Hospital review group should have an 'experienced planner'

Fri, Mar 9, 2012, 00:00

AN EXPERIENCED planner should be on the review group for the national children’s hospital so any future decision regarding its location “is based on sound planning principles as well as medical needs”, according to the Irish Planning Institute.

The institute’s president, Brendan Allen, said forward planning “is the key to the successful delivery of projects as it means that the hard decisions in relation to the principle are taken early on, before millions [of euro] are spent on detailed design”.

Earlier this week, the Cabinet approved the terms of reference of the new expert group, which is to be chaired by the former chairman of the HSE, Frank Dolphin. The composition of the group is due to be announced by Minister for Health James Reilly next week.

Although it was the institute’s policy not to comment on cases, Mr Allen said it was clear “forward planning is the less costly area of planning and needs to be the focus of planning for future strategic development”, especially when public money is limited.

He criticised “ill-informed comments by politicians and others” suggesting legislation is needed to bypass An Bord Pleanála’s decision to refuse planning permission for the scheme proposed for the Mater hospital site in Dublin.

“Such knee-jerk reactions show how little they understand how the planning system functions,” Mr Allen said, adding the institute would be opposed to “ill-considered changes to the planning legislation” that could result in legal challenges.

He said his own experience of major infrastructure projects was that site selection “is the most important element”.