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New regulator 'will restore confidence in planning system'

The establishment of such a regulator was recommended in the Mahon Tribunal’s report.

Image: Leon Farrell/Photocall Ireland

THE FIRST STEPS have been taken for the appointment of a new Planning Regulator.

At its meeting today, the Cabinet approved proposals for the preparation of a new Planning and Development Bill, which will establish a new Planning Regulator.

Mahon Tribunal

The establishment of such a regulator was the most significant recommendation regarding planning made by the Mahon Tribunal when it issued its final report in March 2012.

Minister for Housing & Planning Jan O’Sullivan TD described today’s decision as a “milestone” in responding to the Mahon report.

In formulating this proposal I engaged with a wide variety of stakeholders and I believe the new Planning Regulator will improve the quality of planning in Ireland, increase transparency and accountability and, most importantly increase public trust in our planning system.

She said that “evidence-based, proper forward planning is essential for our country’s future”.

The Planning Regulator will provide an additional and important check on the quality of forward planning decisions. In addition the new Planning Regulator will have functions regarding planning research, education and investigation. I believe that this reforming measuring has the capacity to transform the forward planning process in Ireland and importantly ensure that citizens have greater influence and understanding of the process.

According to the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Phil Hogan TD, the implementation of this recommendation is another tangible reform that “will achieve the Government’s goal of restoring and maintaining public confidence in our planning system”.

The independent Planning Regulator will review and assess all forward planning functions by local authorities– such as the drafting of city and county development plans. It will have the power to advise the Minister to reject or overturn part or all of a plan where it is not up to scratch, and this advice will be published, said Hogan.

The final decision to act will rest with the Minister of the day, and the Minister will be accountable to the Oireachtas for his or her decision.

He added that the new regulator “will bring an additional layer of transparency to the planning system while maintaining democratic accountability which is essential for public trust”.

The Irish Planning Institute (IPI) has welcomed the announcement.

IPI Public Relations Officer Henk van der Kamp said that in order to be effective, the Office of the Planning Regulator must be properly staffed and resourced for the long term. “Ensuring the research and education work of the regulator is relevant, timely and accessible will be a key challenge.”

Read: Plans to establish independent planning regulator under Mahon Tribunal terms>

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