PB October/November 2023 October/November 2023 69
was approved by cabinet lauding its vaunted
contribution to curtailing planning delays.
This legislative review mistakenly focuses
on the wrong goals – consistency, eciency
and speed. It obsesses over measures such as
setting statutory mandatory timelines for all
consent processes. But this will create an
incentive for quick decisions rather than
correct decisions. Parking for this purpose the
scandals revealed in the practice of An Bord
Pleanála in the last two years, by May 2021,
Justice Richard Humphreys had already
identified “a certain laxity in scrutiny [on the
part of An Bord Pleanála inspectors], involving
in eect the cutting and pasting of developers
materials, without adequate critical
By contrast, if the Bill dedicated itself to the
objective of achieving the best plans and
decisions, an incidental benefit might be to
deter litigation.
If it is going to be heavy on legislation-
through-law, the Bill should legislate for
sustainability and excellence not speed
(which probably won’t work anyway) and
eciency. It seems past time the Greens in
government championed this. They have,
after all, traditionally been regarded as head
of the planning family.
that the proposal to allow ABP/Coimisuin
seek a stay in proceeding to make
corrections of error or fact in a decision
being challenged should be limited to
only “minor administrative errors.
The thrust of the unseen ‘Bill as
initiated’ we can guess from January’s draft
will be to tighten the hierarchy of planning
policies and regulations that cascade down
from national government to regional
assemblies to local authorities and finally, to
individual planning permissions.
The Minister will be empowered to set out
important policy in ‘National Planning
Statements’ which will contain directives that
purport to be binding, termed ‘National
Planning Policies and Measures’ (which will
be operationalised in ‘Regional Spatial and
Economic Strategies’ and, in turn local
development plans.
The Bill will certainly be a significant salvo
at taking back some of the powers of local
authorities by requiring their deference to
centralised standards. Whether the
requirements will be observed by headstrong
local authorities remains to be shown. Equally
uncertain is the appetite of the Planning
Regulator to exercise zealously its powers or
of any Minister to override Councillors in a
delinquent local authority who might be party
colleagues. Long-standing and egregious
failures of planning, including the sprawl of
Dublin and one-o housing, have been largely
perpetrated in contradiction to national
The good in the bill will be balanced by
fewer opportunities for public involvement in
decision-making for individual applications.
That will not work, as former Chief Justice
Frank Clarke has pointed out, because every
reduced opportunity will be litigated,
generating further delays. This did not stop
Eamon Ryan issuing a statement when the bill
he Planning and Development
(Amendment) Bill 2022 is Paul
Gallagher’s baby. It is about to be
birthed by his replacement as
Attorney General, Rossa Fanning,
and we still do not know what sex the baby will
be or much else about how it has survived the
Clearly, Gallagher was premature in
releasing his January 2023 (rough) Draft
Planning and Development Bill 2022. It was
littered with placeholders and promises of
more detail. Perhaps Gallagher had a big
picture vision of the reforms he wanted and
delegated the details to his successor and the
Oireachtas to fill in the many blanks.
Since January, civil servants have been
scrambling, and failing, to knock Gallagher’s
text into shape in time with the ambitious
deadlines set by Minister for Housing, Darragh
O’Brien who aimed to have the Bill enacted
“before Christmas” once cabinet approval
was received by “early September.
However cabinet only approved the bill on
3 October. Even then this is not the definitive
text as further drafting is required.
All this will not leave sucient parliamentary
time for the Oireachtas to scrutinise this vast
bill before it rises for Christmas.
The Guide to the Planning and Development
Bill 2023, which was published to accompany
the cabinet’s decision has seen some changes
to the January draft as described in the last
edition of Village.
Some clarity has been given to the earlier
place holder provisions concerning
deadlines for planning decisions; fines for
missing those deadlines and the intended
Administrative Cost Scheme, but it is
acknowledged that even these details will
be subject to amendment as it passes
through the Oireachtas.
Only parties that will “be directly or
indirectly materially aected” by a proposed
development will be allowed to challenge
planning decisions in the courts. Moreover,
such parties may base their legal challenge
only on issues that they raised in their
observations at the initial planning
The criticisms levelled at the draft Bill, and,
no doubt the discomfort felt by the Green
Party, have led to the more egregious
assaults on the Judicial Review process to
be modified slightly. The hopes of many
builders that residents’ organisations will
be prohibited from seeking a JR of planning
decisions have been dashed and replaced
with stricter, but not onerous, governance
Additionally, the new version has accepted
By J Vivian Cooke
Time for the Greens in government to
champion sustainability and excellence more
than time limits and efficiency in the now-
rushed Planning Bill just
approved by cabinet
Left unchecked


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