As the sun sets on the out-going Government, we have looked back at the planning legislation introduced in 2015 to kick start the construction industry and improve housing availability. The three key pieces of legislation, one of which remains in draft, are:

  1. The Urban Regeneration and Housing Act 2015;
  2. The Planning and Development (Amendment) Act 2015; and
  3. The Planning and Development (Amendment) Bill 2016.

Urban Regeneration and Housing Act 2015

This Act, which commenced on 1 September 2015, introduced:

  • a vacant site levy to incentivise urban regeneration and the provision of housing in central urban areas. The payment of the levy applies from 2018 and the proceeds of the levy must be used by local authorities on the provision of housing or the development of regeneration land in the vicinity of the vacant site;
  • the concept of urban regeneration into development plans by local authorities;
  • retrospective reduced development contributions for (i) existing planning permissions that have yet to submit a commencement notice and (ii) unsold units in a development, where local authorities have revised their development contribution schemes and provided for reduced rates; and
  • revised Part V arrangements on social and affordable housing by (i) reducing the cap on local authorities’ discretion as to how much land or how many completed units must be transferred under planning permission agreements from 20% to 10% of land or completed residential units in a residential development in excess of 9 units and (ii) prohibiting payment in lieu of transferring land or completed units to local authorities.

This Act is a key component of the range of delivery mechanisms required to achieve the targets set out in the out-going Government’s Social Housing Strategy 2020. In order to achieve these targets, a ‘carrot and stick’ approach was used; the carrot being reduced development contributions and Part V obligations and the stick being the vacant site levy. Only time will tell whether this approach will yield the targeted results. For further consideration of this Act, click here to access our dedicated briefing.

Planning and Development (Amendment) Act 2015

The purpose of this Act, which was enacted on 29 December 2015, is two-fold, namely:

  • to strengthen the status of aspects of guidelines issued by the Minister for Environment, Community and Local Government to local authorities to ensure their consistent application, particularly in relation to the recent Design Standards for New Apartments, and
  • to streamline the process for the making modifications to Strategic Development Zone (“SDZ”) planning schemes.

This Act marks an attempt by the out-going Government to streamline the planning process by improving (i) consistency in the application of Ministerial Guidelines and (ii) efficiency in the development of SDZ planning schemes. For further consideration of this Act, click here to access our dedicated briefing.

Planning and Development (Amendment) Bill 2016

This Bill was first introduced in late 2015, and revised and re-introduced by the Government on 4 January 2016. The purpose of this Bill is to give legislative effect to the remaining planning-related recommendations of the Mahon Tribunal. In particular,

  • the establishment of an independent planning regulator, the Office of the Planning Regulator (“OPR”), and
  • the introduction of the National Planning Framework (“NPF”).

Due to the recent general election, this Bill will remain in a ‘legal limbo’ until the newly elected Dáil convenes for the first time. At that time, it will decide whether to restore the Bill or whether to allow it to lapse. If restored and ultimately enacted, the establishment of the OPR would be welcome as an important step towards a more transparent planning system. Equally, the establishment of the NPF would be welcome to drive the context for planning future development in Ireland. For further consideration of this Bill, click here to access our dedicated briefing.

Conclusion

The introduction of the above legislation reflects the out-going Government’s appetite for planning reform in order to stimulate construction and increase housing availability in Ireland. As these key pieces of legislation were introduced relatively late in the lifetime of the out-going Government, the effect of the measures in achieving their intended aims cannot yet been evaluated and measured. As the dawn emerges on a new Government, we will watch with interest to see what other steps are taken in this important area of law and policy.