An Taisce responds to ‘GOVERNMENT GIVES GREEN LIGHT TO NEW PLANNING REGULATOR’

7th May 2013
Press Release

An Taisce responds to today’s Government announced that it had approved proposals for the preparation of a new Planning and Development Bill to establish a new Planning Regulator.

From an initial reading of the Press Release, it appears to cover one of a number of key recommendations by Mahon, that being the plan for an independent planning regulator to review / assess forward planning, for example city and county development plans.

James Nix, An Taisce’s Director of Operations stated “It is good that the regulator's advice to the Minister will be published. We await details on whether Local Area Plans will be covered. These were used increasingly over the course of the boom to bring about 'back-door' re-zoning.”

Nix continued “We would like to know if the powers of the regulator will be extended to cover the other recommendations of Mahon. This isn't as yet clear. Certainly, we would hope that the reform moves in this direction.”

The other Key areas of Mahon’s recommendations include enforcement and the power to investigate allegations of poor practice or malpractice. Here we know that a huge number of complaints to councils have simply not met with a sufficiently active or adequate response. The requirement of independent investigation into allegations of poor practice or malpractice was well flagged by Mahon. – “In particular, the Tribunal is recommending that the Regulator should also be entrusted with the power to investigate possible systemic problems in the planning system, including those raising corruption risks, with the aim of making recommendations to address those problems.”

Action is acutely needed in both these areas. But, An Taisce welcomes the announcement today as a step in the right direction.

ENDS

For further information, please call:

James Nix, Director of Operations, An Taisce Tel: + 353 86 8394129

Charles Stanley-Smith, An Taisce Communications Tel: +353 87 2411995

Email: publicaffairs@antaisce.org

An Taisce The National Trust for Ireland

www.antaisce.ie

Notes:

Recommendations of the Mahon Tribunal:

1.14 Finally, with regard to enforcement, the Tribunal is concerned that recent changes in the planning system have resulted in an over-centralisation of power in the hands of the Minister for the Environment which is not subject to sufficient checks and balances. Consequently, the Tribunal is recommending that the Minister for the Environment’s ability to give directions to Regional Authorities and Local Planning Authorities should be entrusted to a Planning Regulator. However, the Minister for the Environment should continue to play a key role in adopting the NSS and NDP.

1.15 While the Planning Regulator should assume some of the Minister for the Environment’s existing role in relation to enforcement, the Tribunal considers that his or her role should not be confined to this. In particular, the Tribunal is recommending that the Regulator should also be entrusted with the power to investigate possible systemic problems in the planning system, including those raising corruption risks, with the aim of making recommendations to address those problems. The Regulator should also be responsible for providing training to members of both local and regional authorities on planning and development to enable them to discharge their functions in this area more effectively. The Regulator should have sufficient powers to carry out his or her functions effectively, including the power to question witnesses and compel the production of documents.