The Cabinet has approved proposals for the preparation of a new Planning and Development Bill to establish a new Planning Regulator. The establishment of a Planning Regulator was the most significant recommendation regarding planning made by the Mahon Tribunal when it issued its final report in March 2012.
According to Minister for Housing & Planning Jan O’Sullivan TD: “Evidence based, proper forward planning is essential for our country’s future. We need to ensure that the decisions we take regarding local and regional development facilitate sustainable development and enhance the lives of our citizens and the communities in which we live. The Planning Regulator will provide an additional and important check on the quality of forward planning decisions.”
A new Office of the Planning Regulator (OPR) will be established as a new and separate corporate identity. This Office would be staffed and resourced, in so far as possible, by staff taken on secondment or on a permanent basis from An Bord Pleanala.
The Planning Regulator will carry out independent appraisal of all relevant statutory plans – including local area plans, development plans, regional planning guidelines etc.
The Planning Regulator will advise the Minister on the content of the plans and where appropriate provide advice that all or part of a plan should be amended or rejected (through a Ministerial Direction). This advice will be published.
The final decision on whether to issue a Direction will reside with the Minister who will be accountable to the Oireachtas for his or her decision.
The OPR would also be mandated to carry out the research, training and education roles identified by the Tribunal.
The OPR will also have investigative powers along the lines currently provided for by Section 255 of the Planning and Development Acts 2000-2012.