New legislation going to Cabinet will require those seeking to legally challenge a planning decision to have exhausted all other avenues before taking a court case.
The Planning and Development Bill is the Government’s landmark effort to overhaul the planning system, but since it was published in draft form earlier this year, critics have warned that it unduly curtails the right to challenge a decision through a judicial review.
The updated Bill, according to sources familiar with the proposal going to Cabinet on Tuesday, will require those seeking to take a judicial review to have exhausted any available appeal procedures or any other administrative remedy available to them.
While unincorporate organisations like residents’ associations will be able to take the cases, they will have to meet a series of hurdles to do so, including having a constitution, having taken a vote and that being carried by two-thirds of those voting. The names and addresses of those in favour of the judicial review are to be filed with the application.
The mammoth Bill is the third-largest piece of legislation to go before the Oireachtas, with the Government promising that it will make the system fit for purpose and more consistent. But when it first was briefed to the Cabinet last year, Green Party Ministers flagged concerns.
While the issue of vexatious challenges is often identified as one factor slowing planning decisions, critics of the legislation – including within the Green Party and some environmental NGOs – say steps to limit the grounds for a judicial review are not compliant with rules on public participation in decision-making.
The Bill will also rename the scandal-hit An Bord Pleanála as An Comisiún Pleanála, change its corporate structure and introduce mandatory statutory timelines for its decisions. The key time periods will range from 18 weeks for appeals of decisions to 48 weeks for more complex strategic infrastructure developments. The Bill, sources said, will set out “proportionately escalating measures” for the commission if it doesn’t stick within the time limit, including fines.
Elsewhere, Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly will seek Cabinet approval to change the law and allow pharmacists supply some prescription-only medicinal products without a prescription, including oral contraception pills. The changes will also allow for the administration of vaccines by a wider range of suitable professionals and introduce a disregard for income earned from renting a room, up to €14,000, when assessing income eligibility for medical card assessments.
Mr Donnelly will also seek Cabinet approval to establish an independent commission examining health and social care services and supports for older people, which is expected to be set up between now and the end of the year, and to commence work in January. The establishment of the commission, which will be made up of a panel of independent experts and an independent chair, is a programme for government commitment.
It will be asked to make recommendations on the strategic development of health and social care services and examine existing services, as well as residential care settings and models of supported living. It will also look at already-under way initiatives such as the development of a statutory home support scheme, the development of palliative care policy and adult safeguarding policy. Terms of reference are due before the end of the year.
Super Junior minister Pippa Hackett will bring the Ash Dieback Review to cabinet in advance of its publication. This will be followed by an implementation plan in coming weeks.