Warning over planning law reform impact on access to justice

Warning over planning law reform impact on access to justice

Rachel Minch SC

Proposals to overhaul Ireland’s planning system could restrict access to justice for citizens as they currently stand, the Law Society of Ireland has warned.

Rachel Minch SC, chair of the Law Society’s environmental and planning law committee, appeared before the join Oireachtas committee on housing, local government and heritage on Friday to give evidence on the draft Planning and Development Bill 2022.

The government said the bill, which was published in January, will bring greater clarity, consistency and certainty to how planning decisions are made, as well as making the planning system more coherent and user-friendly for the public and planning practitioners.

The bill is the product of a 15-month review of the planning system led by the Office of the Attorney General.

Ms Minch told the committee: “Planning law reform is needed and commitment from government to progress this is to be welcomed. However, in its current form, aspects of the draft Planning and Development Bill 2022 have the potential to restrict access to justice for parts of our society.

“Questions remain on how an applicant can demonstrate that they have a sufficient interest to seek judicial review of planning decisions. Clarity is also needed to ensure that costs of a judicial review do not exclude any group or individual from accessing justice.

“The final bill must be compatible with the protections around access to justice and meaningful public participation afforded under the Aarhus Convention and EU law.”

Ms Minch added: “The Law Society appreciates the opportunity to engage with the committee on this fundamentally important legislative initiative. We look forward to continued consultation in respect of these issues and other significant aspects of the bill relating to the operation of the planning system.”

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