Planning Bill to bring ‘greater clarity, consistency and certainty’

Bill aims to respond to population increase and reduce demand for judicial review, which will still be accessible, officials say

The new Planning and Development Bill 2000 will bring much needed “consistency and certainty” to the planning process, deal with a rapid population increase and reduce the need for judicial reviews, TDs and Senators have been told.

In the first of two days of public scrutiny of the Planning and Development Bill, the Joint Committee on Housing, Local Government and Heritage was told that the State’s population had grown by one third since the current Planning and Development Act became law more than two decades ago.

Officials from the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage told TDs and Senators that local authority development plans would in future be made once every 10 years, with provision for a review every five years.

The plans would be streamlined with national strategies such as the National Planning Framework, the National Development Plan, regional spatial planning and EU directives around habitats and biodiversity.


Paul Hogan, acting assistant secretary of the Department of Housing, said the alignment of strategic planning at national, regional and local level is to be helped by guidance through the introduction of national planning statements, approved by Government.

He said the rise of climate and energy-related considerations “all play important roles in planning today in a very different way to which they did before the turn of the millennium”.

Mr Hogan said the “key aim” of the new Planning Bill was to bring “increased clarity” while public participation would “remain a critical part of the planning system”.

A “costs protection scheme” will be introduced for those taking planning decisions to judicial review, the details of which will be clarified in the coming months, Mr Hogan said.

Eoin Ó Broin, Sinn Féin spokesman for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, asked if the Bill was legally scrutinised for compliance with EU directives as well as compliance with the Aarhus Convention on access to participation in decision-making processes.

He was told by Department of Housing official Mary Jones that a group of barristers had advised the Attorney General on measures needed to ensure compliance with EU directives. While the group had not specifically provided advice on the compliance of the Bill with the Aarhus Convention, the overall architecture of the Bill was designed in that way, she said.

Committee Cathaoirleach Steven Matthews said the Bill proposes “to make it more coherent and user-friendly and bring greater clarity, consistency and certainty to how planning decisions are made”.

However, he said, there may be a need for further meetings with officials on the content of the new Bill.

He said on Thursday morning the committee will hear the views of Office of the Planning Regulator and An Bord Pleanála “on this important piece of law”.

Tim O'Brien

Tim O'Brien

Tim O'Brien is an Irish Times journalist