Thursday, 17 December 2020
Department of Housing, Planning, and Local Government
358. To ask the Minister for Housing, Planning, and Local Government his plans for the reform of the planning process and in particular the judicial review process; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44541/20]
The Programme for Government sets out a number of commitments under the heading of Planning and Reform. Specifically these include the introduction of a "use it or lose it" condition for all planning appliations of 10 housing units or more and review and reform of the judicial review process. My Department is working on the development of legislative proposals on both these elements.
The General Scheme of the Housing and Planning and Development Bill 2019 which was published in late 2019 outlines a range of initial proposals in relation to the reform of the judicial review process within the Planning and Developments Acts. This General Scheme was reflected in the Government's Legislation Programme Autumn Session 2020, among the list of the General Schemes to undergo pre-legislative scrutiny. However, given the range of other legislation before the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Housing, Local Government and Heritage, this was not progressed in 2020 and so is now expected in early 2021. In tandem, my Department is engaging with the Department of Justice in the light of the Programme for Government Committment that such reforms should come into effect upon the establishment of the proposed Environmental and Planning Law Court, while always adhering to EU law obligations on public participation under the Aarhus Convention. My Department is also considering the issues raised during a public consultation phase of the General Scheme, to inform the evolution of this piece of legislation.
The "use it or lose it" proposals are being developed as separate legislative proposals. This concept specifically arose from an external review of the Strategic Housing Development (SHD) arrangements which enables planning applications of 100 housing units or more, or student accommodation or shared accommodation developments of 200 bed spaces or more, to be made directly to An Bord Pleanála (the Board) for determination. In line with the Programme for Government commitment, these SHD arrangements will not be extended beyond their legislative expiry which is now February 2022.
My Department is presently in the early stages of developing the necessary legislation providing for the introduction of the proposed new "use it or lose it" housing-related planning arrangements. This will include consideration of any legislative amendments requried to support the process for winding up the SHD arrangements and their replacement with revised planning processes for large-scale housing developments. My Department is currently engaging with stakeholders in this regard, and the legislative proposals will be progressed over the coming months.