Our Mission
and Key Objectives

Building Better Communities


We believe that the planning system of local authority Development Plans leads to the best outcomes for citizens. We aim to push for legislative changes to re-instate the primacy of Development Plans.

As set out in the Planning Act 2000, the Development Plan system enables the democratic implementation of spatial plans through the involvement of inhabitants and elected representatives.

This system has the values of "subsidiarity" built in to it and was a core value of the original 1963 Planning and Development Act. Over the years, as demands changed, there was pressure to limit the remit of development plans as they were seen as restricting development that was considered to be in the national interest. There was also a desire to use a finer brush for particular areas.

These needs led to the development of Local Area Plans and other smaller area programs such as on-statutory masterplans and SDRAs - Strategic Development and Regeneration Areas. They also led to the creation of SDZs - Strategic Development Zones - for particular areas.

The difference between the normal Development Plan decision-making process and the SDZ process is that, when the SDZ Plan is made, provided the developer complies with the Plan, the Local Authority decision is final - there is no appeal to the Planning Appeals Board (An Bord Pleanála). This restriction on the right to appeal is made on the basis that, because of substantial public consultation in making the Plan and the strategic importance of the development, it is in the public interest and the common good. The Dublin Docklands and Adamstown are examples of this process.


We believe that a planning system with stakeholder participation and engagement are crucial for sustainable communities and developments. We aim to strengthen the local democratic voice of Dublin residents.

There is no evidence that the planning system has delayed the supply of housing in Ireland. There is, however, plenty of evidence that, if the voice of the citizen is either unheard or ignored, the resulting social alienation leads to poor outcomes.

There have been some criticisms of the localised nature of local development plans and that they could ignore national policy. This has led to the current system where central government has effectively limited the remit of the local planning system through centralised directives and the Strategic Housing Development process, both of which neglect the local voice in development decisions.

We have seen in areas such as Adamstown or with the Ballymun Regeneration project that engaging the local community at an early stage leads to new development that has the approval of the communities into which it is made.

This process of participation and consultation is central to the social acceptance and integration of new development in any community.

We think that the trust of the citizen has been lost in the new processes of centralised planning and that it is fundamentally wrong.

We believe that engaging with local communities to agree development is the best method of guaranteeing sustainable communities at a scale that is appropriate to the needs of the people and the existential needs of the planet.

The solution to this issue is to have meaningful engagement with communities in the drafting of Development Plans and giving those plans the power to determine the scale, type and nature of development in the area. It goes without saying that any development planning is made in the context of national policy.


Strategic Housing Developments and Mandatory Ministerial Directives have damaged citizens' faith in the planning process and are a danger to the quality of our city. We advocate for the abolition of this legislation.

We fully support the development of affordable housing and secure rental in our communities that meet the needs of our citizens, supports existing and new communities, and address climate change and biodiversity.

Introduced at the behest of the property industry, the current system of Section 28 Mandatory Ministerial Directives and Strategic Housing Development (SHD) legislation, both of which override the democratic mandate of the Development Plan, will not provide affordable housing, secure rental or sustainable developments for our current and future population and will destroy the quality of the places we call home.

We do not support the Strategic Housing Development process of developer-led design, ministerial directives and planning decisions solely made by An Bord Pleanála. We consider this process to be anti-social and to have a fundamental democratic deficit. This system does not hear our voices as communities, nor does it take any cognisance of our concerns about the destruction of the quality of the places in which we live.

Through reviewing the 250 decisions made already, we believe that many of the buildings granted permission by An Bord Pleanála will irrevocably damage their areas in social, spatial and visual terms and will not provide any affordable housing for our population. We believe that the SHD process will play a large part in developing future problems. It is also very clear that the SHD process is not delivering the housing supply that it promised.


The concept of “subsidiarity” is enshrined as a core value of the European Union. This is the principle that the best decisions are made at the most local level that can support the best decisions. The SHD process is the antithesis of this approach, being entirely centralised.

The Planning Acts set up a system of democratically based area planning through Development Plans. These Development Plans are approved by elected representatives after public consultation.

This process has been subverted through Ministerial directives, under Section 28 of the Planning Acts. Over a series of Ministers, these directives have down-graded space standards to facilitate “Build-to-Rent” schemes and allowed for heights far in excess of anything permitted by local development plans.

It has been further subverted by removing planning decisions from local Planning Authorities through the Strategic Housing Development (SHD) Regulations of 2017. For large housing developments, planning decisions are no longer made by the Local Authority, but are made directly by An Bord Pleanála and there is no right of appeal against a decision by the board. By forbidding the right to appeal, another democratic balance has been removed. The only review available to the citizen is Judicial Review, a complex and expensive process.


These Regulations were to be a temporary measure for a two year period, which was extended by a further two years. It is due to expire in December 2021. They were intended to speed up the planning process for developers, in an attempt to facilitate the speedy construction of more housing stock. This was on the basis that they were being delayed by the normal planning process.

There is no evidence that the planning system is to blame for the shortage of housing, and plenty to suggest that leaving local communities powerless in the face of developers seeking financial returns will lead to poor results.

As well as eliding the local planning authority’s decisions, this process is not transparent. The entire application is managed by the developer and there is no way of seeing what commentaries are made during the process by any interested parties. In our opinion, this effectively nullifies the right of citizens to information that is of vital interest to them. It is also very difficult to see the overall pattern of applications on An Bord Pleanála website. It is telling that the best record is being produced on a voluntary basis by a firm of solicitors – without them, there would be no clear view of the process.

When the decisions are made, the documentation is difficult to access, as very little of it is on-line. In these days of COVID, it is hard for people to get to the offices of An Bord Pleanála to review boxes of paper files and is a risk to themselves and the staff of An Bord Pleanála.

When reporting on extending this process in 2019 for a further two years, In its own report, the Review team noted that: “while the SHD arrangements have generally been a success in providing a fast-track development consent process for developers of large-scale housing developments, the number of SHD permissions that have commenced development is less than might have been expected, given the public resources put into the arrangements and the benefits provided for developers in terms of time-savings and consistency of decision making.”

In practice, the drive to higher densities and faster planning has not delivered anything of what we need – affordable housing for a generation denied of it. What appears to be happening is that developers are seeking higher and higher returns as the rules change, and that the process is actually impeding the delivery of housing.


The Board was set up by the 1976 Planning and Development Act, which removed the Planning Appeals process from the Minister of the day to the newly instituted Board. Under Section 14, its role was defined as determining planning appeals, including references under Section 5 of the 1963 Planning and Development Act, amongst other tasks. It was not intended under that legislation to be the first and only decider of any planning application.

Its role expanded over the years to its current role as the sole arbiter of Strategic Housing Developments. We do not understand why it has this role nor do we understand how its functionaries are monitored to assess their competency to make these decisions, without the background of a fully processed planning application through the Local Planning Authority.


In reviewing the planning permissions granted, the results, if built, appear to be the wrong homes in the wrong places at the wrong price, at an enormous future cost.

There is nobody tasked with assessing the overall impact of the cumulative effect of these Strategic Housing Developments. They are assessed solely on the basis each application. The result will be uncoordinated development, designed at densities that are far in excess of anything that has ever been built in our country, including the tenements of the late 19th century.


Plentiful supply of affordable housing for our citizens through a wide variety of models can solve the housing crisis. We advocate for development and funding models that can provide for long-term affordability, community sustainability and high-quality placemaking.

Development models such as converting existing underutilised buildings, flexible sub-division of existing dwellings, intensification of existing housing development and new development at a scale that improves existing areas, by the private, public and voluntary sector. Funding models, such as State- and approved housing body-led social housing, cost-rental and affordable purchase are proven to provide affordable housing for sustainable communities. Long-term and low-yield private investment for high-quality housing should be encouraged over the short-term speculative investment that exists today.

We believe the affordable 15-minute city is in reach, in which population densities sustain social and physical infrastructure, as well as addressing the existential crises of climate change and biodiversity. We support appropriate development driven by social needs and empirical evidence. We do not support the current system of random, profit-driven, developer-led planning. This will lead to poor outcomes for housing as noted below.


The types of apartments that are being proposed may serve some of the current demand for one-bedroom units, but they are generally in gated compounds with little potential for diversity and flexibility. They have high carbon footprints in construction and use and will be complex to maintain. It is unlikely that the fill the need of an entire generation who cannot get access to affordable housing, either as secure tenants or as owner occupiers.


There is no strategic plan as to where these SHD developments should be located within existing communities. They acknowledge neither the qualities of the communities nor the places in which they are located. With the densities being granted – all far in excess of those permitted by development plans – the permitted schemes are of a scale that overwhelms their localities. There is no longer any over-riding vision of how we want our cities, towns, suburbs and villages to look and function.


The permissions granted by An Bord Pleanála on recent applications have guideline prices for the 10% of the units that must be sold to the local authority. These range from between €500,000 to €775,000 per apartment, to be paid for by the local authority. Not only are those figures unaffordable for the local authority (at around €10,000 per square metre), but they are also unaffordable for the ordinary citizen. These prices show just how expensive these apartments are to build.

As an approximate guide, the rental for the two bedroom apartment would be in the order of €60,000 per year and a mortgage at 3% for someone who had saved the €77,500 deposit would be in the order of €45,000 per year. These figures are based on the “at cost” figure which is required of the Part 5 apartments. They do not include any of the commercial costs.


Our goal is to remove the democratic deficit that is now in the planning system, which is leaving communities behind. We want to work with civic society to address Ireland's needs for housing. and development that supports communities and complies with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. The diagram below gives a summary of our approach.