Dáil debates

Thursday, 25 November 2021

Planning and Development (Amendment) (Large-scale Residential Development) Bill 2021 [Seanad]: Second Stage


2:30 pm

Photo of Patricia RyanPatricia Ryan (Kildare South, Sinn Fein) | Oireachtas source

The Planning and Development (Amendment) (Large-scale Residential Development) Bill 2021 replaces the strategic housing development process with the introduction of a new planning process for large-scale residential developments. There has been widespread criticism of strategic housing developments not least from the Minister's party councillors who have brought forward or supported motions at council meetings all over the country to criticise the policy and call for its abolition.

The death of strategic housing developments is a welcome U-turn from the Government, but unfortunately it is to be a slow death. Due to the overly generous transition period in the Bill, the flawed SHD planning legislation will be with us through most of 2022, with the process opening for planning applications until June 2022. Some applications will continue until October, with the possibility of legal action late into 2022. This comes as no surprise.

When forced to reverse its pro-developer, anti-worker and anti-family policies, the Government allows enough time for developers to squeeze the last few drops from the gravy train. In the same way as the Government delayed the introduction of planning restrictions on co-living, it has now provided developers with ample opportunity to benefit from the SHD legislation long after it has expired. This is bad policy and poor governance. Sinn Féin submitted amendments in the Seanad to halve the timelines. Unfortunately, they were rejected by Government parties.

The Bill introduces a three-stage large-scale residential development process, consisting of a pre-application phase, an application phase and an appeal phase. It also contains an amendment to section 50A of the Planning and Development Act 2000, allowing for any party to a planning appeal to apply to have it heard by the Supreme Court under judicial review, bypassing the Court of Appeal. This provision is intended to reduce the length of time it would take to dispose of litigation and is to be welcomed.

Sinn Féin submitted amendments on Committee Stage in the Seanad and intends to do so again. They would remove the undemocratic power the Minister has to issue mandatory planning guidelines to local authorities. The powers were introduced by the former Minister, Deputy Alan Kelly, and were used twice by Fine Gael's Eoghan Murphy to bring us co-living, build to rent and mandatory heights. Sinn Féin also introduced proposed legislation to repeal these powers and subsequent guidelines on decisions. These matters are best decided by local government. Councillors' powers have been eroded for far too long and their mandate and local knowledge must be respected.


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