Wednesday 24 October 2007

Planning deferral system abused

SENIOR officials on Kerry County Council have claimed that a deferral system for planning applications is being abused.

A deferral on a decision is allowed when more time is sought to deal with a problem on a site, or with the application.

However, councillors are being put under undue pressure to push through planning applications even when there is little hope of getting planning, according to the county manager Tom Curran.

He said deferrals were being sought by applicants and agents in cases where there was no prospect of problems being resolved.

Mr Curran said planners and senior management were being put under pressure to meet applicants and agents to discuss issues even though it might be clear the granting of permission would be inappropriate.

"When an applicant gets an inkling they will not be granted permission, they then put pressure on councillors to change management's mind," he said.

In future, he stated, extensions of time or deferrals should only be requested where it was likely problems could be solved in a planning application and permission granted.

The council's planning department deals with about 5,000 applications each year. In some cases, people are putting in applications for one-off houses on sites which are completely unsuitable, according to planners.

For the past year in Kerry, on-site pre-planning consultations have been held between applicants and planning officials.

Senior planning engineer Tom Sheehy said such consultations were "very helpful" and applicants could be given an indication of their chances of getting permission to build a house.

"It certainly helps when applicants can be told of the possibilities at an early stage when they have not, as yet, any money spent on preparing an application. The process can save applicants a lot of money, maybe €5,000 to €6,000," he said.

Mr Sheehy also said it would be helpful if applicants were prepared to consider alternative sites for a house on their own land.

Donal Hickey
Irish Examiner

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