21 Nov 2006

Last week, in the context of the Laois Development Plan, we spoke a little bit about the relative powers of the State and Local Authority in the planning process. I complained that the planning system was too centralised. Perhaps Ministers Dick Roche and Martin Cullen had read the first Dispatch because they now appear to agree.

I’m referring to the proposed Dublin Transportation Authority. It turns out that the new DTA will not have automatic powers of compulsory land purchase in the councils in the greater Dublin area. Instead councils will have to ‘have regard’ to the DTAs future plans for the transportation system. It was explained by (I think) Minister Roche that the government thought that forcing the Local Authorities in the Dublin area to comply with the DTA’s plans might be seen as undemocratic and that local authorities should have some autonomy in the planning process.

How funny. Because Minister Roche’s office interferes in local planning all the time. From what I can make out, in the past six years his department has brought numerous appeals to An Bord Planála against decisions by local authorities to grant planning permission for small (and often locally popular) developments. I’ve seen a situation where (I firmly believe but perhaps its open to question) the Minister’s objection was the only reason that a council’s decision to grant was overturned. And yet, on a matter of national importance – a functioning mass transportation system for the capitol – the State won’t do what it has to do.

No matter where in the political spectrum we are, I think we all agree that all necessary steps should be taken to improve the transport situation in Dublin including, if necessary, compulsory purchase of land on the outskirts of the city. It’s a matter of national importance. Obviously, the government doesn’t find it politically expedient to do the right thing on this issue and is hiding behind an excuse. Meanwhile it continues to waste everyone’s time by getting involved in tiny little local planning matters where the State’s involvement is of no consequence whatsoever.

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