THE country's most senior planner has blamed the scourge of ghost estates on "dubious practices" by local authorities, who were only interested in securing the maximum amount of development in their area.
Chairman of An Bord Pleanala John O'Connor said yesterday that his warnings against large scale developments being located in inappropriate areas were largely ignored, and that a lack of planning guidelines contributed to the problem.
The thousands of ghost estates, excess supply of housing and urban sprawl could not be blamed on the planning system, he said, but by planners who often ignored the public good.
Private interests "held too much sway" and it was "sad" that legislation had to be enacted to ensure good planning.
"In the past we had land zonings taking place without any possibility of services being put in place.
"In planning, the public good must be given greater priority over private interests. In the past, private interests held too much sway," he said.
Mr O'Connor also defended the role of the planning appeals board in not stopping the rampant over-development that took place over the past decade.
Just 9pc of all developments went to the board on appeal, and they often had to be passed because they fitted in with local development plans, he said.
"I'm sure the board bears some responsibility and would have granted some permissions. But only 9pc of local authority planning decisions come to the board on appeal.
"The bord has rejected many out-of-scale developments, and I criticised this five years ago."
The board's annual report shows that Donegal topped the list of counties for bad planning, where nearly 60pc of appealed decisions were overturned by the board.
It is closely followed by Roscommon (53pc) and Longford (48pc) which are among the worst counties for overzoning land and building hundreds of housing units which are now empty.
The agency's report also says: l The number of cases being appealed has fallen by 33pc, down to 3,786 cases. l More than 70pc of cases are being decided within the 18- week period set down in law. l 44 projects including railway lines, wind farms and health facilities are going through a fast-track planning process. l An average of one in three local authorities' planning decisions are reversed by the board.