DOES IRELAND HAVE too many planning institutes?
That is the question being posed by the the President of the Irish Planning Institute (IPI), Brendan Allen, at the National Planning Conference in Kilkenny today, who said that with 88 planning authorities, “the answer may be obvious”.
The decision-making arising from too many small planning authorities often results in poor decision-making in a national and regional context and a focus on ‘localism’. I believe that for planning purposes we need larger planning regions with greater power.
The two-day conference in the Ormonde Hotel, Kilkenny will be addressed by the Minister of Environment, Community and Local Government, Phil Hogan TD.
Mr Allen added that planning is tied to the political structures that exist, so any reform in the planning system needs to be matched by political reform. He was responding to a recommendation in the Mahon Report which suggested that Regional Authorities be directly elected and held accountable for implementation of Regional Planning Guidelines.
The IPI President said his Institute welcomed the Mahon recommendation that a Planning Regulator be appointed but added that it was essential that such an independent regulator “be free from political pressure.” He added that he thought the office could be established as a new division of An Bord Pleanála “who had consistently demonstrated that they are independent and free from political pressure”.
He said the IPI agreed with the recommendation that the National Development Plan (NDP) and the National Spatial Strategy (NSS) be placed on a statutory footing but he maintained that the current NSS was “no longer fit for purpose” and needs to be reviewed, and at the same time, a government policy on planning is needed.
He pointed out also that there were eight current Planning Acts and 34 different sets of planning regulations since 2000, which posed difficulties for planners, while “an overly complex and bureaucratic planning system undermined public confidence in the system.”
The IPI President rejected a claim by An Taisce that planners had failed to vocalise their concerns and to exercise sufficient judgement throughout the period under question. Mr Allen also questioned An Taisce’s use of league tables.
He concluded by saying that:
we all have to accept some level of responsibility for the past failings of the planning system, including planners, as we were all part of the system
But said the debate needed to be moved onto solutions and implementing the recommendations of the Mahon Report.