Independent regulator to oversee planning system is appointed

Niall Cussen’s appointment comes on foot of a recommendation of the Mahon Tribunal

 Niall Cussen  is currently the chief planner at the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government and was involved in the development of the National Planning Framework published earlier this year.  Photograph: Alan Betson / The Irish Times

Niall Cussen is currently the chief planner at the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government and was involved in the development of the National Planning Framework published earlier this year. Photograph: Alan Betson / The Irish Times

 

An independent planning regulator has been appointed by the Government.

Niall Cussen will oversee the new Office of the Planning Regulator, which is due to be established by the Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy in January.

The appointment of an independent planning regulator with oversight of the planning system in the State was one of the key recommendations of the Mahon Tribunal.

Mr Cussen is currently the chief planner at the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government and was involved in the development of the National Planning Framework published earlier this year.

He has also previously worked in An Bord Pleanala, Dublin City Council and Meath, Clare and Roscommon County Councils.

Mr Murphy said the appointment of a planning regulator is a vital step in ensuring “a sound and sustainable approach to planning in Ireland in the years ahead”.

“It comes at a significant time, when the implementation of the National Planning Framework is at a critical juncture, with regional assemblies and local authorities all due to make plans arising out of the framework over the coming year,” the Minister said in a statement.

“Mr Cussen is exceptionally well placed to take on the planning regulator role and I wish him every success in the months and years ahead.”

The Office of the Planning Regulator (OPR) will be responsible for assessment of all local authority and regional assembly forward planning, including zoning decisions.

The Department said the regulator will ensure that planning authorities are operating “with the highest standards of integrity and best practice, giving the public confidence that important planning decisions are taken in line with national policy”.

The regulator will have the power to review the organisation, systems and procedures used by any planning authority or An Bord Pleanála.

The regulator will also have the power to advise the Minister on whether a plan made by a local authority conflicts with national planning policy and to recommend that the Minister make directions where any plan is not in compliance with national policy.

Additionally, the Office of the Planning Regulator will drive national research, education and public information programmes to highlight the role and benefit of planning.

The Office of the Planning Regulator will be formally established in January 2019.