Saturday 12 September 2009

No return to dark days of rezoning - Gormley

IRELAND WOULD never go back to the “dark days” of rezoning of land, Green Party leader and Minister for the Environment John Gormley said at his party’s annual “think-in” .

Announcing that new guidelines would be set out at committee stage in the Dáil debate on the Planning and Development (Amendment) Bill 2009, the Minister said the proposed legislation would counteract the “incredible” overzoning of land for development that had been taking place, a practice which helped create the so-called property bubble, .

Fresh information on the extent of overzoning had been provided in a recent study by his department, he told the gathering which takes place in Athlone, Co Westmeath, this year.

Changes in the Bill would require local authorities to carry out a review of development plans, even if these had recently been adopted.

He said the Bill would ensure that, “development plans from now on in will have to be aligned totally to the regional planning guidelines, also the whole spatial strategy and the whole idea of population increase”.

Outlining the scale of over-zoning that had occurred in Irish towns and villages, he said: “We have enough [development] land in some cases to take us up to 2075. That is unsustainable and we are ensuring through the measures that we are to be taking in tandem with the Nama [National Asset Management Agency] legislation that that can never recur.

“We will never go back to the dark days of overzoning and indeed the property bubble and that has been a key consideration for us as a party.”

The Minister said the idea of land speculation and seeing land in terms of its commercial value was “fundamentally anathema to Green Party thinking and our members understand that”.

The new procedures in his legislation were aimed at ensuring that the provision of land zoned for residential and other development was “closely tied to national and regional policies and grounded in an evidence base of population projections and other needs”.

“A robust planning structure will ensure that the mistakes of the past are not repeated because it will no longer be possible to provide vast tracts of zoned land without reference to population demand and provision of essential services.

“More focused land-use strategies will also result in a more efficient use of taxpayers’ money by allowing the State to target investment in essential infrastructure and services more accurately.”

The legislation was intended to ensure, “that fundamental reform of our planning system is taking place simultaneously with the financial measures that are dealing with the fallout of previous planning failures”.

Planning authorities would be required to include a “core strategy” in their development plans. “This will demonstrate how the plan aligns to national and regional policy and how the provision of land for residential development aligns with population projections.”

He added that the core strategy would be elaborated to make it a fundamental requirement on all planning authorities to ensure all land-use zoning and development policies were justified.

Main points

- End rezoning of land for commercial development without taking other factors into account

- Development plans to be aligned with regional planning guidelines, spatial strategy and population demand

- Ensure local authorities carry out immediate review of development plans.

- Planning system reform to coincide with financial measures to deal with effects of property bubble.

- Planning authorities will have to include “core strategy” in plans, placing them in context of national/regional policy.

Irish Times

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