The Planning and Development Bill 2023

The Planning and Development Bill 2023 was published in November 2023. It is intended that the Bill will repeal and replace the current legislation, the Planning and Development Act 2000 as amended (PDA). The Bill carries forward certain provisions of the PDA, which have been deemed to pass the “fitness check”.

Some of the main changes under the Bill are as follows:

An Bord Pleanála to An Coimisiún Pleanála

The name of An Bord Pleanála will be changed to An Coimisiún Pleanála which will be referred to commonly as the Commission, under the Bill. The Commission will have a three-pillar structure with demarcation between planning decision-making, governance, and corporate departments. It is estimated that staff numbers will be increased from the current 238 to over 300. This reformed structure and increased staffing are intended to improve the decision-making process and ensuring that it is faster and more transparent.

Plans, policies and related matters

The Bill appears to be placing greater emphasis on the initial stages of the planning procedures by implementing a more strategic long-term approach.

For example, under the PDA the lifetime of a development plan is 6 years. Under the Bill, a development plan will now have a 10-year lifespan. However, this 10-year lifespan can be extended for a further 2 years in exceptional circumstances. There is also an interim stage. After 4 years from the adoption of the development plan, the chief executive must prepare an “interim implementation report” in which variations may be proposed.

Mandatory timelines for consenting

The Bill introduces mandatory timelines for all consent processes, including decisions made by the Commission. The proposed timelines are set out below, however these may differ depending on the type of development being proposed:

  • Planning authority applications: 8 - 12 weeks
  • Appeal to Commission: 18 - 26 weeks
  • Material alteration request to the Commission: 18 weeks
  • local authority or state authority under Chapter 4 of Part 4 of the Bill : 26 weeks and will range from 18 to 48 weeks for Chapter 4 maritime development.
  • Strategic Infrastructure Development: 48 weeks

There will be penalties where the planning authority or the Commission fail to comply with the timelines. These can including the following:

  • Repaying the applicant a fixed percentage of the fees paid
  • Requirements to determine the application within a further specified period
  • Publishing the reasons for failing to decide on applications within the required period, and
  • Notification to the Office of the Planning Regulator for continuous failures to comply with timelines

Judicial review

The Bill removes the requirement for an application for leave to apply for judicial review. This had previously been a requirement under the PDA.

It also provides that proceedings are considered to have been commenced when a notice of motion has issued from the High Court regarding an application. Currently, in order to commence proceedings an applicant must “open the papers” before the High Court in order to “stop the clock” on judicial review timelines.

There are also corporate governance requirements for environmental organisations and unincorporated bodies, ie a residents’ association, in order to be considered eligible to apply for judicial review.

The right of any appeal of a decision of the High Court to the Court of Appeal has also been removed, which was available under the PDA. However, the Bill retains the right to seek an appeal to the Supreme Court.

Environmental Legal Costs Financial Assistance Mechanism

A significant reform proposed under the Bill is the introduction of the Environmental Legal Costs Financial Assistance Mechanism. This will be a means-tested legal aid scheme for applicants in judicial review and other Aarhus Convention (environmental) cases where parties will be required to bear their own costs. Costs paid under the scheme will be on a fixed-scale, established specifically for these types of cases. If an applicant is successful in its case, it will be able to recover its costs in line with the scale. If an applicant is unsuccessful, it may receive a contribution to its costs from the scheme which is proportionate to the applicant’s means assessment.

The complete Bill is available to review.

The content of these articles are provided for information purposes only and does not constitute legal or other advice.