City and county councillors will no longer have to pay a €20 fee to make a submission or observation on planning applications in their electoral area or ward if the Dáil rubber stamps a Seanad decision.
In an unusual move the Government withdrew from a vote when it was called on a proposal by Independent Senator Victor Boyhan that councillors should not have to pay the fee in their own local electoral area or ward.
Minister of State for Housing Damian English had asked the Opposition not to call a vote on the Planning and Development (Amendment) Bill.
He said they were all agreed that councillors should not have to pay the fee but he said he would prefer that they do this in regulations set out by the Minister rather than in primary legislation.
“All planning-related fees applied by planning authorities are provided for in regulation and are not in primary legislation,” the Minister said.
However, Mr Boyhan said he had lobbied Senators very hard on this issue and everyone, including Government Senators, wanted to support councillors on this.
“We have not been idle,” Mr Boyhan said. “I am confident we will succeed in a vote today.”
When the vote was called the Government did not put forward tellers for the count and the proposal was carried.
Earlier, the Government was forced to call a walk-through vote when a number of its Senators abstained on a proposal to end the practice of charging councillors a fee for making submissions on planning applications.
Most Senators, apart from Taoiseach’s appointees and those on university panels are elected by councillors as well as members of the Oireachtas and do not want to be seen to oppose measures beneficial to them.
Fine Gael lost the vote and Labour Senator Kevin Humphreys’ proposal was passed, to end the €20 fee councillors must pay to make an observation on a planning application in their local authority.
The Fine Gael Senators were whipped back into line when a walk-through vote was called and the proposal was defeated.
It would have allowed councillors to make submissions on any planning application in the entire local authority, while Senator Boyhan’s proposal confines them to their own local electoral area or ward.