Housing policy – blame the speculators not the objectors


Sir, – In “Serial objecting is anti-social behaviour” (Opinion, May 1st), David McWilliams berates serial objectors.

The evidence he cites concerning judicial reviews taken against An Bord Pleanála for its decisions on strategic housing developments fails to mention that the planning board has lost about 80 per cent of legal appeals taken against it through conceding or having its decisions quashed by the court.

This would indicate that it is the strategic housing development legislation that undermines public participation.

Best practice in European town planning is about early and more engagement with communities, which leads to better outcomes for developer and community alike, and not excluding them as we are doing here.

According to the UN, public participation also reduces opportunities for corruption, improves transparency, enhances legislation and increases trust in governance and politics.

Our consistent moves towards worst practice in planning policy for housing has led to poor quality construction, lower standards, overcrowding, and obviously expensive and unaffordable accommodation which then has to be subsidised by the State. – Yours, etc,


Senior Lecturer

in Housing,


University Dublin.

Sir, – David McWilliams gives only one piece of evidence for his claims, and it is from California. Closer to home, the reality is quite different.

The Dublin Housing Supply Task Force most recent report (Q2, 2020) confirms that there are more than 40,000 planning permissions “ready to go” in Dublin, in schemes of 10 or more homes. In 2019, 94 per cent of permitted homes were not built, so evidently the barriers are elsewhere. After two years of research, the National Economic and Social Council (NESC) attributed the dysfunction and lack of affordability in the Irish housing system to land speculation and systemic problems, not to the planning system.

This is supported by the European Commission which suggests that recent house price increases in Dublin are down to “land prices and increased margins . . . which may indicate insufficient competition”.

Perhaps this explains why the Society of Chartered Surveyors reports a cost of €371,000 to deliver a three-bedroom house in Dublin when private developers are currently selling the same house for €199,000 in Carlow, €205,000 in Wexford, and €212,000 in Laois.

Asking whether housing policy is democratic is a distraction from asking the real question – is it economic? – Yours, etc,


School of Architecture,

Planning and

Environmental Policy,

University College Dublin,

Dublin 4.