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  • Details published by An Bord Pleanala on their website (20th February 2015) show that the percentage of normal appeal cases being dealt with within the statutory 18 week period has increased to 83% in 2014, having been as low as 36% in 2012. The statistics also show that the number of normal appeals coming before the Board dropped from a high of 5,891 in 2007 down to 1,383 in 2014 (similar to the 2013 figure). It will be interesting to see if there is a significant increase in the figures for 2015 given the increased number of applications coming before local authorities.

    Published on March 19, 2015 By:David Mulcahy · Filed under: Comments on Planning;
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  • A question I’m often asked by architects is if they can make amendments to a proposed development as part of a first party appeal. The simple answer is yes; but it is qualified by the fact that the amendments must be of a nature that the Board could have applied by condition. In other words, if the amendments were of a significant nature and substantially altered the proposed development the Board cannot take these into consideration as third parties had no opportunity to comment on them. It is only in instances where the amendments are of a relatively minor nature and could have been conditioned that the Board will accept them. Each case is assessed on its merits by the Board and the Board will always notify appellants who include amendments in the letter of acknowledgement that amendments may not be taken into consideration pending assessment.

    In fact, even in cases where the Board’s own inspectors recommend a grant of permission subject to design alternations, the Board can subsequently form the view that these alterations are too radical and cannot be addressed by a planning condition. The Board are aware that a condition of this nature involves agreement with the local authority only and does not have any third party. Therefore they have to consider to what extent changes or amendments can be allowed.

    A typical example of this was the recent decision by the Board in respect of a mixed use development including retail and student accommodation, at a protected structure on 1-6 Sir John Rogerson’s Quay, Dublin 2. The inspector recommend a grant of permission including a condition which required a series of design amendments including the omission of an apartment; extension of a retail unit or similar use to fill the void; relocation of the bicycle storage room; recessing the front elevation and recessing the sixth floor of the three east-west block; replacing an grafitti wall with a plinth wall and amending the elevations of these blocks to provide a more light-weight approach incorporating curtain walling and incorporating articulation to break up the overall mass of the blocks and to provide a more vertical emphasis. The Board however refused permission partly relating to these specific issues. The Board’s Direction noted that the amendments suggested by the Inspector would “radically transform the building” and “were too great to be addressed by condition”.

    Published on May 13, 2014 By:David Mulcahy · Filed under: Comments on Planning; Tagged as: ,
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  • Now that the Dublin Docklands Development Authority has been disbanded the batton falls to Dublin City Council to plan for the future of the 66 hectare, which includes the Grand Canal Dock area on the south side of the river and North Lotts on the north side.

    The City Council have opted for a Strategic Development Zone or SDZ as it is known in planning circles. An SDZ is a planning process which seeks to get overall approval for a plan first and then grant permission for subsequent applications which are deemed consistent with the Plan.  This is not all that different from the previous system which operated under the DDDA régime. The key feature of the SDZ process is that it is meant to be a fast-track development process and therefore there is no opportunity for appealing individual applications to An Bord Pleanala.

    However, the entire SDZ itself can be appealed to An Bord Pleanala over the next 4 week period and this is highly likely based on other SDZs that have been prepared in Dublin City and other councils.  Most of these schemes have been approved by the Board but they recently refused one scheme in Cork (Monard) outright; the first time that this has happened.  Therefore nothing is set in stone as of yet.

    The main feature of the Docklands SDZ is that it departs from the height restriction imposed on the rest of the city.  It will allow for buildings up to 22 storeys in particular areas such as Point Square and Britain Quay.


    Published on November 11, 2013 By:David Mulcahy · Filed under: Comments on Planning; Tagged as: ,
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  • The Living City Initiative is a targeted tax incentive which seeks to promote the regeneration of urban historic areas focusing on:

    1. Encouraging people back to the centre of Irish cities to live in historic buildings;

    2. Encouraging the regeneration of the retail heartland of central business districts.

    The initiative will provide tax incentives for works carried out to refurbish residential and retail buildings in the designated areas either to bring them up to a habitable standard or to make improvements to buildings which are currently inhabited.

    The Living City Initiative was first introduced by the Minister of Finance as part of the Finance Act 2013, as a pilot programme to be delivered initially in two locations – Limerick and Waterford – and limited to Georgian buildings.  The Minister for Finance announced in Budget 2014 that this would be extended to Dublin,  Cork, Kilkenny and Galway and to all buildings in the relevant areas built prior to 1915.

    There appears to be some ambiguity as to what exact buildings will qualify under the extension, but the scheme is dependant on securing EU State Aid funding and more clarity will likely be provided at that time.

    If the State Aid funding is secured the initiative would appear to be a positive from a planning perspective encouraging redevelopment of the large stock of historic residential and commercial buildings in the centre of our cities which have fallen into disrepair.

    Published on October 22, 2013 By:David Mulcahy · Filed under: Comments on Planning;
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  • The Government is to appoint a planning regulator following on from the recommendations of the Mahon tribunal. The regulator’s role will primarily involve assessing forward planning functions by local authorities including independent assessment of city and county development plans and regional planning guidelines. The final decision on whether to issue a direction to any local authority will rest with the Minister. The office of the regulator’s will be staffed by personnel taken on secondment or on a permanent basis from An Bord Pleanála. Given the level of detail that is often involved in the assessment of a minor residential extension it always came across as extremely odd that large areas of land could be zoned or dezoned without any independent analysis.  The zoning of land is the most critical area of planning, with everything else flowing from this initial decision.  As such the appointment of a regulator’s office makes sense.

    Published on May 13, 2013 By:David Mulcahy · Filed under: Comments on Planning;
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  • The Law Reform Comission has published a consolidated version of the Planning and Development Act 2000 – 2011.  Given the number of amndments to the PDA, 2000 this is a welcome development and should make consultation of the legislation far easier.

    Published on January 23, 2013 By:David Mulcahy · Filed under: Comments on Planning; Tagged as: ,
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  • The CSO has released its quarterly statistics for Q3 2012 based on planning permissions approved around the country.  The headline is that there is a decrease of 34.8% for approved dwelling units when compared with the same period in 2011 and this has been picked up by many media outlets.

    However, typical of the Irish obsession with houses, these statistics really only focus on dwellings, with all other approvals being lumped together as ‘other’.  This ‘other’ category includes new commercial development such as, for example, wind farms, retail, industrial, agricultural buildings etc. 

    It is of note that since Q4 in 2011 (which was an all time low since the Celtic Tiger period) the number of approvals for ‘other’ development has steadily been on the increase (from 681 to 1,050 in Q3 2012). 

    Whilst it is too early to say if this is a trend, it does raise the question of why statistics being released by a Government body continues to focus on housing only (apart from a brief reference to an increased in approvals for agricultural buildings).  Given our previous over-dependence on housing surely it’s time to pay more attention to trends in planning approvals for other parts of the economy also?

    Published on December 21, 2012 By:David Mulcahy · Filed under: Comments on Planning; Tagged as: , ,
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  • In what must be a record, An Bord Pleanala took over four years to reach a decision on an appeal concerning the continuation of quarrying activities at Fountain Cross Quarry, Ennis, County Clare.  The application was lodged in May 2008 and was only recently decided in August 2012.  Whilst the Board sought an Environmental Impact Assessment and an Appropriate Assessment as part of the assessment of the application, four years seems an incredibly long time to arrive at a decision.  Fortunately for the applicant the Board upheld the decision of Clare County Council to grant permission.

    Published on August 30, 2012 By:David Mulcahy · Filed under: Comments on Planning;
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  • A review of decisions on referrals (exemption applications) before An Bord Pleanala reveals that no actual decisions are being made.  The majority of decisions are actually confirmations of referrals which are invalid or where the Board deems they have no jurisdiction.  It would appear therefore that the recent appointment of new Board members is still struggling with the backlog of work and referrals are simply not a priority at this stage.


    Published on May 31, 2012 By:David Mulcahy · Filed under: Comments on Planning, Uncategorized; Tagged as: ,
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  • In the President’s address at the Irish Planning Institute’s National Planning Conference the focus was on the number of planning authorities in the country and whether these are really required. 

    The Presidents questioning of this system of planning authorities is about time in my opinion. There are a total of 88 planning authorities in (the Republic of) Ireland each with its own elected members etc.  This seems crazy given the fact that there are only 26 counties and the entire population of Ireland is similar to that of Manchester.  Whilst a case can be made for Fingal, South Dublin and Dun Laoighaire Rathdown the same cannot be said of other counties. Take Kildare for example which has separate authorities for the county, Naas and Athy.  Athy is not even one of the most populous towns in the county.  Surely one planning authority for the county is sufficient.  If the county council can deal with planning in Newbridge, Leixlip, Celbridge, Maynooth etc then it can also include Naas and Athy.

    Published on April 26, 2012 By:David Mulcahy · Filed under: Comments on Planning; Tagged as: ,
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  • The Department of Environment Community and Local Government today launched a website which acts as a portal for all plans and zoning in Ireland.  It allows a user of the site to click on any settlement in Ireland and immediately see what the zoning objectives are within that town. 

    In trying it out myself today I found that I could very quickly find a town, see the relevant zoning objectives, click on the zoning to find out the accompanying wording and also find out the life time of the relevant Plan.  The quality of the mapping is very high.  Often I have found that zoning maps have been saved as pdfs on Council website with no capacity to zoom in or at least when you did the map just became a blur.  This is a welcome planning tool and should make it far more convenient to quickly determine up to date zoning objectives.  Furthermore the DoECLG see this website as only being the start of coordinating planning information on a country-wide basis.




    Published on April 4, 2012 By:David Mulcahy · Filed under: Comments on Planning;
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  • Finally the Environment Minister has made appointments to An Bord Pleanála.  The appointments include an architect, a former An Bord Pleanala inspector, an archaeologist/town planner along with an environmental engineer.  Hopefully this will now enable the Board to deal with the backlog of decisions currently before them. Given the need to promote development in the country at this time it seems crazy that the delay in appointing members was ever allowed to occur.

    Published on March 30, 2012 By:David Mulcahy · Filed under: Comments on Planning; Tagged as: ,
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  • A quick review of the An Bord Pleanala website for 2012 to date reveals that very few decisions continue to be made.  This can only be attributed to the absence of any new appointments to the Board.  The majority of decisions currently on display relate to appeals which were deemed invalid or were withdrawn.  It seems bizarre that no new appointments are being made thus rending the appeal planning system in limbo.  I have a number of clinets who are continuously being told that there is no decision and to keep ringing or being given new target dates.  This situation will only change when the number ofo Board members is increased.

    Published on February 29, 2012 By:David Mulcahy · Filed under: Comments on Planning;
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  • I have been asked to comment on applications for extension of the life of a planning application, or to give it its formal title, extension of duration of the appropriate period. 

    Many people seem to be under the impression that this is a straight forward procedure whereby you simply fill out the application form, plea your case in terms of economic conditions, pay your €62 and the Council will rubber stamp the extension for another 5 years.

    In fact the process is far more complicated than this and a positive result is certainly not guaranteed.  Effectively the process involves a comparison of guidelines, policies and objectives between when the permission was granted and those in place now.  If effect the applicant needs to: Read the rest of this entry »

    Published on February 29, 2012 By:David Mulcahy · Filed under: Comments on Planning;
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  • Under the Planning and Development Act 2000 (as amended) An Bord Pleanala provision is made for 9 members to sit on the Board in addition to the Chairperson.  However, as it currently stands there are only 4 members sitting on the Board, including the Chairperson.  In my experience the bottleneck at An Bord Pleanala in terms of getting decisions out within the 18 week period has always been down to the size of the Board.  The inspectors have their reports ready on time but there are only 10 people to adjudicate on every appeal in Ireland.  Given that this 10 has become 4 the bottleneck is only going to get worse, irrespective of the fact that the actual number of appeals coming before the Board is lower.  To put this in perspective Read the rest of this entry »

    Published on January 30, 2012 By:David Mulcahy · Filed under: Comments on Planning; Tagged as: , ,
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  • Extensive flood maps of the Country (in Draft format) are now available to view on 

    These maps were prepared as part of the Preliminary Flood Risk Assessment (PFRA) which is a requirement of the EU Flood Directive. The objective of the PFRA is to identify areas where the risks associated with flooding might be significant. These areas (referred to as Areas for Further Assessment, or ‘AFAs’) are where more detailed assessment is required to more accurately assess the extent and degree of flood risk. The more detailed assessment, that will focus on the AFAs, will be undertaken through Catchment Flood Risk Assessment and Management (‘CFRAM’) Studies.

    Planning Authorities are already consulting with these maps when dealing with pre-planning applications and considering planning applications.  It is strongly advisable therefore, when preparing for a planning application, to make sure that these maps have been checked.  If a site is located within the 1:100 year flood event areas identified on the maps a Flood Impact Assessment is likely to be required as part of the application.

    Published on January 5, 2012 By:David Mulcahy · Filed under: Comments on Planning; Tagged as: , , ,
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