DEVELOPERS have been given the go-ahead to build more than 40,000 new homes -- a year's supply in a normal market -- even though most of them will never be built.
The Irish Independent can today reveal that planners have approved 43,000 apartments and homes in housing estates in 2009 and 2010, despite a massive overhang of unsold properties in the market and banks refusing to lend.
And planners last night confirmed that many of the permissions were granted to developers hoping to increase the value of their land banks before they go to NAMA.
Serious questions now surround the decision of local authorities to give permission for more homes at a time when tens of thousands of properties are lying idle in ghost estates across the country.
Planning Minister Ciaran Cuffe said last night that securing planning permission to bump up the value of distressed land banks would not lead to a "pot of gold", and that significant reforms of the planning system would "take time" to take effect.
New laws will only allow local authorities to grant permission for a set number of homes which will be set out in regional planning guidelines.
"It may well be that applications will be granted (today) that might not be granted after the plans are reviewed, but we can't make all the changes overnight," he said.
The figures show that in the first nine months of last year more than 11,000 houses and apartments in estates were approved by the councils.
In 2009, when the housing market was in freefall, permission was granted for almost 32,000. The figures do not include permissions granted for one-off houses.
The developments include major town centre schemes and individual housing estates.
Among the companies granted permission include Cosgrave Developments, who secured permission to build 605 apartments on the former site of Dun Laoghaire Golf Club. The company already had permission for 856 units on the southern section of the site.
A subsidiary of Park Developments called Viscount Securities was given permission to build 438 housing units in Diswellstown near Castleknock, in Dublin, last February.
The Dublin-based construction company paid a dividend of more than €470,000 to its owners as loans linked to the building firm were being prepared for transfer to NAMA.
Joe O'Reilly, who built Dundrum Shopping Centre, was given the green light for 342 new homes in Dunshaughlin, Co Meath, in January last year.
The previous December, he was given permission to build another 40 units in phase two of the Dundrum shopping centre.
Local authorities in Sligo, Cavan, Monaghan and Donegal, also gave permission for thousands of new units despite any recovery in the market likely to take longer in rural counties than in the cities.
Gordon Daly, president of the Irish Planning Institute, said many of the permissions were granted at the request of the banks.
"Many of these permissions may be the renewal or alteration of existing permissions on land already zoned for development for the purpose of retaining or enhancing the value of development land at the request of lending institutions or NAMA," he said.
The County and City Managers Association, which represents local authority bosses, insisted that all applications were decided on their merit.
The Labour Party said it would consider introducing a ban on granting permission for large-scale housing developments.