Work is underway to change Ireland’s planning-permission system in a bid to prevent long-term delays to the development of projects, according to Tánaiste, Leo Varadkar.

Speaking at a turning-of-the-sod event for the new Glanbia A-ware cheese plant in Co. Kilkenny yesterday (June 22), the Tánaiste said he is aware that Ireland’s planning laws “are not the best and certainly not optimal”.

He said that the government is currently working with the attorney general, as well the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, Peter Burke, on plans to introduce statutory deadlines for all An Bord Pleanála decisions.

If introduced, they would require the independent body to deliver a decision within a select timeframe.

Other measures being looked at include the establishment of “a dedicated planning court that would hear cases more quickly”, as well as changes around the criteria that must be met to hold a judicial review.

Commenting that it may be too easy to get something judicially reviewed in this country, the Tánaiste said:

“While judicial reviews are allowed and should be allowed, the bar at which you can get a one in Ireland is quite low relative to other countries. The judge doesn’t even have to hear both sides of the story before approving one.”

The Tánaiste made his comments at an event that marked the end of significant delays, due to planning objections, to the controversial cheese plant in Belview, Co. Kilkenny.

The plant was first given the go ahead by An Bord Pleanála in July 2020. An Taisce objected to this, but the Supreme Court dismissed its appeal earlier this year.

The Tánaiste said delays like this should be kept to a minimum as they have a far-reaching impact. He said:

“Holding up a project for years has an impact on jobs, has an impact on a company’s performance and has an impact on the number of homes that are being built. We want to achieve is a planning system that is more fit for purpose.

“It’s not about stopping people from objecting or stopping people from going to the courts but it is about making sure that decisions are made and that they’re made quickly.”

The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue, who was also in attendance at the event echoed these statements and said the new facility was at risk of not happening because of the lengthy delays.

“It’s really important that it [the planning process] can’t run projects in to the ground and take so long that they don’t happen.

“It speaks to the need to reform the planning process and the appeal process,” he said.