A decade of planning failure

Leitrim County Council’s planning department was graded as the the third worst in the country in a recent An Taisce report.

Leitrim County Council’s planning department was graded as the the third worst in the country in a recent An Taisce report.

An Taisce gave Leitrim County Council a minus F in it’s report into Ireland’s planning system 2000 – 2009 and wants the planning process to be taken away from all councils as it is too “complex” for them.

Leitrim was rated just ahead of Donegal and Roscommon in the damning report published on Monday, which used indicators such as the percentage of zoned lands, An Bord Pleanala turn-overs, vacant housing stock, water quality, one-off housing and enforcements to give or take away marks. All counties in the North West failed the report.

Despite Leitrim County Council failing in almost every measurement of planning over the past decade according to the report, they will not comment before studying it in full. A spokesperson for the council did note “all planning decisions are made in accordance with the proper planning and sustainable development of the area and in accordance with Leitrim County Council’s County Development Plan.”

The report was not surprising, most of the information was common knowledge but for a small county, Leitrim racked up some extraordinary figures. It scored just 60 out of 272 points and was ranked at 32 out of 34 local authorities. It was top of the class for vacant housing stock with over 30%. An Tasice revealed that 40% of planning decisions from Leitrim were reversed by an Bord Pleanala from 2005-2009. It said local councils had “low-level cronyism” and were “not impartial arbitrators” as they had the benefit of collecting commercial rates from new businesses.

Leitrim had 500 hectares of residential zoned lands in 2010, it was in the top ten for over capacity of undeveloped zoned land as a proportion of existing housing stock in 2011.

75% of the county’s secondary water treatment facilities failed to meet the EPA standards this year. An Tasice called one-off rural housing a “source of patronage for politicians.” One-off housing in Leitrim was over 40% as a proportion of total homes from 2001-11. The environmental group were also unsatisfied by the figure of council prosecutions, less than 30% of prosecutions were initiated in Leitrim following failure to comply notices 2005-2009.

An Tasice said “These legacy costs of bad planning will affect people living in these areas, and Irish society as a whole, for generations.”

The report recommends that there must be an Independent Planning Regulator and they want to see the end of Leitrim County Council deciding on local planning. An Taisce wants a regional governance structure (minimum 200,000 population) for planning and development. They said “Smaller councils generally cannot justify the necessary staff to carry out complex functions.” They also stated “certain councils simply have too many councillors per capita of population, resulting in patronage, clientelism and cronyism.”

See more on the report in this week’s Leitrim Observer.