The Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Darragh O’Brien TD, has received Government approval for the publication of the Planning and Development (Amendment) (Large-scale Residential Development) Bill 2021 to restore decision-making on large-scale housing developments to local authorities.
As set out in Housing for All, the Government’s far-reaching plan to create a sustainable housing system into the future, the Bill will introduce a new planning process for Large Scale Residential Developments (LRDs) to replace the Strategic Housing Development (SHD) process, while continuing to expedite the delivery of housing supply, in both the public and private sectors.
The reforms will restore decision-making powers on large residential developments to local authorities in the first instance, providing greater transparency and clarity and improved public participation in the process. The Bill will also provide certainty and stability to the construction sector by retaining some of the positive elements of the SHD arrangements such as mandatory pre-application consultation, quality of applications submitted and decision timelines.
A large-scale residential development is:
• A housing development of 100 or more units
• Student accommodation comprising 200 beds or more
• A combination of the two where the threshold is met for either element
Delivering on commitments in both the Programme for Government and in Housing for All, the new LRD arrangements will involve three stages:
• Pre-application stage: This involves two steps; firstly, the applicant will be required to seek standard pre-application consultation as currently mandated for developments of this scale under section 247 of the Planning Act. The second step entails a mandatory 8-week consultation phase with the local authority resulting in the holding of an “LRD meeting” and the issuing of an “LRD opinion” as to whether the proposals constitute a reasonable basis for submitting a planning application.
• Application stage: This stage involves a standard application to the planning authority with a mandatory 8-week decision timeframe.
• Appeal stage: The decision of the planning authority may be appealed to An Bord Pleanála, in which case the Board has a mandatory 16-week decision timeframe.
The Bill also proposes a number of transitional arrangements in relation to the expiry of the SHD arrangements and their replacement by the new LRD arrangements. Following enactment of the LRD Bill, the LRD and SHD planning consent schemes will both operate concurrently for a limited period, with developers already in the SHD system being able to continue to decision-making stage. Once the final SHD planning applications have worked their way through the system, the LRD arrangements will be the sole planning consent system for housing applications of this scale.
This Bill/process was originally termed the “large scale residential development” (LSRD) process. However, it was subsequently changed to “large-scale residential development” (LRD).
Minister O’Brien welcomed the Government’s decision saying that it provided for planning applications for large-scale residential developments to be dealt with in the first instance at the local level by local planning authorities and in an expeditious manner.
Commenting he said, “these are very important changes which restores the primary decision-making function to local authorities, while retaining some of the positive elements of the SHD arrangements such as mandatory pre-application consultation, quality of applications submitted and decision timelines.”
“At the same time, the LRD arrangements will also allow for enhanced public participation through the restoration of the appeal mechanism to the Board.”
Minister O’Brien added, “the mandatory timelines for the three stages of the LRD planning process will streamline the overall decision-making process, thereby providing greater clarity to developers regarding timelines and the public regarding future housing opportunities.”
“My Department’s Housing for All plan recognizes that the planning system must be reformed to ensure that there is certainty and stability for those providing housing in Ireland. The introduction of these new permanent streamlined arrangements for developments of this scale will provide the necessary stability and assist in getting new developments off the ground.”