The current review of our planning laws must ensure that serial objectors cannot stall badly needed infrastructural projects to the detriment of communities, a Fine Gael Senator has said.
Senator Tim Lombard said the proposed Planning and Development Bill 2022 must include strict criteria on parties that appeal projects that have been granted by Local Authorities, as the current system can lead to substantial delays on essential infrastructure being delivered.
Senator Lombard, Fine Gael’s Seanad spokesperson on Agriculture, Food, Forestry & Marine, said:
“There is abuse of the current planning and development code where we have serial objectors who lodge appeals to An Bord Pleanála after planning has been granted by the local authority.
“These serial objectors often live hundreds of miles away, outside the county and even outside the province from where the original planning decision has been granted.
“I have seen this in my own constituency where much essential agricultural development projects have been delayed due to parties appealing a local authority decision to An Bord Pleanála.
“Progress is further hampered when these objectors seek a judicial review of a board decision, with both state projects and private commercial developments becoming bogged down in a cumbersome and multi-faceted legal process which also puts significant strain on our courts service.
“A balance needs to be struck between people’s rights to object to planning that will have an impact on them or their community versus these serial objectors who have their own agenda. The individual or party objecting to the project may be doing so on environmental grounds or where there could be potential for financial gain.
“One would have to question the agenda of these serial objectors lodging appeals from the opposite end of the country.
“People with no association or affiliation with an area are hampering development and livelihoods throughout the country with spurious objections to anything and everything from large infrastructural projects to one-off rural housing and even small-scale agricultural extensions.
“It makes no sense that, for example, someone living in Dublin would object to planning for an extension to a milking parlour in County Cork, which has occurred.
“We need robust legislation from the Housing Minister to ensure the planning authority can view and act on these spurious objections so that unnecessary delays are removed from the process.
The Joint Oireachtas Committee on Housing, Local Government and Heritage has undertaken a significant pre-legislative scrutiny process on the planning and development Bill.
“Recommendations the Committee made are currently being considered by the Minister and his department, and may feed into the final bill which will then proceed through the Oireachtas.
“Any legislation must include strict criteria for individuals or parties who may lodge an appeal to include proof that the project will impact them directly and their geographical location in the country apropos of the proposed project.
“There should also be controls around the entity or agency who can lodge an appeal and timelines around the process, as we need to remove all obstacles to delivering the supply of homes and agricultural developments that are so badly needed in our growing society and economy,” Senator Lombard said.