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Plan to 'stamp out spurious objections to construction' - Minister

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Eoghan Murphy. Picture: Collins

Eoghan Murphy. Picture: Collins

Eoghan Murphy. Picture: Collins

Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy has defended his plans to make it much harder to oppose planning decisions, saying he was trying to weed out vexatious objections.

The minister has drafted law that would make it virtually impossible for many individuals, local groups and environmental organisations to take judicial review proceedings against controversial developments and planning decisions.

Among the changes he wants are rules to require campaign groups to have been in existence for three years, to have at least 100 signed up members, to be personally and substantially affected by a development and to be able to risk potentially crippling costs.

Mr Murphy said he was planning the changes to stamp out spurious objections.

"It's very important that people recognise we have a very serious problem in housing in that we need to build more homes, particularly apartments, particularly in our urban areas. What we have seen far too many times is people objecting to housing where they shouldn't be, and objecting for spurious reasons."

But environmental groups say the High Court does not entertain spurious objections in planning matters.

"You have to make a case to even get a judicial review hearing so if a judge thinks you have a frivolous claim and is not convinced there is merit in your case or an issue worth exploring, you don't get any further," said Tony Lowes, of Friends of the Irish Environment, which has taken numerous cases forcing the Government to comply with environmental regulations.

"Under the minister's plans, we won't even get as far as asking for judicial review, which of course is his intention."

Mr Murphy said people with objections could make their views known to planning offices or An Bord Pleanála but under strategic infrastructure and strategic housing development law, there is no formal appeal process other than to seek judicial review.

Campaign groups say the move breaches the European Commission's Aarhus Convention which protects public participation in decision-making and access to justice in environmental issues.

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