Planning regulator’s office to be set up later this year

Murphy tells Seanad office will have power to review procedures of An Bórd Pleanála

  Minister for Planning Eoghan Murphy said the Office of the Planning Regulator would also be enabled to consider complaints from members of the public. File photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

Minister for Planning Eoghan Murphy said the Office of the Planning Regulator would also be enabled to consider complaints from members of the public. File photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

 

An independent regulator to oversee planning will be established later this year, Minister for Local Government Eoghan Murphy has said.

He told the Seanad on Wednesday the Office of the Planning Regulator would be independent of his department and responsible for an assessment of all local authority and regional assembly forward planning, including zoning decisions.

Mr Murphy said the regulator would have the power to review the organisation, systems and procedures used by any planning authority or An Bórd Pleanála.

“It will also be enabled to consider complaints from members of the public,’’ he added.

The setting up of the office was recommended by the Mahon tribunal into certain planning matters and payments which submitted its final report in 2012.

Mr Murphy said the regulator would have the power to advise the minister of the day on whether a plan made by a local authority conflicted with national planning policy.

“In the interests of transparency, any such advice will be published,’’ he added.

The Minister was replying to Independent Senator Victor Boyhan, who asked what progress had been made in setting up the office.

Mr Boyhan said raising the matter was appropriate because of the revelation in The Irish Times on Wednesday that the Government is to introduce new rules in an attempt to restrict court challenges to major building projects.

The Irish Times revealed that as it gears up to launch the 10-year €115 billion capital plan, the Cabinet has discussed and approved measures that would make it more difficult to delay or block infrastructure projects, large housing developments and data centres.

A plan by the technology giant Apple to build a data centre near Athenry, Co Galway, has been delayed for more than two years by a series of planning objections and legal objections.

Mr Boyhan said they must not batten down the hatches and curtail, in any way, public engagement and consultation.

“It is important we do not try to close it down for people with legitimate objections or concerns,’’ he added.