Urban planning expert says housing supply will be “strangled” by judicial reviews


A leading urban planning expert has asserted that if the government does not address the issue of High Court judicial review appeals against “fast” housing developments, the housing supply will be “strangled”.

Planning consultant Tom Phillips issued the warning on Thursday after it emerged the government was planning to speed up the planning process and make it harder for court challenges to stop housing and other developments.

However, this process is expected to take 18 months and Mr Phillips called it “far too long”. He said: “It’s so obvious where the problems are.”

Current legislation on Strategic Housing Development (SHD) was already designed to speed up the process, but permits for residential developments of more than 100 units are being blocked through judicial review actions brought by opponents of developments before the High Court.

Mr Phillips said today: “Even when you win you lose, unfortunately you are right now.”

He explained that currently, “you get your clearance for an SHD from An Bord Pleanála and eight weeks later you get your judicial review and it’s put into a detention mechanism that could last for a year.”

He said “that’s why it’s so hard to get things done”.

He said that in 32 years of working in the planning field, “I have never felt that the planning system was in such disarray as it is now.”

Neck claw

Mr Phillips, who employs 27 people in his Dublin cabinet, said: ‘Unless the government takes the issue of judicial scrutiny through the neck, there is no point in the Tánaiste saying that we will be able to build 40,000 units when you can’t. build some because of judicial reviews.

Mr Phillips – whose plans include the Central Bank headquarters building on Dublin’s North Quays and Johnny Ronan’s recently turned down 40-story Waterfront South Central project – said it was ‘too easy’ for opponents of the SHD to obtain judicial reviews of An Bord Pleanála’s planning permissions in court. “It’s like shooting fish in a barrel,” he said.

“If a plan is subject to judicial review, that cost spills over into the cost of the unit, so whoever purchases the unit will ultimately pay the costs of the judicial review. “

Mr Phillips warned that the current state of judicial review would discourage investment in the residential market.

Mr Phillips said: “Where does the money come from if there is such a risk that the money will be spent on development?

He said: “There is no Irish bank loan money for development at the moment and a lot of institutional money will go elsewhere because Ireland is too risky. We are not going to build 40,000 houses in the fresh air. The money has to come from somewhere.


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