The Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government has today (18 July 08) announced that he has received approval of Government to the drafting of the General Scheme of a Planning and Development (Amendment) Bill to amend the Planning Acts.
The primary aim of this Bill will be to ensure a greater coherence between the National Spatial Strategy, Regional Planning Guidelines, development plans and local area plans, particularly insofar as the zoning of land is concerned. It will also bring greater transparency into the process of zoning land and should help to secure a better return from investment on infrastructure under the National Development Plan and sectoral capital programmes.
The implementation of key areas of national policy such as the National Spatial Strategy, the National Development Plan, the White Paper on Energy and the Climate Change Strategy is dependent on an efficient and integrated planning process. At a more local level, modes of transport, the way homes and places of work are powered, the quality of local community and recreational facilities, the provision of educational facilities and the delivery of high quality sustainable infrastructure, are also dependent on a quality and effective development planning and management system.
“The Bill will help to reduce the need for central government intervention in the local government development plan process and will strengthen the local mandate by clarifying how planning authorities can and should better align their local policies and priorities with sound planning principles and with regional and national guidance,” said Minister Gormley.
In the past, there have been instances where land zonings or development policies set down in the 6-yearly development plans have failed to provide a proper and sustainable planning framework for the economic and social development of the area, particularly in terms of the inappropriate scale, pattern and phasing of development, and without sufficient regard to national and regional policies and priorities.
Introducing greater transparency into the zoning process:
Other proposals will include a legal requirement for development plans to be consistent with the NSS and the RPGs, strengthening the status of the Department’s planning guidelines and underpinning the evidence base for decision making primarily by strengthening further the development plan as the fundamental link with national and regional policies.
The Minister also proposes amending the legislation to provide that a resolution for a material alteration to a development plan (or the making or amendment of a local area plan) will require that 75% of the elected members vote in favour; currently a simple majority of those present is all that is required. The 75% rule already applies where a local authority decides to grant a planning permission that is a material contravention of the development plan. Late modifications to a draft (or variation to) a development plan/local area plan will not include any increase in the amount of zoned land beyond that in amendments already proposed and consulted on at an earlier stage.
Address European Court of Justice Rulings:
The Bill will also introduce further legal improvements to the planning code in the interests of planning effectiveness, efficiency and environmental sustainability and arising from recent European Court of Justice cases.
“In response to the ECJ ruling on 3 July, I propose to remove the possibility of retention for unauthorised developments which would otherwise have been subject to Environmental Impact Assessment. I also proposes to put in place strengthened legal provisions in relation to the Appropriate Assessment of development plans, local area plans and planning schemes prepared for strategic development zones under the Habitats Directives,” added Minister Gormley.
“The proposals for the Bill represent the latest instalment of a package of measures that I have taken or planned since I took office last year to streamline the planning framework and where possible achieve a better alignment with key national policy objectives including, in particular, addressing climate change through the planning system,” ended Minister Gormley.