Environmental groups in Louth protested the development of thousands of homes across the country by bombing En Borde Planela with objections to the Strategic Housing Development (SHD).
These massive housing schemes bypass local authorities and go directly en board planla for approval to expedite the delivery of new homes – but many have faced lengthy delays and costly judicial reviews following objections, So the system is being phased out.
The proliferation of legal challenges for SHDs is partly blamed on a change that has enabled litigants to take on cases without fear of incurring serious legal costs in certain circumstances.
Dundalk-based John Conway is listed as Strategy Director of Louth Environmental Group.
Mr Conway and the group have been on the sidelines of objections or comments on at least 16 incidents across the country in recent years. Of these, 14 pertain to SHD applications.
planning sources told sunday free Mr. Conway is one of the most prolific SHD appellants in the country.
Court and planning records show that judicial review has been sought seven times since 2018 regarding cases involving Mr. Conway or Louth Environmental Group (LEG).
An analysis of Mr Conway and Legg’s objections shows that they have expressed concern about the development of around 5,000 homes capable of housing more than 10,000 people.
Planning files show Mr Conway and Legg made submissions to the En Board Planella (ABP) regarding 10 SHD proposals in Dublin, one in Kildare and the other in Cork. Two were in their original Co Lout.
Earlier this year, Mr Conway protested the demolition of two houses to make way for the construction of two data center buildings near the junction of the M50 with the N2 in Dublin, but most of his focus has recently been on SHD . There is no suggestion that he is opposed to housing development, but he has consistently questioned the fast-track SHD rules.
Notably, Mr Conway has previously challenged the infamous 2018 Dublin City Council proposal of En Board Planla to ban buses from College Green to build a Civic Plaza. The High Court ruled that Mr Conway had no legal authority to challenge the denial.
A Dublin-based law firm, BKC Solicitors, is listed as representing Mr Conway or LEG on certain planning remarks. Many presentations strike at similar themes.
There are regular questions about the height, density and local effect of growth.
Doubts are expressed about proposals of significant strategic or national importance to be considered SHD and they have also questioned the expertise of ABP to adequately assess ecological and scientific matters.
An ABP spokesperson told sunday free: “Where a knowledge gap may arise, the Board wishes to inform itself and is confident that it has the information necessary to make an informed decision.”
Mr Conway, LEG or BKC also cited concerns about the constitutionality of the SHD guidelines and legislation allowing applications to be fast-tracked through the planning system.
Of the 14 proposed SHDs Mr Conway has raised concerns, three were denied permission. Others were allowed, often with conditions attached.
Mr Conway and his aides are not usually the only parties to submit submissions on developments. Residents and local groups often express concern as well. Some of this will overlap with the issues raised by Mr. Conway, Legg or his lawyers.
Generally, such presentations will not delay planning decisions. The statutory objective of the Board is to try to decide the cases within 16 weeks. Delay occurs when judicial review of a decision is sought.
These are expensive. Legal costs paid by the National Planning Authority rose to €8.2m in 2020 as challenges for SHDs increased. ABP’s annual budget is around €28m so the legal cost is about 30pc of its budget.
The Housing Department is phasing out the SHD process and restoring the previous two-stage decision-making process that allows appeals to the board. It hopes that this will increase public consultation and reduce the number of judicial reviews.
Mr Conway has sought judicial review of seven of the SHD decisions. Three were related to a proposed development near St Anne’s Park in Rahney, Dublin 5.
Last year Mr Conway sought a further judicial review regarding a plan to develop 205 apartments in Fybsborough, Dublin 7, where it was claimed that ABP did not have a proper regard for guidelines relating to sustainable residential development.
There was also a High Court action against the permit of 413 apartments from Hole in Wall Road in north Dublin, where claims planning rules interfere with the role of local government in the mainstay of the challenge.
Earlier this month, two more reviews were sought from him. One relates to the plan of 463 units and a childcare facility in Leopardstown, Dublin, where it is argued that there was a violation of domestic and EU laws and a local area development plan regarding car parking and tree protection .
The second pertains to 545 build-to-rent apartments, offices, retail units and childcare facilities at Concord Industrial Estate on Naas Road, Dublin, where Mr Conway claimed, among other issues, illegal guidelines surrounding building heights. was considered.
Industry figures have complained that typically SHD delays hinder the delivery of housing units due to significant legal costs. The time taken to go through the court system for judicial review is also a factor, as is when development has stalled and construction costs continue to rise.
“By the time a review is finished, and the project gets the green light, the cost of materials could change so dramatically that the project is no longer viable,” a source told sunday free,
Attempts to contact Mr Conway, Legg and BKC solicitors last week were unsuccessful.
Another lawyer in Limerick told sunday free There are legitimate concerns about SHDs that need to be broadcast.
Records show that Michelle Hayes has opposed three SHDs in Limerick, although he states that the figure is probably higher.
Ms. Hayes runs her own legal practice in Limerick City Center and is the chair of Environment Trust Ireland.
He said most of those, or the trust’s, objections to the plan are based on environmental issues.
She represents the faith in legal action and has challenged a High Court in her name against the Environmental Protection Agency’s decision to license an incinerator to Irish Cement in Limerick.
His SHD appeal has raised questions on the environment.
Plans for 442 houses in Corbyley were rejected by the board due to lack of details in the application about the environmental impact of the development.
She also opposed a development at Punch Cross but was allowed despite her environmental concerns and the general questions surrounding SHD development.
Ms Hayes has sought a judicial review of the matter.
He said that questions should be asked to the SHD.
“Primarily we are an environmental group, so first and foremost our concern is the environment.
“There are environmental issues as well with respect to SHDs but generally developers do not sell apartments. Instead they condemn rental developments to people on very high rents and this puts other people out of the property market because they are capable There will be no chance of buying a new house.
“That’s the problem with SHD.”