Communities deserve real planning input

 

Sir, – Last week was the closing date for a two-week long consultation by the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government, when members of the public could give their views as to whether the legislation introduced by the Minister in 2016, allowing large housing developments of 100 units to bypass local planners and local communities and go directly to An Bord Pleanála, should be extended for another two years until the end of 2021.

This legislation represents an unacceptable weakening of the right of local communities to have a voice in major planning decisions that impact on their communities. It undermines the role of local planning authorities. Local councillors exercise their statutory reserved functions in relation to the adoption of County Development Plans and Local Area Plans on behalf of the citizens of their area.

This duty and right of representation, which is s a fundamental principle of local government, as well as a core principle of planning legislation, is undermined by this legislation. The County Development Plans and Local Areas Plans, prepared with the benefit of detailed local knowledge and local consultation, can be overridden by An Board Pleanála using this legislation.

It is unacceptable that this well-grounded and well informed local knowledge can be effectively removed.

Builders and developers building 100 units are not just engaged in the business of building houses – they are building a community, within a community.

This long-term community building relies on a collaborative, localised planning process where there is room and opportunity for dialogue and engagement of planners, developers and local people. It goes well beyond looking at individual buildings or apartment blocks, to take account of the social, cultural and physical identity of a place and to ensure it reflects the needs of an emerging community.

This is the task of local local planners, councillors and communities.

The Strategic Housing Development legislation, with its focus on single developments outside of their local community context, strongly undermines the principle of sustainable, long-term community building

The other fatal flaw in the legislation is that of effectively removing the role of An Bord Pleanála as an appeals mechanism for development projects of 100 units or more. By removing the first line of local scrutiny and decision-making in the form of local planning provisions, the board no longer serves as a third-party appeals forum for such large-scale developments.

It leaves open only the option of recourse to the High Court by way of an appeals process, an option that is unlikely to be available to any local resident or community.

To provide the public with a two-week window in July for this consultation breaches all the Government’s own principles of good practice in public consultation. – Yours, etc,

Cllr ANNE COLGAN,

(Independent),

Dún Laoghaire

Rathdown County Council,

Marine Road,

Dún Laoghaire,

Co Dublin.