The annual competitiveness report 2002 of the National Competitiveness Council, NCC, identified a number of possible measures to increase the speed of the planning process. These included channelling planning applications for particular large-scale strategic infrastructures directly to An Bord Pleanála, and establishing a special division of the High Court to deal specifically with infrastructural issues.
In addition, the NCC report suggested that two further options might be considered: direct Oireachtas approval of particular infrastructure projects and establishing a specialist planning body with responsibility for assessing planning applications for infrastructure projects in the national interest, which would be independently resourced and operate in isolation from the current system.
My Department is considering the efficiency of the planning approval system in respect of major infrastructure cases, including reviewing the board's record in dealing with such cases since the transfer of ministerial functions to the board on 1 January 2001. The NCC's recommendations will be considered in that context.