'Fast-track' plans for over 2,000 homes hit by delays
Housing minister Eoghan Murphy's hope that the Government's 'fast-track' planning application system for large-scale housing developments would speed up the delivery of new homes has been dealt an early blow.
An examination by the Irish Independent of the pre-planning requests received by An Bord Pleanála to date shows that at least five applications for developments with as many as 2,254 housing units have been declared invalid. While most of the affected applicants have since submitted amended requests to the An Bord Pleanála, the delays are understood to be a source of huge frustration for those affected.
Among the proposals declared invalid was an application from developer Michael Cotter's Viscount Securities to build 934 new homes at Clay Farm in Leopardstown, Dublin 18. A subsidiary of Cotter's Park Developments Group, the firm plans to deliver 363 houses and 571 apartments within a 10-year timeframe at the south Dublin scheme.
Viscount Securities submitted its pre-planning request on July 10 last. However, it took until September 1 - a period of nearly eight weeks - for An Bord Pleanála to declare it as invalid. An amended proposal from the company has since been validated.
Most requests are knocked back by An Bord Pleanála because the developer has not complied fully with its guidelines for the paperwork required for a Strategic Housing Development (SHD). The delays encountered by Cotter and other applicants are all the more concerning when one considers that it took the Government over seven months to give the fast-track planning system legal effect. Having been announced by the then housing minister Simon Coveney last November as part of the 'Rebuilding Ireland' plan, the measure was only signed into law on June 23 last by his successor, Mr Murphy.
The new Housing Minister's high expectations for the system were evident in a newspaper interview he gave the following month. Commenting on its introduction, he said: "There were certain things that I knew I wanted to come in and do immediately, that I knew I would be able to do quickly because they were to be enacted - and I did that."
Murphy's hope for the fast-track system will be dented further by the news that UCD saw its pre-planning request rejected because its proposal for an SHD was deemed by An Bord Pleanála as "not a reasonable basis for application".
UCD is seeking permission for 512 student accommodation units, comprising 3,006 bed spaces in seven blocks, including a student facility centre and 994 car parking spaces, which would be built within 10 years. While UCD submitted its pre-planning request on July 3 last, it took seven weeks for An Bord Pleanála to inform the university that its application was invalid.
While An Bord Pleanála declined to comment on its operation of the fast-track scheme, Hubert Fitzpatrick, director of the Construction Industry Federation (CIF), said there was no evidence as yet that there is a major problem with it.
He said: "An Bord Pleanála has issued detailed guidelines and the new system has to be given time, so that any niggles can be resolved.
"The industry will work proactively with the system and review its progress. If any streamlining is required, we expect that it will take place."