Housing and Planning and Development Bill – back on the agenda
The Housing and Planning and Development Bill is back on the agenda almost two years since a public consultation on the General Scheme of the Bill. It will come before the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Housing, Local Government and Heritage this spring (2022).
The Bill is alarming and represents a retrograde step in terms of fulfilment of our obligations under EU law. It will have a chilling effect on environmental litigation and will seriously damage environmental oversight and democracy in relation to bad and unlawful planning decisions.
At our community law centres, we regularly assist people who have been disproportionately affected by issues linked to the environment and poor planning because of where they live or where they can afford to live – lack of green space, threat of flooding, poor air or water quality, being just some examples. Their voices are rarely heard in policy responses to our housing or climate crises.
By introducing stringent criteria around rights, costs and judicial review applications to bring an environmental challenge, the Bill will see many individuals and NGOs lose the right to take cases to court on environmental matters and it will be even more difficult for the communities we work with to have their voice heard on decisions that impact their day-to-day lives and the environment that surrounds them.
Our submission, endorsed by Friends of the Irish Environment, calls for the following:
- That the Bill be abandoned in its entirety
- That the Civil Legal Aid Act be amended to provide for legal aid for plaintiffs, including environmental NGOs, seeking to challenge environmental decisions to ensure effective access to justice in line with the Aarhus Convention, Article 47 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union and Articles 6 and 13 of the European Convention on Human Rights
- That engagement and participation within communities around environmental
matters be supported to ensure:
- Fulfilment of Aarhus Convention obligations
- Consensus building on the need for environmental action; and
- ‘Just transition’ and recognition of the intersection between environmental action
and responses to issues faced by the community e.g. workers’ rights, energy
poverty, health, housing, transport.
Read our submission in full here.