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Phil Hogan Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland

Action on planning inquiries 'could help stop another property bubble'

An Taisce said alleged irregularities at seven councils had not yet been properly investigated.

A HERITAGE GROUP has called for action on the disputed planning inquiries at seven county councils, saying that an internal investigation is not sufficient.

An Taisce said that planning irregularities had been crucial in fuelling the property bubble, and that proper independent investigations would help avoid the crash repeating itself.

A spokesperson stressed that it was not calling for more Mahon-style tribunals, and that independent probes could be carried out swiftly and economically.

The Government has been criticised for delays to inquiries into alleged planning irregularities at seven councils, which were called for by An Taisce in 2009 and later instigated by the Fianna Fáil/Green coalition.

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan accused the Government of “arrogance”, saying that the inquiries had been shelved. However, the criticism was rejected by housing minister Jan O’Sullivan who said internal reviews had been commissioned which would establish whether full investigations were necessary.

An Taisce spokesperson Charles Stanley-Smith said sufficient action had not yet been taken. “We don’t believe that it’s possible for an internal inquiry to do this. It has to be an independent inquiry,” he said.

The organisation has also backed the Mahon Tribunal’s recommendation that an independent planning regulator should be established.

What we want to ensure is that a lot of this stuff doesn’t happen again. There was bad planning in this country for years, and that was behind the boom. Everyone talks about light financial regulation, but light regulation in the planning area was part of it too.

An Taisce is lobbying the Government on the issue, he said. Environment Minister Phil Hogan is expected to announce plans later this month.

More: Criticism of planning investigations ‘a smokescreen’ says Minister>

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