The 2010 Planning Act expanded the categories of projects that may qualify for strategic infrastructure status to include a very broad definition of “health infrastructure” of “a health care facility providing in-patient services, but excluding a development which is predominantly for the purpose of providing care services within the meaning given to that term by section 3 of the Nursing Homes Support Scheme Act 2009”.

The strategic infrastructure process is a one-stage, fast-track planning process that allows private and public sector developers of specified infrastructure projects to apply directly to the Planning Board for planning approval.

The broad definition resulted in a series of pre-application consultations with the Planning Board to ascertain if health care projects have strategic infrastructure status. In 2011, the Board decided that the HSE’s proposal to relocate the 50-bed Acute Adult Mental Health Unit was not strategic infrastructure.  The Board also decided that the proposed extension and refurbishment of the Acute Adult Mental Health Unit in Mullingar to accommodate 33 new bedrooms was not strategic infrastructure.  In contrast, the 392 in-patient bed and 53 day care bed National Children’s Hospital was found to be strategic infrastructure.

The 2011 Act changes the definition of health infrastructure to clarify that a facility must have more than 100 beds to fall within the strategic infrastructure stream. Projects below this threshold must be permitted under the ordinary planning process. This amendment has yet to be brought into force.