The Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Alan Kelly TD, and Minister of State, Paudie Coffey TD, have just published the General Scheme of the Planning and Development (No. 2) Bill 2014, which was recently approved by Government.
The General Scheme is primarily being progressed to support the implementation of the planning-related recommendations of the Final Report of the Mahon Tribunal. It also supports planning actions in the Government’s Construction 2020 Strategy, some of which are already advancing in the General Scheme for a Planning and Development (No.1) Bill 2014 which was recently published.
“The legislative changes and reforms to the planning system proposed in both in the General Scheme for this Bill and the No 1 Bill are quite comprehensive. All of these reforms, some of which are quite fundamental and innovative, are aimed at ensuring that we have an effective and fit for purpose planning system that facilitates the more timely delivery of projects, while simultaneously supporting a properly functioning construction and development sector as well as the wider economy”, stated Minister Kelly.
The main provision in the General Scheme relates to the establishment of the Office of the Planning Regulator, which will be independent of the Department and whose primary functions will include the assessment and evaluation of local area plans, local development plans and regional spatial and economic strategies, the provision of education and research on planning related matters, as well as investigative powers to review the organisation, systems & procedures applied by planning authorities and An Bord Pleanála in the performance of their planning functions.
In addition, the General Scheme will provide for the placing on a legislative footing of the development of a new National Planning Framework (NPF) to replace the existing National Spatial Strategy 2002-2020. The new NPF will set an overarching national framework for regional and local development, including strategic investment in critical infrastructure in transport, housing, water services, communications and other necessary infrastructure to facilitate economic development and growth at the national, regional and local level.
“Planning has a critical balancing role to play in ensuring that the right strategic choices are made for the future development of local areas and the country as a whole. We have to focus on the interests of the common good for proper planning and long-term sustainable development so that the planning system can arrive at balanced, equitable and transparent decisions on future development. The proposed legislative changes and reforms, combined with the development of a new National Planning Framework, are a further key step along the path towards achieving this overarching objective”, added Minister Coffey.
The General Scheme of the Planning No.2 Bill has been transmitted to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on the Environment, Culture and the Gaeltacht in order to facilitate pre-legislative scrutiny of the proposals.
Ministers Kelly and Coffey have also published a new Policy Statement on Planning which is intended to act as a general guiding document to the operation of the planning system and to outline the key values, principles and priorities that should underpin it.
“Some aspects of Ireland’s planning process have been the subject of close scrutiny in recent years through the work of the Mahon Tribunal and other investigations. I would hope that, going forward, all parties that engage in the planning process – including planning authorities, other public bodies, private interests as well as the general public – will observe the key principles outlined in the new policy statement with a view to ensuring the continued enhancement of our planning system, and that proper planning and sustainable development is achieved in the general interests of the common good and future generations”, concluded Minister Kelly.
Both the general scheme of the bill and the policy statement are available on the home page of the department’s website www.environ.ie