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Government announces Cabinet approval for Planning and Development Bill 2023

Government announces Cabinet approval for Planning and Development Bill 2023

The Government today announced approval by Cabinet of the new Planning and Development Bill 2023.

The Bill is the third largest Bill in the history of the State and is 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.

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
  • Increased alignment among the tiers of planning
  • A significant restructuring of An Bord Pleanála with the body to be renamed An Coimisiún Pleanála
  • Mandatory timelines for decision-making by An Coimisiún Pleanála
  • Reform of planning Judicial Review, including the introduction of an Environmental Legal Cost Scheme
  • New provisions for Urban Development Zones

Today’s Bill represents 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.

Announcing Cabinet approval for 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.

Tánaiste Micheál Martin said:

Housing is the single most urgent and important social issue facing our country at this time. This Bill, the third largest ever to come before the Oireachtas, will bring about fundamental improvements to our planning laws, meaning we can get on with the job of delivering Housing for All’s objectives and our other major infrastructure plans.

Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan added:

This Bill is both welcome and timely and will future-proof our planning system whilst balancing key pillars of the Irish planning system such as public participation and access to justice, environmental considerations and delivery of key infrastructure such as public transport, housing and renewable energy. This Bill can be a cornerstone to our sustainable and balanced development as a country.

Emphasising the importance of the Bill for the delivery of more homes, Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Darragh O’Brien pointed out:

The reforms in this Bill will facilitate increased housing supply and critical infrastructure. It is vital we embed structural changes to our planning system to help tackle the many challenges we have and this Bill represents a major step in achieving this, along with related reforms such as the roll out of e-Planning and a programme of resource review to underpin the many reforms contained in the legislation.

The Bill introduces mandatory, statutory timelines across all consenting processes, including, for the first time for An Bord Pleanála.

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 5, 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.

Key changes from the original Bill include:

  • Revision of Plan-making provisions across all tiers of planning to ensure operational consistency and a longer time for completion of development plans; taking on board stakeholder feedback.
  • Statutory timelines across all consenting processes have been reviewed – including for the first time for An Coimisiún 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.
  • Revision of Environmental Assessment provisions to ensure full compliance and alignment with EU Directives.
  • Inclusion of further detail regarding changes to the processes and parameters of planning Judicial Review, such as the removal of the application for leave stage, and the introduction of a new Environmental Legal Costs Scheme.
  • Further refinement of detail of the full organisational restructure of An Coimisiún Pleanála.
  • The new Bill contains provision for Urban Development Zones (UDZs) which will empower local authorities to designate areas with significant potential for development, including housing. These areas will be a focus for State investment in key enabling infrastructure in order to ensure the potential for development can be realised in a timely manner, with critical land required for infrastructure identified early in the process.

A guide to the proposed Bill can be accessed online.