website, which is expected to go live by the end of next month.

The Minister said the Local Government Management Agency is managing the development of the e-planning portal for the local authorities.

Development and testing of the system is “in its final stages” and will be launched in a number of local authorities over the next quarter from April to June and “to all other local authorities on a phased basis by the end of the second quarter of 2022”.

Mr Noonan said “the experience of operating the planning system during the Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of having the most up-to-date and modern technology in place”.

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran is Parliamentary Correspondent of The Irish Times