Sunday 26 April 2009

'No scope for wasting public resources' on zonings, says 2009 Bill

THE 2009 Planning Amendment Bill, due to be published shortly, is to make it clear there will be “no scope for wasting public resources on poorly located and excessive zonings”, according to a senior official involved in drafting it.

John Martin, principal planning adviser in the Department of the Environment, said yesterday that one of the main aims would be to “achieve more sustainable settlement patterns” – in contrast to the urban sprawl of recent years.

Addressing the Irish Planning Institute’s annual conference in Wexford, he said planners should ensure that development plans and local area plans were in place “to underpin recovery in the housing market, whenever that happens”.

Planners also needed to respond to the economic crisis by promoting development that created jobs, particularly “knowledge economy” employment, in cities and towns designated as gateways and hubs in the 2002 National Spatial Strategy (NSS).

Mr Martin said a review of the NSS had shown “unsustainable settlement patterns” in the commuter catchment areas of gateway towns. But despite a “significant change in circumstances” since 2002, its fundamental policy aims were still valid.

Reviews of regional planning guidelines would include an economic analysis of each region as well as guidance on the local economic strategies, he said, adding that the new Planning Bill would strengthen links between local and regional planning.

It would also “provide a rational and transparent basis for proposed zonings” of land as well as establishing the principle that any material changes made by councillors after a plan had been on public display “cannot include additional zonings”.

The Bill would also take account of last July’s European Court ruling against Ireland in the Derrybrien mudslide case by introducing new rules for environmental impact assessments. This would raise a “major issue” in relation to unauthorised quarries.

Mr Martin said a separate Bill would deal with offshore developments such as wind and tidal energy, recognising that such projects had the potential to “make a major contribution to the achievement of national energy and climate change objectives”.

Mayor of Clare Madeleine Taylor-Quinn, who is in her 30th year as a councillor, said she and her colleagues were “an absolutely necessary and integral part of the democratic process”, rather than a luxury the country could no longer afford.

She pointed out that councillors accounted for just 0.65 per cent of Clare County Council’s budget. “We have a particularly important function in making the county development plan, voicing the desires and aspirations of the community”.

Laois county manager Peter Carey challenged planners to engage with other agencies, instead of “operating in a bubble, with a localised mindset”; otherwise, they would not be able to achieve the objectives set out in a county development plan.

Successes cited by Mr Carey included the planning of new schools in Portlaoise and the development of an “inland port” on 300-acre site at the M8/M9 interchange, which will include large-scale warehousing and logistics as well as a national train depot.

Irish Times

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