The fast-track planning scheme, the strategic housing development scheme, has not delivered and is not delivering faster housing construction and it has de-democratised and undermined local input into our planning system. In an academic paper emanating from UCD and Queen's University, it is revealed that a group of developers essentially captured the then Minister, Deputy Coveney, and got him to include this initiative for a new planning procedure in the legislation. Developers co-operated with this research work. The developers met. The Minister rang them when he heard about the idea and he met them. They said that they gave him their recommendation and he took it lock, stock and barrel and put it into the new housing legislation. This is what is in the paper itself. Dr. Lorcan Sirr of Technological University Dublin makes the point that it shows how little strategic thinking went into approving the strategic housing development process. A national Fine Gael politician commented on the research that given Fine Gael's predisposition to the market as the best way to solve the housing problem and as a principal policy objective, it was predisposed to this type of initiative. Alarmingly, one experienced architect told the researchers that from a developmental perspective, one of the great benefits of fast-track planning schemes is that they allow one to circumvent the development plan of the city or the county. Essentially, one can apply for a material contravention by the back door and that is a serious issue.
Maybe the Minister took the developers in good faith, as many in the House did. However, research by Killian Woods of The Sunday Business Post demonstrates that the fast-track planning scheme has not worked. No construction has commenced on more than 10,000 units that already have planning permission, which represents two thirds of all units that got permission. No construction has commenced in 47 of the 64 large housing developments granted fast-track permission. No construction has commenced on quite a number approved in 2018. Crucially, numerous sites with planning permission are currently advertised for sale. It seems the scheme has been used to get large-scale planning permission with a view to selling it on. That was not the intention. Half of the firms that received planning permission through the strategic housing development scheme in 2018 have not filed intent to commence construction.
Is the Taoiseach concerned at how naive the then Minister was and how his initiative lacked any strategic thinking within the Department underpinning it? He took on board lock, stock and barrel the developers' proposals and did not put in adequate protections. Does the Taoiseach accept that it has not resulted in faster construction of housing and that the combination of this measure with many of the high-density elements of the planning framework for 2040, with the reduced standards for apartments, is leading to a lopsided development landscape where co-living and build-to-rent is now the dominant preferred model? That is what is happening in our cities. Will the Government revert to greater local engagement and inputs and prevent, with legislation, this scheme from facilitating material contraventions of local development plans by the back door, which was never the original intention of the Oireachtas?