An Bord Pleanála seeking extra members to cope with demand

Increased number of planning applications after new fast-track law introduced last year

Damien English, Minister of State at the Department of Housing and Urban Development with Aideen Hayden, chairwoman, Threshold. Photograph Nick Bradshaw

Damien English, Minister of State at the Department of Housing and Urban Development with Aideen Hayden, chairwoman, Threshold. Photograph Nick Bradshaw

 

The Government is seeking to increase the number of members of An Bord Pleanála to cope with an increased demand for planning permission after new fast-track legislation designed to tackle the housing crisis was introduced last year.

The new law applies to “strategic housing developments”, which are large scale developments of 100 housing units or more, or student accommodation of 200 beds or more.

The new fast-track arrangements can result in planning decisions being made within 25 weeks versus the more normal process which can, in certain circumstances, take 18-24 months from initial design stage to ultimate approval.

Within the first nine of the 25 weeks, there is a pre-application consultation phase with the board and local planning authority which must be completed. This is designed to ensure the application is fit for purpose before it is properly considered.

Where a planning application is subsequently submitted to the board, it is required to make a determination within the remaining 16 weeks.

Minister of State for Planning Damien English addressed the Oireachtas committee on Housing and Planning in relation to the matter on Tuesday.

He said the board has received 47 valid pre-application requests from developers, in respect of which 36 opinions have been issued. The other 11 will receive feedback during April and May.

In total, just four of the 36 opinions indicated that the documents submitted constituted a “reasonable basis” for a planning application to be submitted, while 32 others required “further consideration and amendment”.

A total of 19 applications have made it past the consultation phase to date, and decisions have been made in seven of these cases.

Mr English said the fast-track process is intended to provide “greater certainty” for developers, while also facilitating the “earlier provision of much needed housing supply and helping to address the current housing supply shortage situation”.

However, in order to ensure that An Bord Pleanála had the necessary resources to undertake these additional functions, a new Strategic Housing Division of An Bord Pleanála was formed.

The board has operated with nine members over the last number of years. Mr English said the division requires two additional board members while the new arrangements are in place.

One of these was appointed in January, bringing the board to its maximum complement. There is provision in the legislation to temporarily increase the number of members if necessary, but the order must be approved by the Oireachtas.