15 Oct 2007

If it's not the Teesh's cue card, it must be a local authority approved newspaper ad...

I’m thankful to correspondent Dan O’Sullivan for putting me onto this little story.

Within the past few weeks, Wicklow County Council have invalidated seventy – SEVENTY – planning applications because they don’t comply to the letter of Planning Regulation Document S.I 685 of 2006, that piece of uncoordinated mumbo jumbo the Department put out last year without even the expectation on their part that it would ever be read, understood or implemented.

Buried in Section 18 (i) of S.I 685 was a proposed rewording for newspaper notifications to accompany planning applications:

‘… the planning application may be inspected, or purchased at a fee not exceeding the reasonable cost of making a copy, at the offices of the planning authority during its public opening hours…

The controversial phrase here is ‘…a fee not exceeding the reasonable cost of making a copy…’. It replaced a phrase which made a general reference to the term ‘fee’.

This is the bit the architects are gettiing wrong and (at great expense) Wicklow are sending their applications back to them.

I spoke to someone at Wicklow County Council who (wasn’t her fault, she was just doing her job) gave me the ‘the responsibility for using the correct wording in newspaper ads and site notices lies solely with the applicant’s agent not with the local authority, etc., etc. otherwise a member of the public could challenge the validity of an application in court, etc., etc.’
Which is, of course, complete crap. Here’s why. The Development Management, Guidelines for Planning Authorities, June 2007: Dept of the Environment - Page 30 states:

’… planning authorities should adopt a reasonable approach towards validation... planning authorities should take a common sense approach and should avoid invalidating applications on very minor points…’

Now, I don’t know what you think, but I’m pretty sure that Wicklow is invalidating applications on ‘very minor points’.

Anyway if you know of any other part of the country where this before-the-fall-of-the-Berlin-Wall Eastern European style bureaucracy is happening, please let me know and we’ll publish the details. In the Tribune, actually. 

For some reason, the whole episode put me in mind of this interesting contribution from a regular reader…

Thanks also to Dan for letting me know that Laois County Council (this is serious actually) have taken the trouble to hire consultants to examine ways in which they can improve on their services. Which tallies with the fact that in the past year I have received complaints about just about every planning authority in the country (Galway City, Limerick City, Waterford City, Mayo, Kerry and Clare lead the pack) but never a complaint about Laois. Credit where it’s due.

More entertainingly silly stuff…

In a recent planning application to a mid western local authority for modifications to a train station, the planners sought additional information to allay their ‘serious concerns’ about the removal of some railway sidings which, they thought, may be of some antiquity (remember now, there’s s limit to how much antiquity a railway line can actually have…). Several thousand euros in consultants fees later, it was discovered that the siding was built in the 1960s and the tracks involved were a mish-mash of dangerous and discarded elements from intercity lines which had been relegated for use in abandoned yards because there’s no other easy way to get rid of them. I’m so relieved that the planner can sleep easy at night.

And I’m equally relieved that the abilities of planners in another part of the country were needlessly stretched to their limit about some proposed changes to a large Georgian style house. The conscientious planners found themselves in the comfortable position of being able to approve the planning application after receiving assurances from a trained consultant that the old looking house was actually built in the 1980s (which the Council would have realised if they’d checked their own files). Guess you can’t be too careful.

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