A total of 119 valid Strategic Housing Development (SHD) applications were received, which is more than three times the numbers of applications received in 2018 (39 applications). While 14 applications out of the total 82 applications decided in 2019 were refused permission, the remaining 68 were approved by the Board which permitted 16,607 new residential units, across houses, apartments, shared accommodation and student accommodation. This comprised 4,334 houses and 12,273 apartments, 5,019 student bed spaces and 208 shared accommodation bed spaces.
The highest number of SHD applications came from Dublin City and County, where there were 47 applications. Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council accounted for 19 of these, Dublin City Council 20, Fingal County Council 2 and South Dublin County Council 2. The Board held only two oral hearings for SHD applications 2019.
It is noted that a challenge to the constitutionality of the SHD legislation is currently before the courts.
The Board reported that there were 26 Strategic Infrastructure Development (SID) applications received, an increase of 30% on 2018. Decisions were made on 21 strategic infrastructure proposals during 2019, which included wastewater treatment plants at Arklow, Clonshaugh and Ringsend, Foynes Port expansion, and new wind farms in Galway and Donegal.
This role in strategic infrastructure will be further expanded when the Marine Planning and Development Management Bill is made law (earmarked for early 2021). Modelled on existing SID provisions, this will provide an integrated consenting process for development in the maritime area and will involve the Board in decision-making for many offshore projects including offshore windfarms.
The Board faced 55 judicial reviews of its decisions during 2019, compared with 41 in 2018. The Annual Report records that there were 17 substantive court judgements last year. 9 of these upheld the Board's decisions, while the High Court ruled against the Board in the other 8 cases. The Board consented to the quashing of 7 of its decisions where it accepted that there was a legal defect in its decision.
Vacant Site Levy
The Report highlights that many landowners were successful in their challenges to entry on the vacant sites register and appeals against the vacant sites levy. In 2019, 112 cases were concluded with the Board making a formal decision on 94 cases with 18 otherwise disposed of. Of these, entry on the register was confirmed in 36 cases, cancellation from the register occurred in 58 cases and 18 were "otherwise disposed of".
The average number of weeks for dealing with normal planning appeals was 18.4 weeks. This is down from 2018, when the average was 22 weeks.
The Report also noted the development and roll-out of the Board's IT transformation project – Plean-IT, which is intended to facilitate applications and appeals to be made on-line and linking in with the planning authorities’ own e-Planning initiative. A more user-friendly and informative website is also under development and is expected to be up and running later in 2020.