A sense of fairness is something we really value in Ireland. Democracy and access to justice uphold this.

Our country, along with the rest of the world, is currently facing a serious biodiversity and climate crisis. Many of our most sensitive species and habitats are in ongoing decline, we are struggling to control greenhouse gas emissions, and our air and waters are facing continuing degradation in quality.

Ireland therefore cannot afford to further restrict access to justice on matters of environmental protection. The highest level of oversight and scrutiny is required.

We consider that the Heads of this Bill present a significant erosion of the public’s right to access justice and participate in the Irish planning process. If passed, the Bill would drastically reduce the ability of ordinary citizens and environmental NGOs to take judicial review (JR) proceedings on planning decisions which they view to have potentially negative environmental consequences.

Through several amendments, the Bill aims to significantly curtail which members of the public may take a legal challenge, and place arbitrary and restrictive thresholds on which organisations qualify as environmental NGOs. The amendments would also significantly increase the financial exposure for qualifying members of the public and environmental NGOs who wish to take a legal challenge. It is our considered opinion that the proposed Bill is wholly incompatible with the Aarhus Convention and the legal obligations of its implementing European Directives.

Given that there is no evidence that the proposed Bill will have a substantive impact on reducing planning delays, it would appear to An Taisce that it is primarily an appeasement of developers and a facilitation of developer-led planning, at the expense of public participation and our legal obligations under the Aarhus Convention and its implementing Directives.

We therefore urge the Government in the strongest of terms to withdraw this Bill.

Read our full submission: 2022 Submission on the Housing and Planning and Development Bill

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