The new fast track planning law: will it help boost housing supply?

A new fast-track planning law officially came into effect last Friday. It was passed in December of 2016 as a part of The Planning and Development and Residential Tenancies Act. After months of delays in which officials debated over application fees, the law has now been officially be enacted.

The Planning and Development and Residential Tenancies Act 2016, introduced by former Minister for Housing Simon Coveney, introduced the idea of strategic housing developments. It was intended to provide greater stability for tenants and to help streamline the planning process. An important aspect of the Act is the new fast track planning procedures it introduced. The fast track planning procedure allows developers to bypass their local authority and apply directly to An Bórd Pleanála, an independent authority that previously only made decisions on appeals after plans have been rejected by local authorities. The Board was established by the Local Government Act of 1976, and now its responsibilities will expand to include taking and reviewing applications submitted through the new streamlined procedures.

The fast track planning law will only apply to developments of 100 dwellings or more, or student accommodations containing more than 200 beds. Developers must meet with the An Bórd Pleanála and local authorities for preplanning consultations before they can submit an application. Once the application is submitted, the board will than have 16 weeks to decide whether to grant permission for the development. The new law and process could possibly shave months off the time needed for a decision to be made, whereas prior planning decisions made through local authorities often took as much as 24 months.

The enactment of this law and its passage until 2019 will not only work to hasten the speed of decision making but will also finally put an end to land hoarding as a result of speculation on the details of the law. The new fast track procedure is likely to help developers get plans under construction much quicker. However, it is also important to note that the new fee on applications have be raised up to a maximum of €80,000 paid to the An Bórd Pleanála, whereas previous applications to local authorities had upward limits of €38,000. Furthermore, there may be concerns over the ability of developments to successfully secure a meeting with both the An Bórd Pleanála and local authorities within an appropriate time frame. The new fee range will be unlikely to affect application but it is possible that securing pre-planning consultations may lead to possible delays.

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