5 Aug 2008

Contrary to my earlier assertions, the RIAI have not given up entirely on their survey which showed that so many architects were extremely unhappy with just about every aspect of the planning system. In correspondence I received late last week from the Director of the RIAI, John Graby, I was left with the strong (and very welcome) impression that the Institute is determined to stay on top of the matter with more media activity promised for when the Dail resumes.

Crucially, it seems that, in future, the Institute will be represented in the media by Mr. Graby himself and not by other senior RIAI officers who may happen to be in practise. (I take this to mean that media stewardship on planning matters will shift from Institute President to Institute Director. For those who were following the media roll out of the RIAI survey results, the significance of this move will not be lost.)

Quoting directly from John’s correspondence, the following specific matters will be targets of RIAI attention in the coming months:

'1. Need for leadership and management at National, City County Manager level and Director of Services Level. There are policies and guidelines but these are not operated and in many Local Authorities there is no corporate view in terms of planning etc.

2. Need to clear out once and for all the mess about invalidation, planning notices etc.

3. The need for proper recording of pre-planning meetings and for these to form a corporate view.

4. Planning authorities to work on the basis of multi-disciplinary teams and not simply sending a file to the Roads Department one week before a decision is due.

5. Consistency is needed. There is always a great deal of complaint about Planning Officers moving around and if you think about it, why should this make a difference if there is a consistent planning view. What this supports is a perception that planning is a matter of whim or belief on behalf of a particular planning officer.'

If I were allowed to include a no. 6 on John’s list of items requiring immediate attention, it would be to address the whole situation of how the quality of an architect’s design is to be judged in a planning application: we’ve all been involved in situations where our best design efforts have been referred to as ‘inappropriate’, ‘poor’, etc., by planning officials with no qualification in (nor, even, inclination toward) design.
However, it’s all very reassuring. From the fighting tone of John’s correspondence I think it is clear that the business of planning applications is now the focus of the Institute’s gaze. Everyone familiar with John Graby’s reputation for not tolerating bs will know that when he says an issue is live, then that issue is live and change will happen.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008 10:25:26 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
John Graby's comments are most welcome but the words 'stable door' and 'bolted' spring to mind when it was patently obvious that to put forward as a spokesperson in the form of the President of the RIAI, as a practicing architect with possible conflicts of interest, was ill-considered and an error of judgement. The RIAI, to their credit, had a fully loaded gun in the form of the results of their very formidable and detailed survey but only managed to half-burst a Tayto bag in the media interviews which served only to emasculate such a powerful weapon at their disposal. The Local Authorities got off very lightly as a result.
Tom Byrne
Tuesday, August 05, 2008 11:33:43 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
I feel the RIAI have not done enough in the past to address these issues. I hope that new emphasis will make a difference, but this remains to be seen.
Wednesday, August 06, 2008 8:45:55 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
Tom, Paul, I'm struck by the tone of John's comments - there's a lot of fight in them.

My take on it is this: the various 'eminences grises' of Merrion Square have very little interest in what people like us have to say - at a meeting of about forty people I attended at the Institute about two years ago to discuss planning matters, I had to explain to one of the esteemed gents what the term 'validation' meant.

If John is prepared to fight the fight, we'll have to get in behind him. He'll get no meaningful support from the good old boys. It'll be up to people like us.
Wednesday, August 06, 2008 10:00:13 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
I think that there are similarities between the organisational structures of the RIAI and that of Local Authorities. In both instances you have very strong full-time professional managing executive structures (who have the real control and grasp of the day to day issues)and the weaker bodies consisting of the part-time elected representatives on council.

On that basis it is to be welcomed "that media stewardship on planning matters will shift from Institute [RIAI] President to Institute Director".

Let the RIAI play to its strengths!
Vivian Cummins
Wednesday, August 06, 2008 1:42:10 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
Did you know that the results of the planning survey are being circulated to all members of the RIAI? The institute is looking for feedback. I intend to get my responses in. Is there any interest in a group response?
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