Restricting judicial reviews is a cause for concern for the Green Party. Alamy Stock Photo

Coalition parties may clash over planning reforms as Green ministers flag concerns at Cabinet

Green Party members have raised concerns about restricting access to justice.

REFORMING IRELAND’S PLANNING laws is the latest measure aimed at speeding up housing delivery, but the coalition parties are set to clash over the new law.

Cabinet today agreed on plans to overhaul the planning system, with new laws set to go before the Dáil in early 2023.

Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien has previously said the planning system “has become very unwieldy” and needed to be more efficient.

The Bill proposes policy changes in a number of areas which are already proving controversial not just to the opposition, but among the Green Party members of Government too. 

These changes include proposals to bar residents groups from taking High Court actions against planning permissions as well as changes to judicial reviews.

Judicial reviews are cases taken by citizens or groups to the High Court.

Particularly in recent years, judicial reviews have been used to challenge decisions made by An Bord Pleanála around large-scale property developments around the country.

It is understood that the three Green Party ministers around the Cabinet table flagged concerns about the changes to judicial reviews that would restrict access to justice.

Wicklow Green Party TD Steven Matthews also told RTÉ that there are “major reservations” with the legislation.

However, as the proposals are contained in a draft bill, Green Party sources have said there will be “extensive” discussions when the legislation goes through pre-legislative scrutiny in the Oireachtas Housing Committee, where issues will be “thrashed out” and solutions found.

The party is understood to believe that the “widest number of people should be allowed to take an appeal if they so wish”. 

In terms of resident group restrictions, it is understood the draft guidance is that where an organisation, for example a resident’s association, seeks to take a judicial review, it will have to be taken by an individual or individuals, rather than by the association.

However, it is believed that nothing will prevent one, or every member of a residents association take a judicial review. 

This is primarily for transparency, it is believed, for example, in the past groups have been set up to take reviews, then disband when it comes to addressing costs after a judicial review. 

There is also a cost protection structure proposed as part of this to keep a lid on costs for all parties in this process. 

Any controversies around this planning legislation and whether concerns within Government can be addressed will wait until next year when the proposed legislation goes before the committee.

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