One of the country's biggest developers blames planning policy for the housing crisis. It's sitting on successful applications for 5,000 units

One of Ireland’s largest property developers has claimed state planning policy is the biggest obstacle to building homes – despite boasting in its annual report that it’s sitting on successful planning applications for more than double its usual output.

Glenveagh, which claimed revenue of €649 million in 2022, has also in the last two years sold at least three sites – with planning permission included – in deals worth more than €100 million.

CEO Stephen Garvey however has made repeated claims about what he calls Ireland’s “dysfunctional planning policy", which he says is encumbering efforts to address the country’s housing crisis. A Glenveagh spokesperson told The Ditch, “Failure to obtain planning permission on sites in our one to three year sales pipeline" may affect the company's projections.

‘Overall, the group has over 5,000 units with full planning permission in place’

Speaking at an Irish Home Builders Association conference this March, Stephen Garvey said, according to the Irish Times, the “single biggest obstacle” to Glenveagh reaching its goal of building 3,000 homes a year is Ireland’s planning system.

“War is out of our control, supply chains are out of our control, interest rates are out of our control but planning policy is within the state's control,” he said, adding that state planning policy is worsening the housing crisis “because it’s stopping viability and making affordability worse”.

In January Garvey claimed that Glenveagh had been forced to reduce its goals for the number of homes it would deliver, saying, "Addressing this significant undersupply continues to be obstructed by dysfunctional planning policy." He further called for “planning policy reform… to solve the longer-term structural supply issues the sector faces.”

Though Glenveagh said it had revised the number of homes it would deliver in 2023 down from 1,700 to about 1,300, the company's 2022 annual report claimed it’s sitting on 5,000 successful planning applications.

While Garvey blamed Ireland’s planning policy for Glenveagh’s possible failure to meet its goals, the company’s report referred to the great number of successful applications it holds.

“Management do not have any immediate concerns,” it said on delayed planning applications, “as the group has planning permission for over 80 percent of the group’s expected deliveries in 2023.”

Glenveagh, according to the report, has enough successful applications for more than double its initial goal of 1,700 homes.

“Overall, the group has over 5,000 units with full planning permission in place. To de-risk 2024 and 2025 delivery targets, management have focused the company’s land acquisition strategy to ensure, at a minimum, 50 percent of the sites purchased are acquired with or subject to planning permission,” reads the report

Glenveagh has also sold at least three sites with planning permission attached in the last two years.

In April last year it sold a 5.2 acre Dublin docklands site to Eagle Street Partners Group, which is directed by a former Glenveagh chief executive, for more than €60 million. Included in the deal was planning permission for 554 apartments.

This followed another Glenveagh-Eagle Street deal, when the former sold a Sheriff Street, Dublin 1 site to the latter for €78.5 million in 2021. Though the site has planning permission for more than 700 build-to-rent apartments, construction has been “paused”, according to the Sunday Independent.

Meanwhile in September 2022, Glenveagh sold a Blackrock, south county Dublin site – with planning permission for 140 homes – to German cuckoo fund Union Investment.

A Glenveagh spokesperson said, “There is no inconsistency in these positions," referring to another line in the company's annual report that reads, “Failure to obtain planning permission on sites in our one to three year sales pipeline or renew existing planning permission without significant changes could result in failure to meet unit delivery and return on investment targets.”

The Ditch editors

The Ditch editors