An Bord Pleanála decisions should be available for public scrutiny

If we are to sustain our economic and social advancement, An Bord Pleanála must dispose of its business with rapidity. As a judical body, the secrecy of its proceedings will have to be examined. People have confidence in judical bodies because, under the Constitution, they are required to perform their operations in open court, before the press, and be available for full inspection by the public.

It is improper to suggest that a judicial body should not be accountable to Dail Éireann in a reasoned way.

A point that constantly strikes one, as a public representative, is the enormous variety of opinion among planning officrs about the desirability of applications. If Bord Pleanála was consistent, that conflict of opinion would not exist. That is the way it works in the court.

The courts hand down decisions, which are reported and commented on publicly, but the reasoning of An Bord Pleanála is terse in many of these decisions, and is not open to a great deal of scrutiny.

The public loses confidence in the Bord when it see what appear to be inconsistent decisions, and a similar problem at local level, where planning officers seem to have widely divergent opinions about what is, and is not, desirable. The only way to ensure consistency is to require not only that inspectors’ reports be made available, but also the final determinations of the Bord, giving reasons for refusal or conditions attaching to the development.

When the Bord hands down its decisions, the reasons for a refusal must be set out in the appeal and, equally, the various conditions attaching to a development, if a development is permitted.

Many people would welcome these changes at An Bord Pleanála level.

Can we expect these changes sooner rather than later? I wold hope so, for the betterment of all concerned.

Cllr. Noel Collins,

St. Jude’s,

Midleton,

Co Cork

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