Kelly announces Major reform of Planning Process

Mr. Alan Kelly T.D., Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, today (2 October, 2014) announced major reforms of the planning system as part of the forthcoming Planning No.1 Bill which was approved by Government this week. The general scheme of the Bill will be published in the coming weeks.

The new reforms include new Part V requirements for developers, the introduction of a vacant site levy and ‘Use it or Lose it’ clauses with planning permissions.

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The new Part V proposals will require developers to provide up to 10% of their housing units for social housing and the legislation will remove the ability of developers to account for their social housing commitments through cash payments to local authorities. The proposals will furthermore ensure that the social housing units will be located predominantly on the site of the original developments.

“This will be a significant and highly socially progressive step forward for the planning process. If this policy had been in place since 2000, we estimate that there would be an additional 15,000 social housing units in Ireland today. Under these plans, we expect in the region of 4,000 additional social housing units built by 2020. This will have a hugely positive impact for the provision of social housing,”

“While I recognise these provisions will create challenges for builders, I am anxious to work with the construction industry to develop new funding models in order to deliver this housing. We are making significant progress with NAMA in this regard who are committed to providing additional social housing and long may this continue. Addressing the current housing supply shortage, which is particularly acute in Dublin, is one of the highest priorities for the Government,”

This Planning Bill is being progressed as part of the Government’s Construction 2020 Strategy which aims to provide affordable homes by tripling the housing output by 2020 and adding up to 60,000 jobs to the construction sector.

The new legislation will also see the introduction of a vacant site levy whereby local authorities, in urban centres of greater than 3,000 population, will have the power to apply levies to property owners who leave their sites vacant and underutilised.

The proposed levy will work by applying a annual levy at a rate of 3% of the market value to the site if the owner does not take steps to develop the site. Once in place, local authorities will have the power to apply such levies to vacant sites in areas designated for priority development under their respective local development plans.

“We have a major challenge to increase the supply of housing and this Bill is primarily about introducing measures which can help make development proposals more economically viable, thereby facilitating increased housing supply. This will not only help to counter the house price increases recently encountered in the market, but an increase in housing supply will also help to address rent increases being experienced in the private rental market. I am determined to finalise this legislation without delay,” added the Minister. 

The Bill will also provide for reduced development contributions in specific circumstances and allow local authorities to introduce a ‘use it or lose it’ system of planning permission for housing developments. This would require applicants for planning permission in respect of housing developments of scale (10 houses or more) to indicate their proposed development schedule, and where the development is subsequently not progressed in line with the schedule, without reasonable justification, to modify/ reduce the duration of the permission.

The Planning No.1 Bill will be progressed as a priority in the coming Dail term.

In summary, the measures proposed in this General Scheme are:

Ø the introduction of a vacant site levy aimed at incentivising the development of vacant sites in central urban areas,

Ø the amendment of the Part V provisions on social and affordable housing as incorporated in the Planning Act of 2000,

Ø enabling developers to avail of reduced development contributions in respect of existing planning permissions that have yet to be activated, and

Ø enabling planning authorities to modify the duration of planning permissions where developments of scale do not commence in line with the development schedule indicated in relevant planning applications (the adoption of a “use it or lose it” approach).

“We have major challenges to increase  housing supply as a matter of urgency. We cannot have knee-jerk reactions which might  be seen to pander  to particular groups. Everything we do must be sustainable and not short sighted solutions. This Bill will assist in this regard and I am intent on delivering this legislation in the shortest time frame possible,” concluded the Minister.