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Government approves establishment of dedicated Planning and Environment division of the High Court

Minister for Justice Helen McEntee has today received Cabinet approval to establish a dedicated Planning and Environment division of the High Court.

The Programme for Government and Housing for All plan commits to the establishment of a new Planning and Environmental Law Court, managed by judges with specialist training, as well as legislative changes in relation to Judicial Review on planning cases.

 Minister McEntee said:

 “Planning and environmental judicial review cases are a notable feature of Ireland’s planning and statutory consenting processes. The ability to deal with these cases efficiently and effectively is critical to the State’s delivery of housing and infrastructure, and in protecting the environment.”

 “This new court, once in operation, will provide for greater specialism to enable the more efficient management of cases dealing with planning and environmental matters and judicial review in particular.

“It is envisaged that the dedicated court will operate in a similar manner to the Commercial Court and that the Court will work in tandem with reforms to planning legislation, to bring about improvements in the ability to process cases and in costs, and to be consistent with Ireland’s obligations under EU environmental law.”

“My Department is working in partnership with the Courts Service and the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage to advance work to establish the new Court.

Commenting, Minister of State with Responsibility for Local Government and Planning, Peter Burke TD, said,

The establishment of a dedicated Planning and Environment division of the High Court was a key commitment made in both the Programme for Government and in Housing for All and it will assist in the timely processing of litigation in relation to planning matters.  Importantly, this aligns with the ongoing consolidation and review of planning legislation, which is being led by the Attorney General and the Department of Housing, and will be a key enabler in the delivery of our Housing for All Plan.”

In parallel, the Judicial Planning Working Group (JPWG), established by the Department of Justice in April 2021, is due to report later this year. The JPWG was set up in line with commitments in the Programme for Government and Justice Action Plan 2021 to "Establish a working group to consider the number of and type of judges required to ensure the efficient administration of justice over the next five years". Its recommendations will help inform any future judicial resourcing needs, including for the proposed new Planning and Environmental Law Court.

While primary legislation would be needed to allow for the appointment of additional judges, the actual establishment of the Court can be effected without the need for amending primary legislation. This work is expected be completed as soon as possible.