On 13 July 2021, the government released the General Scheme of the Planning and Development (Amendment) (LSRD) Bill 2021 (the Bill). The Bill sets out proposed new arrangements for "large scale residential developments" (LSRDs), which will supersede the existing Strategic Housing Development (SHD) process, due to lapse on 25 February 2022.
The SHD process was introduced in 2016, with the intention of speeding up the planning permission process for "well designed large-scale housing developments" on land already zoned for residential developments. The SHD provisions were always subject to a "sunset clause", which was originally 31 December 2019. That expiry period was pushed out to December 2021 following a review of the SHD system in 2019, and again to 25 February 2022 as a result of the government's COVID-19 related extensions to planning timeframes.
The Regulatory Impact Analysis (the RIA) released along with the General Scheme outlines that the new arrangements seek to draw on "best practice" from the existing SHD system. In particular, the Bill does the following:
- Creates a new definition of "large scale residential development", which is very similar to that applicable to SHD. Specifically, the Bill defines a LSRD as:
- A development comprising 100 or more houses on land zoned for residential use, or for a mixture of residential and other uses; or
- Development of student accommodation units which, when combined, contain 200 or more bed spaces, on suitably zoned land.
(A key change to this definition is that the new LSRD provisions will allow for up to 30% of the gross floor space of the proposed development to be for commercial use - up from 15% under the current SHD framework)
- Provides for applications for LSRDs to be made to local planning authorities in the first instance, as opposed to An Bord Pleanála (the Board) (in contrast to SHD applications, which go directly to the Board). Following the planning authority's decision on a LSRD application, an appeal to the Board will generally be available. Consequently, most LSRDs will be subject to a potential "two-step" consenting process once the Bill is enacted, with judicial review also available following the Board's decision
- Establishes a mandatory, time-bound consultation process with the planning authority before the developer submits its planning application. Following that consultation, the planning authority must issue an opinion as to whether the relevant documents submitted constitute a "reasonable basis for making an application for permission for the proposed development". The RIA notes that the intention of this process is for developers to submit higher quality applications, and in turn to reduce the number of appeals to the Board
- Provides for an exception to the above framework where application is located within a Strategic Development Zone (SDZ). In such instances, the developer will submit the relevant application directly to the planning authority. The new pre-application consultation processes will not apply, and no appeal to Board will be available (which is currently the case for applications for planning permission within a SDZ).
More details on the above framework will become available once the legal text of the Bill is published. We expect further details on timing once the government releases its Autumn legislative programme.