Public participation in planning process

A key part of democracy

Sir, – Keith Lowe asserts with more confidence than evidence that “Nearly every planning permission is being objected to substantially extending the application period for new developments” (“Vacant sites tax will push up the price of housing”, Business, Opinion, December 5th).

There is no such thing as an “objection” in Irish planning legislation, but the public can make “observations”. The ability to make an observation on a planning application (in support, against or highlighting an issue) is a key part of the planning process, and such public participation is a key part of democracy.

Since 2015, elected Ministers and unelected officials have continuously sought to limit the public’s ability to participate in the planning process, the classic example of which is Simon Coveney’s now defunct Strategic Housing Development (SHD) process. During meetings with Mr Coveney about the proposed SHD process, one lobbyist was recorded as questioning whether the public’s right to make observations, was “democracy gone a bit too far”. The lobbyists then “gave him our recommendations and they took it lock, stock and barrel and stuck it into the new Bill”.

Experience across international planning systems, shows that is it earlier and more frequent public participation –of the meaningful variety, not just tokenistic developer-led “community workshops” – that lead to better, faster and cheaper planning outcomes for all parties.


It seems the push for deregulation and de-democratisation of the planning system continues unabated, despite the fact that there is no link between the speed of processing of planning applications and housing supply.

This is evidenced by the almost 50,000 planning permission for housing that were unused in Dublin alone at the end of last year, and the tens of thousands more around the country. – Yours, etc,


Senior Lecturer,

Housing, planning

and development,


University Dublin,

Dublin 1.