– New data from Construction Information Services (CIS) has identified that circa 65,000 new residential units are tied up within planning appeals, judicial reviews, and Strategic Housing Development processes.
The Irish planning system has been identified as one of the primary factors in the delay of housing delivery across Ireland. While blame is often directed at individual planning departments and processes, the full scale of the issues plaguing each administrative process hasn’t been understood until now.
New data from Construction Information Services (CIS) identifies that circa 65,000 new residential units are tied up within planning appeals, judicial reviews, and Strategic Housing Development (SHD) processes. The data also identifies the volume of units held in limbo under each administrative process:
- The appeals process: Circa 18,000 awaiting approval
- Judicial review process: Circa 15,000 units in the courts pending a decision
- Strategic Housing Developments (SHD) initiative: Circa 32,000 await an initial decision from An Bord Pleanala (ABP). Planning appeals and judicial reviews are two legal processes that can have a significant impact on the housing market in Ireland.
Planning appeals hold back 18,000 units
Planning appeals allow parties to appeal planning decisions made by local authorities or An Bord Pleanála.
CIS analysed over 700 projects on appeal as of March 2023. In total, there are over 18,000 units which are currently on appeal and awaiting a decision. Just over 13,000 of these 18,000 residential units’ appeal decision due date has now passed.
Dublin has the highest number of residential schemes currently on appeal with 151, followed by Cork with 63, and Wicklow with 31. These three counties have the most significant number of total residential units attributed to these appeals, with Dublin leading the way with 7,512 units, followed by Cork with 3,084, and Wicklow with 1,276.
Judicial reviews delay 15,000 units
Judicial reviews are legal challenges to decisions made by bodies such as local authorities or government agencies, and residents and local community groups opposed to developments.
These reviews focus on issues such as inadequate infrastructure, environmental concerns, and overdevelopment. In recent years, there has been a significant increase in the number of housing schemes in Ireland under judicial review.
As of March 2023, there were 105 judicial reviews relating to large-scale residential development sites in Ireland. The development sites that have gone through the judicial review process comprise a total of just under 34,000 units and just over 2,000 student bed spaces.
Of the 100 or so judicial reviews, 42% are still ongoing, 5% were won by An Bord Pleanála, 37% were lost or conceded by An Bord Pleanála, and 16% were withdrawn.
The 42% of cases which are currently ongoing equate to close to 15,000 units and over 200 student-bed spaces.
The 5% of cases that were won and upheld by An Bord Pleanála equate to 1,200 units. The 37% of cases that the Bord lost or conceded equate to just under 13,000 units and just over 1,000 student bed spaces. While 16% of judicial reviews that were subsequently withdrawn equated to 5,100 units and just under 700 student bed spaces.
The now-defunct SHD process aimed to expedite the planning process for large-scale housing developments. SHDs include residential projects with 100 or more housing units, mixed-use developments with a majority of residential units, and large-scale student accommodation projects with at least 200 bed spaces.
By mid-March 2023, a total of 488 SHDs had been lodged through the fast-track process, of which 243 applications were granted. There are currently 91 SHD applications awaiting a planning decision from An Bord Pleanála.
These 91 schemes equate to nearly 32,000 residential units, with just over 7,000 houses and just under 25,000 apartments. Of the 91 schemes, 4% were lodged in 2021, 94% in 2022 and 2% in 2023. As expected, Dublin has the highest volume of units, which are awaiting a planning decision, with over 21,000 units still with the Bord. County Clare has the lowest volume of units, which are awaiting a planning decision, with just under 300 units still with the Bord.
As of late March 2023, CIS understood that the Department of Housing had granted An Bord Pleanála permission to dissolve its Strategic Housing Division, the unit within the planning body that oversees the controversial fast-track housing scheme.