Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Study to assess if O'Connell St could be on 1916 tourist trail

MINISTER FOR Tourism Leo Varadkar says he has asked Fáilte Ireland to carry out a study to assess whether the upper end of Dublin’s O’Connell Street could be turned into a 1916 tourist trail. Mr Varadkar yesterday accompanied relatives of the descendants of the Rising on a tour of several historic sites in the area to mark the anniversary of the start of the insurrection.

Read the article @ The Irish Times

Varadkar to consider 1916 tourist trail

Minister for Tourism Leo Varadkar says he has asked Failte Ireland to carry out a study to assess whether the upper end of Dublin’s O’Connell Street could be turned into a 1916 tourist trail. Mr Varadkar today accompanied relatives of the descendants of the Rising on a tour of several historic sites in the area to mark the anniversary of the start of the insurrection.

Read the article @ The Irish Times

Eirgrid refused security for costs in damages action

Co Monaghan Anti-Pylon plc -v- Eirgrid plc      Neutral citation number: (2012) IEHC 103.
High Court: Judgment was delivered on March 30th, 2012, by Mr Justice Peter Charleton.
Judgment: An application by the defendant, Eirgrid plc, for an order for security for costs in an action for damages taken by Monaghan Anti-Pylon plc was refused on the grounds that special circumstances arose in the case.
Background: The case arose as a result of an aborted hearing by An Bord Pleanála concerning the construction of overhead power-lines on pylons as part of a scheme known as the Meath- Tyrone 400kw interconnector.

County Monaghan Anti-Pylon plc (initially a committee) was established to oppose this on health grounds and argue in favour of buried interconnector power-lines. The group raised about €250,000, most of which it spent on an expert’s report and on legal representation before the Bord Pleanála hearing. This began on May 10th, 2010, and continued until June 28th. On the 23rd day of the hearing, counsel for Eirgrid announced that the hearing could go no further as there had been a mistake in the height of the proposed pylons in the newspaper advertisements announcing the planning application. The hearing was abandoned and has not resumed since, although it is expected to. Monaghan Anti-Pylon plc claimed it had expended most of its funds on this aborted hearing and would be unable to return to donors seeking money for a fresh hearing. It claimed Eirgrid was responsible for this loss due to its mistake and the resulting abandonment of the hearing after 23 days, and it sought the reimbursement of its funds. Eirgrid sought an order for security of costs against the group to be lodged before the matter going to trial.
Read the full case @ The Irish Times

Broughan's call for crematorium regulation rejected

IT IS easier to open a crematorium than an off-licence, the Dáil has been told, amid calls for a regulatory authority for such facilities. Introducing the Burial and Cremation Regulation Bill, Tommy Broughan, who lost the Labour Party whip last year, said he drafted the legislation because of the number of “grossly inappropriate planning applications” for private crematoriums and cemeteries submitted in his Dublin North East constituency.

Read the article @ The Irish Times

The worst-planned counties in Ireland?

THIS WEEK An Taisce published a 44-page report entitled State of the Nation: A Review of Ireland’s Planning System 2001-2011. The report identified what it had found to be “the worst councils in Ireland’s planning system”. Of the 34 city and county councils in the State, An Taisce said South Dublin had the best planning record. Donegal was worst, followed by Roscommon, Leitrim, Kerry and Mayo. The scores were published in an appendix table.

Read the article @ The Irish Times

Tallaght offer for children's hospital

A PROPOSAL to build the new national children’s hospital in Tallaght has been formally submitted by Tallaght hospital and South Dublin County Council. The council has offered to make available a team of senior officials to work with the national children’s hospital design team in the pre-planning process.

 Read the article @ The Irish Times

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Christian centre on Ring of Kerry told to reduce lighting on road signage

An Bord Pleanála has rejected the objections of the National Roads Authority to a sign directing worshippers to a prayer centre on the Ring of Kerry. The planning board has, however, ordered the centre to remove the sign’s bright lights. The simple 1.8m by 1.8m sign showing a Celtic Cross and stating “Kerry Community Church” on the outskirts of Cahirsiveen just off the N70, had been erected by the New Life Christian Centre.

Read the article @ The Irish Times

Price tag for former helipad site plunges from €6 million to €400,000

LANDS OVERLOOKING Dublin Bay, bought at the peak of the property market for €6 million and used by developer Bernard McNamara as a helicopter landing pad, have been sold to a private investor for more than €400,000. The 1.96 hectares (4.86 acres) adjoins the Booterstown marsh nature reserve, which has EU Special Protection Area conservation status.

Read the article @ The Irish Times

Strategic flaws led to our fossil fuel dependence

The national spatial strategy — not just the final frontier, but a step too far where the country’s local authorities and planners were concerned.
An Taisce’s report into the planning systems in 34 city and county councils found massive flaws in various elements of planning policy and implementation. Among the errors was ignoring the strategy, leading to development sprawl the report said had created a "dangerously fossil fuel dependent society" that was the second most oil dependent country in the EU.

Published in 2002, the strategy was, in the words of the An Taisce study, "the way things were supposed to be": a plan-led approach to the development of the country. It was a blueprint for avoiding urban sprawl, with regional gateways developing in coordination with a national strategy.

According to the report, the strategy "has been allowed to completely fail and must be reviewed with clear forward-looking evidence-based policy choices". The report notes that in the National Spatial Strategy — Outlook & Review 2010, published by the Department of the Environment, development had become more dispersed and fragmented, "with greater distances between where people live and work".

This has lead to huge population growth in the Dublin commuter belt while the population of major towns and cities fell; greater car dependency leading to a more sedentary lifestyle, with growing obesity and higher greenhouse gas emissions; the "hollowing out" of town centres for edge-of-town retail outlets.

The pace of development "has greatly outpaced investment in supporting infrastructure, particularly water services", and the report says the population and development imbalance has impacted negatively on crime prevention and healthcare provision.

An Taisce wants the spacial strategy placed on a statutory footing, but according to the chairman of the Irish Planning Institute, Brendan Allen, it may be time to draft a new one. He said local authorities had to have regard to the strategy, but were not bound by it, with the emphasis instead placed on local area plans.

He believes there is no quick fix. "I think it is time to be thinking of a new [spacial strategy]. We are in a completely different economic cycle, we are in a completely different world, if you want to be blunt about it." His personal view is investment is more likely to be concentrated on big cities — primarily Dublin — which could mean more people living on the eastern seaboard.

"The [strategy] wanted to spread the jam everywhere, but maybe that is against the trend of what the world is trying to do."

The key now is whether or not a new strategy can help secure the economic and social viability of the regions, especially in an era when, instead of jam today and jam tomorrow, there is no jam at all.

Read the article @ The Irish Examiner

An Taisce calls for independent and more stringent planning regulator

THE PROPERTY bubble followed a “catastrophic and systemic failure” in planning, an An Taisce study has found. The group has called for the establishment of an independent planning regulator “free from political pressure”, and for national development plans to be put on a statutory footing.

Read the article @ The Irish Times

An Taisce report - The legacy of a broken system

Even though the An Taisce planning report reminds us all of issues we might like to forget, it cannot be ignored.

It reminds us of how failure at every level of our planning process — regulators, officials and most especially politicians — let down those who trusted them to make decisions aimed at the common good.

Foolish us. These are the "catastrophic and systemic failures" that led to bizarre — and that is a kind way to describe it — over-zoning decisions, ghost estates and, too often, the whiff of corruption.

It is no coincidence that the county councils with the worst planning records also have dismal records on residential vacancy, the highest rate of decline and outward migration, the highest levels of unfinished ghost estates, lower residential property prices, and significant ground and surface water pollution. Surely it is time to put in place a mechanism to quickly remove management who fail so dramatically.

It is also time the recommendation, that Environment Minister Phil Hogan "immediately recommence independent inquiries" into seven councils suspended by him in favour of an internal review, be acted upon. The whole planning process stinks to high heaven and this blocking move just adds to the stench. If Mr Hogan does not like the idea, then it is time for Taoiseach Enda Kenny to intervene. We have had far too much questionable behaviour in this area and Mr Hogan’s intrusion only adds to those suspicions.

The suggestions of a site valuation tax instead of a residential property tax and an independent planning authority have real merit too and must be considered.

Read the article @ The Irish Examiner

Council to decide on power plant rezoning

MEMBERS OF Clare County Council are to vote today on a contentious rezoning that will, if passed, pave the way for an €85 million combined heat and power plant (CHP) in Shannon. As part of a new draft of the Shannon Local Area Plan, the council is planning to rezone a large tract of land at Stonehall, north of the Shannon Free Zone.

Read the article @ The Irish Times

Residents vow to fight Páirc Uí Chaoimh vote

Residents fighting a proposal to rezone land next to Páirc Uí Chaoimh have vowed to pack Cork City Hall tonight and "look councillors in the eye" as they vote.
They are poised to vote on the rezoning of just under seven acres of land next to the GAA grounds which, if agreed, will pave the way for a €40m redevelopment of the stadium.

A simple majority is required. It is expected that the rezoning will get the green light.

But Denis O’Regan, a spokesperson for the Save Marina Park campaign, said residents were prepared to fight their case all the way to An Bórd Pleanála.

"We are not opposed to the redevelopment of Pairc Uí Chaoimh. The vast majority of us are GAA fans," he said.

"The stadium needs to be upgraded, and it would be great for city if it was.

"But we view this as a land grab. No other alternatives have been considered.

"And it will completely sever the proposed Marina Park, resulting in a loss of a major amenity for the city."

The Cork County Board wants to revamp the ageing stadium, increase its capacity from 43,000 to 50,000, improve player, officials’ and spectator facilities, and develop a "centre of excellence" next to the stadium, to include an all-weather pitch and a 1,000-seat stand. The land required for the centre of excellence is part of the former Showgrounds site, which the city acquired by CPO from the Munster Agricultural Society.

Zoned for Public Open Space, it was acquired to form part of the proposed Marina Park — a massive sub-regional park included in the city’s 2008 South Docks Local Area Plan (LAP).

But following extensive consultation between the GAA and the council, councillors voted last October in favour of disposing this key 6.8-acre package of land to the Cork County Board to help its development plans.

Critics of the plan say the centre of excellence would completely sever the proposed Marina Park.

Councillors will consider a report from city manager Tim Lucey tonight recommending a variation in the South Docks LAP to change the zoning of this site.

The proposed variation was put out for public consultation in February.

A total of 123 submissions were received — one supporting it, two making observations, and the rest opposing the rezoning — most of those coming from residents in the Ballintemple and Blackrock areas.

The South West Regional Authority considered the proposed change to the South Docks LAP to be consistent with the South West Regional Planing Guidelines.

In a detailed assessment of the other responses, Mr Lucey said residents’ concerns about the impact of match-traffic, parking, litter and antisocial behaviour could be thoroughly examined at the planning application stage.

The County Board, which has appointed a design team to oversee the project, has said it hopes to lodge a planning application in June and, pending the outcome of the planning process, start construction before the end of the year.

Up to 300 jobs could be created during the two-year project.

Read the article @ The Irish Examiner

50-acre site for children’s hospital submitted to review group

A SUBMISSION TO build the National Paediatric Hospital on a 50-acre site at Lissenhall, Swords, County Dublin, has been made to the review group examining the project.

The review group was tasked with establishing the options now available to the government in light of An Bord Pleanála’s decision to refuse planning permission for the hospital on the site of the Mater Hospital in Dublin.

Broadmeadow Healthcare Group said that the Greenfield site of 50 acres was located within 600 acres of land highlighted for future development by Fingal Co Council, which included a vision for a hospital. The group said this offered scope to complete the project as early as 2016, and could also mean less funding than than €650 million already earmarked for the project would be required.

In its submission, the group said the key advantages of the proposed site included easy motorway access, being located just 900 metres off M1, and would also offer adequate parking with 2,000 spaces planned.

The proposed Lissenhall site would need to reach just 5 to 7 storeys in height, which would be an advantage over the other 15 to 17 storey high rise hospital design being considered.

It would also include family-friendly living facilities, as well as posing opportunities for a Biomedical and Biotechnology Campus, Training and University complex, according to the group.

Read the article @


DONEGAL County Council has spent €5M on a planning dispute which may be blocked by the UK government.

The High Court in Dublin will this week rule on a challenge to the construction of a sewage treatment plant that will pump sewage into Lough Foyle.

The plans actually include a provision to allow raw sewage to be dumped into the estuary during flood warnings.

Now it has been revealed that Britain’s Crown Estate says it owns the whole seabed of Lough Foyle – including on the Donegal side.

And Donegal County Council, which has been battling local residents for 22 years, hasn’t asked permission.

Enda Craig, spokesman for the Campaign for a Clean Estuary, told today that his Judicial Review is listed for hearing in Dublin this week.

“We are extremely confident that the decision of An Bord Pleanála to over-rule a decision by its own staff to reject the latest application involved a major conflict of interest,” said Mr Craig.

“One of the board of An Bord Pleanála who gave the go-head is a former employee with the engineering company employed by Donegal County Council to carry out the scheme. That forms part of the residents’ case against An Bord Pleanála in this court case.”

Residents had to raise thousands of euro to take the legal case.

They want the treatment plant and water waste outflow pipe outside the Foyle estuary. That’s exactly what Donegal County Council decided to do in the mid-1990s, but for no apparent reason abandoned those plans.

However it has emerged that Britain’s Crown Estate may end up scuppering the council’s plans, forcing them to move the plants and works outside the Foyle system once again.

The Crown Estate claims juridiction over the entire seabed of both Lough Foyle and Carlingford Lough.

And the council doesn’t have permission to pump sewage into the Foyle from the body.

A meeting of UK and Irish Government officials took place in January to discuss a range of specific environmental and marine issues arising from the current jurisdictional position of Carlingford Lough and Lough Foyle.

Quite how Donegal County Council came to spend more than €5M on a sewage plant on which not a single brick has ever been laid is even more astonishing when you read the minutes below of a meeting WAY BACK IN 1990 when councillors voted unanimously to find an outflow outside the Foyle.

The latest scheme alone cost €2M.

Read the article @

Land was zoned to cater for 4m extra people

The Celtic Tiger property bubble was fuelled by "endemic corruption" in a planning system which zoned enough land at the height of the boom to cater for a doubling of the entire population — up to 8m people.
A review of planning across 34 city and county councils by An Taisce found that in 2008, as Ireland stood on the brink of economic collapse, 42,000 hectares were zoned for residential purposes — enough for 4m extra people on top of the 4.4m population at that time.

This does not take into account thousands of hectares of land zoned for mixed-use, industrial, retail, commercial, and other uses.

The study said reckless zoning vastly inflated the value of land. This provided an easy route to cheap credit and facilitated widespread property speculation which led to the financial crisis and the creation of Nama.

"There is no doubt a systemic failure of planning in Ireland helped inflate the property bubble, leaving in its wake a great deal of poor quality development, reckless overzoning, chaotic sprawl, a legacy of ghost development and widespread environmental degradation," said the report.

An Taisce said 40% of the €75bn property portfolio transferred to Nama was categorised as "development land" which will be reclassified to agriculture over the coming years. This will result in the value of Nama’s development land plummeting from a paper figure of €30bn to a single-digit figure, costing tens of billions in losses for taxpayers over generations.

The report found Donegal had the worst planning record. It was one of 17 areas that failed the test for good decisions on housing and development — eight received an E grade, five received an F, and four were graded F-minus.

An Taisce found Donegal had about 2,250 hectares of residential land in 2010, enough for a population increase of 180,000. However, half of planning permissions over the past decade were granted on unzoned land.

Ennis in Clare was cited as an example of some of the most "senseless zoning excesses" of the Celtic Tiger.

Almost 4,500 acres of land was zoned for development, enough to increase the town’s population from 26,000 to over 100,000.

In one instance, zoned land sold by a farmer for €18.8m was later refused planning permission because it was on a flood plain. Although Ennis was one of the worst affected areas by flooding in 2009, and only needed a maximum of 175 acres, the Department of the Environment encountered "significant difficulties" from councillors in seeking to get this land de-zoned.

The worst three areas for residential over-zoning were Clare, Co Cork (2,500 hectares) and Donegal (2,250 hectares), which between them accounted for 20% of the national stock of residentially zoned land in 2010.

An Taisce spokesman Charles Stanley-Smith said the legacy of bad planning would haunt society for generations. "Bad planning is not victim free. The analysis shows that there is a very strong correlation between councils that have scored poorly and a range of negative socioeconomic and environmental outcomes."

Read the article @ The Irish Examiner

Spotlight on unfinished estates

New directions for physical planning of the built environment post-Mahon Report, along with the future of the country’s ghost and unfinished estates, will come under a planners’ spotlight at month’s end.
They’ll be the strong twin themes at the National Planning Conference in Kilkenny, Apr 26 and 27.

It’s being billed as one of the most important events for several years, with long-term and strategic implications, and especially given the sharp focus on the country’s planning legacy — and the lack of it.

“It will examine the existing and future context of planning in Ireland and hear perspectives from national and international planning practitioners and others,” says Irish Planning Institute president Brendan Allen, noting the two-day conference will include speakers from NAMA and the National Housing Agency.

On the week in which a part-finished Co Cavan scheme of three almost complete houses and four acres got advance billing for an Allsops auction guiding a very low just €40,000, there’ll be a focus on what to do with other, larger, unfinished schemes, ranging from demolition to social housing and more innovative uses. Other IPI guest speakers will come from insolvency specialists.

NAMA’s Chris McGarry, planning and development adviser, will talk on NAMA’s relationship to unfinished developments, including site resolution plans, while the National Housing Agency’s chief executive John O’Connor, will give updates on the Unfinished Housing Developments National Co-ordinating team.

Housing Minister Phil Hogan will close the event (it’s in his own constituency too), and other speakers include Brian Motherway of SEAI and Marie Hunt of CBRE.

* The same weekend Ms Hunt will also address the annual conference of the Institute of Professional Auctioneers (IPAV), on Apr 28. Other speakers at IPAV will include Dara Deering of KBC Bank, and Dr Maria Hinfelaar, president of Limerick Institute of Technology.

Read the article @ The Irish Examiner

Council broke planning laws but Hogan still stopped probe

ENVIRONMENT Minister Phil Hogan cancelled an inquiry into a local authority -- despite a report from a watchdog which confirmed planning breaches there, the Irish Independent has learned.

The Ombudsman found that Cork City Council didn't stick to planning laws when it failed to make details of key meetings between planners and developers publicly available.

However, despite the findings, Mr Hogan subsequently blocked a separate planned independent investigation into the Cork city issues that had been instigated by his predecessor as environment minister, John Gormley. Five others into other council areas were also shelved by Mr Hogan.

The Cork investigation, by Ombudsman Emily O'Reilly, focused on complaints that minutes of pre-planning application meetings involving applicants and city council staff were not being made available to the public before final decisions were made.

This is a major element of transparency in planning.

Ms O'Reilly found that Cork City Council did not stick to the planning laws, but her report of two years ago was never published.

The disclosure of her findings puts further pressure on Mr Hogan to reopen the six cases, including one in his own Carlow constituency.

It was also blocked, despite a 2010 review which found that several practices were unacceptable and that these should be changed.

These included the ineffective enforcement of planning laws and a failure to record meetings between council planners and planning applicants.

A Department of the Environment spokesman said yesterday that Labour's Willie Penrose -- who was junior minister with responsibility for housing and planning before his resignation -- would have dealt with the Ombudsman's report when the decision to stop the six cases was taken.

When asked if Mr Hogan had been aware of the Ombudsman's report, his spokesman claimed it was not possible to ask the minister this as he was away this week.

The Cork city case related to meetings between developers and council planning staff prior to any formal planning applications being made. These meetings take place to enable potential applicants to learn if their development is feasible.

The Ombudsman found that Cork City Council's policy and procedures did not comply with planning law.

Her report, obtained by the Irish Independent, said the information should have been made available before a decision was made on any application, rather than after.

Cork City Council insisted that it had complied fully with the law. But the Ombudsman said the council's interpretation of the law was incorrect.

However, the council subsequently decided to put all pre-planning consultations on the public file.

In the wake of the Cork city case, the Ombudsman then decided to see if similar problems existed in other local authorities.


A survey of nine city and county councils by her office found that different councils had different practices and procedures over making records of pre-planning meetings available to the public.

Some councils were not making the information available at all, while others were only releasing it after the decision had been made.

A meeting was held between the Ombudsman and then environment minister, John Gormley of the Green Party,on February 5, 2010.

Following this, an independent inquiry into the Cork City Council issue and alleged breaches of a different nature in five other councils -- Carlow, Dublin City, Galway County, Cork County, and Meath -- was ordered by Mr Gormley.

However, his successor Mr Hogan approved the decision to cancel the probes after taking office in March of last year.

Treacy Hogan Environment Correspondent

Read the article @ The Irish Independent

Senior civil servants to face sanction for failing to manage staff

THE GOVERNMENT is planning to introduce sanctions for senior civil servants who fail to manage sub-standard staff after conceding that the system for measuring employees’ performance is not working. A performance-management system for the estimated 33,000 civil servants has been in place for several years, aimed at linking staff members’ performance to pay increments and eligibility for promotion.

Read the article @ The Irish Times

Roscrea development is ‘environmental vandalism’, local group claims

A newly formed local group has filed an appeal to An Bord Pleanála over Roscrea’s Tesco development, which it claims represents “environmental vandalism on a grand scale”.
Built by Tiernan Properties at a cost of around €20 million, Roscrea’s new Tesco was opened amid much fanfare last summer. The supermarket replaced the old Tesco store at Roscrea Shopping Centre, which was only half the size of the current complex, and created an additional 43 jobs, bringing the full staff cohort up to around 90.
However, recently formed group ‘Planning Roscrea’s Future’ describes the new Tesco as incongruous to the location’s historic context, and claims key aspects of the development plan have not been addressed.
The group has lodged an appeal against Tiernan Properties’ planning application to amend part of the development previously granted by An Bord Pleanála. North Tipperary Co Council has granted conditional permission to the applicant.
Planning Roscrea’s Future claims the developer is seeking to remove a permitted restaurant from its stipulated location, where it was to have a vital role in integrating the development with a community plaza.
The group is appealing that, “given the vast overdevelopment already on site, no further buildings should be erected, and specifically not on the site of the now demolished Tower Restaurant”.
Group spokesman Peter Madden pointed out that An Bord Pleanála’s inspector recommended refusing permission for the development in the original application, arising largely from concerns over visual impact.•
“The board for whatever reason did not accept the inspector’s recommendation,” he said.
“They may have felt that there was a net gain for the town. What has transpired on site differs greatly from the original vision. The most gifted sophist could not convince that the development as constructed is consistent with good planning for this sensitive and key area in the heart of our heritage town.”
As part of its appeal, Planning Roscrea’s Future wants the board to now consider the impact of the Tesco development on “priceless heritage treasures at the heart of our town”, including Saint Cronan’s monastery and graveyard, Church of Ireland, Round Tower, twelfth century Celtic Cross, and nearby mill site.
The group also wants to draw the board’s attention to several issues it says “are at variance to the vision that was originally proposed by the developer for the town”, including the omission of shops/retail frontage on Lourdes Road. Expectations of reinstating the mill race, pond and millwheel have not been met, nor have a proposed waterfall feature and “millennium gardens”, the group claims.
It describes the public plaza as a “forlorn shadow of the vision at the outset and is a sick joke… a space so sterile and unwelcoming that even the ‘winos’ won’t hang out there – it’s too inhospitable”.
Mr Madden said the development has also resulted in loss of community-owned space.
“I’ve met no one who knew that this was going to happen or how or why it happened,” he said.
“It is our fault as a community for not being on top of the planning case, but I guess we all thought that the various authorities would adequately look after the public interest. Sadly, we were mistaken in this instance.”
The Planning Roscrea’s Future appeal has been accepted for consideration by An Bord Pleanála, which is to make its ruling on the case in July. The group is calling on similarly concerned people to make submissions in support of its appeal, and says it will facilitate the compilation of all submissions as one so that individuals may avoid the €50 fee that applies to each submission.
“I am saddened and angered that we have arrived at this dreadful situation,” Mr Madden said.
“We the people of the town, and we know we speak for the majority of the community, feel we have been grievously wronged by the developments to date. We urge those with the authority to do all that is possible and to contribute all that they can to create the most favourable outcome possible to this appalling environmental situation for Roscrea town and our community.”
Submissions can be dropped in to 2 Main Street Roscrea ahead of a deadline of Tuesday April 10. Contact 086-8142951 for further information.
Caption: Planning Roscrea’s Future says the new Tesco development does not fit in with the town’s historic context.

Read the article @ The Nenagh Guardian

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

75% of Dingle land designated for housing to be dezoned

More than three-quarters of land designated for housing in Dingle town and surrounding areas during the economic boom is to be dezoned.
Under a new area plan for most of the Dingle Peninsula, Kerry Co Council is proposing to reduce the amount of already-zoned land from 195 acres to 45 acres.

However, there is still some pressure on the council to retain residential zoning in Dingle for parcels of land or to rezone other land as residential. The owner of 11 acres at The Grove, Dingle, for example, is seeking to retain residential zoning for the land to meet the housing needs of an extended family.

However, senior planning engineer Paul Stack voiced concerns that some of the land could be used for tourism and leisure purposes, or a caravan park, which would be suitable in a scenic area.

The issue arose during a special meeting to consider a new Dingle local area plan for 2012 to 2018, which would be used as part of the future planning process for large tracts of land in and around Dingle town for housing.

A "dezoning" process is currently underway in Dingle and other towns in Kerry. More than 5,000 acres in the county, excluding the urban areas of Tralee, Killarney and Listowel, were zoned for housing, with only a quarter of the land being serviced for development.

Kerry councillors zoned enough land for 61,269 housing units — about six times more than what was needed for the population, according to data from the Department of Environment.

The amendments to the new Dingle plan, decided by councillors, will be published later this month and will be put out for a four-week period of public consultation. It is hoped to bring the plan back before the council in June.

Council management has stated that future residential zonings in Dingle will only be considered on infill land, or brownfield sites, or on lands close to existing residential areas.

Read the article @ The Irish Examiner

Criticised By Tribunal

32 Dublin County Councillors: Thirty-two Dublin county councillors were the subject of adverse findings or criticism by the planning tribunal, a detailed search of its final report reveals. The list includes representatives of all parties then represented on the council, as well as Independents, but is dominated by Fianna Fáail councillors. In all, findings were made against 21 Fianna Fáil councillors, seven from Fine Gael and one each from Labour, the Progressive Democrats, Democratic Left and Independents.

Read the article @ The Irish Times

Planning report due out in May

THERE IS no intention of ending investigations into planning matters in seven local authorities, Minister of State for Housing and Planning Jan O’Sullivan said yesterday. In a hard-hitting response to claims from Fianna Fáil and the Greens that investigations were being delayed, Ms O’Sullivan accused the Opposition parties of creating “a smokescreen”.

Read the article @ The Irish Times

'Scoring system needed' for assessing site options

NATIONAL CHILDREN’S HOSPITAL: THE REVIEW group examining sites for the national children’s hospital needs to have a “transparent and logical scoring system when assessing all the options”, according to Dr Jonathan Irwin, chief executive of the Jack and Jill Foundation. “This is not about making a speedy decision – it’s about making the right decision,” he said, following a report in The Irish Times yesterday that the Mater hospital site in Dublin is “back on the table” along with 15 other possible locations.

Read the article @ The Irish Times

Trucks may be banned from Slane

WORK HAS begun on examining the possibility of banning trucks and other heavy goods vehicles from Slane village. Last month villagers expressed disappointment when An Bord Pleanála turned down permission for a 3.5km bypass which would have taken thousands of HGVs out of the village, which is on the N2, the main Dublin-Derry road. At times 30 lorries pass by the village school in a five-minute period; the village, including its medieval bridge over the Boyne, has seen more than 20 fatal accidents in living memory.

Read the article @ The Irish Times

New plan to rescue Mater site for children's hospital

THE MATER Hospital in Dublin has joined forces with the Rotunda and Temple Street hospitals in a campaign to rescue the national children’s hospital planned for the Mater site in Eccles Street. It is understood the latest proposal is based on a willingness by the Sisters of Mercy, who own the Mater, to cede the original hospital building to the State so that it could be used to accommodate the teaching and research facilities associated with the children’s hospital – thus allowing the building to be scaled down.

Read the article @ The Irish Times

Ex-planner objects to approval for Cork harbour wind turbines

A FORMER senior planner with Cork County Council is among those appealing the council’s decision to approve plans by four pharmachem companies for six very large wind turbines in the Ringaskiddy area of Cork harbour. Separate applications by De Puy, GSK, Janssen and Novartis for turbines with a tip height of 150 metres were approved by assistant county manager Declan Daly against the advice of senior planner Paul Murphy, who recommended that permission be refused.

Read the article @ The Irish Times

Developer offers children's hospital site at old Phoenix Park racecourse

PROPERTY DEVELOPER Flynn and O’Flaherty is offering an eight-acre site at the former Phoenix Park racecourse free of charge as a suitable location for the proposed national children’s hospital. The offer was conveyed yesterday to Minister for Health James Reilly and the review group he has set up to examine options for the project following An Bord Pleanála’s rejection of plans to build it on the Mater hospital site in Dublin city centre.

Read the article @ The Irish Times

Children's hospital group to consider 15 new sites

Suddenly we’re teeming with locations for the national children’s hospital. THE LATEST offer by developer Flynn and O’Flaherty of an eight-acre site on Navan Road, free of charge, for the proposed children’s hospital brings to at least 15 the number of options now being considered by the review group appointed by Minister for Health James Reilly.

Read the article @ The Irish Times

Nama runs rule over former glass bottle site for new children's hospital

THE FORMER Irish Glass Bottle site is understood to be among possible locations for the new children’s hospital identified by the National Assets Management Agency. Minister for Health Dr James Reilly yesterday told the Dáil that Nama had identified 11 possible sites for the hospital. The Ringsend location was purchased by a consortium of investors for €412 million in 2006.

Read the article @ The Irish Times

Hogan moves to fill four top vacancies

Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan has moved to fill four vacancies on the board of An Bord Pleanála, which has been operating with just four members since last December. However, his appointments leave the appeals board with a just one architect and no member with professional qualifications in conservation or urban design. The new appointees are environmental engineer Gabriel Dennison, former Bord Pleanála inspector Paddy Keogh, Clare-based architect Michael Leahy and archaeologist and town planner Nicholas Mulcahy.

Read the article @ The Irish Times

Transport minister to be urged over Mallow ring roads

Senior county council officials in Cork are to meet with Leo Varadkar, the transport minister, to impress on him the importance of building ring roads around Mallow to ease traffic gridlock.
The proposed roads were to be built as part of a now-mothballed multimillion-euro M20 motorway between Cork and Limerick.

Tom Barry, a Mallow-based TD, said he will outline the importance of building the ring roads when he meets Mr Varadkar this week.

Mr Varadkar will hear similar appeals when he meets a Cork County Council delegation in Dublin shortly, which will be led by county manager Martin Riordan and county engineer Noel O’Keeffe.

"Due to a lack of available funding, the motorway project has been parked but Minister Varadkar has underlined his commitment to the project once the funds do become available," Mr Barry said.

"In the meantime, Mallow needs a ring road for a number of reasons."

He said the town was already having difficulty coping with traffic, and that the situation will get worse due to planned industrial development.

"Dairygold, the largest co-op in the country, isdeveloping a 25-acre site in the town to expand its milk processing capacity and will be spending €130m on this project," the Fine Gael TD said.

"This is to cope with the increase in milk production which will occur post 2015 quotas being abolished. This development will see huge traffic of lorries and heavy vehicles needing access to a ring road."

Dairygold is also developing a €3m facility for animal breeding on the outskirts of the town.

"At present, Mallow town is suffocated as all traffic, including traffic heading west for Kerry, has to come through the centre of the town," Mr Barry said.

"This chaos is affecting business and restricting the development of what is a vibrant town.

"I will be urging the minister to look at a ring road for Mallow as a priority. I will also urge that all of the work already done and money spent on planning should be brought to the An Bord Pleanála stage, because we must retain as much value as we can," Mr Barry added.

Cllr Tom Sheahan (FG), meanwhile, said he wanted to see the M20 project reinstated when funds became available again.

"Failing that happening in the short term, a relief road for Mallow would be considered a good alternative," he said.

Read the article @ The Irish Examiner


A PRELIMINARY inquiry into planning decisions at Donegal County Council is expected to recommend a full investigation, has learned.

The current internal inquiry, run by the Department of Environment, was initiated by this Government instead of an external audit which was recommended by the last administration under the Green Party and Fianna Fail.

A report on the inquiry into Donegal County Councils and six other local authorities will be given to the Government next month.

There is an ongoing row between government and opposition parties over how the inquiry has stalled.

Former Green Party leader John Gormley has been furious at claims from the Government that despite launching investigations in June 2010, he had done nothing about it before the last government collapsed.

We understand that early indications about the Donegal County Council inquiry is pointing to “the need for further investigations.”

One source told us: “There are several issues arising from the Donegal inquiry which will probably require further investigation by an outside agency.”

Last month Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin told the Dail that ex-minister for the environment John Gormley had established an independent review into the planning practices in those local authorities and a year since taking the position, Phil Hogan had not taken the probe further.

“Why is there still no outcome to his internal reviews nine months after he suppressed the independent reviews the former minister, Mr Gormley, established?” Mr Martin asked at the time.

Mr Martin said that Mr Hogan had been given “an extensive dossier” prepared by planning officials in the department following an internal review of complaints made from 2007 to 2009.

He added that the Minister also had a series of reports from the managers in each of the local authorities. The terms of reference for a panel of planning consultants were also available, said Mr Martin.

However Mr Gilmore said that seven months after Mr Gormley ordered the investigation, nothing had happened.

Mr Hogan had asked for an internal review to take place.

He had instructed officials to conduct an internal review and to report to him on what further actions might be warranted.

Mr Martin said he had spoken to Mr Gormley.

“The bottom line is there was resistance to these inquiries within the system,” he claimed.

He said Mr Gilmore should meet Mr Gormley and look at the dossier on the issue.

Read the article @

Vacant Garda stations may become care centres

MORE THAN 30 unused Garda stations may be converted into primary care centres over the next number of years, the Department of Health has confirmed. Some 29 small Garda stations closed last Friday, more than half of them in the western half of the State, including six in west Cork. A further eight were already non-operational: Castletownshend and Ballygurteen in west Cork, Ballinure and Ballinderry in Tipperary, Ballywilliam in Wexford, Doochary in Donegal, Geashill in Laois/Offaly and Tarmonbarry in Roscommon/Longford.

Read the article @ The Irish Times

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Our health is being damaged by bad planning

Corruption revealed in Mahon report has taken its toll. THE “RAMPANT” corruption uncovered by the Mahon tribunal is inextricably linked to the health of Irish citizens and the health system. Local authorities and planners are as important to health as the services provided by the HSE. The Institute of Public Health (IPH) published a report in 2006 showing the huge influence of the built environment. The concept of zoning introduced in the early 20th century aimed to improve health through better spatial planning, land-use mix and transportation infrastructure.

Read the article @ The Irish Times

Cork city manager releases planning probe

Cork’s city manager has released an internal planning probe ordered by the ex-environment minister, John Gormley, almost two years ago.
It is understood that Tim Lucey is the first head of the six local authorities — Carlow, Meath, Cork and Galway county councils, as well as Dublin and Cork city councils — which were the subject of such planning probes ordered by Mr Gormley, to voluntarily release their internal reports.

Mr Lucey said the city council had received "no correspondence or contact of any nature to indicate the status of the review, or the department’s views on the response of the city council" since it was submitted in Jun 2010.

Environment Minister Phil Hogan denied he cancelled the investigations.

Mr Lucey moved over the weekend to release the internal report in the wake of controversy following the publication of the Mahon Tribunal report.

He said the report on specific planning complaints relating to Cork City Council, compiled by ex-city manager Joe Gavin, had nothing to do with the matters under investigation by the Mahon Tribunal.

He said he wanted to release the report to prove the council had nothing to hide. He said it was unfortunate that, in the wake of the Mahon Report, the local authority planning probes were receiving a significant amount of comment.
In a letter to councillors, he said: "In this regard, you should note... from the report... that the issues raised are not in any way related to the nature of the matters which were under investigation by the Mahon Tribunal.

"Also, you should note that the city council’s response indicated clearly that it was satisfied with the procedures following its dealing with the planning applications reviewed and that the planning decisions taken were in accordance with the city development plan policies in operation at the time."

He said non-release of the report could create the perception the city council has something to hide.

The probe was launched after Green Party activist Mick Murphy lodged complaints about the council’s handling of three planning applications:

* One lodged in 2005 for the demolition of buildings and the erection of a mixed-use residential and commercial development at Victoria Cross Rd and Carrigrohane Rd;

* One lodged in Jan 2008 for a co-located private hospital on the grounds of Cork University Hospital;

* One lodged in June 2008 for the demolition of a dwelling and the erection of a three to four-storey apartment block at Farranlea Park, off Model Farm Rd.

Mr Murphy complained some records relating to pre-planning consultations were not made available on public files because of the council’s interpretation of certain planning laws.

Read the article @ The Irish Examiner

Walkway grant will only cover statement

A SUM of €100,000 granted to Fingal County Council by the National Transport Authority for the advancement of a walkway between Donabate and Malahide across the Broadmeadow Estuary will only cover the cost of an Environmental Impact Statement for the project, it has emerged. Answering a question from Cllr. Darragh Butler on the subject the council explained: 'As part of its allocation of grants to Fingal County Council for 2012, the National Transport Authority has granted a sum of € 100,000 towards the provision of a walkway and cycleway to run between Malahide and Donabate. 'Work proposed as part of the scheme will require the submission of an Environmental Impact Statement to, and the consent of An Bord Pleanála. 'The monies granted will be expended on the preparation of the necessary studies required to compile the Statement for submission to An Bord Pleanála. 'It should be noted that this is a complex and long term project which realistically will be delivered on an incremental basis as funds become available.'

Read the article @ The Fingal Independent

Landmark building to be delisted despite fears

A landmark building in Dingle is to be taken off a list of protected structures, despite a warning from a senior planning official that many old buildings in the West Kerry town have already been knocked down.
Kerry County Council voted 12-4 to delist Siopa an Dearud on the Milltown roundabout.

It was once the last shop in Dingle on the western side of the town.

Senior planning engineer Paul Stack said that the council’s primary concern was to retain the façade of the building. "A lot of the streetscape of Dingle has been already been lost. This building is part of the character of the area."

The matter arose during consideration of a local area plan for much of the Dingle Peninsula.

On the proposal of Cllr Seamus Cosai Fitzgerald (FG), it was decided to delist the building. Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael councillors supported the delisting, with Labour, Sinn Féin and Independents opposed.

In a separate submission to the plan, Bernard Goggin of An Taisce claimed roads were being imposed on Dingle on an "entirely car priority basis".

He said roundabouts, useful on the outskirts of towns, created serious problems for pedestrians and were an obsolete approach to urban planning.

More than 60 submissions were made in relation to the plan, which is for the period 2012 to 2018 and will provide a framework for the development of the area.

Read the article @ The irish Examiner


The Clare man newly appointed to An Bord Pleanala has expressed his confidence that corruption has not occurred in planning practices in the county.

Architect Michael Leahy is one of four new appointees to the planning appeals board, and joins the body as the planning process at several local authorities including Galway County Council comes under close scrutiny in light of the Mahon report.

In recent months, Mr Leahy has been actively opposed a proposed retail development on the outskirts of Ennis, but says it's unlikely he will deal with any planning appeals from the county.

He also feels that problems within the planning system, exposed by the Mahon Tribunal, are not as widespread as some believe.

Read the article @ Clare FM

Hogan rejects planning probe

ENVIRONMENT Minister Phil Hogan downplayed allegations of planning irregularities in his constituency despite a damning report outlining a litany of failures, including poor administration, officials exceeding their powers and failure to enforce planning laws.

Mr Hogan has refused to order an independent inquiry into Carlow County Council, despite a 2010 report which outlined a lengthy list of problems in its planning department.

Although an independent inquiry into the council and five other local authorities was ordered by his predecessor, John Gormley, Mr Hogan approved the decision to cancel the probes when he took office in March last year, instead favouring internal reviews by civil servants.

Last night, Mr Hogan was facing mounting pressure to allow the independent reviews to proceed, with Green Party leader Eamon Ryan saying that a panel of experts was ready to begin work when the probes were cancelled.

"Phil Hogan said before the election that the claims were spurious but he would go ahead with the inquiries," Mr Ryan said. "Most of these complaints dealt with processes, and the investigations could have been completed at a relatively low cost. These would be done if he was serious about local-government reform."

Mr Ryan's main concerns relate to problems in Mr Hogan's own backyard, Co Carlow. He cited a 2010 review of the council by former Louth county manager John Quinlivan, who found that several practices were "unacceptable" and should be changed.

These included:

? Allowing a former director of planning to prepare local-area plans, which are used to decide if particular types of development should be approved. This practice "undermined staff and placed the individual in an exposed position of being 'judge and jury' of one's own work".

? There was "excessive processing at director level", and a failure to record meetings between council planners and applicants.

? There was ineffective enforcement of the planning laws, and excessive consultation with people found to have breached laws.

The Fine Gael/Labour Coalition, which controls five of the six councils, has decided that an internal review by Department of the Environment officials will be undertaken before a decision is made to appoint independent investigators.

The other local authorities are Cork City, Cork County, Meath, Galway County and Dublin City.


There were also concerns about changes to planning rules in Meath, while meetings between Cork City officials and developers were allegedly not recorded and made available to the public.

Just two local authorities -- Dublin City and Cork City -- have released detailed reports they sent to the Department of the Environment in September 2010 responding to the claims.

The majority position the government parties have in two- thirds of all councils seems to make them reluctant to tackle local-government reform, said the Green Party.

Carlow County Council said it had responded to the planning-related issues raised by the Department of the Environment for an internal review.

Paul Melia and Fiach Kelly

Read the article @ The Irish Independent

Allegations faced by the six councils


An independent review by former Louth county manager John Quinlivan found that several practices in the council were "unacceptable", including allowing its former director of planning to prepare local area plans which are used to decide if planning permission should be approved.

Most notably, the council ordered a building company to build a road even though it did not own all of the land, which led to it being dubbed the 'road to nowhere'.


An Taisce made a series of complaints about planning permission being granted for high-rise buildings which it claims should not have been approved under the council's own guidelines.

Concerns were raised about 23 individual planning applications approved between 2005 and 2009. Of these, 15 were overturned by An Bord Pleanala.

The heritage body also claimed that the council had ignored zoning policy and conservation issues.

The council said the developments were allowed under its planning guidelines.


Concerns were raised with the Department of the Environment about the number of one-off rural houses being approved in "very sensitive areas", particularly in Connemara.

In some cases, council management decided to overrule the advice of planners who advised to refuse permission.

Some 40 cases were referred to, many of which were overturned by An Bord Pleanala.

In 2009, Galway made 2,167 planning decisions, of which 122 were appealed to the board. Of these, the decision of the council was overturned in almost half of all cases.


The council appointed a liaison officer to act as a kind of middleman.

A constituent or company would approach a councillor seeking advice on obtaining planning permission for a development and the councillor would then approach the liaison officer. The officer would then relay the concerns to planners.

None of the meetings were on the record, documented and available to the public. MEATH

The concerns related to the council deciding on a number of occasions to change its development plan to allow certain types of development to go ahead.

There were six material contraventions of the plan -- some proposed by officials, and others by councillors -- which related to proposals to develop business parks in Dunboyne, Clonee and near Maynooth in Co Kildare.

In some cases, permissions were overturned by An Bord Pleanala on appeal.

CORK CITY Allegations were made in relation to 16 specific planning applications in Cork city, with concerns raised that meetings between applicants and council staff were not recorded.

Some complaints related to how planning functions were being carried out, with allegations that planning policies were not being implemented in the case of certain developments.

The council was asked to respond to complaints in June 2010, and has sent a submission to the Department of the Environment.

Read the article @ The Irish Independent

Planning applications drop by almost a quarter

A new housing index shows that the number of planning applications made during January and February this year has dropped by 23% compared to the same period last year.

The study also reveals that the number of houses being built at the start of the year was down by 14% overall since last year.

The findings come from an online portal which can track current housing projects in real time, called

Managing Director of, Danny O'Shea, has said most building activity now is around house extensions and renovations, rather than new one-off housing.

Read the article @ The Irish Examiner

Shell receives complaint about impact of gas project's haulage work

SHELL EP Ireland has confirmed it has received a copy of a “detailed complaint” compiled by a group of north Mayo residents regarding the impact of the Corrib gas project’s construction and haulage work. The group has submitted 104 letters of complaint to Mayo County Council, with 112 signatures.

Read the article @ The irish Times

EirGrid fails to force anti-pylon group to secure legal costs

EirGrid has failed to get a court order requiring an anti-pylon group to provide security for the costs of its legal action against the company. The action was aimed at recovering costs incurred by it due to a planning hearing on the proposed North/South electricity interconnector having been abandoned after 23 days. The planning hearing was abandoned at the request of EirGrid due to a mistake over the height of the proposed pylons in newspaper advertisements concerning the project.

Read the article @ The Irish Times

Ryan accuses 'arrogant' Govt over planning probes

Ryan accuses 'arrogant' Govt over planning probes
Thursday, March 29, 2012 - 07:58 AM

The leader of the Green Party Eamon Ryan is accusing the Government of "arrogance" over its decision to end six planning investigations.

The inquiries were set up by Mr Ryan's predecessor John Gormley during his time as Minister for the Environment.

The current Environment Minister Phil Hogan has said an external investigation into planning has not been ruled out, but only after the information received from local authorities has been examined internally first.

Mr Ryan has said Fine Gael and Labour "don't want to rock the boat".

Read the article @ The Irish Examiner

Greens put pressure on Hogan to re-open planning inquiries

THE Green Party last night added to the pressure on Environment Minister Phil Hogan to re-open a series of planning investigations, which they started in government.

Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore denied the Government had deliberately killed off the planning inquiries into six councils around the country.

Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin said internal reviews had been carried out into a number of local authorities by former environment minister John Gormley. He claimed Mr Hogan had done nothing to progress the review.

Mr Gilmore said the review would be completed after the publication of the retail planning guidelines in April. And he said Mr Hogan would make a public statement on the inquiries at that time.

"The issues that are being looked at will be published in full," he said.

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan said Mr Hogan should continue the work done by Mr Gormley "rather than rely on internal reviews that will come to similar conclusions to earlier reports.

"It is unacceptable and damaging to politics when Minister Phil Hogan and other ministers deliberately mislead the public by claiming that Minister Gormley had done nothing to progress his independent reviews of planning practices in a number of local authorities."

Mr Ryan said Mr Gormley worked assiduously to progress the independent inquiries, "which Minister Hogan then shelved for reasons which are unclear.

"The Carlow case in his own constituency is worth looking at. Over a year since he took office, why do we still not have the results of his 'internal review', given that an internal review of these complaints was already completed as far back as 2009," he said.

Meanwhile, Justice Minister Alan Shatter promised to update corruption laws. And he's going to look at banning those found to have given bribes from applying for work funded by the taxpayer.


Mr Shatter said the Mahon Tribunal final report recommends amending the Public Bodies Corrupt Practices Act 1889 to cover TDs and senators.

Mr Shatter said he proposed to repeal all seven Acts making up the Prevention of Corruption Acts 1889 to 2010. He will then replace them with a single new law, which will apply to everybody in the public and private sector.

"The tribunal suggests the exclusion of bribe-givers from public tenders. I think that we should also seriously consider the exclusion from public office of those who accept bribes," he said.

"I will also deal in the proposed corruption legislation with other recommendations made by the tribunal in this area," he added.

Fionnan Sheahan Political Editor

Read the article @ The Irish Independent

Planners not to blame for failings

In the aftermath of the Mahon Report our politicians are still seeking to blame the wrong people for their failings.
Joe Costello TD was speaking on The Week in Politics Show on Sunday night in relation to taking pensions away from those found guilty of corruption or inappropriate behaviour. In his response he stated that all those who are paid by the public purse, including ministers and senior planners, should suffer such a fate.

The Irish Planning Institute (IPI) is the largest professional planning institute in Ireland. We represent over 700 planners north and south with our members working in both the public and private sector. The institute welcomes the report which marks the end of a lengthy public inquiry and would generally support the principle of what Deputy Costello is saying. While the report does criticise the conduct of certain persons in the planning system, mainly politicians and developers, (as did the previous interim report from the same tribunal), none of these persons are professional planners or institute members. Therefore, it is difficult to understand why his remarks are directed at professional planners.

Since its introduction in 1963, the Irish planning system has always been based on a separation of responsibilities between those who are given the responsibility to make policy decisions (i.e. the locally elected representatives) and those who are given the responsibility to provide expert advice (i.e. the professional planners). The Irish Planning Institute has stated many times that planning is there to serve the common good and not to serve private individuals or sectoral interests.

The Institute has always held the belief that this separation of roles is important and that the planning profession does not wish to replace the decision-making role assigned to the elected representatives in our planning system. It is the role of the locally-elected county councillors as elected by the public, to determine policy, based on advice from professionally-trained planners, employed by the local authority. It is the duty of the councillors to act at all times in the interest of the common good.

The Institute welcomes the recommendations of the Mahon Report and, in particular, the recommendation in relation to a planning regulator. We have stated for many years that consideration needs to be given to making the adoption of a development and local area plan subject to an appeal or approval process before it is finally confirmed, in order to provide the necessary checks and balances in the planning system. Whilst the exact role of a planning regulator needs to be considered further, it is the IPI’s view that approval of plans could fall within the remit of the regulator.

The IPI has always worked independently of all politicians to ensure that proper planning and development is at the core of all planning advice and we will continue to do so. It undermines the role of professional planners when politicians make ill-informed comments in relation to members of the profession when many of the problems related to planning corruption lie within the political system.

Brendan Allen
IPI President
25 Great Strand Street
Dublin 1

Read the article @ The Irish Examiner

Redmond can't sue tribunal on finding but can seek his costs

FORMER assistant Dublin city and county manager George Redmond cannot sue the planning tribunal over corruption findings it made against him, the High Court ruled yesterday.

However, he can challenge the refusal of the Flood (now Mahon) Tribunal to cover his legal costs of being represented at the tribunal, Mr Justice Paul Gilligan said.

The judge ruled a six-year delay by Mr Redmond in pursuing his civil action against the tribunal was inordinate and inexcusable. Last January, the tribunal asked the High Court to dismiss his case over the delay.

Mr Redmond had claimed the delay was excusable because of the concealment by the tribunal of documents which would have enabled him to test the credibility of its main witness, the late James Gogarty.

The tribunal found in its 2004 third interim report that Mr Redmond, now 88, had received a corrupt payment in relation to planning matters and had also obstructed its work.

Separately, Mr Redmond was convicted of corruption in 2003 and sentenced to 12 months' imprisonment following a majority jury verdict -- though this was later overturned on appeal as unsafe and he was released after six months.

In 2005, Mr Redmond initiated a High Court action seeking to quash the tribunal findings against him.

He claimed his constitutional rights had been breached, sought damages, and also challenged a costs order made against him by the tribunal.

He argued the delay was excusable because he was awaiting the outcome of a Supreme Court decision in relation to an action by another tribunal party, Joseph Murphy Structural Engineering (JMSE). That ruling, on April 21, 2010, had a bearing on his civil case because it was critical of the tribunal's failure to provide documentation in advance to JMSE witnesses at the tribunal, he said.

In its application last January to dismiss his civil case, the tribunal argued it was prejudiced by a delay of more than six years in him (Redmond) getting on with his case.

It also argued the case was brought outside time limits prescribed by court rules. He (Redmond) had simply "parked his proceedings" in anticipation of the JMSE Supreme Court decision, which he was not entitled to do.


The tribunal also contended the delay created prejudice to it and a balancing exercise had to be carried out by the court in assessing such prejudice.

It also had to be borne in mind that Mr Justice Feargus Flood, chairman of the tribunal, had long since retired and if Mr Redmond's action was allowed to proceed, there were serious reputational implications involved, the tribunal also argued.

Mr Redmond rejected these claims and argued there had been oppressive and unfair behaviour by the tribunal. It was in the public interest that he should not be allowed to suffer a wrong, which the State had conceded in the Supreme Court was a wrong, by the holding back of documents.

This material, described by the Supreme Court as "explosive", contained serious allegations which would have been a "goldmine for cross-examination" of Mr Gogarty, it was argued.

Yesterday, Mr Justice Gilligan said why parts of Mr Gogarty's evidence to the tribunal were blacked out, suppressed and only divulged to Mr Redmond a short time before the JMSE Supreme Court case was clearly a situation of serious concern.

However, the reality is that it is almost 12 years since the conclusion of public hearings involving Mr Gogarty and eight years since the publication of the report in which findings were made against Mr Redmond, the judge said.

Having done "effectively nothing over a period in excess of six years" and having only recently prepared a statement of claim, the lapse of time in Mr Redmond bringing his case was "simply too great", the judge said.

In the judge's view, the delay involved gave rise to a substantial risk that it was not now possible to have a fair trial within a reasonable time to challenge the substantive findings (of corruption).

However, the judge also said, he was refusing the tribunal's application to dismiss Mr Redmond's claim in relation to legal costs. The tribunal did not satisfy him that to allow this aspect of Mr Redmond's claim to proceed would be unfair to it and the balance of justice favoured allowing the costs issue to proceed.

Tim Healy

Read the article @ The Irish Independent

Gilmore insists planning probes not suppressed

Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore has denied the Government is suppressing planning inquiries into irregularities in seven local authorities and pledged to publish details of the reviews.
He rejected suggestions that independent investigations into the authorities across six counties were halted when the Fine Gael-Labour coalition took power last year.

As the fall-out from the Mahon Tribunal continued yesterday, Fianna Fáil deflected attention from itself by accusing the Government of resistance to independent planning inquiries.

The reviews into planning between 2007 and 2009 were originally launched by the last government.

The local authorities concerned are Dublin City Council, Carlow County Council, Galway County Council, Cork City Council, Cork County Council, Meath County Council and Donegal County Council.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said: "An independent review was suppressed by the incoming Government. It is a serious issue that demands a serious response from the Government."

He claimed Environment Minister Phil Hogan "suppressed them when he came into office" after the inquiries were initiated by his predecessor, John Gormley.

But Mr Gilmore dismissed the allegations and claimed that Mr Gormley had done nothing seven months after beginning the planning reviews in June 2010.

The reviews, now been done by internal staff only, would be completed in April and details made public, he said.

"The minister [Hogan] has committed to issuing a public statement outlining in full the complaints at issue, the response and any appropriate actions to be pursued in regard to further policy development and guidance in line with the commitments in the Programme for Government."

But Mr Martin said the response from the Labour leader was a "complete whitewash".

He said the Department of Environment had initiated reviews into the six counties as early as 2009.

Initial checks in Carlow had found effective planning law enforcement "was not in place", he added.

Complaints were received from the public, the Ombudsman, An Taisce and other bodies about planning practices in the six counties in recent years, he said.

Fianna Fáil environment spokesman Niall Collins pointed out that government parties now dominated the councils in question.

But Mr Gilmore added: "There is no suppression.

"If there is any follow-up action required, that action will be taken."

Read the article @ The Irish Examiner

No outside experts on planning reviews

Reviews into planning decisions in seven local authorities across six counties were launched by the last government after complaints about alleged irregularities.
The Irish Examiner has learnt that a decision to appoint outside experts to oversee inquiries was put on hold by the current Government because of a fear that the costs could amount to a "runaway train".

Planning experts from abroad were even considered but, at a time of budget cuts, it was feared that seven separate inquiries could end up costing the taxpayer between €100,000 and €150,000.

Former environment minister John Gormley, leader of the Green Party, had established the inquiries into decisions by Dublin and Cork city councils, as well as county councils in Carlow, Meath, Galway and Cork and Donegal.

Mr Gormley pledged that external, independent experts would assess the local authority decisions.

However, the hiring of independent experts was put on hold in June after the Government took power.

Internal department officials are now assessing issues around the authorities, including the application of planning legislation, policies, and guidance within local authority development plans.

It is understood the seven reviews do not focus in the main on irregularities involving elected members. Instead, there has been a focus on complaints by local planning groups, technical issues such as timelines for planning permissions, and matters such as high-rise buildings in urban areas.

It was expected the reviews would be completed at the end of this month. They will now be completed by the end of April.

Read the article @ The Irish Examiner

Martina Devlin: Big Phil must risk opening can of worms on planning

AS you read this, you may be living in a house built because a developer handed over some brown envelopes to councillors -- containing either bribes or money dressed up as political donations.

That house could be in a development with inadequate facilities, located miles from anywhere -- and the negative-equity trap may also mean that you can't move away.

Even if you don't live in one of those properties, it's quite possible that you have a ghost estate on your doorstep, an eyesore that poses a danger to anybody wandering into it.

I expect you'd like to know why and how such housing developments were allowed to spring up, what pressures were brought to bear on councillors to approve them and whether inducements were offered to sway their votes.

The Mahon Report confirmed widespread suspicions that bribery was a tried and tested way for developers to get the decisions they wanted. Councillors don't have a great deal of power under the Irish local-government system, but one they do hold is the ability to rezone land. And what a lucrative income stream that proved, for some, during the boom.

In parts of the country, land was changed from agricultural to residential use, regardless of whether sufficient housing already existed. Some local authorities also appear to have flouted their own development plans in granting certain permissions.

Look around. The consequences are visible. And the taxpayer, via NAMA, is now the reluctant owner of many of these empty houses and ghost estates.

Mahon lays bare how our democracy was subverted by an unhealthy -- and in some cases corrupt -- relationship between politics and business.

It was endemic, was not restricted to one party and there is no evidence that the culture has changed significantly. The only difference is that the property bubble has burst with a vengeance.

Several years before the Mahon judges reached their conclusions, John Gormley tried to investigate alleged planning irregularities.

The Green Party minister instructed officials in the Department of Environment to study complaints about a number of councils and the managers of those authorities were ordered to compile reports.

After reviewing the dossier, Mr Gormley narrowed the field to six councils, where further inquiry was needed. A seventh, Donegal County Council, had already been marked for examination. Issues at stake included whether councils zoned too much land for development.

Seven independent planning consultants were chosen to head these probes and were on the point of being allocated a council to inspect. The other local authorities in question were Dublin and Cork city councils and Donegal, Carlow, Galway, Meath and Cork county councils. Incidentally, Cork has the highest number of ghost estates in the State.

Then the general election intervened and Mr Gormley was replaced as Environment Minister by Phil Hogan. Within a few months of taking office, Big Phil had closed down the independent inquiries.

It was a baffling move, since appointing independent inspectors to run the rule over questionable planning decisions is a straightforward and transparent way to deal with the issue.

Instead, the inspectors were replaced by an internal Department of Environment review, which has still not reported. Mr Hogan promises that its conclusions will be shared with us in May.

But an internal review had already taken place as far back as 2009 under Mr Gormley's stewardship. It was at that point that seven councils were identified with questions to answer.

So why turn back the clock? And why downgrade the investigations?

Perhaps Big Phil feared that a can of worms might be opened. His decision looks particularly inappropriate in the context of Carlow County Council, which is located in his own constituency.

But he nearly pulled it off. Last year, the significance of shutting down those inquiries provoked little comment. Planning wasn't high on the agenda.

Mahon is the only reason we're paying attention now to Big Phil's odd -- some might say anti-democratic -- move, because Mahon reminds us of the ripple effect throughout society from corruption in the planning process.

It's understood that some of the issues that independent inspectors would have examined include liaison between planners and councillors on specific planning applications in Cork County Council; a report from the local government auditors, highlighting weaknesses in planning procedures in Carlow; An Taisce criticism that Dublin was not adhering to its own policies regarding tall buildings; complaints that Galway and Meath were not abiding by their own policies in granting planning permissions; complaints about processes followed in Donegal's planning department; and procedures concerning pre-planning consultations in Cork City Council.

In the aftermath of the investigations being halted, various members of the Government bleated about the expense of independent consultants.

However, I doubt if seven inspectors with a clearly defined job of work would break the bank. On the contrary, their reports might even have given value for money.

As for Big Phil, he has waffled away in the Dail about how we've learned from past mistakes and how the planning system is no longer developer-led. But where is the transparency?

He has also seized the opportunity to take a swipe at his predecessor, saying words to the effect that Mr Gormley sat on his hands on the matter. This is misleading.

Mr Gormley had made considerable progress, between using his formal powers to order reports from councils, identifying authorities where further investigation was needed and completing a tender process for independent inspectors. In fact, the reports of those consultants would be in the public domain by now -- carrying considerably more weight than internal Department of Environment findings.

FINE Gael pledged transparent government last year when it was chasing votes. Big Phil's decision to pull the plug on his predecessor's review of planning decisions in seven local authorities does nothing to promote openness. An internal inquiry lacks the confidence-building impact of an independent scrutiny.

Besides, how independent can this internal examination be when Mr Hogan is already on the record telling 'Village' magazine -- before he had even taken office -- that allegations about planning irregularities in Carlow were "spurious, mostly"?

Surely it's for independent experts to decide if they are spurious, not the minister -- especially in the case of a council in his own constituency.

Martina Devlin tweets @DevlinMartina

Read the article @ The Irish Independent

Terrible legacy of corrupt Quarryvale rezoning

SOME PEOPLE are living in floodplains as a result of land rezoning decisions made by local councillors at the behest of landowners or property speculators. Others have no option but to get into their cars to travel to a shopping centre because the one that was planned nearer wasn’t built, against planning advice. “Corrupt and bad planning decisions have a significant impact upon people’s lives,” says Jerry Barnes, chairman of the Royal Town Planning Institute (Southern Ireland). He cites as prime example the designation in 1991 by Dublin County Council, tainted by widespread bribery, of Quarryvale as a “town centre”.

Read the article @ The Irish Times