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Judicial review

Only 'matters of substance' to be referred to courts under Government planning overhaul

The Government said it aims to introduce new legislation to reform the process by mid-2022.

THE JUDICIAL REVIEW process for planning applications in Ireland will be reformed under plans announced by Government today. 

As part of the Housing for All plan launched this afternoon, a new division of the High Court dealing with planning and environmental issues will also be set up in 2022 by the Department of Justice & Equality. 

A review of the planning code undertaken by the Attorney General, meanwhile, will be completed by December 2022, the Government said today.

  • The Noteworthy team wants to find out the impact that the proposed reform will have on access to justice rights for citizens groups. More details here.

The judicial review system has long been seen as a delay to planning in Ireland.

Planning decisions of Local Authorities and An Bord Pleanála are subject to judicial review, a procedure for challenging the legalities of the planning authority.  

The aim of the reform under Housing for All is “to primarily to ensure that appellants access the administrative system fully in advance of court processes, and that matters of substance are referred,” according to the plan.

The Government said it aims to introduce new legislation to reform the process by mid-2022. 

The new processes will be fully compliant with the State’s obligations under the Aarhus Convention and will come into effect on the establishment of the new High Court division. 

According to the plan, the aim of the review is to ensure:

  • The major debate, particularly on scale of housing requirements to meet needs, in line with objectives of compact urban growth and environmental sustainability, is focused on the plan-making rather than the application stage, to facilitate greater clarity and long-term visibility in planning outcomes 
  • Adequate account is taken of the needs of the future population of new and expanded communities, as well as the needs of existing communities
  • Appropriate account is taken of the nature of planning decisions, which require careful balancing of public policy, public participation and environmental issues

The review will also include a “fitness check and upgrade of relevant provisions of planning law to ensure that it is more accessible and streamlined from a legal perspective.”

The Government today outlined targets for new supply, allocating €4 billion annual investment in housing.

The aim is to create 300,000 homes by the end of 2030, with more than half – 156,000 – coming from the private sector.

The remainder is set to be made up of 90,000 social homes, 36,000 affordable homes, and 18,000 cost rental homes.

On average, the plan sets out a target of over 33,000 homes to be built each year, rising to 40,000 by 2030.

In addition to plan for a reform of the judicial review system, “there are a range of areas where updated planning guidance is required to support the operation of the system,” today’s plan states. 

“It is intended to publish updated guidelines for planning authorities on strategic environmental assessment, updated rural housing guidelines to address the role of rural housing in a broader rural development and settlement context, and updated guidelines on the development management process.

“From a housing perspective, it is important to ensure that there is stability and certainty in the development sector and therefore, it is not proposed to review planning guidance on apartment development and building heights until 2025.”

The Government also said today that it would establish a ‘Planning Advisory Forum’ by the end of 2021. 

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