First sitting for new Planning and Environmental Court

First sitting for new Planning and Environmental Court

A new Planning and Environmental Court with three dedicated judges has been officially launched today in a bid to speed up complex judicial reviews.

Mr Justice Richard Humphreys will preside over the court, which has been established as a specialised division within the High Court and has been warmly welcomed by practitioners.

The court has been operating on an administrative basis for a number of months, with its first sitting taking place this morning.

Speaking on the launch today, High Court president Mr Justice David Barniville said: “This new court will allow specialisation in a complex area. This in turn allows more robust and faster decision-making and less requirement to read into various complex technical areas.

“The plan is the work of the court over time will lead to simpler, more effective law — thus support planning and environmental decision-making, as well as investment.”

Mr Justice Humphreys added: “The document-heavy, technicality-heavy and EU-law heavy nature of planning and environmental cases is such that a significant number of them are relatively anomalous in a regular list and present in such a context as relatively time-consuming and problematic.

“The new specialised court will be better placed to keep track of developments in this complex area than would arise if such cases were dealt with in a general list.

“The specialised court will enable the development of a high level of judicial expertise, which will strengthen the capacity of the courts to engage in properly independent review and analysis of evidence and submissions in this area of work.”

Welcoming the new initiative, justice minster Helen McEntee said: “The new division of the High Court will help us improve the delivery of housing by reducing planning delays. It is a key commitment in our Housing for All strategy and, as minister for justice, I am pleased have introduced these much-needed reforms to establish the new division.

“It will also allow for greater efficiency and specialism in the handling of litigation relating to planning and environmental matters, particularly judicial reviews.

“Dealing with such cases in an effective and efficient manner is key to enabling the State’s delivery of housing and infrastructure, while also protecting the environment.

“Today marks the culmination of extensive engagement and consultation between my Department, the Courts Service and a number of other government departments — in particular the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage and the Department of Environment, Climate and Communications.

“I would like to thank the Attorney General Rossa Fanning for his hard work in helping us get to this point. I would also like to acknowledge the Hon Mr Justice David Barniville, and his judicial colleagues, for prioritising work on establishing the new court division.”

Barry MacCarthy, president of the Law Society of Ireland, said: “The establishment of this division is an important step in the reform of the planning system in the public interest.

“In the face of both housing and climate crises, the establishment of this specialist court recognises that efficient processing of planning and environmental cases is fundamental to access to justice and the pursuit of climate-conscious development.

“The Law Society will continue to work with government and policy-makers to advance progressive environmental and planning reforms that provide meaningful public participation in accordance with the Aarhus Convention and EU law.”

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