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Spike in 'fast-track' housing plans being delayed and blocked in court

Report shows tenfold increase in objections to 5,802


Supply: Just 20,000 of the 35,000 new homes needed were built last year

Supply: Just 20,000 of the 35,000 new homes needed were built last year

Supply: Just 20,000 of the 35,000 new homes needed were built last year

There has been more than a tenfold increase in the number of ‘fast-track’ strategic housing schemes in Dublin to be quashed or delayed by judicial reviews, including the high-profile scheme on the RTÉ site in Montrose.

According to the annual Construction Report by consultants Mitchell McDermott, just 508 units in strategic housing developments (SHD) in the city were held up by reviews in 2019, but that figure jumped to 5,802 in 2020.

Nationally, there has been a seven-fold increase in the number of units in SHDs stalled due to judicial reviews, with 6,969 reviews last year compared to 1,048 in 2019.

That means 30pc of Ireland's total housing supply last year was delayed by objections using the expensive judicial system to stop new developments.

With Ireland having built just 20,000 new units last year instead of the 35,000 required to meet demand, judicial review appears to be making a significant contribution to the housing shortage.

“The SHD process was designed to fast-track the planning process for residential units in order to alleviate the current housing supply crisis," said Paul Mitchell, one of the authors of the report. " Last year, 30pc of units were stalled due to the judicial process, compared to 4pc in 2019. The country’s annual residential output is 20,000 units, so that puts that figure in context and shows the disproportionate effect these reviews are having on potential developments.”

Judicial review was recently used by the wife of billionaire financier Dermot Desmond and two other local objectors to stop a major development of new housing by Cairn Homes on land acquired from RTÉ in Montrose. The objectors own residences on nearby Ailesbury Road, one of Dublin's most expensive streets.

In that case, Cairn Homes has been delayed in developing more than 600 homes, for which it received planning permission in September, after the High Court quashed that decision last month on the basis of an administrative error.

The objectors also challenged the constitutionality of the Strategic Housing Act – the law behind the SHD process.

A strategic housing development is a fast-track planning process for schemes of 100 apartments or houses or more than 200 student beds on land zoned for residential that allows developers to apply directly to An Bord Pleanála for permission.

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It was introduced in 2017 for a five-year period to accelerate the delivery of housing projects by streamlining the application process and removing local planning authorities from the equation.

Almost 65,000 residential units have been granted planning permission under the SHD process since its introduction, according to Mitchell McDermott's figures.

Mitchell McDermott said an SHD application takes about 40 weeks, but must be resubmitted if quashed. This can delay projects by up to six months and add substantially to costs.

"We would like to see a more measured approach adopted whereby if permission is quashed due to relatively minor administrative issues, the applicant does not have to restart the process again,” said Mr Mitchell.

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