An Taisce Identifies the Worst Councils in Ireland’s Planning System

Donegal, Roscommon, Leitrim, Kerry, Mayo, Galway County, Cavan, Carlow and Waterford County are ranked worst (in that order) in a planning system that requires radical overhaul, according to An Taisce, Ireland’s National Trust. An Taisce has published the results of its objective study of the Planning Systems in 34 City and County Councils.

‘State of the Nation: Ireland’s Planning System 2000-2011’ is part of An Taisce’s ongoing work as an independent watchdog for the planning system and as a defender of our natural and built heritage.

An Taisce graded the councils using eight objective criteria, such as the perecentage of planning decisions appealed to An Bord Pleanala that were reversed and the percentage of vacant housing stock. The performance of the following nine councils left them with an F grade: Donegal, Roscommon, Leitrim, Kerry, Mayo, Galway county, Cavan, Carlow and  Waterford county.

Eight indicators are used to rank Ireland’s 34 city and county councils in terms of their implementation of planning policies. In all cases data is sourced from the most recent publicly available independent sources.

1. Overzoning: Amount of Zoned Land as a Percentage of Population in 2011;

2. Decisions Reversed by An Bord Pleanála 2005 – 2010;

3. Decisions Confirmed by An Bord Pleanala 2005 – 2010.

4. Percentage of Vacant Housing Stock in 2011;

5. Change in Vacant Housing Stock 2006 – 2011;

6. Water quality: Urban Areas with Secondary Treatment failing to meet EPA Standards 2011;

7. Percentage of One-Off Houses Permitted as a Percentage of all Residential Planning Permissions 2001 – 2011;

8. Legal Proceedings Commenced Following Non-Compliance with Enforcement Notice 2005 – 2010.

Donegal came last. By way of illustration of its poor performance, Donegal had approximately 2,250 hectares of residential zoned land in 2010, sufficient for an additional population of 180,000 people. Despite this, approximately 50% of all residential planning permissions in Donegal over the past decade were granted on unzoned land. These trends are symptomatic of a wider systems failure in which counties Donegal, Roscommon Leitrim and Kerry perform worst.

Bad planning is not victim free. The analysis shows that there is a very strong correlation between councils that have scored poorly and a range of negative socio-economic and environmental outcomes. For example, councils which scored poorly generally had the highest rate of residential vacancy, the highest rate of population decline and out-migration, the highest levels of unfinished ‘Ghost Estates’, lower residential property prices and significant instances of ground and surface water pollution. These legacy costs of bad planning will affect people living in these areas, and Irish society as a whole, for many generations.

The publication of the Mahon report has seen renewed calls for investigations into the planning matters of councils by An Taisce and others. This report is an independent and objective review of planning policy implementation in Ireland. It is now clear from the recent publication of the final report of the Mahon Tribunal that, together with a failure of regulation in the financial sector during the ‘Celtic Tiger’ property bubble, there was a catastrophic and systemic failure of the planning system, which allowed for that bubble.

An Taisce has a number of recommendations to accompany this report:

* As recommended by the Mahon Tribunal, there must be an Independent Planning Regulator free from political pressure.

*·As recommended by the Mahon Tribunal, the National Spatial Strategy (NSS) and future National Development Plans (NDPs) must be put on a statutory footing.

* That we move to a regional governance structure for planning and development.

* Enforcement must be urgently improved – this should be ensured by the Independent Planning Regulator.

* Serious reform of Local Authority structures that returns proper trustworthy and accountable local democracy to the people.

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