Improving the planning system

 

Sir, – There seems to be an assumption that all will be well in the planning system once the strategic housing development (SHD) regulations are repealed (“New think tank says legal cases over housing will persist unless ‘normal’ planning system is restored”, News, July 12th). This is not the case.

So long as we have an adversarial planning system, where one or both sides seek to prevail, we will continue to have extensive dispute and legal challenges.

In both the SHD and “normal” planning system, the design of the planning schemes is in the domain of the applicant. Pre-planning consultations with the local authority ensure that its requirements (and those of other departments such as roads, parks, and environmental services) can be taken into account in the design of the scheme. Crucially, the public, including those most likely to be affected by the development, are excluded from this evolutionary stage. And one wonders how effectively they can influence the design of the scheme subsequently submitted for permission.

Yes, larger schemes are often consulted with the community. But what passes for consultation is often information sessions intended to “sell the scheme” to the locals.

True consultation is engaging with and listening to those most likely to be affected by the development and, crucially, being prepared to amend the design to take account of their comments and concerns.

But consultation often needs to be mediated to ensure fairness so that no party has sole control of the process. A mediator can work with the participants to ensure that all their voices are heard, often resulting in designs that have a high level of consensus and prospect of success.

This, in turn, could lead to faster planning decisions and fewer legal challenges

Mediations are the norm in the planning process of many other countries, such as Australia and New Zealand.

Ireland has the Mediation Act 2017 and a large cohort of accredited mediators.

To help to avoid the conflict and misery which are currently features of our planning system, let’s try mediation. – Yours, etc,

JOHN DEATON,

(Architect, Mediator,

Conciliator),

Dublin 14.