Cabinet approves new Planning and Development Bill 2023
New bill proposes a significant restructuring of An Bord Pleanála which will be renamed An Coimisiún Pleanála
4 October 2023
Cabinet has approved the new Planning and Development Bill 2023. The third largest bill in the history of the state, government has said the move represents “the culmination of a 15-month review of the planning system, an extensive pre-legislative scrutiny process, and detailed drafting with input from across a number of government departments”.
According to government, the bill, if enacted, will “bring greater clarity, certainty and consistency to how planning decisions are made. It will make the planning system more coherent and user-friendly for the public and planning practitioners”.
Key reforms in the proposed legislation include new ten year Development Plans for Local Authorities and increased alignment among the tiers of planning.
The new bill also proposes a significant restructuring of An Bord Pleanála with the body to be renamed An Coimisiún Pleanála. There would also be mandatory timelines for decision-making by the renamed body.
Reform of the planning Judicial Review would also be implemented, including the introduction of an Environmental Legal Cost Scheme, alongside new provisions for Urban Development Zones
Representing the largest reshaping of the planning system in Ireland for more than two decades, the bill will be published in the coming weeks and will then proceed before the Houses of the Oireachtas.
Welcoming the new bill, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said: “We need faster planning decisions, more timely judicial reviews and fewer of them. It’s currently taking far too long for applications to get through the system and it’s in all our interests to make sure the planning system is resourced properly.
“The Planning and Development Bill will bring more certainty and consistency to the planning process, and also make it more coherent and user-friendly. We have much to do – from housing, to renewable energy, to regional development – and this legislation will be a real step change. So let’s get it done,” An Taoiseach added.
The bill introduces mandatory, statutory timelines across all consenting processes, including, for the first time for An Bord Pleanála. These range from between 18 and 48 weeks depending on the type of application or appeal, with a system of proportionately escalating measures in place if the Commission does not make decisions within the mandatory time limits detailed in the bill.
It also introduces a significantly revised corporate structure for An Bord Pleanála, which will be renamed An Coimisiún Pleanála, with a separation of corporate, decision making and governance functions.
Policies and guidance will be more consistent throughout all tiers of planning, from national to local. Ministerial guidelines and policy directives will be upgraded to National Planning Statements, approved by government.
The lifespan of Development Plans will be extended from six years to ten years, with a review after year five, and will be more strategic in nature. The cycles of these plans will align to the cycle of Census data availability and will be reviewed by local elected members every five years.
The bill also reforms aspects of planning judicial review, with changes such as removal of leave for application; refinement of grounds; clarification of sufficient interest and the introduction of a new Environmental Legal Cost Scheme.
Today’s Bill builds upon the review undertaken by the Office of the Attorney General and scrutiny by the Joint Oireachtas Committee for Housing of the draft Bill published earlier this year.
Last month, Aldi issued a press statement which claimed that “grocery retail consumers across Ireland are losing out on savings of €78,333 every month due to delays in planning appeal decisions,” according to a new report.
The report, compiled by Dublin City University’s (DCU’s) Professor Emeritus of Economics, Anthony Foley, and commissioned by Aldi, looked at the consumer and wider economic impacts of delays by An Bord Pleanála deciding on third-party appeals of Aldi planning applications over the five-year period 2018 to 2022.
The report entitled “The Financial Impact of Ireland’s Planning System Delays on Irish Consumers” stated that of the 16 appeals of Aldi planning applications made to An Bord Pleanála over the five-year period, 13 experienced decision delays resulting in total savings forgone to consumers of almost €10 million.
While An Bord Pleanála currently has a statutory deadline of 18-weeks to reach a decision, over the period analysed in the report, Aldi has experienced delays of up to 91 weeks in excess of this deadline.