In the aftermath of the Mahon Report our politicians are still seeking to blame the wrong people for their failings.
Joe Costello TD was speaking on The Week in Politics Show on Sunday night in relation to taking pensions away from those found guilty of corruption or inappropriate behaviour. In his response he stated that all those who are paid by the public purse, including ministers and senior planners, should suffer such a fate.
The Irish Planning Institute (IPI) is the largest professional planning institute in Ireland. We represent over 700 planners north and south with our members working in both the public and private sector. The institute welcomes the report which marks the end of a lengthy public inquiry and would generally support the principle of what Deputy Costello is saying. While the report does criticise the conduct of certain persons in the planning system, mainly politicians and developers, (as did the previous interim report from the same tribunal), none of these persons are professional planners or institute members. Therefore, it is difficult to understand why his remarks are directed at professional planners.
Since its introduction in 1963, the Irish planning system has always been based on a separation of responsibilities between those who are given the responsibility to make policy decisions (i.e. the locally elected representatives) and those who are given the responsibility to provide expert advice (i.e. the professional planners). The Irish Planning Institute has stated many times that planning is there to serve the common good and not to serve private individuals or sectoral interests.
The Institute has always held the belief that this separation of roles is important and that the planning profession does not wish to replace the decision-making role assigned to the elected representatives in our planning system. It is the role of the locally-elected county councillors as elected by the public, to determine policy, based on advice from professionally-trained planners, employed by the local authority. It is the duty of the councillors to act at all times in the interest of the common good.
The Institute welcomes the recommendations of the Mahon Report and, in particular, the recommendation in relation to a planning regulator. We have stated for many years that consideration needs to be given to making the adoption of a development and local area plan subject to an appeal or approval process before it is finally confirmed, in order to provide the necessary checks and balances in the planning system. Whilst the exact role of a planning regulator needs to be considered further, it is the IPI’s view that approval of plans could fall within the remit of the regulator.
The IPI has always worked independently of all politicians to ensure that proper planning and development is at the core of all planning advice and we will continue to do so. It undermines the role of professional planners when politicians make ill-informed comments in relation to members of the profession when many of the problems related to planning corruption lie within the political system.
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