Plans to scrap the Strategic Housing Development (SHD) system, which removed the right to appeal planning decisions on large-scale housing developments, have been approved by Government.
The system, where developers of more than 100 homes or blocks of 200 student bed spaces bypassed the local authority planning stage and applied directly to An Bord Pleanála, was intended to speed up the planning process but had resulted in a significant increase in court challenges to the board's decisions.
Despite recent indications the SHD system might be guillotined this autumn, the Government is sticking to its termination date of February 2022, announced last year.
SHDs will then be replaced with a new Large-Scale Residential Development (LSRD) system. Under this arrangement the local authority phase of the planning system will be restored, but time limits will be imposed on decision-making.
City and county council planners will be required to complete a consultation process with developers of large-scale housing and student schemes within eight weeks. A further eight weeks will be allowed for a decision. An Bord Pleanála will have 16 weeks to issue a decision on any appeals.
Irish Planning Institute president Conor Norton said the measures were a "critical first step" in planning reform .
“These new measures announced by Government represent an important and necessary step in rebalancing the planning system in Ireland,” he said.
“Further measures will have to be looked at now as a matter of urgency to restore the balance between national, regional and local planning and, in particular, the central role of the democratically prepared city and county development plans and local area plans in the planning consent process.”
However, he said the “chronic under resourcing” of planning departments must be urgently addressed in order to meet the demands of the new system.
The final date for SHD applications to An Bord Pleanála will be February 25th. However, developers must make a request to the board for pre-application consultations by October 29th to make this deadline.
Meanwhile, two Dublin residents' associations have initiated Judicial Review proceedings in the High Court against the board's decision to grand permission for a SHD scheme of 205 build-to-rent apartments in Phibsborough.
The board in May granted permission to Bindford Limited for the Old Bakery development at Cross Guns Bridge on the Royal Canal, which included a 12-storey block.
The Leinster Street North Residents Association and the Shandon Residents Association are seeking the judicial review on a number of grounds, several of which relate to the protected wildlife habitats on the canal. Other grounds concern the provision of cycling spaces and public transport capacity, as well as daylight issues.