New bill will 'completely reform entire planning system' - Burke

The new draft Planning and Development Bill will completely transform the planning system, according to Minister of State for Planning and Local Government Peter Burke.

Minister Peter Burke was speaking after Cabinet approved the new Draft Planning and Development Bill 2022, a "key" piece of legislation used to deliver planning approvals.

The Fine Gael man said that the changes proposed will make significant improvements, with public participation continuing to be a central component of our system.

“This draft Bill will completely transform our entire planning system. It will provide clarity, consistency and certainty to all stakeholders involved in planning, including applicants, practitioners, communities, and those involved in construction and development.

“For the first time, we are introducing statutory mandatory timelines for all processes which will have a significant impact on delivery. The Bill also implements the separation of decision-making and corporate governance roles within An Bord Pleanála, which will increase public confidence in the capacity of the board to make decisions in a fair manner, underpinned by independence and impartiality.

“Further changes include the extension of development plan cycles from six to ten years, increased clarity around environmental consents, strengthened powers for local authorities with regards to Compulsory Purchase Orders, and upgraded legal status for ministerial guidelines which will now be called National Planning Policy Statements.

“The issue of Judicial Review has also been examined, with proposed changes meaning that An Bord Pleanála can correct errors in original applications. NGOs will continue to play a valuable role in our planning system and individuals, or groups of individuals can still seek leave to apply for JRs which have an impact on them. Cost protection will also be included, providing that the court does not consider the proceedings frivolous, vexatious or an abuse of process.

“We need to encourage engagement and public participation at the strategic plan-making stage of our planning system and ensure there is a greater consistency of approach across the country.

“The Bill approved by Cabinet is still in draft form and will be published early in the New Year. Pre-legislative scrutiny will take place with the Oireachtas Housing Committee before full debate in both Houses of the Oireachtas in early 2023.

“At present, our planning system processes over 30,000 applications successfully in a year, but we have identified bottlenecks and particular issues that could be managed in a better way.

“The changes we are making are necessary to modernise our system and ensure it is ready to deliver the record investment Government is making in housing and infrastructure,” concluded Minister Burke.