29 Nov 2006

Last week the government announced that, as part of its Transport 21 plan, a new Metro (which, from what I can understand, actually runs for the most part over ground) will be built along a line which more or less follows the M50. I’m not sure exactly where all the stops will be located, but it could be a boon for those of us who live outside Dublin: on our annual Christmas shopping visits to the capitol, we’ll be able to park our cars in one of several large parks and take the metro to all our favourite shopping malls and retail outlets. (Unfortunately, we won’t be able to visit the Medieval-walled-shopping-fortress of Dundrum as the new line won’t run that far south.)  

For Dubliners themselves, I just can’t see the value of this proposal. Unless the city planners, the DTA and whoever else has jurisdiction over these matters comes up with an underground system which allows a working person living in Clonskeagh or Clontarf to arrive at their their Baggot Street office within ten minutes of leaving the house, travel to a mid morning meeting in Phibsboro, meet a friend for lunch at the top of O’Connell Street, attend another meeting in the Docklands and get back to their office by four to catch up on their emails, then I don’t see the point in talking about public transport at all.  

If I travel to Dublin on business by car, I expect to attend one meeting during the day. If I’m lucky, two. On the other hand, if take the early flight to London, I expect to jump on the underground and attend meetings in four different locations before taking the evening flight back to Shannon. I also feel less tired and less stressed than if I’d spent the day trying to get from Thomas Street to Donnybrook.

29 Nov 2006
Not too long ago, a small developer (a very decent man and a good citizen) bought a large terraced house in a mid sized city with the idea of creating three or four apartments. Prior to the purchase, he had done his homework and felt confident that his ideas conformed with the relevant development plan. In particular, and just to be absolutely sure, he sought advice on a policy which appeared to state that the planning authority favoured the development of apartments in the relevant part of town, otherwise he’d wouldn’t have decided to go ahead with the purchase. The property happened to be a Protected Structure and when the small developer removed some awful 1970s style doors from the upper floor without planning permission, he was told to stop by the planning authority. The doors were of no architectural value whatsoever (neither was the house for that matter, but that’s a discussion for another day…) and the small developer made a planning application for retention for the work he had carried out.
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.
29 Nov 2006

By the way, I’ve also been contacted by others – mainly architects and developers – who feel, like Jim Connolly, that their planning applications are being singled out for poor treatment. Architectural practises, some of them highly regarded within the profession, in the south east, the west, the south midlands and Dublin have contacted me to say that – when they compare their rates of refusals and requests for further information against published statistics – they are sure that their success rates are on the wrong side of the average. 

I’ve come across some evidence, including unfavourable opinions of architectural practises written down by planning officials and available on the public record, to suggest that ‘targeting’ is really happening. 

The planning authorities are not a police force, they are not a court of law and they should have no opinions regarding the people lodging planning applications. All applications should be judged on their merits. Favouring an application because it happens to be lodged by a ‘flavour of the month architect’ is prejudicial.

29 Nov 2006

I was pleasantly surprised to read the sentiments expressed in newly elected president to he RIAI James Pikes’ inaugural address http://www.riai.ie/?id=7168 . The comments about validations are particularly interesting. I’ve received information about similar instances which the RIAI might like to add to their list.

29 Nov 2006
An awful lot of the comment coming back to the Dispatch relates to what’s going on in County Clare. In the past few weeks things have really kicked off in Ennis with, it seems, the entire body of elected members now in all out war with the county manager and personnel from the planning department. There are several issues going on all at once. Firstly, there is general concern about inconsistency in judging applications: some applications are being turned down while others (equally good or equally bad, depending on your point of view) are getting through.
21 Nov 2006
Last week, in the context of the Laois Development Plan, we spoke a little bit about the relative powers of the State and Local Authority in the planning process. I complained that the planning system was too centralised. Perhaps Ministers Dick Roche and Martin Cullen had read the first Dispatch because they now appear to agree. I’m referring to the proposed Dublin Transportation Authority. It turns out that the new DTA will not have automatic powers of compulsory land purchase in the councils in the greater Dublin area. Instead councils will have to ‘have regard’ to the DTAs future plans for the transportation system. It was explained by (I think) Minister Roche that the government thought that forcing the Local Authorities in the Dublin area to comply with the DTA’s plans might be seen as undemocratic and that local authorities should have some autonomy in the planning process.
21 Nov 2006
Large parts of Irish cities and towns are made up of terraces of Georgian buildings. Many of these are Protected Structures (a very clumsy term which confuses people, but we’ll save that discussion for another day… it means their ‘listed’) and frequently they have a commercial use: auctioneers on the ground floor, dentists and solicitors on the second and third, backroom offices and storage on the top, that kind of thing. Usually the tenants are completely separate from each other. You know exactly the kind of building I’m talking about.
21 Nov 2006
Last week, Ryan Tubridy devoted an entire hour of his radio show to the issue of planning in Ireland. I participated along with developer Matt Gallagher, Cllr. Bill Carey and Andrew Hind a planner with Cork County Council. During the show, Duncan Stewart called in – it was an interview with him on RTE earlier in the week which got the whole thing going in the first place. It was a spirited discussion and we all got a chance to air our views. You can download it at...
21 Nov 2006
Well, we’re not exactly the new Myspace, but we’re up and running. Many thanks to all who contacted me during the past week, signed up for the newsletter and left comments.
14 Nov 2006
Last week, much was made of Laois County Council's decision to provide more developable land in their Draft Plan than the National Spatial Strategy recommended
14 Nov 2006
On Wednesday developer Sean Dunne announced a plan for a massive scheme on his five acre site in Ballsbridge, Dublin. The project is located on the most expensive real estate in the country, so it was clear from the start that whatever he was going to propose, it was going to be huge. How do we feel about it?
14 Nov 2006
An interesting environmental policy document published by the PDs some time back didn't receive the criticism it deserved. On face value, it seemed like they were trying to reposition themselves in the 'An Taisce versus the Irish Rural Dwellers Association one-off-house' debate
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.
13 Nov 2006

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