Earlier this year the Irish Independent covered the Irish Planning Institute's appearance before the Dail Environment Committee to
discuss changes to planning legislation, including a new, independent planning regulator, who
will be tasked with ensuring local policies comply with national
standards and are in line with best practice.
Mary Hughes, President of the Irish
Planning Institute (IPI), said her members - professional urban and rural planners - have serious concerns about
the lack of powers for the regulator. Here, she outlines the weaknesses of the current proposal.
Nearly four years ago, the IPI welcomed
the recommendations of the Mahon Tribunal report "into certain planning
matters and payments".
In essence, it proposed that some of the
Environment Minister's planning enforcement role be transferred to an
independent planning regulator with powers to ensure that development
plans prepared by planning authorities complied with national policy.
was to prevent, among other things, the excessive zoning of land.
Powers were also promised to undertake investigations into the
performance of local authorities, particularly if there were complaints,
and to conduct research, education and training.
Proposals for a new Office of the Planning
Regulator have finally been made public, but the regulator does not
appear to have been given much independence.
the minister can direct a local authority to change its county or local
development plan if it does not conform to national policy.
Mahon proposed transferring these powers to
the new independent regulator. However, it is now proposed that the
final decision on a development plan will rest with the minister of the
day, and not the new regulator, demoting the regulator's role to that of
an 'adviser'. Advising is not regulating.
we are to have the radical reforming legislation envisaged by Mahon,
then a better balance between regulation, independence and democratic
oversight must be struck.
Whilst the regulator may have a little more
independence with its investigative role, the full extent of that role
is not entirely clear.
Without powers of enforcement, it is difficult to see how effective the planning regulator can be in the long term.
See the full story at Irish Independent