The Joint Committee on Housing Local Government and Heritage (the Committee) has just published its report (the Report) on the Pre-Legislative Scrutiny of the draft Planning and Development Bill 2022 (the Bill). It is a well put together report and the recommendations are clearly set-out and justified. The Committee considers that there is a lot to do before this Bill can be finalised and that a target date of Q3 2023 is unrealistic.

The Report comprises 87 pages and considers key elements of the Bill, with Part 5 being a summary of all 153 of the Committee’s recommendations. In addition, appendixed to the Report there are details of the Committee members, the Committee processes, useful hyperlinks to all of the transcripts from each day’s hearings, and all of the opening statements/submissions made. In each subsection of Part 4, the Report summarises key points made by those attending before the Committee and also includes the Committee’s own views on 6 key areas being:

  • Access to Justice;
  • Forward Planning;
  • Timelines & Resourcing;
  • Exempted Development;
  • National Planning Policy Statements; and
  • Omissions.

The Report references the difficulties that have arisen due to the lack of an explanatory memorandum which would have set out what changes were made to the 2000 Act and why. The Committee notes that it is very difficult to understand the justification for many of the changes in the Bill. Many of the Committee’s rejections of the changes in the Bill are made on the basis that they are not explained. The Committee emphasises the need for all bodies to be adequately resourced and calls out An Bord Pleanála, the Office of the Planning Regulator and the Planning Authorities in particular.

A few key points:

  1. The Committee is not in favour of almost all of the proposed changes to Judicial Review (JR), including the tighter proposed requirements on those taking challenges (to include residents’ associations), the changes to protective costs provisions, the removal of the ability to appeal to the Court of Appeal and the proposed entitlement for An Bord Pleanála to be able to amend its decisions after a JR challenge has been taken without incurring legal costs.
  2. The Committee considers that An Bord Pleanála should have to provide main reasons “in detail” where it decides to disagree with its Inspector, which would be very onerous and is a change to the 2000 Act which requires only that the “main reasons and considerations” be stated.
  3. Regarding the proposal for development plans to be on a 10 year cycle, the Committee emphasises that there should be a robust midterm review to ensure in particular that the role of elected Councillors is retained.
  4. The Committee expresses concern relative to the proposed National Planning Statements and considers they should be clearly defined, and require Oireachtas oversight as well as consultation.
  5. The Committee recommends that mandatory pre-planning public engagement should be required for all development applications but especially for large infrastructural projects.
  6. The Committee has several recommendations on ensuring that all relevant documentation is available easily online, and for example recommend that the 5 week period to make submissions on a planning application only commence when all application documents are available to access.
  7. The Committee considers that the proposed Regulations dealing with exempted development should be published before the Bill is debated in the Oireachtas and say that the exemptions provided for under section 4 of the 2000 Act should be replicated.
  8. The Committee is not in favour of the proposal to remove the public from the entitlement to seek a Section 5 declaration as to whether a particular development is exempt, and want that reinstated.
  9. The Committee recommend consideration of the removal of the seven-year rule for exempting enforcement action against unauthorised development, where that development is likely to have significant effects on the environment or to require Appropriate Assessment.
  10. It is noted in a heading entitled “Omissions” that sections 48 and 49 (on development contributions) of the 2000 Act have not been included and from engagement with the Department, it understands that this is an oversight and those provisions will be reinstated.
  11. The Committee notes that provisions regarding biodiversity protection have not been included in the Bill and consider that both biodiversity and climate issues should be considered in a revised version of the Bill.

Our Environmental and Planning Team are tracking the Bill as it moves through the legislative process and will be providing further updates to this post.

For further information on this topic, please contact Alison Fanagan, Consultant, or any member of A&L Goodbody’s Environmental and Planning team.