The Government should consider removing the rights of people to object to proposed developments as it is hugely costly, causes delays, and is not necessary, the Irish Planning Institute’s annual conference heard.
Compliance manager with the Irish Mortgage Brokers Association, Karl Deeter, said instead there should be greater trust in the ability of planners and the local authority.
He said a “third party right to object” to An Bórd Pleanála, after the local authority has made up its mind, did not exist in many countries as the planning departments and local authority are expected to make the correct decision.
“The role of the planner as a planning professional needs to be strengthened so we are not getting caught up in An Bórd Pleanála objections to projects, as it’s hugely costly and causes projects to come in behind time,” he said.
"First stage objecting and observations are fine but if planners subsequently make a decision, then there should be a very high bar set before any unattached third parties can refer a matter to An Bórd Pleanála. High fees would also help this as would a block on petition objections such as happened at the Moore Street development".
Mr Deeter also argued a new land tax should be introduced for all land, not just land in urban areas.
“In cities, in particular, there are a lot of people holding onto land and to buildings in the expectation of rising prices; there is an expectation that you can just sit on it and that is causing serious problems in terms of housing supply in this country,” he claimed. “If landowners want to sit on it, let it be taxed.”
He also said agricultural land should not be excluded from such a tax. “Land is an asset that generates grants if not income. Farmers can’t have it both ways: They get their grants and CAP payments for this asset so why shouldn’t they pay tax?
“Rates are paid on commercial buildings so why shouldn’t they be paying an annual tax?”
In his speech to the annual gathering of planners in Athlone, he was also vocal in his condemnation of modular housing plans in Dublin.
“Heads should roll over this. People who were involved in planning this project have serious questions to answer. These emergency houses were costing €100,000 each, then €140,000 and now €240,000. They don’t make sense any longer — if you can buy a house down the street for €70,000 less. Why and how did they get it so wrong?” he said.
Meanwhile, the president of the Irish Planning Institute, Deirdre Fallon, has called for the establishment of the Office of the Planning Regulator to be expedited and to have more teeth as originally proposed in the Mahon Tribunal report.
“Under the bill published, the regulator can make recommendations on an application but the final decision goes back to the minister. We believe the office’s recommendations should be binding as the Mahon report conclusions suggested,” she said.
Meanwhile the bill, which allowed for the establishment of the office, still has not got to committee stage, despite having been published a year and a half ago.
Ms Fallon said there are housing developments with planning permission but are not being built as the necessary infrastructure, such as roads, had not been provided and developers still cannot access finance. She called for “a new central fund” to help kickstart such projects and also for a minister for housing and planning.
She also suggested a “free planning information advisory service” be put in place.
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