14 Nov 2006

Welcome to first edition of the Planning Dispatch, a newsletter which is shamelessly dedicated to how the Irish planning and development system is letting us down.

In the coming weeks and months we'll be encouraging correspondents to contact us with their stories. We'd particularly like to hear from people who've been getting a hard time from planning authorities on things like not being able to get a date for a pre planning consultation, having applications invalidated for ridiculous reasons, requests for further information arriving the day before a planning decision is due, and so on. If you'd like us to include your story in the Dispatch, please give us your contact details and as much information about the planning application in question so that we can research the matter as fully as possible before putting it out.

Here's an example of the kind of thing we're looking for: a short while ago we were involved in a small renovation project on a church on the outskirts of one of our larger cities. The building, listed despite being less than a hundred years old and not really all that impressive, had been vacant for nearly ten years and was suffering the usual effects of neglect: there were roof leaks and the windows were beginning to rattle. We - the project team of client, architects and various consultants - had a 'once in a blue moon' opportunity to get some grant aid to convert the church to offices. The design put forward was very simple and very nice. Basically, it involved putting in some large glass screens where the altar had been to make a conference room and leave the rest of the space as open plan office. It couldn't be simpler, you might have thought. But then we hit a snag. The local authority, in full knowledge of the fact that the grant funding was about to run out, decided it needed a detailed specification for the silicon we were going to use to seal the gap between the glass and limestone columns... In the end, the issue couldn't be resolved. We missed the boat on the funding scheme and the project was stopped in its tracks. To the best of our knowledge the church remains vacant.

In our view it would have been better to allow the building owner to paint the church pink, install new uPVC windows throughout and split up the pews for firewood than to miss the opportunity to fund a decent restoration. But the planning authority thought otherwise.

Anyway, that (or preferably worse) is the kind of thing we're after. If you've something to share contact us where all correspondence will be handled with complete discretion.

The Dispatch will be updated weekly. But, don't worry, it won't be all gloom. Hopefully we'll be able to generate some positive chat about ways in which the planning system can be improved.

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