WORRYING UNDEMOCRATIC MOVES ON PLANNING PERMISSIONS – BROUGHAN

Deputy Broughan has recently asked the Minister for Housing; Planning and Local Government if he will report on the decision regarding so-called strategic housing developments being submitted directly to An Bord Pleanála and if he would terminate this practice by the end this year.  Deputy Broughan has recently made a number of strong observations to An Bord Pleanála on Strategic Housing Development Plans for his constituency of Dublin Bay North.  Deputy Broughan does not agree with the practice of these SHD plans bypassing Local Authority Planning Departments and going straight to An Bord Pleanála.  SHDs are large scale developments, often of much-needed housing but often with high percentages of ‘Build-To-Rent’ units and very little social and affordable homes.  They are basically profit machines for private developers and sometimes private developers that have failed these parishes during the Celtic Tiger era.

Recently there has also been discussions around a Government Bill which would curb people’s rights to request Judicial Reviews on plans unless they are part of larger organisations and pay a substantial sum of money.  It certainly seems like a very undemocratic way to change the planning permission process to further fast-track profits for developers without proper scrutiny from those who will be most affected by the developments.   During the summer, Deputy Broughan sent in his own submission to the Minister for Housing on Strategic Housing Developments and asked for the practice of direct submission to An Bord Pleanála to be ended in December 2019.

Under the Planning and Development (Housing) and Residential Tenancies Act 2016 strategic housing developments (SHDs) of 100 housing units or more, student accommodation or shared accommodation developments of 200 bed spaces or more are made directly to An Bord Pleanála.  That Act was to be in force until the end of this year but, as the PQ states, that by order the period may be extended by a further 2 years down to 2021.  In June 2019, the Strategic Housing Development Review Group was established and reported on the 24th of September 2019.  The Minister’s reply stated that “Notwithstanding the positive contribution that the SHD arrangements have made, the Review Group notes that there continues to exist a deficit in housing supply and affirms that the original rationale for the introduction of the SHD arrangements remains. In light of these findings, the Review Group considers that there are sufficient grounds for extending the SHD arrangements until the end of 2021” and confirms that he will “shortly sign an order to this effect.” Minister Murphy also says that “it would be appropriate to introduce a “use it or lose it” measure requiring developers to have commenced a certain level of development within a certain period of time on foot of a grant of an SHD planning permission” and that he will bring “forward the necessary legislation in this regard in due course”.

Deputy Broughan says “The fact that the Minister is only now considering a ‘use it or lose it’ clause for the Strategic Housing Developments shows that there are problems with this process.  While housing is, of course, much needed, it must be built in a sustainable way that elected representatives and local communities have time to examine and submit observations.  The planning record of Dublin Bay North shows, of course, that there were hundreds of hectares of unbuilt, hoarded land with extant planning permissions when the SHD system was introduced and that there was actually never an issue with the time our local authorities and An Bord Pleanála took to administer planning applications.”

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