Commission warns New Bill may have Significant Consequences for the Traveller Community

IHREC publish Submission on Planning and Development Bill 2022

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (‘the Commission’), reiterates that the State continues to fail in its provision of culturally appropriate accommodation to the Traveller community and welcomes the opportunity to submit observations on the Planning and Development Bill 2022.

In recent times, we have carried out a significant body of work in this area and have consistently highlighted that the State is in breach of its obligations under numerous international human rights treaties, including Article 16 of the European Social Charter.
Traveller accommodation architecture in the State remains incoherent and inadequate, and the lived reality of Travellers is that they continue to experience violations of their right to adequate and culturally appropriate housing. This is despite ethnic recognition from the State nearly six years ago in March 2017.

Currently, the vast majority of Traveller-specific accommodation is delivered through Part 8 of the Planning and Development Regulations 2001, ostensibly to assist public debate and scrutiny. However, this often gives rise to significant challenges in terms of providing Traveller-specific accommodation, often due to local opposition and the consequent politicisation of the process.

We therefore recommend that consideration should be given to amending the Bill to put Traveller-specific accommodation in an exceptional category so that it is not exempted from the need to be approved by An Coimisiùn Pleanála and could, therefore, be removed from the Part 8 process. We recommend that an alternative direct route for Traveller-specific accommodation to An Coimisiùn Pleanála should then be considered. However, we also recommend that a route for planning approval for Traveller-specific accommodation through the planning authority should be retained, with certain provisions. The processes should be speedy and streamlined and the Traveller-specific accommodation initiatives which have already been detailed in a local authority’s development plan should not be the subject of the public notice or confirmation procedures for a specified period.

We also recommend that the Bill is amended to reflect that local authorities are under obligations to put forward objectives in respect of Traveller-specific accommodation in their development plans, as opposed to simply setting out statements.

Chief Commissioner Sinéad Gibney said:

“Rights and equality cannot be enjoyed without an accessible, safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment. Therefore, planning and development in the State has, and will continue to have, significant impacts on the human rights and equality of multiple cross-sections of society including children; disabled people; and minority or marginalised groups such as the Traveller community.
“We have long called for an independent authority for Traveller accommodation, a recommendation also made by Traveller Representative Groups and the Traveller Accommodation Expert Group. It’s clear that in the absence of an independent authority responsible for oversight and delivery, the ability of the State to provide appropriate accommodation remains inadequate.”

The provisions of the Bill that provide for enforcement procedures and measures are likely to have a significant and possibly disproportionately negative impact on the Traveller community. We, therefore, recommend that the Bill is amended to ensure that there is court oversight over all actions in respect of alleged unauthorised developments where there is any possible interference with a person’s home or dwelling and to ensure that local authorities and the courts must carry out a proportionality assessment taking account of all relevant circumstances before any interference with an alleged unauthorised development which may be a person’s home or dwelling.

Regarding access to justice, the Bill alters the current position in respect of the requirement to provide notice when seeking leave to apply for judicial review. This has the potential to delay proceedings advancing and to increase costs, thus resulting in some cases not being dealt with in a timely manner and/or becoming prohibitively expensive, particularly for some private citizens.

The Bill should be amended to retain the current system, whereby applications for leave to apply for judicial review can be made ex-parte with the Court retaining a discretion to direct that such an application is heard on notice where certain circumstances require same.

The Bill includes new requirements which will be relevant to non-governmental organisations seeking to judicially review actions and/or decisions which relate to planning and the environment, namely that the organisation must be a company, have no fewer than ten members, and must pass a resolution before issuing proceedings. The cumulative nature of these new, more stringent requirements will result in significant hurdles, and even barriers, being put in the way of organisations seeking to advance legal challenges in this area and we recommend that they should be removed from the Bill.

Recommendations include:

On housing

  1. The Bill is amended to reflect that development plans will be compiled and finalised in five-year cycles as opposed to the proposed ten-year cycles, with a review period of three-years for each development plan, to bring it in line with the periods provided for in respect of Traveller accommodation programmes under the Housing (Traveller Accommodation) Act 1998.
  2. If such recommendation is not accepted, the State places the provision of Traveller-specific accommodation in a special statutory category that results in the relevant portion of a development plan being reviewed and updated every five years, in line with a local authority’s Traveller accommodation programme.

On justice

  1. That section 250(1) is amended to ensure that successful applicants in judicial review proceedings relating to environmental and planning matters may recover the entirety of their legal costs, where a court deems that to be in the interests of justice in accordance with established rules in relation to costs.
  2. That the Government reconsiders the proposal for costs to be dealt with in an administrative scheme and instead ensures that all rules in respect of costs are placed on a statutory footing within the Bill.


Notes to editor:

Read full Submission on the Planning and Development Bill 2022

For further information, please contact:

Sarah Clarkin, IHREC Communications Manager,
01 8592641 / 087 4687760

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Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission is an independent public body, appointed by the President and directly accountable to the Oireachtas. The Commission has a statutory remit set out under the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission Act (2014) to protect and promote human rights and equality in Ireland, and build a culture of respect for human rights, equality and intercultural understanding in the State.

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission is Ireland’s national human rights institution and is recognised as such by the United Nations. The Commission is also Ireland’s national equality body for the purpose of a range of EU anti-discrimination measures.