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Minister for Housing and Planning, Jan O'sullivan. Julien Behal/PA Archive

Plans to establish independent planning regulator under Mahon Tribunal terms

Jan O’Sullivan said it was now a matter of deciding whether an entirely new entity should be created or if the current system should be adapted.

MINISTER FOR HOUSING and Planning Jan O’Sullivan has said that she is determined to see that the Mahon Tribunal recommendation for the establishment of an independent planning regulator is fully acted on.

Speaking to an Oireachtas Committee yesterday, O’Sullivan said the Tribunal recommended that the forward planning process needs independent oversight with a legal mandate and resources to determine whether or not plans are in compliance with legal requirements

It also said the overseeing body should have mandate to determine what intervention may be necessary where serious policy departures have taken place or where there is strong evidence of bad practice or systemic failure.

She said that there are essentially two options for further consideration:

  • To establish a new or modified planning regulation body as an Independent Planning Regulator fully relinquishing political ownership and accountability; or
  • To adapt existing arrangements to provide for additional oversight, perhaps including a new and specific role for the Oireachtas while maintaining political ownership and accountability.

The minister said it is important to understand the fundamental implications for our existing planning system.

“As you know, planning functions in Ireland are either reserved to the elected members, executive, or independent,” she said. “The balance between these is is central to an open and transparent planning system because it ensures that democratic accountability resides appropriately across and within the responsible planning institutions of the state.”

The Mahon recommendation proposes to alter this system and O’Sullivan said it is important to recal that there have been important changes to the planning system since the Tribune began its work.

“We are united in the view that what happened the past can never occur again, but our vision for planning must go beyond that,” she said.

“A fully effective planning system requires rigorous implementation of policy and legislation throughout the forward planning, development management and enforcement stages,” she added.”Ireland’s performance on planning enforcement has been patchy and we need to address that.”

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