29 May 2009

From John Gormley’s statement yesterday announcing the new legislation which will improve planning around the country:

“A sound development plan is the key to ensuring good planning at local level. Decisions taken at development plan stage affect all other planning decisions” said the Minister. A key element of the Bill is the introduction of a requirement for an evidence based core strategy in development plans which will provide relevant information as to how the plan and the housing strategy are consistent with regional planning guidelines and the National Spatial Strategy…’

Apart from sounding like something which well meaning Dissenter  industrialists say about improving the lot of their workers in Dickens novels, what does the phrase ‘evidence based core strategy’ actually mean? The ‘evidence based’ approach is the latest iteration of a particularly English life-simplifying illusion which begins with David Hume, courses through John Stuart Mill and any number of Victorian men of letters and now, in a new line which traces itself back to 1920s Oxford, has found voice in Gordon Brown’s administration. It’s an approach that distrusts imagination, personality, spirit and all those other things which make us human (and Irish) (in an article in the Guardian lately, an ‘evidence based’ commentator criticised some new British Government initiative as being ‘overly reliant on ambition’). The only compelling evidence that I personally would base a planning policy on is that there’s no evidence that the English planning system is the one we want to adopt.  More Kant, Minister, and lest cant (sorry, couldn't resist...).

The new Planning Bill was, of course, announced in advance of the Local elections as part of a shameless piece of Green Party self promotion. (In this morning’s Times, a piece about the proposed planning changes is so fawning it feels like one of those ‘advertisement features’: it’s actually an ‘exclusive interview’.) And that's about all you can say about it - it's more a party position paper that a thought through piece of legislation.

The planning system in this country needs radical, radical, radical change. There isn’t any hope whatsoever that the necessary change can be delivered by our current bunch of political leaders or, indeed, that the change can happen under our political system. What are we supposed to do?

Friday, May 29, 2009 9:06:10 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
I have 18yrs experience of the Irish system and can state that there is a serious disconnection and disillusionment by the public in the Irish planning System ,tinkering with a failed system is like re-modeling a toxic dump into a playground - these type of electioneering policies do nothing but add to a over regulated and under enforced system .

We need total reform that is underpinned democratically by Our citizens .

Development Plans must be open and driven by the people in the area not by public servants or elected representatives behind closed doors , each plan should be openly debated and have an adoption based on 2/3 rds of the ELECTORATE . Then we will see a Zoning priority on what exactly local communities want - a healthy environment, infrasture ,Schools , community amenities and sustainable employment .
Aiden O Donovan
Friday, May 29, 2009 9:26:42 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
Aiden, I completely agree with you. Huge numbers of Irish people agree with you. What's our next move?
Friday, May 29, 2009 9:50:06 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
Gary, I agree with your comments about reform of the planning system requiring reform of the political system first as the two are inextricably linked through the role of the local councillor. Let's see what Gormley has to offer though. Fianna Fail's (I think it sounds better when you leave out the fada) stranglehold on our country is weakening and things are so bad now that perhaps they can only improve under a new political impetus. I know we shouldn't hope but what the hell.

Fintan Duffy
fintan duffy
Friday, May 29, 2009 10:49:09 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)

It is a common mistake to presume that the corruption of the planning system is a consequence of FF's stranglehold on the country, and that everyone else is "clean". In the last local elections FF lost control of many local authorities, yet the rezoning continues. Do the math on that.

Planning and zoning issues are one of the few areas where party lines are often broken, I think it is safe to say that FG, Labour, independents and yes, Green councillors are all guilty of having their snouts in the rezoning trough.

In my area, it is on the record of the council meetings that the Green councillor would not support the adoption of a local area plan unless a huge amount of extra land was added for residential zoning. This is one of the areas we have seen regularly featured in the news for lack of social and other public infrastructure.

Friday, May 29, 2009 1:30:32 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
I always enjoy it when you use the failings of the Irish political and particularly planning systems to have a pop at we English but unfortunately you are right in not wanting to base any new legislation on the English system - just witness the chaos and confusion that has arisen as a result of "simplifying" the existing planning process for small scale domestic projects here.

If you remember though, we witnessed one of the most successful outcomes for a liberalised planning regime in Japan - not a country that we would naturally and immediately think of as embracing "imagination, personality, spirit and all those other things which make us human"

Maybe liberalising planning could be just the first step towards an Irish renaissance in consumer electronics and fetishistic cartoon porn?

Let's all hope so eh?
Keith Duddy
Friday, May 29, 2009 4:58:42 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
Garry - our next move is to have a referrendum on our current system a simple yes or No , I believe there will be a clear majority against continuing with a system that is not fit for purporse and will leave us all with a mandate to establish a concensus based and transparent Planning system that has the support of the people .
Aiden O Donovan
Friday, May 29, 2009 8:34:09 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
Fintan, if I thought that John Gormley could deliver a fractional improvement in our planning system, I'd hold my whisht. But I really, really don't think he can. Something else is required.

Aiden, a referendum is not an option on this issue - it's not a constitutional matter. I'm afraid if we really want to change things, some sort of civil awkwardness is necessary.

Keith, the genuinely good, decent, wonderful people of England deserve their Tokyo just like everyone else does. Why can't they have it?
Saturday, May 30, 2009 10:08:34 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
Garry , with reference Articles 40,41,43 and 45 of The Irish Constitution the current operation of our planning system in my opinion violates these rights .If civil awkardness is called for then a class action under The people V's or through the Dail in Article 45 challenge the Planning systems breach of these rights ,who's up for it !!!

for any who are not familiar with these articles ;

Personal Rights

Article 40,

1. All citizens shall, as human persons, be held equal before the law.

This shall not be held to mean that the State shall not in its enactments have due regard to differences of capacity, physical and moral, and of social function.

2. 1° Titles of nobility shall not be conferred by the State.

2° No title of nobility or of honour may be accepted by any citizen except with the prior approval of the Government.

3. 1° The State guarantees in its laws to respect, and, as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate the personal rights of the citizen.

2° The State shall, in particular, by its laws protect as best it may from unjust attack and, in the case of injustice done, vindicate the life, person, good name, and property rights of every citizen. ...............


1° No citizen shall be deprived of his personal liberty save in accordance with law.

5. The dwelling of every citizen is inviolable and shall not be forcibly entered save in accordance with law.

The Family

Article 41

1. 1° The State recognises the Family as the natural primary and fundamental unit group of Society, and as a moral institution possessing inalienable and imprescriptible rights, antecedent and superior to all positive law.

2° The State, therefore, guarantees to protect the Family in its constitution and authority, as the necessary basis of social order and as indispensable to the welfare of the Nation and the State.

2. 1° In particular, the State recognises that by her life within the home, woman gives to the State a support without which the common good cannot be achieved.

2° The State shall, therefore, endeavour to ensure that mothers shall not be obliged by economic necessity to engage in labour to the neglect of their duties in the home.

Private Property

Article 43

1. 1° The State acknowledges that man, in virtue of his rational being, has the natural right, antecedent to positive law, to the private ownership of external goods.

2° The State accordingly guarantees to pass no law attempting to abolish the right of private ownership or the general right to transfer, bequeath, and inherit property.

2. 1° The State recognises, however, that the exercise of the rights mentioned in the foregoing provisions of this Article ought, in civil society, to be regulated by the principles of social justice.

2° The State, accordingly, may as occasion requires delimit by law the exercise of the said rights with a view to reconciling their exercise with the exigencies of the common good.

Article 45

The principles of social policy set forth in this Article are intended for the general guidance of the Oireachtas. The application of those principles in the making of laws shall be the care of the Oireachtas exclusively, and shall not be cognisable by any Court under any of the provisions of this Constitution.

1. The State shall strive to promote the welfare of the whole people by securing and protecting as effectively as it may a social order in which justice and charity shall inform all the institutions of the national life.

2. The State shall, in particular, direct its policy towards securing:

i. That the citizens (all of whom, men and women equally, have the right to an adequate means of livelihood) may through their occupations find the means of making reasonable provision for their domestic needs.

ii. That the ownership and control of the material resources of the community may be so distributed amongst private individuals and the various classes as best to subserve the common good.

iii. That, especially, the operation of free competition shall not be allowed so to develop as to result in the concentration of the ownership or control of essential commodities in a few individuals to the common detriment.

iv. That in what pertains to the control of credit the constant and predominant aim shall be the welfare of the people as a whole.

v. That there may be established on the land in economic security as many families as in the circumstances shall be practicable.

3. 1° The State shall favour and, where necessary, supplement private initiative in industry and commerce.

2° The State shall endeavour to secure that private enterprise shall be so conducted as to ensure reasonable efficiency in the production and distribution of goods and as to protect the public against unjust exploitation.

4. 1° The State pledges itself to safeguard with especial care the economic interests of the weaker sections of the community, and, where necessary, to contribute to the support of the infirm, the widow, the orphan, and the aged.

2° The State shall endeavour to ensure that the strength and health of workers, men and women, and the tender age of children shall not be abused and that citizens shall not be forced by economic necessity to enter avocations unsuited to their sex, age or strength.

If our planning and development act was being proposed currently it would require a referendum - also since 1999 Twentieth Amendment of the Constitution Act, [Provided constitutional recognition of the role of local government }

Aiden O Donovan
Wednesday, June 03, 2009 6:24:10 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
Hi Aiden. You're making a very valient effort to argue your case! I'm certainly up for a bit of cage rattling!

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