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"Proper planning and sustainable development should be open, transparent and stand up to scrutiny"

Date: 31 January 2022


Green Party Spokesperson on Planning and Local Government Steven Matthews has reacted to recently reported comments by Minister Peter Burke on changes being proposed to planning legislation in relation to Judicial Review:


‘It seems a strange approach by the Minister that rather than address the issues behind the increasing numbers of Judicial Review, it seems he aims to exclude people from seeking justice rather than addressing the problem at source.'



'I hope that the Minister will reconsider many aspects of the 2019 Fine Gael bill on Judicial Review and I look forward to scrutinising this bill in our Joint Oireachtas Committee and recommending some improvements.


'Under the Aarhus convention, to which Ireland is a signatory, access to environmental information, public participation in environmental decision making, and access to justice must be protected. Access to justice is enshrined at the core of our Constitution.

It is unacceptable to label groups who have an important role in ensuring environmental protection and planning and environmental law is upheld as an ‘industry’. Most of the people I know who are involved in taking a Judicial Review would much rather spend their time and money on other matters but have had to take these cases to protect our environment.


'Fine Gael’s last attempt to speed up planning processes was the introduction of Strategic Housing Development. This was a failure. It didn’t deliver housing at scale but it created a huge increase in Judicial Reviews many of which were successful. Most of these judicial reviews were the result of removing an important layer of local planning democracy. The lesson to be learned is that public participation in the planning process is critical and essential to the successful delivery of housing as set out in our County Development Plans and the National Planning Framework.


'The way to address planning disputes and the increasing number of Judicial Reviews is to address the problem at source through ensuring proper processes are adhered to, appropriate environmental and climate assessments are carried out, fully resourced planning departments at local authority level and meaningful public consultation and participation in the plan making processes. We also need to address the large number of extant planning permissions that have yet to be activated and acknowledge that JRs are granted on a tiny proportion of planning decisions.


'The 2000 Planning and Development Act has been amended so many times that it is difficult to follow and it absolutely needs an overhaul. That does not mean reducing public access to planning it means creating an inclusive system that will deliver on Irelands housing and development needs and place environmental protection and decarbonisation at its core. The Programme for Government commits to establishing an Environmental Court, dedicated to resolving planning and environmental disputes in a timelier manner. Delivering on this PfG commitment should be the focus here, providing resolutions but enabling and not excluding those who wish to ensure planning processes comply with the law.


'Our climate and environment have no boundary, we only have one and when we damage it affects us all. You can’t exclude those trying to protect it for our future generations by their address, how long they’ve been fighting for it or the size of their wallet.


'Removing access to justice on planning and environmental matters doesn’t mean we will get a better faster planning system it just means some people will get away with poor planning decisions and that method haunts us from the past. Proper planning and sustainable development should be open, transparent and stand up to scrutiny at any level.


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