Sinn Féin spokesperson on Housing, Eoin Ó Broin TD, has said that the Government must get the Planning Bill right.
His comments were made as the Government published the much-delayed Planning and Development Bill 2023.
Teachta Ó Broin said:
“After much delay, the Government has finally published the controversial Planning and Development Bill. Running to 700 pages, it is the third-longest piece of legislation in the state’s history.
“Sinn Féin will take a number of days to carefully analyse the Bill, both in terms of its individual provisions and how they interact with the planning system as a whole. Once we have had time to analyse the detail of the Bill, we will comment on individual sections.
“The first draft of the Bill drew widespread criticism from almost every sector in the planning process, from professional planners, planning legal experts, developers, environmental NGOs and residents’ groups.
“The Oireachtas Housing Committee recommended over 140 changes to the Bill.
“A broad consensus emerged during the debate on the draft Bill that, in its initial form, the legislation would make our planning system more complex, subject to increased conflict and litigation, resulting in poorer quality planning decisions and increased delay.
“The big question is whether Darragh O’Brien and the Government listened to the voices of experts, planning professionals and the Oireachtas Housing Committee.
“Sinn Féin was clear that the draft Bill contained some positive proposals such as statutory timelines for all stages of the planning process and a focus on plan-making.
“However, we were also clear that these measures would only work with adequate resourcing of our planning authorities and the courts; something we have yet to see. Half of the additional posts sanctioned for An Bord Pleanála have yet to be filled, and Local Authorities have yet to get any additional planning staff.
“We were also clear that many of the Bill’s provisions, including the poor drafting of the National Planning Policy Statements, weakening of public participation provisions, and changed top judicial review procedures, would actually increase conflicts within the planning system leading to increased litigation, poorer quality planning decisions and increased delays.
“If the Minister has taken all of these concerns on board, we will be happy to work with him to improve the planning system. However, if he has ignored our concerns, then at Committee stage we will table significant amendments to ensure that we get planning right.
“Sinn Féin wants to see a planning system that is properly resourced, that makes good quality planning decisions based on meaningful public participation to meet society’s social, economic, environmental and biodiversity needs.
“For too long, Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael have rushed through badly drafted planning decisions and chronically under-resourced our planning system. The consequences have been conflict, poor decisions and delay.
“Given that this is a once-in-a-generation legislation, we need to ensure we get it right and Sinn Féin will play a constructive role in achieving that objective.”