Planning and local democracy

We need balanced development

Sir, – “What is good for the individual is not always good for the community”, writes David McWilliams in his article on Nimbyism, whereby people who protest or object to a new development in their area can lead to a housing shortfall for the neighbours or those wishing to live locally (“An entitled minority are giving two fingers to the rest in Ireland’s housing crisis”, Opinion, March 30th).

Now let us turn that sentence on its head; imagine that it is a greedy landowner, developer or builder who is putting themselves first at the expense of the community?

Many of the SHDs (strategic housing developments) submitted for approval during the period they were allowed were in fact exercises in greed. Many were too tall, too dense in numbers for that given site, or just plain unsuitable for the planned location.

There is a reason that local councils discuss and develop five-year and 10-year development plans; it is so the other infrastructure like schools, safe roads and footpaths, etc, can be built in conjunction with housing.


Allowing SHDs to ride roughshod over carefully designed plans was a ridiculous idea. We saw in Celtic Tiger days how we ended up with poorly built housing in the wrong locations; some are still unfinished today.

One of the main problems with housing today is that new developments are not necessarily going up for sale to the public but in fact are build-to-let properties.

By subsidising approved housing bodies and paying housing assistance payment rates to investment real-estate investment trusts, the Government is creating a shortage of available homes to buy and is artificially inflating rents in the process. Renters are now in the position of not being able to save a deposit due to the exorbitant monthly cost.

If you want older people to vacate larger homes, you must develop retirement communities locally in safe spaces close to services and amenities. Older people do not want to live in remote apartments full of transient tenants with huge annual service charges and the risk of large one-off payments to correct shoddy building work such as fire-safety shortfalls, etc.

Keep planning local. – Yours, etc,



Co Dublin.

Sir, – Frances Ruane and Laura Burke, who have contributed as expert reviewers of the inaugural National Planning Framework (NPF), emphasise the importance of spatial planning for economic competitiveness, environmental sustainability, and societal wellbeing (“Ireland must stop prioritising short-term demands and plan for a better society,” Opinion & Analysis, March 29th).

The NPF involves three regional assemblies working with Government departments, their agencies, and local authorities to achieve better-balanced regional development. It adopts bespoke regional planning and economic policy objectives in the form of Regional Spatial and Economic Strategies and, importantly, coordinates monitoring reports every two years on progress made toward the achievement of the objectives designed to deliver better balanced regional development.

The expert reviewers recommend clarifying, strengthening, and ensuring accountability for implementation bodies’ roles and introducing detailed annual monitoring and measurement at national and regional levels to assess their success in achieving more balanced regional growth. Their proposals are consistent with effective monitoring of the delivery of spatial plans in line with Strategic Environmental Assessment obligations.

The Oireachtas is currently debating the Planning and Development Bill 2023, which regrettably proposes to remove crucial provisions for whole-of-government coordination, policy objective delivery, and regional development monitoring, including democratic oversight by the regional assemblies’ elected members.

The regional assemblies have asked the Government to retain and enhance the current approach, a request consistent with the proposals of the authors of the Expert Group Report on the NPF.

We agree that planning should be more coherent, with a long-term strategic focus, and represent a whole-of-government approach to better-balanced regional development. – Yours, etc,



Eastern and Midland Regional Assembly,


Dublin 9;



Northern and Western Regional Assembly,


Co Roscommon;



Southern Regional Assembly,