High Court judge blames boom time ‘planning free-for-all’ for bank crisis

Community groups often ‘derided’ for opposing damaging development

Mr Justice Colm MacEochaidh: environmental protection should be “at the heart of national policy”. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

Mr Justice Colm MacEochaidh: environmental protection should be “at the heart of national policy”. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

Fri, Mar 22, 2013, 06:00



A High Court judge has said “the banking crisis which almost broke the nation” might not have happened had there not been a “planning free-for-all” during the boom years.

Mr Justice Colm MacEochaidh said: “When the history of the past 20 years or so comes to be written, I think we will come to admire those who raised reasonable arguments against ill-advised development.

“Many community groups, residents’ associations and NGOs pleaded for sustainable development. All too often, they were derided, even by persons in the highest offices, as Nimbys or persons irrationally seeking to protect swans and snails.

“I think we can all agree that had greater sustainability in the planning sphere been pursued, we might not have had the banking crisis which almost broke the nation,” he said at the launch of a new book on planning law.

Mahon tribunal
“At very great expense, the State established an inquiry into rezoning corruption in Ireland. The Mahon tribunal duly reported that corruption was endemic and systemic, and existed at every level of executive government.”

Addressing a reception at the UCD planning school, the judge said these corrupt zoning decisions “did not simply offend because of the obvious injury to democracy and fair government ... but caused lasting harm to people and irreversible harm to the environment”.

Quoting from remarks on the environment by Pope Francis at his inauguration last Tuesday, he added: “If environmental protection, including proper policy on climate change, is placed at the heart of national policy, surely we will avoid the tragic mistakes of the past.”

An Introduction to Irish Planning Law by Dr Berna Grist, is published by the Institute of Public Administration , priced at €30.