An Bord Pleanála has published an end-of-year summary of casework statistics for 2019. These statistics demonstrate the breadth of work that An Bord Pleanála manages and the timely turnaround of planning decisions. The most note-worthy are set out below:
In 2019, there continued to be an upward trend in the number of planning cases received and decided. Total case intake was up 7% to 2,938 from 2,734 in 2018. The total number of cases was up 4% to 2,972, from 2,848 in 2018.
Planning appeals accounted for 71% (2,076 cases) of the case intake in 2019, up 2% on the 2,028 received in 2018. A total of 2,115 appeals were decided in 2019, down marginally on the 2,159 case disposals in 2018.
65% of all appeals related to residential development, ranging from home improvements to single and multi-unit accommodation proposals.
An Bord Pleanála endeavours to decide all normal planning appeals within a period of 18 weeks from the date of receipt. This period is known as the statutory objective period. In 2018, 39% of normal planning appeals were decided within this period. In 2019, this statistic greatly improved to a significant 69%. The average number of weeks for deciding normal planning appeals in 2019 was 18.4 weeks, which is just 3 days over the 18 week target. This is indicative of far greater efficiency within the system and capability of managing a fast growing workload.
Strategic Housing Developments (SHD)
Since the enabling legislation came into effect in July 2017, applications for planning permission for strategic housing developments (100+ housing units and 200+ student bed-spaces) have been made directly to An Bord Pleanála. A total of 168 valid applications have been received, with 118 of those received in 2019.
82 valid applications were decided in 2019, comprising 15 refusals and 67 grants. The 67 grants provide for a total of 16,771 residential units (4,327 houses and 12,444 apartments), 200 shared accommodation bed spaces and 4,331 student bed spaces, thereby contributing very significantly to the housing crisis.
The mandatory timelines were met for all decisions issued, being 16 weeks generally or 24 weeks where an oral hearing is required. This demonstrates significant commitment and expertise on the part of An Bord Pleanála.
The SHD statutory provisions also provide for the holding by An Bord Pleanála of pre-application consultations with the prospective applicant and the relevant planning authority. By the end of December 2019, 151 valid pre-application consultations had been made to An Bord Pleanála and during 2019, 150 pre-application consultations were held.
Strategic Infrastructure Development (SID)
A total of 298 Strategic Infrastructure Development applications have been made to An Bord Pleanála since 2007. In 2019, 26 applications were received (up 30% on 2018) and 21 applications were decided.
Among the major cases decided were the two new wastewater treatment plants (WWTP) at Arklow and Clonshaugh, expansion of the Ringsend WWTP, expansion of Foynes Port, and the development of a number of windfarms in Galway and Donegal.
In relation to potential SID applications, a total of 38 pre-application consultation requests were received and 41 were concluded ion 2019. Of the 41 cases concluded, 15 were determined to qualify, with applications for these proposed developments to be submitted to An Bord Pleanála for determination. Of the remaining 26 cases, 15 did not fall within the SID classification, 9 were withdrawn, 1 was closed and 1 was deemed invalid.
The volume of SHD and SID applications being submitted to An Bord Pleanála has significantly increased over the last two years. The ability of An Bord Pleanála to manage these additional cases expeditiously demonstrates the determination and commitment that it has towards developing Ireland and tackling the housing crisis. Equally, the decisions to refuse permission demonstrate the cautious approach which An Bord Pleanála takes in respect of the impact potential projects might have on the environment and the various persons who object.