THE GROWING urban sprawl revealed by the latest census figures is a result of "negligent and delinquent" planning regulation, the national heritage trust An Taisce has said.
Spokesman Ian Lumley said the shift in population growth towards the commuter belt counties of the midland and the Border regions was the expected result of bad planning decisions and rezonings made in recent years.
The census found that Laois had the fastest growing population of any county (up 20 per cent), followed by Cavan, Fingal ( both 14 per cent), Longford and Meath (both 13 per cent).
Mr Lumley said spatial planning and transport strategies for the Greater Dublin Area had been " abrogated" by some local authority planners and councillors, creating a "legacy of carbased sprawl".
He said Ireland had invested in one of the largest motorwaybuilding programmes per capita in Europe to improve inter-regional transport for business and encourage economic investment. Instead these had become "commuter arteries".
"The whole objective of the road scheme has been defeated and has created a car-based population, with consequent social, economic and environmental damage - for example, increased carbon emissions, exposure to future oil costs and obesity."
County councils and their councillors had "deliberately ignored" planning guidelines, he said, and had "flung the population about the place".
However, he said they were not motivated by personal gain but by the development levies which could be earned for their counties.
County managers had been completely ineffective in preventing bad planning, and the planners had been "spineless" in their approval of planning applications that were based on bad zoning.
"The planning profession emerges with no credibility here," he said.
New planning legislation, introduced last year was being ignored by county councillors, and was also in danger of being watered down by Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan, who had recently decided to abandon an independent investigation into the planning activities of a number of local authorities, Mr Lumley said.
"The level of development that has taken place during the boom is like what happened in other European countries after the second World War.
"We have to ensure that we implement strict enforcement of the planning regulations so that things are not made worse."
The president of the Irish Planning Institute, Brendan Allen, said planners were not responsible for the shift from urban to outer suburban and rural growth as they had no option but to grant permission if land had been zoned for development.
He said an adherence by councillors to the guidelines set down for zoning which require them only to zone as much land as is required for sustainable population growth, and proper resourcing of the planning system would help consolidate future development in existing urban areas and gateway towns.
"The statistics underline the importance of forward planning so that development can be ‘planning-led' rather than ‘market-led'," said Mr Allen.
The Irish Times