Minister O’Sullivan Confirms Commitment to Clamp Down on Poor Planning Decisions

Minister for Housing and Planning, Jan O’Sullivan, TD, has  today  (20 May, 2013)   issued a clear reminder to local authorities that she will invoke her legal powers to clamp down on poor planning decisions at local level.

In the past nine months Minister O’Sullivan has used her powers under Section 31 of the Planning and Development Act on three occasions to overturn decisions contrary to good planning.  The specific issues involved zoning for development on flood plains, in areas physically isolated from the town and zoning that threatened wildlife habitats.   In the 10 years before Minister O’Sullivan took office just eight such directions were issued.

This week, in a circular sent to all local authorities, the Minister gave notice of her intent to invoke her Section 31 powers in all cases where initial Departmental opinions on proposed development plans and local area plans are ignored or not given serious consideration.

According to Minister O’Sullivan, “My Department provides statutory observations on all development plans and local area plans.  This process ensures that these plans reflect national and regional planning policy.  However, on three occasions in the past nine months these observations have effectively been ignored, leaving me no option but to invoke my powers to direct a local authority to amend a plan to ensure it reflects best planning practice.  This week I reminded local authorities that I will act decisively when I have good reason to believe that poor planning decisions are being made.”

“This is just one of a range of initiatives that I am pursuing to ensure that we restore public confidence in planning in Ireland.”

Among the other initiatives the Minister has overseen are:

  • Government approval to draft legislation to establish an independent planning regulator – the key planning recommendation of the Mahon Tribunal;

significant rationalisation of residentially zoned land for approx 500,000 houses adopted during the boom;

  • New guidelines for development contributions and retail planning that give a positive bias to development of town and city centres, as opposed to ‘out-of-town’ development;
  • A new focus on enforcement of planning compliance, with local authorities required to increase the priority given to this critical area and a new user-friendly guide produced for the public;
  • Consolidation of all primary and secondary planning legislation – to ensure that the public and professionals can access all planning legislation in one place.

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