The Cabinet has approved the Planning and Development Bill 2023 for consideration by the Houses of the Oireachtas. The move marks a significant milestone in overhauling planning legislation that aims to increase clarity and efficiency in the planning process. Key changes in the Bill include introducing ten-year development plans and statutory timelines across the consenting process. This means that the newly restructured and renamed An Coimisiún Pleanála will be bound by statutory deadlines for issuing decisions. The critical time periods range from 18 weeks for appeals and 48 weeks for strategic infrastructure development. This significant change aims to accelerate the process and provide certainty for all stakeholders.
There are several changes to the Judicial Review (JR) process. These include the removal of the leave stage, the inability to bring amended grounds beyond those submitted in the original application and a requirement for all applicants, except in the case of specified bodies, to have sufficient interest. These changes aim to streamline the JR process and ensure JR cases are only taken if all other appeal and administrative procedures have been exhausted. Additionally, following Pre-Legislative Scrutiny, a key change to the Bill since the Draft is the ability of Residents’ Associations to take JR cases. Residents Associations can take a JR subject to the following criteria:
- The Association has a constitution.
- Two-thirds of members vote to proceed with a JR.
- Names and addresses of those favouring the JR are submitted with the application.
The Bill also strengthens the legal status of Ministerial Guidelines and renames these to National Planning Policy Statements. It will be necessary to align other planning policies with these to ensure consistency across the policy hierarchy. There is also a replacement of Strategic Development Zones with Urban Development Zones. These areas are considered to have significant development potential and will form a key investment priority for the Government to ensure the delivery of enabling infrastructure that will allow development to be realised in these areas.
The Bill will be presented to the Houses of the Oireachtas for consideration in the weeks ahead. The Bill will then be enacted on a phased basis with support and resources available to navigate the transition.