An Taisce wants to take the “complex” planning process away from Leitrim County Council and other local authorities and give the job over to a regional governance reining over a minimum of 200,000 population, according to their recent report ‘State of the National: Ireland’s Planning System 2000 – 2009.’
The recommendation follows pages of damning reports on the planning process in Ireland over the past decade. Although an Taisce don’t quite say “Told you so” they did not miss the chance to point out their ardent work in planning matters over the past ten years.
The environmental group have not been seen in a favourable light in Co Leitrim or other rural counties over the past decade, they have been looked upon as anti-development and are seen to make it difficult for some locals to build one off housing on their own property.
In this report, An Taisce have taken the chance to clear their name, “Throughout the ‘Celtic Tiger’ era, An Taisce was very often a lone voice railing against a short-sighted development culture which gripped most of the country, one in which costs were all too often underestimated and benefits overstated. While often criticised by vested interests for our stance on planning matters, An Taisce estimates that appeals taken against inappropriate speculative development has reduced the value of impaired loans by at least w505m,” it states.
An Taisce outlines some of the refusals by An Bord Pleanala in Leitrim that they appealed, including the retail development scheme on a flood plain in Carrick-on-Shannon in 2008 and the controversial refusal to the extension of the canal to Annaugh Upper, Dowra, Co Leitrim in 2008. It noted that this planning application was affecting Designated Conservation Sites.
It also commented on Ireland’s dismal performance in implementing EU Environmental Law in particular the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Directive, the Habitats Directive and the Birds Directive. An Taisce notes one of the examples of failure by Leitrim County Council to properly implement the directive was “where pollution seeped into Lough Allen, again killing fish and harming the tourist sector. The cause was the same in all three instances: attempting to build roads or foundations for wind turbines in inherently unsuitable upland locations.”
The report is highly critical of planning on flood plains, retail developments away from town centres and the large amount of one off rural housing.
An Tasice said “These legacy costs of bad planning will affect people living in these areas, and Irish society as a whole, for generations.” 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.” They want a regional governance to rein over a minimum population of 200,000. An Taisce intends to monitor Ireland’s success in improving the implementation planning and environmental policy in future reports.
Fine Gael Cllr John McCartin told the Leitrim Observer, “The notion of establishing a new independent planning regulator is crazy. The last thing we need is an unaccountable planning tzar with an unquestionable agenda. We already have An Board Pleanala,” he concluded.