Following on from the announcement earlier this week that the Government was establishing an Independent Planning Regulator, the Minister for Housing and Planning, Ms. Jan O’Sullivan, T.D., today (13 May, 2013) issued a new policy directive on planning enforcement to all planning authorities.
The directive has three main objectives, namely:
1. To remind planning authorities of their statutory obligations under Part VIII of the Planning and Development Acts 2000-2012.
2. To require planning authorities to undertake appropriate monitoring of planning enforcement; and,
3. To direct planning authorities to prioritise large-scale unauthorised development and enforcement cases.
Speaking today, Minister O’Sullivan said that “a fully effective planning system requires rigorous implementation of policy and legislation throughout the forward planning, development management and enforcement stages. Ireland’s performance on planning enforcement has been patchy and we need to address that. Those responsible for breaching planning legislation need to know that they will face the consequences of their actions and those that want to see the law upheld need to know that the system has teeth. The Policy Directive is an important step and needs to be viewed as part of a wider range of actions I am taking to ensure full and effective implementation of the enforcement provisions set out under Planning Legislation. These include:
- Two public guides on planning enforcement (published in November by the Minister);
- The publication of consolidated versions of the Planning and Development Acts 2000 – 2012 and Planning and Development Regulations 2001 – 2012;
- A commitment to develop a policy statement on planning; and;
- The establishment of an Independent Planning Regulator.
This Directive is intended primarily to serve as a reminder to planning authorities that planning enforcement is a critical function that needs to be properly resourced at a sufficiently senior level. It also requires planning authorities to report comprehensively and formally on the enforcement activity they carry out and to provide whatever assistance is necessary in the future to raise public awareness about planning enforcement.
Finally, it provides clear guidance to planning authorities that, in carrying out their enforcement function, they need to prioritise the most significant breaches of the planning code, namely unauthorised quarrying activities or those cases which would have come within the scope of the EIA Directive and, the Habitats Directive.
The statutory footing will also serve as a clear signal to the public, to planning authorities, and to the European Commission that Ireland is taking its planning enforcement function seriously.
As part of the follow up and implementation phase of the policy directive, my officials will be setting up a group to examine, in conjunction with planning authorities, possible further areas of reform including, for example, possible amendments to planning legislation, the development of a standard tool-kit for enforcement practitioners, the development of a proper enforcement network through which planning authorities can share knowledge, expertise and experience – good and bad.