From 26 February 2018 onwards, the first of a number of proposed new measures aimed at combatting delays arising from Court challenges to Strategic Infrastructure Developments (or "SID") will come into effect. These proposals are timely, with the National Planning Framework published on 16 February, alongside the Government's capital spending plan for the next decade.
The announcement of the proposals also comes against the backdrop of several years of heavy activity in terms of judicial review challenges to planning decisions, with a total of 170 judicial review applications having been taken against An Bord Pleanála in the last five years. In terms of SID applications, the Board granted permission for seven private SID projects in 2016, and four of these were judicially reviewed. The proposed Apple Data Centre was the subject of a judicial review challenge, although its substation (which was SID) was not. Data centres are not currently classed as SID. However, the Planning and Development (Strategic Infrastructure) (Amendment) Bill 2017 was introduced on 26 October 2017 and proposes that data centres which are of "significant economic importance" to the local authority area they are located in will now be classed as SID.
The Government's proposals fall under three headings:
Reduced time limits to bring judicial review proceedings for SID; Criteria to assist the Courts in determining whether an applicant has 'sufficient interest' to bring a judicial review; New court rules to accelerate the legal process. REDUCED TIME LIMITS
The Government confirmed that existing time-limits for bringing judicial review applications in respect of certain planning decisions could be reduced from eight weeks to four weeks.
This is significant in particular when contrasted with England and Wales, where the time limit for bringing a judicial review of a planning decision is six weeks from the date of the decision and Northern Ireland, where the time limit is three months. The proposed four week time period for SID would provide welcome certainty to developers wishing to break ground more quickly on a project, confident that the decision was free from judicial challenge. However there have already been indications from interest groups, including An Taisce, that the proposed reduction in time limits may in itself be challenged in the High Court.
Currently, any party seeking to judicially review a planning decision, must demonstrate that...