PB July-August 2023 July-August 2023 67
The history of planning legislation is of
a balance between centralised powers,
typically emanating from the Minister [and
latterly from the OPR]; and local authorities
powers, which in turn have been divided
between officials’ and elected councillors
The Planning and Development
(Amendment) Bill, 2022
The Planning and Development (Amendment)
Bill, 2022 attempts to bring clarity to the legal
underpinnings of the planning system which are
currently scattered across numerous laws,
regulations, and court decisions (at both
national and EU levels).
Historical balance between
central and local government
The history of planning legislation is of a balance
between centralised powers, typically
emanating from the Minister and latterly from
the Oce of the Planning Regulator (OPR); and
local authorities’ powers, which in turn have
been divided between ocials’ and elected
councillors’. Too often powers exercisable at
either a centralised or local level, have simply
not been exercised properly, and many would
say local government has not justified the trust
that underpins the delegation of such powers as
planning-permission (in ocials) and zoning (in
elected councillors).
The Bill is a significant salvo at taking back
some of the powers of local authorities by
requiring their deference to centralised
standards. Whether the requirements will be
observed by headstrong local authorities
remains to be shown. Equally uncertain is the
appetite of the OPR to exercise zealously its
powers or of any Minister to sanction councillors
in a delinquent local authority who might be
party colleagues. Long-standing and egregious
failures of planning, including the sprawl of
Dublin and one-o housing, have been largely
perpetrated in contradiction to national policy
due to enforcement inaction rather than action,
with such consistency that that it must be
deemed to be policy inaction.
Consistency and speed to
the detriment of Quality
and Sustainability
The hands of former
Attorney General
Paul Gallagher and of
the property industry
are all over the
Planning Bill
By J Vivian Cooke
Unclear if local authorities will
defer to the centralisation
The Bill carries forward the often-unenforced
logical impetus of the existing system. It is
based on a clear hierarchy for strategic planning
and policy in which subsidiary plans are obliged
to be materially consistent with all policies that
are above them in the hierarchy. The hierarchy
descends from National to Regional to Local
Authority to Local. Under the Bill, the Minister
will set out certain aspects of important policy
in National Planning Statements which contain
directives that purport to be binding, termed
National Planning Policies and Measures
(NPPM).
New planning procedures
Regional assemblies must draft Regional Spatial
and Economic Strategies (RSES) that are
materially consistent (the term is significant:
“comply with would have been stronger,
requiring, as it does, positive action) with the
specific directives in NPPMs, and support
overall government goals; while both national
and regional documents aim to coerce often
recalcitrant local authorities in their individual
Development Plans which drive the planning
permissions they issue.
The Bill sets out a process common for all
actions provided for in law which, the drafters
fear, might not necessarily be observed in the
political process. Each individual step, in both
policy-drafting and permission-decision-
making, is explicitly laid out in comprehensive
step-by-step detail. The requirements for
consultation, notification, review, compliance,
appeal and deadlines are all stipulated in
statutory process maps.
Within these policy constraints, local
authorities can, as now, give eect to national
standards in ways that they deem appropriate
to local circumstances; this may be valuable in
preserving the democratic legitimacy of the
planning process and, in addition, because local
authorities have better knowledge of conditions
on the ground.
Compliance and Enforcement
Errant authorities, whose subsidiary document
Pul Gllgher: hnds ll over Bill
ENVIRONMENT