Today was the final day for submissions to the consultation on the proposed Housing & Planning & Development Bill 2019. Its title belies its intended impact which would be to vastly restrict access to justice in environmental matters. Access to the courts for judicial review is already very difficult in Ireland, so difficult that our procedures have been called into question by the European Commission. Any NGO or community group who has attempted to have a planning decision examined through the courts will attest to the magnitude of the hurdles that must be jumped.
The Housing & Planning & Development Bill would raise those hurdles even higher. It proposes the following for all NGOs or community groups who seek access to justice:
-to be established for a minimum of three years (rather than the current one year),
-to have a minimum of 100 affiliated members,
-to have a constitution or a set of rules establishing their area of environmental protection for at least three years, with the additional requirement that such aims and objectives must relate / be relevant to the subject matter of the leave application they wish to make,
-to satisfy a ‘substantial’ (rather than ‘sufficient’) interest test and be directly affected by a proposed development in a way which is ‘peculiar or personal’,
-to bear the burden of new cost capping arrangements of €10,000 (or €5,000 for individuals)
Our courts are currently our only mechanism of appeal for large-scale projects. The proposals outlined in this Bill would massively undermine the right of participation to which Irish communities and NGOs are entitled under the Aarhus Convention. I made a submission to the consultation which you can read here: