New building guidelines for apartments to be introduced

Opposition TDs express concern that power could shift from local bodies to Minister

 Jonathan O’Brien TD:  local representatives would have greater knowledge than the minister. Photograph: Mark Kelleher

Jonathan O’Brien TD: local representatives would have greater knowledge than the minister. Photograph: Mark Kelleher

 

Revised building guidelines for apartments are contained in legislation introduced by Minister of State for the Environment Paudie Coffey.

He told the Dáil they would cover minimum size, the number of lifts per number of apartments, parking, floor to ceiling heights, provision of dual aspect apartments, storage and so on.

Mr Coffey said the revision of 2007 guidelines “would represent a change in national planning policy that should, on foot of this amendment, be implemented by planning authorities in the determination of planning applications and the adoption of development plans’’.

The measures are contained in the Planning and Development (Amendment) Bill 2015.

Sinn Féin TD Jonathan O’Brien said houses in his Cork North Central constituency had to be knocked down because of poor planning, design and standards. “I can understand national guidelines coming into play and the rationale behind that, but I do not know that will work in practice,’’ he said.

Overrule

“I do not know whether that is the best road to go down,’’ said Mr O’Brien. “Elected representatives . . . would have greater knowledge of the local environment than a minister.’’

He said there were local development plans because they reflected demographics, population, environment and the social and economic aspects of a particular city or a local authority. Mr O’Brien said the Minister had proposed an amendment whereby he would have power to override development plans of local authorities.

“I do not think any appeals process is built into that proposal,’’ he added.

Fianna Fáil environment spokesman Barry Cowen said the Bill meant, in effect, that county development plans would be subordinate to national planning regulations issued by the Minister. He said it was important for local democracy, and the maintenance of local flexibility in the planning system, that the Minister would not be in a position to overrule local development plans.

“Planning standards in dense urban areas should not necessarily be identical to those in suburban or rural areas,’’ he said. “This is the purpose of planning being local.’’