New legislation dealing with fast-tracked planning applications for certain large scale housing developments will come into operation on 3 July 2017. The Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government (the Minister) signed the Commencement Order and supporting Regulations dealing with administrative elements of the process on Friday 23 June 2017.

The new streamlined process, which was introduced by the Planning and Development (Housing) and Residential Tenancies Act 2016 (the 2016 Act), provides for applications for planning permission to be made directly to An Bord Pleanala (the Board). The aim of the 2016 Act is to accelerate the planning process with decisions being potentially made within 25 weeks. At present, it can take up to two years for a planning decision to be made. The new process will apply until December 2019 and may be extended to December 2021.

Definition of strategic housing development

The fast-track process applies to “strategic housing developments” which include:

  1. A development of 100 or more houses on land zoned for residential purposes or a mixture of residential and other uses;
  2. Student accommodation developments which contain 200 or more bed spaces on land the zoning of which allows for the provision of student accommodation, or a mixture of student accommodation and other uses;
  3. A development which includes developments of the type set out in 1 and 2 above; and
  4. The alteration of an existing planning permission where the proposed alteration relates to development specified in 1, 2 or 3

on lands with appropriate zoning and subject to limitations on the extent of other uses.

New provisions relating to Local Authority own developments

Section 29 of the 2016 Act which provides for a streamlined approval process for the local authorities own developments will also come into operation on 3 July 2017. The 2016 Act provides that the proposal must be determined by elected members within 20 weeks from when the proposal was first issued for public consultation. This is to combat potential delays for certain proposals, in particular social housing projects. Prior to this amendment, there was no maximum timeframe for local authorities to decide on such proposals and local opposition often delayed matters significantly.

The Regulations also introduce an amendment to existing planning laws, reducing the period for public inspection of local authority own developments from 6 weeks to 4 weeks. This includes social housing projects, infrastructure serving public and private developments, fire stations, swimming pools etc.

Welcome news for developers

The introduction of this new planning process has been eagerly awaited by many developers. While it is welcome news that the process will result in quicker planning decisions, applicants must ensure that they familiarise themselves with the new procedures to avoid any complications with their applications.

For further information please view our recent article Planning for the Future – fast track planning applications