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A formerly derelict retail unit on Grafton Street. With no local taxation income, councils were reliant on development as a form of revenue, An Taisce has suggested.
A formerly derelict retail unit on Grafton Street. With no local taxation income, councils were reliant on development as a form of revenue, An Taisce has suggested.
Image: Mark Stedman/Photocall Ireland

Taisce: Absence of local tax saw councils approve too many developments

The national heritage organisation says councils allowed over-development in order to cash in on new commercial rates.
Apr 16th 2012, 4:42 PM 2,062 19

AN TAISCE’S report of the national planning system has suggested that Ireland’s “obsolete” abundance of local authorities, with no direct method of local taxation, helped to contribute to commercial overdevelopment.

The report suggests that Ireland is overserviced by local councils, with 34 city or county councils, and a further 54 borough and town councils – an overpopulation which meant internal competition to approve new planning developments.

“In the absence of local taxation, these 88 councils compete fiercely for new development, with their eyes firmly on the capital contribution levies and commercial rates that result from development, leading to extremely bad planning outcomes,” the report suggests.

The report also remarks that smaller town councils were unable to justify recruiting the prerequisite number of staff to give planning applications the attention they needed.

Combined with what An Taisce deemed to be a surplus of local councillors, “resulting in patronage, clientelism and cronyism,” councils would therefore approve developments in order to raise capital contribution levies and commercial rates.

One example named is the proposal for a ‘Smart Park’ business park within a woodland on the grounds of Carton Demesne, just inside Meath’s border the Kildare.

The report details how the site had not been zoned to allow such a project, but that Meath County Council “facilitated the developer by hastily publishing and adopting a statutory local area plan which retrospectively zoned the land for the precise use the applicant envisaged”.

That application was later refused after an appeal by An Taisce.

This “rate chasing” could be avoided in future, the organisation says, by the adoption of a site value tax which would “provide a real incentive for land that becomes zoned” while also helping to deter over-zoning and the hoarding of development side.

Read: The 9 worst councils in Ireland’s planning system

Case study: Ennis: “Some of the most senseless zoning excesses of Celtic Tiger”

Pic: Ireland is Crap at Planning Map of the Day

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Gavan Reilly

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