The Government must very seriously re-think its approach to its review of the planning legislation. The need for significant revision and further detailed consideration of the new Planning Bill is reflected in the pre-legislative scrutiny (PLS) report which was published Thursday morning by the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Housing, Local Government and Heritage. Many of the report’s 153 recommendations are very welcome, however, they don’t resolve the most significant and controversial part of the draft bill relating to the legally problematic changes to the judicial review provisions.

An Taisce very much welcomes the PLS Report’s strong emphasis on the need for sufficient time for extensive scrutiny of the final bill. We are also very pleased to see the Report echo our calls for a period of public consultation on the bill as well as the publication of an explanatory memo and evidence base for the changes and a Regulatory Impact Assessment. None of these have been published by the Department, which has seriously hampered the evaluation of the bill to date. 

However, the Report’s approach to the changes to the judicial review rules has not sufficiently addressed the myriad of problems that these changes will cause. 

Phoebe Duvall, Planning and Environmental Policy Officer with An Taisce said:

Multiple, very well-informed groups expressed serious concerns to the Committee about the delays, dysfunction and additional legal cases that will result from these changes, and recommended that the existing provisions are retained, as they currently function well.

“However, instead of recommending that the judicial review changes be rejected and the current provisions be reinstated, the Report takes a piecemeal approach and fails to comprehensively address the substance of the legal problems. While the 14 recommendations on access to justice do identify some of the serious issues with the provisions, they leave open multiple avenues for more delay and litigation. This is entirely contrary to the bill’s objective to increase efficiency and speed in the planning system. The report also has not adequately addressed the complete lack of justification for the proposed changes.”

“The bill’s retrograde approach to judicial review raises very serious issues of compliance with the Aarhus Convention on access to justice, and the PLS report rightly recommended that these provisions be reviewed against the Convention. As the Minister with responsibility for Aarhus compliance, we are calling on Minister Eamon Ryan to ensure that this legislation upholds the fundamental public right to access justice.”

“We can’t overstate the enormity of the bill’s implications for our communities and our environment. It’s also a once in a generation opportunity to get our planning laws right so we can urgently and effectively address the crises we face in housing, climate, energy, etc. But the bill as it stands right now will fall far short of achieving that.


Contact: Phoebe Duvall, Planning and Environmental Policy Officer, An Taisce: [email protected]