Former minister for agriculture Barry Cowen has introduced legislation to put a 12-week limit for An Bord Pleanála to consider applications and appeals in an attempt to ensure it “doesn’t unduly delay” decisions on infrastructural projects.
Mr Cowen also said "the Government could and must put similar statutory time constraints on judicial reviews and subsequent appeals" in reference to the row over an appeal by An Taisce against a proposed €140 million cheese factory in Belview, south Co Kilkenny.
Mr Cowen said he could seek only to rectify An Bord Pleanála's role. But he criticised An Taisce's "threat of appeal on a point of law" following a judgment by the High Court to approve the joint venture between Glanbia and Dutch company Royal A-Ware.
An Taisce could seek to change Government policy by lobbying, as could anyone else. But “they shouldn’t be allowed to usurp or frustrate the likes of the Glanbia project based on it having been approved on merit . . . by Kilkenny County Council, An Bord Pleanála and the High Court who stated that An Taisce’s issue is one of Government policy”.
He was speaking as he introduced his Planning Development (Amendment) Bill in the Dáil. The Offaly TD said local authorities take from three to nine months to deal with planning applications but An Bord Pleanála can take up to three years.
“There is no way that what happens in local authorities in three months should take that long in An Bord Pleanála,” he said.
He said he did not want to disregard or belittle the process of adjudication on applications, which are transparent and independent. “But such aspects should be time limited and not unduly delay or endanger projects.”
Ongoing controversy over the project and the appeal by An Taisce intensified after Taoiseach Micheál Martin in the Dáil earlier this week urged An Taisce to withdraw its appeal which resulted in division with Coalition partners the Green Party.
Green TD and Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman said it was best that legal matters in planning issues should be allowed play out without intervention from politicians. His party colleague Stephen Matthews expressed disappointment at the Taoiseach’s intervention and the party signalled it will resist efforts by Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael Ministers to apply pressure on An Taisce to back down.
Echoing the Taoiseach’s comments, Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue said it was time to “draw a line” under the issue and signalled that An Taisce’s appeal against planning permission for the cheese plant could damage Ireland’s reputation in attracting foreign direct investment.