CHASE have lodged a complaint against Ireland to European Parliament Committee on Petitions concerning the failure of Irish planning and particularly the Strategic Infrastructure process to guarantee “early” and “effective” public participation and access to environmental justice in accordance with the Aarhus Convention and European Union environmental law. The complaint was lodged on Sunday 20 May, 2018.
CHASE has made two prior complaints to Europe, both of which were upheld.
Among issues included in this complaint are:
- The extensive pre-consultation period afforded by Bord Pleanala to a planning applicant seeking permission under the Strategic Infrastructure Development (SID) process and the exclusion of the public from this process. This structure saw Indaver in consultation with Bord Pleanala for over 3 years prior to finally lodging their current application in 2016.
- The costly engagement procedure to communities within a condensed time frame that challenges effective participation. Costs for Oral Hearings and High Court reviews run into hundreds of thousands of Euros, giving communities just weeks to analyse and prepare material and organise funds.
- Upcoming reduction of judicial review time limits from 8 to 4 weeks. On 6 February 2018, the Irish Government stated their intent to reduce the time limit to seek judicial review of a SID decision taken by An Bord Pleanála under the Planning & Development Act (PDA) as amended, from 8 weeks to 4 weeks purportedly in order to speed up decision-making and restrict court challenges to major building projects.
- Upcoming restriction to eligibility criteria to NGO’s seeking judicial review. On February 6 it was also stated that requirements will be introduced so that NGOs seeking to mount judicial review challenges of planning decisions will have to show that they are not-for-profit organisations, that they are active in the environmental sphere and they were set up more than three years before.
CHASE Chairperson Mary O’Leary said “The approach of the Irish Government in attempting to create further barriers to participation and access to justice will serve to reduce public participation in the planning process. We strongly believe that this is not in compliance with the principle of public participation which underpins the Aarhus Convention and EU environmental law.
Community participation in environmental decision-making should be viewed as a valuable contribution to delivering more sustainable development, rather than being seen as frustrating the planning process. CHASE wants to participate in decisions that effect our environment and we want to progress policies and decisions that respect our social and environmental values, as well as economic concerns. This is the value of communities having equitable and effective access to planning justice.”
CHASE has participated in two prior complaints to the EU lodged in 2008 and in 2010:
- The 2008 complaint asserted that the State and its competent authorities had failed to regulate the Haulbowline Island East Tip in accordance with EU Directive 82/884/EEC and led to the European Commission in 2011 threatening financial sanctions on the government should they fail to take action. See details
- The 2010 complaint addressed Ireland’s failure to properly implement the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Directive by splitting functions between the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Bord Pleanala, and also by failing to clearly require any body to perform an actual objective assessment of the material they receive from developers. It resulted in a judgement from the ECJ (3 March 2011, Commission v Ireland, Case C- 50/09) upholding the complaint and ordering Ireland to pay costs. See details.
A decision on the current application, lodged in January 2016 and due originally in July 2016 is still outstanding. Bord Pleanala state on their website that the “Case is to be decided by 28 February 2018”(sic).
ABOUT the Committee on Petitions:
The Committee on Petitions (PETI) is a committee of the European Parliament. Petitions can be brought forward by any EU citizen on a matter within the EU’s sphere of activities and give the European Parliament the opportunity of calling attention to any infringement of a European citizen’s rights by a Member State or local authorities or other institution.