Subscriber OnlyLetters

Reforming Ireland’s planning system

A more discretionary approach such as ours, while unusual, is far from unique

Letters to the Editor. Illustration: Paul Scott
The Irish Times - Letters to the Editor.

Sir, – While there is much to commend in Tony Reddy’s vision for a more regulatory “3D” planning system (“How should Ireland’s planning system be reformed?”, Opinion & Analysis, June 18th), it does need to be balanced by acknowledging that there are recognised disadvantages to this approach in the planning literature and the distinction is more nuanced than presented.

Planning systems fall on a spectrum between discretionary and regulatory and a more discretionary approach such as ours, while unusual, is far from unique.

Planning theory characterises a discretionary system as flexible and more responsive to socio-demographic change when compared to regulatory approaches based on specific predefined rules, maps, models and detailed zonings.

It has been suggested that much of the benefit of such a fine-grained approach may be lost given the amount of time it takes to prepare these detailed zoning ordinances (which could be eight-plus years compared to the – albeit tight – statutory 99-week plan making period here) and given their power they are no less vulnerable to legal challenge than decisions in Ireland today.


Many regulatory systems have introduced more discretionary approaches while the Irish system has arguably become more regulatory, beginning with the concept of detailed Strategic Development Zones under the 2000 Act.

At the same time, other European countries, such as Germany, which adopt the zoning approach Mr Reddy proposes, are not necessarily entirely covered by such detailed plans and still contain territories where development takes place on a more case-by-case basis.

The vision presented also ignores that, while Dublin had one of the world’s first planning authorities in the 1758 Wide Streets Commission, planning is Ireland has historically faced public and political suspicion which it has been suggested is rooted in agrarianism, postcolonialism and Catholicism.

Given this, it will take more than CGI streets to unpack Irish attitudes to land-use controls. – Yours, etc,


Senior Planner,

Irish Planning Institute,

Dublin 2.