Minister O’Sullivan Publishes Planning Review Report And Announces Planned Appointment Of Independent Expert

Minister for Housing and Planning, Jan O’Sullivan, TD, today (12 June, 2012) published the findings and recommendations of the planning review report.  The report sets out 12 actions that will address current deficiencies in the planning system and the Minister has given a commitment to implement all 12 actions.


In addition, the Minister has announced the planned appointment of an independent planning consultant who will be required to assess all actions contained in the planning review report and propose any additional measures deemed appropriate.  The independent consultant will also be tasked with examining a number of broader themes identified in the report and submitting recommendations for further action.


Speaking at the launch Minister O’Sullivan said, “Today I am publishing the report of the planning review in full.  It is a detailed and thorough report and I hope that it is given the consideration it merits by all those with an interest in restoring public confidence in the planning system in Ireland.


“The report contains 12 actions and I am committed to implementing all of these actions.  The actions entail legislative change and consolidation, revised non-statutory guidelines and improved management systems in planning authorities.  It is a comprehensive programme of reform that I intend to implement.  I believe that these reforms – together with the further reforms the Government will bring forward as part of its response to the Report of the Mahon Tribunal – will significantly improve the planning system, bring about increased transparency and consistency, and enhancing public confidence.


“The planning review published today did not find any prima facie evidence of malfeasance in any of the seven local authorities subject to inquiry.  What the planning review has identified is areas of policy and procedure where greater clarity, consistency and transparency will improve the planning system.  This is a welcome development.  It also vindicates the decision of my predecessor, Minister Penrose, not to rush headlong into appointing seven external planning consultants to embark on costly, open-ended inquiries.


“In addition to the 12 actions, the planning review also identified a number of broader themes where additional examination and analysis would be of merit.  These broader themes include:


  • Public communication of planning policy;
  • Handling and availability of pre-planning application records;
  • Communication between planning authorities and An Bord Pleanála.


“I will appoint an independent planning expert to examine these issues and report to me with recommendations for action.  I will also instruct the independent expert to review the 12 actions contained in the report , to propose any further additional measures he or she deems appropriate and to furnish me with their full review within 3 months of appointment.


“When this planning review process was initiated by then Minister Gormley he stated that ‘the purpose of the review is not to examine particular planning decisions but to assess the processes and systems that enable such decisions to be made.’  The review I have published in full today achieves that goal.  It has assessed how a range of planning authorities dealt with a wide variety of planning issues, has identified current weaknesses in the system and proposed significant reforms that will be implemented.  It has also proposed a further independent review of broader themes identified.”


“This Government is committed to developing a 21st century planning system that provides a democratic, transparent and coherent framework for creating thriving sustainable communities.  The implementation of the specific actions in the planning review forms an important step in achieving that goal and I believe will complement the whole of Government response to the recommendations of the Mahon Tribunal which Minister Hogan will publish in the coming weeks.”


The report and the related documentation are available on






Summary of recommendations contained in Planning Review Report all of which have been accepted by Minister O’Sullivan and will be implemented:


The recommendations in the planning review fall into two categories:


a) 12 recommendations that address issues such as changes to and consolidation of existing legislation, amendments to statutory guidelines, consistency across planning authorities and enhanced transparency.


These recommendations will also be reviewed by an independent planning expert with a view to external assessment of their robustness and proposing any additional measures.


b) Six broader themes identified in the report which an independent planning expert will be tasked to examine and submit a report containing recommendations for reform.


a) Recommendations where implementation will commence immediately:


Recommendation 1: All proposed grants of permission by a planning authority in material contravention of their own Development Plan would automatically go to An Bord Pleanala for final determination while also providing for a public notification and participation process.


Recommendation 2:  The Department will urgently prepare and publish a consolidation of the Planning Acts and Regulations, and thereafter prepare to place these on a statutory footing in recognition of the complex and evolving nature of the planning code.


Recommendation 3: (informed by specific reference to Cork City Council): The Department will address the problem of differing interpretations of Section 247 of the Act.  At present there is an inconsistency between what the Act says (and specifically does not say under Section 247) and what the Guidelines say.


Recommendation 4:  (informed by specific reference to Meath County Council): As part of the consultation process on the draft Guidelines on Local Area Plans the potential amendment of 18(6) of the Planning and Development Act 2000 is being examined with a view to prohibiting the bringing forward of draft local area plans by landowners / prospective developers.


Recommendation 5: (informed by general reference to all seven planning authorities): The Department will comprehensively review the existing Development Management Guidelines (last updated in 2007) to take account of all relevant findings of this review and of any further recommendations made under the next phase. Specific revisions should include, inter alia:

  • Reminding authorities of the need regularly to review decisions and policies governing such decisions, particularly where such decisions are overturned by An Bord Pleanála, and to take appropriate steps to amend and clarify such policies, in consultation with both elected members and with the public, where appropriate;
  • Identifying and utilising examples of best practice for internal supervisory / management arrangements in planning departments;
  • Clarifying how records of pre-planning consultations should be dealt with;
  • Providing for regular review of planning decisions and policies governing such decisions, particularly where such decisions are overturned by An Bord Pleanála, and taking appropriate steps to amend and clarify such policies; and,
  • Introducing standardised approaches in planner’s reports listing and analysing the various policy and legislative considerations and the respective weightings applied to each in the decision making process.


Recommendation 6: (informed by general reference to all seven planning authorities): The Department will consider and develop further mechanisms (both statutory and non-statutory) to ensure timely, responsive, communication of planning policy e.g.  a mechanism such as statutory Planning Policy Guidance Statement(s)


Recommendation 7: (informed by specific reference to Dublin City Council): The dissemination of best practice examples for internal supervisory / management arrangements for planning departments, to ensure consistent application of policy in the decision making process, should be advanced by the Department with the City and County Managers Association.


Recommendation 8: (informed by specific reference to Meath County Council): The draft Local Area Plan Guidelines for planning authorities, inter alia, encourage effective public and community participation in the process of preparing and/or reviewing of local area plans. The Guidelines also provide further guidance to planning authorities and developers and other parties as to what assurances should be given regarding the preparation of both statutory and non-statutory plans to ensure that no concrete commitments are given to adopting such plans, unduly raising expectations and limiting the decision-making powers of elected members.  These also set out clearly the purpose, requirements, preparation, consultation around, content and delivery of LAPs by planning authorities.


Recommendation 9: (informed by specific reference to Dublin City Council): A Circular Letter will issue to planning authorities reminding them of the need regularly to review planning decisions and policies governing such decisions, particularly where such decisions are overturned by An Bord Pleanála, and to take appropriate steps to amend and clarify such policies, with both elected members and with the public, where appropriate.


Recommendation 10: (informed by specific reference to Dublin City Council): The Department will examine the introduction of a structured mechanism for dialogue at a policy level between planning authorities and the Board providing for generalised feedback from An Bord Pleanála to planning authorities and vice versa ultimately enhancing the wider planning system.


Recommendation 11 (informed by general reference to all seven planning authorities): The Department should strengthen the formal arrangements for Ministerial engagement with the County and City Managers’ Association (CCMA) on planning matters, with a view to meeting at least annually, and official level engagement with the CCMA Planning Sub-Committee at least quarterly.


Recommendation 12: (informed by specific reference to Carlow County Council): Planning Authorities should become more proactive and communicate directly with the public, notwithstanding the ongoing engagement of locally elected members, in promoting public awareness and understanding of the planning system, particularly where significant changes or improvements are underway in order to ensure continued public confidence in the planning system at the local level.


To highlight the extent of the changes that have taken place on foot of the Quinlivan report and in order to assist in restoring the damaged reputation of the planning service in Carlow it is recommended that the County Council should initiate an awareness raising programme (public hall meetings, information briefings for local media).  Implementation of the Quinlivan report remains ongoing as not all of the recommendations have been fully delivered; the Manager will be asked to provide a further progress report by end July.


Input from independent planning expert:


All of the foregoing actions and recommendations and the full review on which they are based should be considered by an independent planning expert who should be invited, in light of the independent assessment of the process to date, to suggest further actions and make any further recommendations deemed appropriate.



b) Appointment of independent planning expert to examine broader themes identified in planning review and to propose additional actions


In addition to the 12 recommendations outlined above six broader themes were identified in the planning review that merit further examination.


Minister O’Sullivan will appoint an independent planning expert to undertake this work, in conjunction with an external evaluation of the recommendations already reached.


The themes to be examined by the independent expert are:


  • Communication of planning policy;
  • Pre-planning application records;
  • Submission of draft Local Area Plans by individuals and groups;
  • Role of structured dialogue between planning authorities and An Bord Pleanála;
  • Means by which socio-economic considerations relevant to a proposed development can be central to the decision-making process;
  • Any remaining gaps or inconsistencies in existing package of statutory guidelines.


The independent expert will be tasked with submitting a report to the Minister in relation to the above issues, together with proposed actions.

Comments are closed.