Planning and Development Bill 2023

The Planning and Development Bill 2023 (the “Bill”) was approved by Cabinet for consideration of the Houses of the Oireachtas in October 2023. The Bill is the result of an extensive review of the Planning and Development Act 2000 by the Attorney General.

A Guide published by the Government (the “Guide”) states the purpose of the Bill is to ensure that ‘the planning system remains fit for purpose to meet the needs of future population, whilst balancing key pillars of the Irish planning system such as public participation, environmental considerations and delivery of key infrastructure such as roads, housing and renewable energy.’

At a time where housing and climate targets are key, ever-growing issues, the impact the Bill has on the current planning process, including judicial review, needs to be explored.

An Bord Pleanála

The Bill provides for a restructure of An Bord Pleanála, which will be renamed An Comisiún Pleanála (“ACP”). ACP will feature a clear separation of planning decision-making, governance and corporate under a three-pillar structure. It is anticipated that staff levels will increase to over 300 once all approved posts are filled.

While the headline period for planning authorities to make decisions remains 8 weeks, with an additional 4 weeks for applications that require an environmental assessment, for the first time, there will be mandatory timelines for other decisions of ACP. Key time periods will range from 18 weeks for decisions on appeals of decisions of planning authorities to 48 weeks for decisions on strategic infrastructure developments.

Penalties for ACP for not making decisions within the mandatory time limits are set out in the Bill and include mutually agreed time extensions, public notification and reporting, fines and intervention by the Minister.

Development Plans

The lifespan of development plans will be extended from 6 years to 10 years, with the cycle of plans aligning to the cycle of Census data available. The Bill provides that these plans shall be reviewed by locally elected members every 5 years.

Reform of Judicial Review

Clarity on sufficient interest and standing rights for applicants and the introduction of an Environmental Legal Costs Financial Assistance Mechanism combine to create a more streamlined Judicial Review process under the Bill.

Removal of Leave Stage

The bill removes the requirement to first apply for the leave of the Court in judicial review proceedings, reducing both legal costs and Court time.

Grounds and Sufficient Interest

A Judicial Review applicant can currently amend the grounds of their application beyond those originally filed. This can cause delays to the progression of applications.  The Bill reforms this by requiring that the original statement of grounds submitted by applicants must contain all of their grounds, with limited criteria by which the Court may allow subsequent amendments to that statement of grounds.

Apart from specified bodies (including Environmental NGOs) under the Bill, applicants must have “exhausted any available appeal procedures or any other administrative remedy available in respect of the decision or act concerned”.

In matters that materially affect their neighbourhood, unincorporated Resident’s Associations will be able to take Judicial Review Cases provided:

  • They have a constitution;
  • They take a vote of their members on whether to proceed with a judicial review;
  • Two thirds of those voting agree to proceed with judicial review; and
  • The names and addresses of those in favour of the judicial review are filed with the judicial review application.

Environmental Legal Costs Financial Assistance Mechanism

In the interests of improving access to justice and removing cost barriers, a new Environmental Legal Costs Financial Assistance Mechanism is to be established under the Bill. This introduces a Scale of Fees for all planning-related judicial reviews. If unsuccessful in their case, an application will be able to apply to the mechanism for a contribution to their costs. The level of contribution will be determined by an assessment and could be up to 100% of the applicable scale fees, depending on the applicant’s circumstances.

The Guide sets out that a core aim of this mechanism is to create a level of certainty and predictability to the State’s exposure to judicial review costs whilst ‘not limiting or diminishing the important role that Judicial Review plays within the Irish planning system’.

Urban Development Zones

Under the Bill, Strategic Development Zones have been replaced by Urban Development Zones (UDZs). This change will allow local authorities to designate areas with significant potential for development, including housing, as “Candidate UDZs” and for the Government to then designate such areas as UDZs. State investment will then be focused in these areas to enable key infrastructure in order to ensure the potential for development can be realised.


The Bill completed the Second Stage in Dáil Éireann on 30 November 2023 and will continue to proceed through the Oireachtas. Further updates and guidance will be available as this review process continues.

For further information please contact Joan Maclean (Partner) or your usual AMOSS contact.