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Bord Pleanála chairman speaks of regrets over development and zoning

Board chairman says it should have taken a stronger position on residential developments involving bad zoning, remote locations and poor quality design.

THE OUTOING CHAIRMAN of An Bord Pleanála has spoken of his regret that the organisation did not take a tougher stance on residential development and bad zoning through the Celtic Tiger era.

Speaking at the National Planning Conference yesterday in Galway, John O’Connor said that excessive and unsustainable zoning had contributed to the property bubble.

He also admitted realising that questionable developments were coming before the board. O’Connor said he had already voiced his concern over the “appropriateness” of suburban housing scheme beings applied to towns and villages and over the quality of developments in tax incentive areas.

The chairman said his board had been in a difficult position because under its planning system, if land is properly zoned and serviced, “there is a presumption in principle that development will be permitted”. Refusing could have left local authorities open to compensation claims from landowners, he said.

O’Connor said a “stronger stand” against developments based on bad zoning and which are “remotely located and of poor design quality” is essential if the country is to stave off another boom-to-bust property cycle.

He also said that there appeared to be a belief in Ireland that rules on planning or regulation were made to be broken.

The demand for property should not be “artificially inflated by financial incentives and considerations”, O’Connor said, and warned that the current economic situation should “not dictate a return to an unsustainable spread of low density development”.

O’Connor is retiring shortly after 11 years as chairman of An Bord Pleanála.

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