29 Nov 2006

Donall Mac An Bheatha, a planner with Longford County Council, contacted me this week appealing for balance in the Dispatch. He, of course, noticed that so far the Dispatch has been a bit of a rant against the planning system and the bureaucracy which runs it.

He comments ‘… I have horror stories about visiting my Doctor’s surgery or my bank but I am sure the Doctor would have another view point…’

And this is correct. But my argument to Donall is that if I felt that my doctor had misdiagnosed my condition or if my bank was running off with my money, the force of reason would eventually prevail and justice would be done. In other words, I wouldn’t feel completely helpless if I thought I wasn’t getting fair treatment. The vast majority of people contacting me by phone and email are complaining about the lack of consistency and transparency in the decision making process, the crap shoot that is the appeals process (An Bord Planala), and, more than occasionally, the rude way with which applicants are being treated by planners. I received one letter last week from a woman who said she was so ‘traumatised’ after a meeting with a planner that she was reluctant to go on with a project. I myself have been insulted at meetings by planners in various parts of the country. I, and all the others who have contacted me on this matter, would not take this kind of treatment from my doctor or my banker. With my planner I’m simply obliged to. I have no other way to deal with the situation. Of course, I’m well aware of the fact that there are planners out there who go above and beyond the call of duty to be helpful, who use their considerable powers with restraint and who show a great respect in their dealings with the public. But the truth is, in the past couple of years, when clients have been calling my office with new projects I have deliberately taken on those in local authority areas where I feel my client and I will be treated without prejudice. When asked to lodge a planning application with an authority I no longer trust, I simply turn the project down.  

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