I thank the Chair and confirm that I am in Leinster House. I thank Mr. Hogan for his presentation. The understatement of the day is the description of there having been some criticism of the SHD process. Most of us are of the view that it has been an absolute disaster in the context of the lack of commencements of grants of permission, the level of judicial reviews and just the general sense that it has exacerbated the adversarial nature of the planning system. None of this is necessarily the fault of the Department, but I wish to put that point on the record.
In general, I welcome the return to a two-stage process, and local authorities being at the centre of that, but I will express some extreme caution concerning some technical aspects of the heads. I will rattle through a bunch of questions very quickly. If Mr. Hogan cannot answer all of them during the meeting, I ask that written responses be forwarded to the committee in advance of our pre-legislative scrutiny report considerations. That would be helpful. Of the 51,000 or 52,000 units of accommodation approved under the SHD process, what percentage have been commenced? How many of the judicial reviews lodged were based on claimed breaches of city and county development plans and how many of the reviews which have been heard were decided in favour of the applicants? I ask those questions by way of obtaining background information.
Will Mr. Hogan confirm that my reading of the heads of the proposed Bill is right in that there is no change to the statutory timeline for local authorities in the context of what would have happened previously with the process? There is the same two-week period from notification to submission, the same five-week period for submissions from third parties and the same eight-week period for local authorities to decide. That is my reading of the proposed Bill, but I would like Mr. Hogan to confirm that there are no changes in that regard.
A beefed up pre-planning application process will have staffing implications for local authorities. Will Mr. Hogan tell us if there have been discussions with local authorities, particularly the large urban ones, regarding that aspect. In addition, a stronger LSRD pre-planning process could have implications for mid- and small-sized planning applications. Will Mr. Hogan comment on whether that point has been considered and what has or will be done to mitigate any impact on applications for planning permission below the threshold in this regard?
Turning to fees, will Mr. Hogan confirm that when we get the Bill, we will know what the proposed fees are going to be? I ask that because I am sure there are people behind the scenes furiously lobbying to have the fees reduced for the industry. I would like to know that fee information before we are asked to consider the Bill.
Moving to the heads of the proposed Bill and running through them very quickly starting with head 4, will Mr. Hogan explain the rationale for the 30% retail or commercial requirement? I am not concerned by it, but I would like to know the reason for that percentage.
Regarding head 5, there is a real missed opportunity because there is no consideration of public participation or public access to documentation during the pre-planning consultation. I believe strongly that if we want to reduce the number of third-party objections and judicial views then the earlier we involve local communities and interested third parties, including environmental non-governmental organisations, the better. Was consideration given to allowing involvement at that stage? If not, why?
Moving on to head 6, subsection 14 of the proposed new section 247A to be inserted in the principal Act states that "A person shall not question the validity of any action taken or opinion formed by the planning authority under this section". Will Mr. Hogan explain what that provision means and what its scope is?
Turning to head 8, the accompanying explanatory note states this is "to allow the Minister to prescribe the specific issues which can be addressed by way of [additional] information". How does that point relate to our international and EU legal obligations concerning environmental directives, Aarhus directives and-or framework directives, for example? Are we at risk of being too restrictive regarding the capacity of local authorities to request additional information? If we are too restrictive in that regard, could we - as we so often do with some of our rushed planning legislation - end up with a conflict in that regard?
Under head 9, why is it proposed to give the board extra time when it cannot meet the statutory timeline? That seems to defeat the purpose of it. We do not let the local authority have that. What is the rationale for allowing the board to decide on its own terms if it is going to meet its statutory deadlines or not?
Will Mr. Hogan provide more detail on head 12, exclusion from entitlement to compensation?
On head 13, I am surprised at the generosity of the transitory arrangements. Will Mr. Hogan explain the rationale for allowing a full SHD to be submitted until February? Given that the decision will not be taken until some time after that, what is the rationale for leaving such a wide window of opportunity for those?