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Minister McEntee welcomes establishment of new Planning and Environment division of the High Court

Minister McEntee welcomes establishment of new Planning and Environment division of the High Court

Minister for Justice Helen McEntee, TD and Minister of State with responsibility for Law Reform, James Browne, TD, today welcomed the establishment of a new division of the High Court dedicated to Planning and Environmental cases.

The court has been operating on an administrative basis for a number of months.

A ceremonial first sitting this morning marked its full establishment as a High Court Division and the fulfilment of a key commitment in the Government’s Housing for All Strategy.

Minister McEntee said:

“The new division of the High Court will help us improve the delivery of housing by reducing planning delays. It is a key commitment in our Housing for All strategy and, as Minister for Justice, I am pleased have introduced these much needed reforms to establish the new division.

“It will also allow for greater efficiency and specialism in the handling of litigation relating to planning and environmental matters, particularly judicial reviews.

"Dealing with such cases in an effective and efficient manner is key to enabling the State’s delivery of housing and infrastructure, while also protecting the environment.

"Today marks the culmination of extensive engagement and consultation between my Department, the Courts Service and a number of other Government Departments – in particular the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage and the Department of Environment, Climate and Communications.

“I would like to thank the Attorney General Rossa Fanning for his hard work in helping us get to this point. I would also like to acknowledge the Hon. Mr. Justice David Barniville, and his judicial colleagues, for prioritising work on establishing the new Court Division.”

The new High Court division is to become fully operational following the assignment of an third additional High Court judge to the area and the publication by the President of the High Court of ‘Practice Direction HC 124’, which takes effect from today, 11 December 2023.

This follows the appointment by the Government of 24 additional judges this year to increase resources in the Courts and ensure greater access to justice.

Welcoming the news, Minister Browne said:

“The assignment of three judges to the Planning and Environment Court is crucial to support increased capacity and flexibility.

“I offer my congratulations and best wishes to the three judges; Mr. Justice Richard Humphreys, Mr. Justice David Holland and Ms. Justice Emily Farrell, who is one of the additional High Court judges nominated by Government in June 2023 arising from the recommendations of the Judicial Planning Working Group.

“The Group’s final report recommended that 44 additional judges be appointed in two phases, representing a 25% increase in the number of judges in the Irish legal system.

“Government approved a first tranche of 24 additional judges in February, all of whom have now been appointed.”


Notes for Editors

• The new Division will replace and expand the scope of the, “Commercial, Planning and Environmental List” of the High Court, which became operational on 17th April 2023. This was in line with the Government Decision of 2nd November 2022, which approved the establishment of a dedicated Planning and Environment division of the High Court including, if necessary, on an administrative basis.

• It is now to become fully operational following on from the assignment of an additional High Court judge to the area and the publication by the President of the High Court of ‘Practice Direction HC 124’, which is to take effect from 11 December 2023.

• The Practice Direction sets out the expanded scope of the new High Court Division and has been finalised following on from two public consultations undertaken by the Courts Service; a necessary element for compliance with the Aarhus Convention in respect of environmental law.

• The expanded scope now encompasses proceedings related to 21 identified pieces of EU environmental legislation and 16 identified areas of national legislation, which include, planning, transport, water, climate, natural heritage, built heritage, waste, mineral exploration, the marine, agriculture and pollution.

• The new Practice Direction provides that cases will be assigned different priorities. A stated objective of the Court is that capacity is retained to deal expeditiously with urgent cases such as proceedings that concern large-scale projects of strategic importance, or matters of significant environmental impact. This is to ensure that these proceedings can continue to be prioritised and afforded an early hearing date.

• The new High Court Division will therefore deal with proceedings which include strategic infrastructure and commercial planning matters and decisions involving EU and national environmental and planning legislation.

• Cases will be now be heard by the three judges assigned to the new Court Division.