I propose to take Questions Nos. 360 to 362, inclusive, together.
The Planning and Development (Housing) and Residential Tenancies Act 2016 (the Act) introduced new streamlined arrangements to enable planning applications for strategic housing developments (SHDs) of 100 housing units or more, or student accommodation or shared accommodation developments of 200 bed spaces or more, to be made directly to An Bord Pleanála for determination.
The primary purpose of the SHD arrangements is to significantly speed up the planning decision-making process, thereby providing greater certainty for developers in terms of the timeframes within which proposals for such developments can be determined in the planning system, while also fully respecting the statutory requirements for consultation and having regard to observations submitted.
An external review of the SHD arrangements was carried out in 2019. This review particularly highlighted that while the arrangements had generally been a success in providing a fast-track development consent process for developers of large-scale housing developments, the number of SHD permissions that have commenced development is less than might have been expected.
The status of individual developments which have been granted permission under the Planning and Development Act 2000, as amended, is not routinely maintained by my Department given that some 30,000 planning permissions are granted nationally on an annual basis. My Department has conducted periodic research on the activation rate of SHD permissions and the most recent data in this regard would indicate that works have commenced on 29% of SHD permissions granted to date since the arrangements came into operation. There can be some delay, for various reasons, in the activation of housing developments post the granting of permission. In this regard, if permissions granted in 2020 are excluded from the calculations, the data indicates that works have commenced on 45% of the SHD permissions granted in 2018 (when the first permissions were granted) and 2019.
While obtaining planning permission is an essential step in any project, there are other factors at play that may impact on the commencement of any project, such as phasing of development (having to complete an existing project before commencing on another), finances, economic factors etc.
However, given the benefits that the SHD arrangements provide, it is considered appropriate that developers should be sufficiently motivated to commence development on foot of an SHD permission in a timely manner, given the efficiencies that the SHD arrangements provide and in order to ensure the objectives of the SHD arrangements are more clearly met.
In this regard, with a view to influencing the earlier activation of housing related planning permissions, the new Programme for Government – Our Shared Future commits to introducing a "use it or lose it" condition for all planning permissions of ten housing units or more. My Department is presently progressing the drafting of the necessary legislation providing for the introduction of the proposed new "use it or lose it" housing-related planning arrangements. This will be progressed over the coming months.
The Programme for Government also commits to not extending the SHD arrangements beyond their legislative expiry of end December 2021, which has now been extended to February 2022 arising from Covid-related shutdown of the planning system for 8 weeks, which extended all planning timelines by 8 weeks. The process for winding up the SHD arrangements will be considered by my Department over the coming months.