Local bodies will have to comply with regional guidelines
Local authorities in the greater Dublin area will be required by statute to ensure that their development plans comply with strategic guidelines for the region, according to the Minister for the Environment.
This is one of the actions Mr Dempsey proposes to take on the Bacon Report. This highlights that there is no strategic land use planning policy in place for the Dublin region, and calls for the adoption of a more up-to-date agreed development strategy.
"In the absence of such an overall strategy, there is at present no useful context for guiding future populations to appropriate locations within the region on a sustainable basis or for the best utilisation of scarce resources," the report complains.
"The present adopted or draft development plans are based largely on the broad land use visions set out in the Dublin Advisory Plan and Regional Report prepared by Professor Myles Wright in 1967 and which looked to a horizon year of 1985," the report notes.
A subsequent strategy, the 1985 ERDO report, was never formally adopted. Since 1994, the four local authorities are merely required to "have regard to" the regional report prepared by the Dublin Regional Authority when carrying out their functions.
While each county development plan suggests a strategy for the distribution of population, response at local level has at times been met by resistance, with calls for extensive rezonings in some areas and opposition to further extensions elsewhere.
Last May, the Government decided that strategic planning guidelines should be prepared for the greater Dublin area and consultants - Brady Shipman Martin - were appointed last October to prepare a land use strategy indicating the best areas for development.
This strategy will address the number of people/households to be accommodated in the greater Dublin area, and in particular will indicate the preferred distribution of that future population as well as general locations for commercial and industrial development.
After the consultants have reported back in mid-1999, the local authorities may have to alter their development plans earlier than the normal five-year review period "in order to harmonise their policies and objectives with those of the (strategic planning) guidelines."
The Bacon Report also stresses that it is essential that sound information and relevant data are available for good planning and policy formulation.
Complaining that considerable efforts were required to prepare estimates of the potential housing supply, the report says that all such information should be available in a user-friendly form for developers, planners, analysts and policy-makers.
Similarly, full information on planning applications published quarterly would provide a useful indicator of the pace of activity in a particular area.
Referring to the report's recommendation that adequate resources should be provided for the processing of applications, the Minister noted that An Bord Pleanala had been given two additional board members as well as "significant increased staffing resources."