Judicial reviews and the planning system

 

Sir, – Raymond Tutty’s article “Litigious nimbyism is making housing crisis much worse” (Commercial Property, Opinion, July 14th) repeats the allegation that citizens seeking judicial reviews of planning decisions are simply opposing housing of any sort in their communities. In referring to judicial reviews of An Bord Pleanála decisions as “vexatious”, and in arguing that it should be harder for citizens to access the courts, the article echoes the words of Government Ministers who are openly considering restricting our rights to challenge manifestly flawed decisions. These are views which are finding their way into the media discourse with notable ease on a very regular basis.

Mr Tutty speaks for the building industry rather than the interests of communities who seek nothing more than proper and sustainable development. It is not true that judicial reviews are founded on a desire to stop housing altogether. In fact, many of the challenges simply seek to have houses built on a sustainable scale consistent with local, regional and national planning policies.

It is worth noting that judicial reviews of An Bord Pleanála decisions currently before the courts include cases where permissions were granted in defiance of the views of Dublin City Council and the county councils of Wicklow and Kildare.

Bemoaning the fact that new homes are being delayed because about 75 per cent of court challenges to An Bord Pleanála are successful, Mr Tutty tries to blame this on the successful litigants rather than concentrating on the clear message that the board is making bad decisions on a significant scale.

It is simply playing with words to raise the question “if so many of these judicial reviews have been successful, were the original planning permissions not fundamentally flawed?” and then try to argue that many of the decisions were only overturned because of procedural errors or mere failures to care about the environment. The fact is that the vast majority of judicial review cases against the board are successful because the decisions were sufficiently flawed that they had to be overturned.

Mr Tutty says that “major residential developments are complicated by their very nature and present myriad considerations that need to be balanced”. This is true, and some of the considerations that need to be discussed include the need for proper provision for schools, public transport and other public services, alongside appropriate levels of housing, these issues being ones that are routinely completely ignored by An Bord Pleanála and spokespersons for the building industry. – Yours, etc,

PAUL CARROLL,

Clane,

Co Kildare.