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An Bord Pleanala lost 63% of High Court challenges in 2020

Gary Ibbotson 22 Dec 2021

An Bord Pleanála’s rulings were successfully challenged in 63% of High Court cases last year, according to the planning body’s annual report.

There were 51 legal cases decided last year with ABP losing 32 of those.

In 19 cases the High Court quashed the planning permission while in 13 cases the planning board admitted to deficiencies in its decision-making process.

Only 11 decisions were upheld while another eight were discontinued or withdrawn.

The majority of the challenges were filed against permissions granted for large-scale housing schemes under Strategic Housing Development (SHD) process.

The report reveals that most of the SHD applications were in Dublin with 53% of the 137 cases occurring the county.

There were 72 cases decided in Dublin with 29 in the area governed by Dublin City Council, 16 in Dún Laoghaire–Rathdown, 15 in Fingal and 12 in South Dublin.

Of the 137 cases decided overall, 98 were given the green light, clearing the way for the construction of 25,403 residential units, 2,301 student bed spaces and 774 shared accommodation units.

Permission was refused in 28 – or 22% – of cases.

In 2017, the Strategic Housing Development system was introduced as part of the 2016 Residential Tenancies Act.

Under the act, applications for residential developments of 100 units or more or student accommodation developments of 200 bed spaces or more can bypass local authorities and can be filed directly with ABP.

The aim of the process was to speed up the construction of housing, but the scheme was drawn criticism from people and parties across the political spectrum, with many saying that it benefits developers and build-to-rent or shared accommodation schemes.

The Government has announced that the SHD scheme would be phased out from February 28, 2022, but a spokesperson for the Department of Housing said the deadline for applications has now been brought forward to this month.

The spokesperson said there will be a transitional period while applications go through the system.

Social Democrats TD Gary Gannon said in November that the SHD initiative “does not deliver homes.

“The SHD process, which the government itself has said is not working to deliver homes, was due to be phased out as early as this autumn.

“Regrettably, that deadline was postponed to 2022, for reasons that have never been explained by the government.

“If we have learned one thing since SHDs were introduced, it is that they do not deliver homes. What they deliver is bumper profits for developers and investment funds,” he says.

Overall, the An Bord Pleanala said it dealt with 2,628 cases in 2020 which was a 12% decrease on the previous year.

The report states that the decrease in case numbers can be ascribed in part to the impact of the eight-week planning timeline extension introduced because of Covid-19 restrictions.

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