Changes to be made to housing fast-track planning scheme

People Before Profit TD says scheme a ‘licence to hoard land, flip land, print money’

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said the intention behind the scheme was to fast-track the planning system to build homes faster. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said the intention behind the scheme was to fast-track the planning system to build homes faster. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

 

Changes will be made to the controversial housing fast-track planning scheme that allows builders of more than 100 properties to go straight to An Bord Pleanála to seek planning permission.

Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy confirmed that a review of the legislation that created the strategic housing development scheme had been completed and he would bring this to Cabinet. “Changes will be made,” he told the Dáil.

He was commenting following a row about the scheme.

People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett had described it as “nothing more than a licence for property speculators to speculate, to hoard land, to flip land and to print money”.

He claimed it was not delivering what the Minister promised which was to deliver housing to address the housing emergency.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin pointed to reports that 10,000 of the 16,000 homes for which planning permission was granted have not been built.

The scheme seemed to have been used to allow developers get large-scale planning permission and then sell it on, he said.

Mr Martin also highlighted academic research which “revealed that a group of developers essentially captured” then minister for housing Simon Coveney and got him to include the measure in planning legislation.

Developers co-operated with the research and they gave Mr Coveney their recommendation, Mr Martin said. “He took it lock, stock and barrel and put it into the new housing legislation,” he said.

Mr Martin claimed developers were able to circumvent the development plan of the city or council.

Back door

He pointed to a Sunday Business Post report that no construction had started on more than 10,000 units of 16,000 that had received planning permission and said no construction has commenced in 47 of the 64 large housing developments granted fast-track permission. And he called for the changes to prevent the scheme from facilitating contraventions of local development schemes by the back door.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said the intention and idea behind it was to fast-track the planning system to build homes faster and that in cases of 100 or more units instead of having to go to the local authority first they could go straight to An Bord Pleanála. They were building 20,000 homes a year and hoped to get it to 30,000 or 35,000

He pointed out that Mr Martin backed the legislation when it was debated.

The Fianna Fáil leader said the Oireachtas acted in good faith. “But we were wrong and we should now go back on the decision and revert to the local authority model,” he said.

In response, Mr Boyd Barrett said “we all know the sins of Fianna Fáil and of those who put money into bailing out the rotten and toxic banks, instead of putting it into housing and other public services”.

He said the new scheme is enriching developers while failing to deliver the affordable housing that is needed to address the housing crisis.

But the Taoiseach said there was a one-step planning process for social housing. “It is called Part 8. It is not necessary to bring in a one-step planning process for social housing because that already exists.”