The Act came into force at the very end of 2016 and introduced the concept of Strategic Housing Developments and extending the lifetime of planning permissions for certain residential development for a second time. It is expected however that the associated regulations will not come into force until mid April 2017 and only then will An Bord Pleanala be able to accept applications
Strategic Housing Developments involve, for a limited time-period, anew streamlined planning processes in respect of large-scale housing developments comprising 100 housing units or more or 200 or more student accommodation bedspaces allowing the making of planning applications for such developments directly to An Bord Pleanála. Importantly the Act states that such applications ‘shall’ be made to the Board and therefore there is no option involved in terms of lodging with the Council instead. Furthermore the Act states that applications involving modifications to housing development with over 99 units also have to be made to An Bord Pleanala.
The new fast-track planning procedures will apply for an initial period of 3 years until the end of 2019 with the possibility to extend that period by a further 2 years to coincide with the timeframe of Rebuilding Ireland.
Under the new procedures, following initial consultations with the Council, An Bord Pleanála will be required to complete pre-planning application consultations in relation to proposed developments with the concerned developers and the relevant local authority within a maximum period of 9 weeks. They will subsequently be required to make a final determination in respect of planning applications for concerned developments within 16 weeks of receipt of the planning application.
This will potentially result in planning decisions for concerned large developments within 25 weeks of commencement of the pre-application consultation, as against the current planning process which can take up to 18-24 months from initial design stage to securing ultimate approval.
Although the Act allows for an application to make a case for material contravention of a development plan this does not appear to be the case where the lands in question are not zoned for housing (or a mix of uses including housing). It appears therefore that the material contravention refers to the likes of density or height restrictions only.
The Act also provides that a further extension of duration of permission may be granted by a planning authority in case of a housing development comprising 20 houses or more, where the authority considers that a further extension is necessary to enable the development to be completed.