Friday 25 October 2019

Apartments drive planning permissions surge in second quarter

A new report by Goodybody Stockbrokers has found that a surge in planning permissions for apartments was behind a 42% year on year (yoy) in increase in residential permissions in Ireland in the second quarter of the year. The number of apartment units given planning permission in the second quarter amounted to 4,675, up 156% on the same period last year, and takes the total for the year to date to 7,267. To put this into context, only 2,745 apartments have been completed in total over the last twelve months. The surge comes on the back of a change building height standards at the end of 2018 and amid very significant interest from the Build-to-Rent sector.
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New app for planning application information

Esri Ireland has announced that the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government is launching a new open data web service on its digital mapping platform. The two websites (the second the map based option) can be found at:
The service will enable members of the public to access and review information about planned developments in their local areas going back as far as 2010.
As planning information is presented in map form, it will be easier for people to visualise where developments are taking place.
The new database was designed and implemented using Esri’s ArcGIS, and is being made available for viewing and analysis via the ArcGIS Open Data platform, the world’s fastest growing open data platform.
Currently 31 local authorities are responsible for the provision of a planning authority function in Ireland, and these authorities create and collect planning applications and assign coordinates to each application.
However, prior to Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government’s implementation of the database there was no standard mechanism in place to manage the storage of planning application data.
The development of the National Planning Application Database marks a further step towards the creation of a data infrastructure for geography and statistics that will ultimately facilitate evidence-based decision making across the public sector, a statement from Esri Ireland said.
"For the first time, stakeholders and other interested parties will have access to a visual representation of planned development throughout Ireland, enabling them to track development and contributing to more efficient national infrastructure planning in the future," Eamonn Doyle, CTO, Esri Ireland, said.
From press release. 

‘Cultural change’ needed for communities to accept high density housing

Communities need to undergo a “cultural change” to accept sustainable high density housing developments, Minister of State for Housing Damien English has told an Irish Planning Institute conference. Planners must build trust with people to help them see “what’s best for them” rather than “what they think they actually want”, Mr English said, if the goals of compact growth and the sustainable regeneration of towns and cities are to be achieved. 
Read the full article @ The Irish Times

Locals appeal plan to fell 1930s trees over wheelchair access

Residents of Glasnevin in north Dublin have appealed to Dublin City Council not to fell 90-year-old trees that the local authority said are living in a “hostile environment”.The council plans to fell the mature lime trees on St Canice’s Road following complaints from a wheelchair user in relation to the condition of the footpath surrounding the trees and the difficulties in access which the trees cause. However, residents said the trees could be retained if the council repaired and properly maintained the footpaths.
Read the full article @ The Irish Times

Plans for new ESB power station at Poolbeg in doubt

Plans for a new ESB power station at Poolbeg are in doubt as planning authorities have raised concerns about the choice of location for the new facility. The ESB is seeking planning permission from Dublin City Council to build a new 75 megawatt flexible thermal generation plant at the Ringsend site. However, council planners have questioned the location of the development and why alternative sites on other ESB lands were not considered.

Read the full article @ The Irish Times

Over 650 apartments planned beside St Anne’s Park in Raheny

The developer behind controversial plans for 536 houses and apartments beside St Anne’s Park in Raheny has lodged a new application for more than 650 apartments on the site. The apartment-only scheme would see Crevkav build 657 apartments in blocks up to nine storeys in height, along with almost 500 parking spaces on former playing fields east of St Paul’s College beside the park. The number of homes in the new scheme would represent an increase of more than 20 per cent on previous plans, but no houses are proposed as part of the new application to An Bord Pleanála.

Read the full article @ The Irish Times

The interpretation of the building height guidelines in Strategic Development Zones

There is a growing sense of disillusionment in those communities around Ireland that have been finding out that their County Development Plan’s or Local Area Plan’s building heights restrictions appear to have been dismissed by statutory guidelines. The ‘Urban Development and Building Heights’ statutory guidelines were issued in December 2018 by the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government. Many communities feel that statutory guidance should not be allowed to over-ride democratically produced development plans and consider that the courts may need to intervene in this area. 
One area where the courts have been involved is in the interpretation of the guidelines as they apply in Strategic Development Zones; it is now clear that the guidelines do not provide for extant SDZ planning schemes to be over-ruled with regard to building heights. 
Before the summer, Mr Justice Simons handed down a judgment relating to a case entitled Spencer Place Development Company Limited v Dublin City Council (2019/239 JR). The dispute between the parties related to the interpretation and interaction between the statutory building height guidelines and statutory planning schemes adopted for strategic development zones. The guidelines, entitled "Urban Development and Building Heights", were issued in December 2018, (the “Guidelines”).
Background to case
Spencer Place Development Company Ltd is the Developer and leaseholder of lands at Spencer Place, Spencer Dock, Dublin 1. The lands are located in an area which has been designated as a strategic development zone, or SDZ, known as the North Lotts and Grand Canal Strategic Development Zone.
The Developer submitted two applications for planning permission to Dublin City Council (DCC) seeking to obtain permission for additional storeys on two sites. The proposed development would exceed the maximum building heights prescribed under the relevant planning scheme. 

The Developer argued that the legal effect of the Guidelines is that the planning authority is now authorised to grant planning permission even though the maximum height restriction for a development within an SDZ was exceeded. The parties disagreed over whether the relevant policy under the Guidelines distinguishes between a planning scheme and a development plan. The Developer sought declarations as to the meaning and effect of the Guidelines. The Developer argued that the two planning applications fell to be determined by reference to the Guidelines. They contended that that the Guidelines authorise Dublin City Council to grant planning permission even though the proposed scale of the development conflicts with the building heights restrictions governing the North Lotts planning scheme.
The dispute centred around the interpretation and application of a particular provision of the Guidelines known as “SPPR 3”. The abbreviation "SPPR" refers to a "specific planning policy requirement". The overall objective of the Guidelines is to give tangible effect to government policy which supports increased building height and density in locations with good public transport accessibility. These typically occur in towns and cities. In these areas, planning authorities are required to explicitly identify areas where increased building height will be actively pursued, and not to provide for blanket numerical limitations on building height. Planning authorities are also required to ensure an appropriate mixture of uses in developments, such as housing and commercial or employment. The Guidelines identify development management criteria which must be taken into account when authorities assess individual planning applications. Where the relevant planning authority considers that these criteria are appropriately incorporated into development proposals, then the planning authority is required to apply SPPR 3.
In this case, the Developer sought three declarations by way of relief:
- A declaration that the interpretation in the briefing note of 31 January 2019  is ultra vires and/or incorrect as a matter of law.
- A declaration that Dublin City Council is obliged to apply SPPR 3(A) in the determination of planning applications for development within the area of any SDZ planning scheme, including the North Lotts and Grand Canal Planning Scheme 2014, as of the date of the publication of the Guidelines.
- A declaration that Dublin City Council is obliged to apply and/or comply with the Guidelines prior to undertaking and/or completing any review and/or amendment of the North Lotts and Grand Canal Planning Scheme.

Court decision
The Court was satisfied that the developer’s interpretation of SPPR 3 was not correct for the following three reasons, being that:
- It necessitated imputing a level of legal knowledge to a member of the public which is impermissible under the "ordinary meaning" test.

- It was inconsistent with the general approach of the Guidelines whereby the terms "development plan" and "planning scheme" are used disjunctively. At a number of points in the Guidelines, development plans, local area plans and planning schemes are referred to as separate items within the same paragraph, which indicates that the Guidelines are employing the term "development plan" in its ordinary meaning, and not the extended meaning of "development plan plus planning scheme". The Court took the view that the reference to a "development plan" under SPPR 3(A) must be understood as referring to a composite of the development plan and the planning scheme.
- If SPPR 3(A) was intended to include a composite reference to a "planning scheme", then the Guidelines would have the immediate effect of overriding the planning scheme and such an effect would not be contingent on the carrying out of and completion of a review and amendment of the planning scheme.

In its consideration of the issues, the Court also considered the interaction between Ministerial guidelines and the SEA Directive. Justice Simons held that on its ordinary meaning, SPPR 3(A) did not apply to a planning scheme in respect of an SDZ and that this finding is sufficient in and of itself to dispose of the Developer's argument. The Judge held that the correct interpretation of the Guidelines is put beyond all doubt when one has regard to the environmental statement published as part of the decision-making process required under the SEA Directive. This document not only identifies the amendments between the draft Guidelines and the "as issued" Guidelines, but also explains the precise rationale for distinguishing between a development plan and a planning scheme.
The Court held that SPPR 3 (A) does not apply to a planning scheme. The most that the Guidelines do is to require a planning authority to review and amend a planning scheme. This process must be carried out in accordance with the statutory procedure prescribed. In particular, it may be necessary to undertake an environmental assessment of the amendments for the purposes of the SEA Directive.
The Court also held that it would be necessary to seek the confirmation of An Bord Pleanala of any proposed amendments to an existing planning scheme. Therefore, the fact that the Minister has issued guidelines is not necessarily conclusive of the outcome of the statutory process of amendment.
It was further held that pending the making of an amendment to a planning scheme, any planning application made in the interim falls to be determined by reference to the extant planning scheme. On their correct interpretation, therefore, the Guidelines do not authorise a planning authority to dis-apply the criteria prescribed under a planning scheme for an SDZ.
The Court did not grant the Developer any of the declarations sought and dismissed the application for judicial review in its entirety.
Increasing prevailing building heights has a critical role to play in addressing the delivery of more compact growth in urban areas, particularly in cities and large towns through enhancing both the scale and density of development. Planning authorities and An Bord Pleanála will be required to have regard to the Guidelines and apply any specific planning policy requirements (SPPRs) of the Guidelines in carrying out their functions. However, notwithstanding the significance of the Guidelines, developers should take note that:
- Pending the making of an amendment to a planning scheme, any planning application made falls to be determined by reference to the relevant planning scheme.
- The Guidelines do not supersede the height caps in the Special Development Zone (SDZ) where a building is being developed, particularly if the building height would not be consistent with the provisions of the planning scheme
- There is no right of appeal to An Bord Pleanála on local authority planning decisions on building height if they are in a SDZ area.
Summary of 2019/239 JR and online records of this case. 

Planning permission has been granted for 104 apartments in Johnstown

A planning application for 104 apartments at Metges Road, Johnstown has been granted by An Bord Pleanàla. Concern had been expressed at proposals for four apartment blocks ranging from four to five storeys containing, one, two and three-bedroom apartments, as well as commercial units at Metges Road with residents coming out in force earlier this year in protest against the move. The application granted consists of four buildings ranging in height from four to five storeys over basement on a site measuring 1.23 hectares. It will contain 104 apartments (20 one-bed, 76 two-bed and eight three-bed) as well as 1,536 square metres of commercial space including a crèche, sports facility, offices, own-door commercial units and ancillary spaces.
Read the full article @ Meath Chronicle

Nenagh tops Tipperary County Council's planning application list

This biggest number of planning applications made to Tipperary County Council in 2019 have come from the Nenagh district area, local councillors have been told. Senior engineer Brian Beck revealed at the October meeting of Nenagh Municipal District Council that of the 770 applications received to date this year, 221 have been from the Nenagh area. A total of 205 have got the go ahead with just eight applications being refused.
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Developers risk losing fast-track permission unless start made

Developers seeking to avail of fast-track planning may be given just one year to start building or risk losing their permission. Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy is expected to announce an extension to the availability of the sped-up process for Strategic Housing Developments (SHD) in the autumn. Such developments, comprising 100 or more new dwellings or student or shared accommodation of more than 200 bed spaces, can bypass councils in the planning process. The system allows An Bord Pleanála to grant directly or refuse permission for these developments. The policy was introduced in July 2017 and was intended initially to apply until the end of this year, with the possibility of extending it to 2021.
Read the full article @ The Irish Times

Bord Pleanála rejects ‘fast-track’ plans for 3,770 new homes

It has been a rough couple of weeks down the planning office for a number of leading developers and investors who now have to revise plans for thousands of proposed new homes, following several decisions made by An Bord Pleanála (ABP) in the last week of June. The planning authority issued decisions in respect of 14 applications and pre-applications relating to proposed Strategic Housing Developments (SHD), which are developments comprising 100 or more new dwellings dealt with by the planning authority under fast-track planning regulations. 
Read the full article @ The Irish Times

Nearly 70% rise in applications for large-scale housing developments

The number of applications for large scale housing developments is up nearly 70% according to An Bord Pleanála's annual report. The planning authority reports that there were a total of 66 applications for Strategic Housing Developments (SHD) in the first eight months of this year which involve plans for more than 100 housing units or 200 student bed spaces. This compares with just 37 in the same period last year.
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