Ireland's planning system is from another century builders say

Date: 21 Jan 2021

Homebuilders say they are trying to meet the demands of the 21st century with a 20th-century planning system that is delaying the construction of new homes.

Industry body Irish Homebuilders Association (IHBA) has published a new report on the future delivery of homes identifying a number of areas that they claim are causing backlogs and delays. An electronic planning system instead of paper-based applications, streamlining design guidelines and extra resources for planning authorities are amongst the recommendations from the report.

IHBA director James Benson said it is agreed that Ireland needs on average between 33,000 to 36,000 new homes across all types delivered annually for the next two decades.

“But we are trying to meet the demands of the 21st Century with a 20th-century planning system,” he said.

“The result is unnecessary delays to homebuilding up and down the country. This landmark report identifies the need for certainty and speed in the delivery of viable housing schemes, while respecting the importance of the planning process. We have identified practical, achievable solutions to improve the planning system in Ireland and help meet our common goals of much needed new homes in Ireland,” he said.

The report, Planning Reform Necessary to Expedite the Delivery of Housing notes that an electronic planning system is now over three years late and, at best, Ireland’s 31 local councils and An Bord Pleanála would not have a functioning electronic planning system until early next year.

The report also criticises the Vacant Site Levy system which it says represents a “stick rather than a carrot approach to the delivery of housing”. The IHBA said a more equitable treatment of vacant site levies was needed which reflect the reasons why there might be delays progressing on a site.

An examination of the potential for the greater use of outline planning permissions to help define strategic design and planning issues at the outset, rather than at the end of the planning process is also recommended in order to reduce costs.

Homebuilders also said that many existing ministerial guidelines are outdated and require updating. They said standards should be streamlined in terms of the definition of ‘dual aspect’, garden sizes, garden walls, bin stores, or bike stores all of which they said adds unnecessary costs and affect the amount of space available for development.

The IHBA said the report identifies practical and achievable improvements to the planning system.

It said: “These include improved resourcing for local authorities and An Bord Pleanala; fast-tracking the establishment of an electronic planning system; and streamlining design standards to reduce costs and maximise space available for developments.”


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