Varadkar tells his party that planning reforms will go ahead

Comments come after Green Party TD and others criticised plans for overhaul of system

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has told his party that judicial reviews are holding up building projects and reforms "will happen and we are going to make them happen".

His remarks at Fine Gael’s parliamentary party meeting on Wednesday come after a Green Party TD and Opposition politicians criticised plans to overhaul planning laws.

The planned reforms to reduce the stages at which a judicial review can be sought were flagged by Fine Gael Minister of State Peter Burke earlier this week. He said that plans to build "tens of thousands" of homes were being held up because of the high level of judicial reviews.

Green Party planning spokesman Steven Matthews said the minister appeared to be "aiming to exclude people from seeking justice."

He said: “Removing access to justice on planning and environmental matters doesn’t mean we will get a better or faster planning system, it just means some people will get away with poor planning decisions and that method haunts us from the past.”

Sinn Féin, the Social Democrats and the Labour Party all criticised the plans amid claims that the problem did not stem from the volume of judicial reviews but rather from what they described as deep deficiencies and flaws in recent Government planning policies.

However, Mr Varadkar told his party on Wednesday evening that planning reforms are in the Programme for Government and they will happen.

He said judicial reviews are too frequent and are holding up many housing and infrastructure projects.

Mr Varadkar also moved to reassure his party on proposed national roads projects saying his Department of Enterprise is examining proposed routes for their potential benefit for investment, homes and communities.

Last week a number of Fine Gael TDs and Senators criticised progress on roads projects with former minister of state David Stanton criticising Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan for not responding to him or acknowledging a letter he sent about a road in his Cork East constituency.

There was also renewed criticism of the Green Party from former Fine Gael junior minister John Paul Phelan.

Sources said he hit out at Mr Ryan’s comments on the future of Cathal Brugha Barracks in Dublin suggesting the site was being considered for a housing development.

The Carlow-Kilkenny TD also highlighted the opposition of a Green Party minister to the proposed rezoning of playing fields for housing

This was a reference to reports last week that Green Party Junior Minister Joe O’Brien wrote to fellow residents in an estate in Skerries, Co Dublin saying he is against the proposed change in use for the land.

Mr Phelan said there has to be a “whole of government approach” to housing as he criticised Fine Gael’s coalition partners.

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn is a Political Correspondent at The Irish Times