The lead piece in this issue of the Tribune covers the latest developments in UCD’s attempt to build more on-campus accommodation for students. While it is long-term issue, is has been has been subject to continual twists and turns over the past few months.

The application is somewhat of a test case for a new development in planning law. Given the lack of accommodation countrywide, the new law is aimed at speeding up the planning process. Its operation has come in for criticism, some of which may be justified.

Normally, a planning application is made to the local Planning Authority. In UCD’s case, it is the Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council who makes the decision. If an application is rejected, an applicant can make another one, or bring an appeal to An Bord Pleanála within four weeks of the decision. An appeal before it is normally the final stage in an application. There is the ability to go to the High Court to bring a judicial review action, but that discussion is for another day.

The Planning and Development (Housing) and Residential Tenancies Act 2016 created a special route, now in force by a Ministerial Commencement Order, for applicants to bypass their local council and go straight to An Bord Pleanála when they want to build over 100 homes or 200 student spaces.

Once the Bord, developer and Council have a pre-application consultation, and the application is made, there is a four-month period for it to make a decision. In planning terms, this is a very quick process.

UCD’s application is one of its biggest ever building projects. Given the scope of the application, it could easily be rejected under the normal process. Based on the Council’s pre-application report, it seemed likely the two sides would clash on the size of some of the buildings, and the always controversial issue of parking.

UCD’s final application includes information designed to address some of these concerns, but it remains to be seen whether it is enough to convince the decision makers. Whatever the outcome in January 2018, there will be plenty more twists and turns to come.

Cian Carton – Editor