Planning process set for major review by Attorney General

Review aimed at streamlining process and speeding up delivery of key projects

Attorney General Paul Gallagher is undertaking the review with input from Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien and his department. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Attorney General Paul Gallagher is undertaking the review with input from Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien and his department. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

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The Government plans to speed up the planning process and make it more difficult for legal challenges to halt housing and other developments.

Officials have commenced a comprehensive review of planning laws which will see several different laws brought together in one planning Act, intended to streamline the process and speed up delivery of key projects.

The review, which is being undertaken by the Attorney General Paul Gallagher with input from Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien and his department, will take 18 months and is expected to result in simplifying and accelerating the planning process, as well as making it harder to delay developments by court challenges.

The move comes amid growing political fears that complex planning processes and the growing use of judicial reviews as a tool in obstructing planning applications are delaying the delivery of new housing, and will continue to do so into the future.

Fast-track developments

It is also understood that the fast track for strategic housing developments – where developers can apply straight to An Bord Pleanála for permission rather than going through the local authority first – is to be abandoned after legal challenges effectively choked up the process. Plans are also under way for a dedicated planning court.

In a letter to the Oireachtas housing committee in recent days, Minister of State for planning Peter Burke said the Government wants to revive judicial review reforms that stalled after the general election last year.

Mr Burke has asked the committee to consider the general outline of draft laws before the summer recess so the Department of Housing can advance the plans in the autumn.

The increasing number of legal challenges against planning decisions had “knock-on implications for project delivery” including strategic infrastructure, Mr Burke said. “It is considered timely that the issue of judicial reform review in the area of planning be now reactivated, considered and further progressed.”

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