Calls for urgent probe into planning system

AN independent inquiry is urgently needed into “all aspects of the planning system and its operation within and across different agencies”, according to a State-funded research group.

The call for an investigation into the property market by the National Institute for Regional and Spatial Analysis (NIRSA) came as research confirmed house prices have plummeted to 2002 levels, with oversupply raising the possibility of further steep declines.

The Permanent TSB/Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) house price index reveals how the average house price decline in Dublin in the 12 months to the end of the June was 24.6% compared with a fall of 14% nationally. The average national house price stands at €201,364, 35% below the 2006 peak.

NIRSA director Professor Rob Kitchin said the “road to recovery” can only be set upon once “all aspects of the planning system and its operation” are investigated. He said any inquiry must include “charges of localism, cronyism and clientelism” influencing political decisions. NIRSA, which examines national development, voiced concerns about NAMA.

The NIRSA report also states that Cork city and some rural counties have a massive oversupply of development land, which is likely to result in further price falls.

The hard-hitting report singles out political interference as the main cause of the “catastrophic failure” of the planning system. NIRSA said light touch regulation and tax incentive schemes decided at government level were the most important factors in causing the property crash.

In a critical assessment of NAMA, the report supports the assertion that the agency “seeks to protect as much as possible the interests of the developer and financial class” and questions whether it can succeed in its long-term aims.

Planning Minister Ciarán Cuffe said the report echoed concerns raised by the Green Party. But he said many of NIRSA’s recommendations will be covered in the imminent Planning and Development Act and a forthcoming probe into planning failures at six councils.

On a positive note Permanent TSB’s Niall O’Grady suggested the reduction in house prices for the second quarter of this year was the lowest recorded quarterly fall in almost two years.

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