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 Changes to the Planning Act ?

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PostSubject: Changes to the Planning Act ?   Wed Mar 11, 2009 3:33 pm

The Irish Times reports today that an Oireachtas Committee recommends changes to the Planning Act.

Quote :
The report, which was being finalised last night, is the result of an investigation by the Oireachtas environment committee following a request from Mayo County Council. The council objected strongly to Environment Minister John Gormley’s direction to vary elements of its development plan 2008-2014.

The draft version of the report, Application of ministerial directions to city and county development plans, recommends the Planning and Development Act 2000 should be amended to require two thirds of all elected members of a local authority to vote in favour of the making of a development plan.

This sounds like a good idea, but potentially could make it very difficult to adopt a Development Plan if there was disagreement between parties.

Quote :
Ways in which the act can be “improved and updated” were also outlined in the draft report. It said the right of a Minister to issue a direction under section 31 of the Planning and Development Act 2000 should continue, but it recommended a period of consultation involving the Department of the Environment, the council and the general public before a ministerial direction is finalised.

This means that the Minister for the Environment should be able to overrule a plan, or parts of a plan, but not without communication with the affected groups.

Quote :
The draft report recommended a legal time limit after the adoption of a development plan by which time the Minister must issue a draft direction, if that is the intention.

In at least one case, the Minister overruled zonings right across a County a year after the plan was adopted, by which time a lot of the land had been bought and sold at "zoned" values.

Quote :
The report says conflict can exist between local and central government when city and county plans are being drawn up which can have an adverse influence on timely and effective planning.

This can also be the case between adjoining Counties - Limerick City suffers from this as does Waterford.

Quote :
The draft report said that members of local authorities should incorporate the views of the Minister in their development plans. “This should reduce the need for future ministerial directions,” it said, and would be “in the interests of achieving a sustainable and consistent framework for planning and development throughout the State”.

This is very unclear and could be the thin end of the wedge to taking over responsibility for local planning. Local plans are best made by local people.

Quote :
The department and local authorities should ensure a mechanism is put in place whereby elected members of local authorities have access to independent legal and professional advice in their onerous and responsible duties. This could be achieved in relation to projects where both the manager and the elected members have a role. For instance, in drawing up development plans, the corporate policy group of the local authority should engage legal and professional advice required.

What kind of codology is this ? Councils have been making plans without "legal advice" since the 1960s and generally without too many problems. They have plenty of staff who know the relevant law. No one should be on the Corporate Policy Group (senior management) if they are not familiar with the law on local government responsibilities.
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