Wednesday, 13 March 2019
Ceisteanna ó Cheannairí - Leaders' Questions
Simon Coveney (Cork South Central, Fine Gael)
The only mechanism that can question those decisions is the court system if someone chooses to test such a decision through judicial review of the process by which a decision is made as opposed to the actual planning decision itself.
One of the issues that arose during the work on the Project Ireland 2040 plan, which I was very involved in, arose from the learnings from the Athenry data centre case to which the Deputy referred. There is a need to make sure that our planning laws are as robust and speedy as possible in order to ensure that our infrastructure investment programme, as well as that of the private sector, can be delivered as efficiently as possible and does not suffer undue or unreasonable delay. In that context, the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government established a working group last year to examine the scope for improvements in, and the streamlining of, the planning legislation so that important projects can progress more speedily through the process. Further to the working group's deliberations, the Minister, Deputy Eoghan Murphy, intends to submit proposals for a new planning and development amendment Bill in the next month or so, focusing particularly on the reform of the judicial review process I referred to in respect of planning cases and further streamlining the strategic infrastructure development provisions so that decisions can be made in a more timely manner.
The 2040 plan envisages that half of Ireland's population growth in the next two decades will happen across rural towns and villages, and indeed rural Ireland outside of Dublin. If we are going to facilitate that kind of population growth, and we are anticipating that Ireland's population will grow by over 1 million people in that period, we need to ensure we have a planning system that is fit for purpose. Our planning system is a good one but there are things about it that could be improved. The Deputy will have an opportunity, during the passing of the legislation in this House, to put his perspective on that debate.