AN Bord Pleanála’s aim of resolving all appeals within 18 weeks was described as “extraordinary” at this week’s meeting of Cork County Council, given the typical length of time it takes to have an appeal concluded.
Niamh Redmond, private secretary to Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien, responded to a letter from Cork County Council sent on February 13, requesting the minister “to urgently address the unprecedented lengthy delays with decisions from An Bord Pleanála and that the filling of board vacancies be expedited”.
There were definitely some positive aspects to Ms Redmond’s reply, said Fianna Fáil councillor Seamus McGrath, but “the first part of the response would certainly make you question the extent of knowledge of those who prepare these reports, when it refers to the 18 weeks’ decision period that An Bord Pleanála has under legislation”, he said.
“I don’t think there has been a decision made in 18 weeks in a number of years. I find that an extraordinary statement within the response.”
Mr McGrath welcomed that there were five members of the board appointed in January, and that there is a current competition to find further members to be appointed.
“Nobody is saying that An Bord Pleanála is responsible for the housing shortage, but it should not take over 12 months for appeals to be made,” said Mr McGrath.
“It has to be resourced properly, and it has to have an adequate board in place. The fact that these moves are afoot is welcome.”
In her correspondence, Ms Redmond explained that the role of the minister is to provide a policy and legislative framework under which An Bord Pleanála, and the Office of the Planning Regulator (OPR) can perform their statutory planning functions.
“It shall be an objective of the board to ensure that every appeal is determined within 18 weeks, beginning on the date of receipt of an appeal,” she wrote.
“Where it is not possible or appropriate, because of the particular circumstances of an appeal, to determine an appeal within the 18-week period, the board is required to notify the participants in the appeal before the expiration of that period giving the reason for not meeting the objective target and specifying a date before which the board intends to determine the appeal.
“Where any case has exceeded the statutory objective period, then the board will have written to the parties involved as per these statutory requirements.
“In circumstances where any new date is not met, it is the practice of the board to also notify the parties of that and the reason for the further delay.
“It is important to acknowledge that a certain percentage of cases, due to particular circumstances, such as complexity, requests for further information from applicants for permission, or further submissions from other participants including third parties, will not meet the 18-week target.”
The Government’s Housing for All plan set out a number of objectives aimed at improving the functioning of the planning system.
This review, which was led by the Attorney General, contained a number of key proposals in relation to An Bord Pleanála.