30 Sep 2008


Can anyone shed any light on the suggestion that, according to Section 158 of the Planning Act and section 234 of the Local Government Act, it appears that planning officials are personally liable if found to consent to, connive in or approve planning wrong doing? 

Is it true, as some allege, that the Conservation Officer's opinion over rides the City/County Manager's?
 


29 Sep 2008
I sort of thought about going up to Croker during the week for the Sean Dunne hearings but couldn’t trust myself to sit quietly in the back. Can you imagine me trying to keep my mouth shut in the same room as:
  • a local authority planner testifies that the design of the Dunne proposal was of high architectural quality? Any sane person would jump out of their seat and demand to know what other works of high quality architecture she’s familiar with.
  • some Dermot Desmond (friend of Charlie Haughey who, separately, successfully made lots of money during the 80s) paid spokesperson claims that planning decisions shouldn’t be made to suit the financial desires of developers? I hope someone in the back row did one of those pretend coughs where you actually say a word. Ah-IFSC-hem.
  • some Danish architect tells some shaggy dog story about the proposed tower being shorter than the Spire because he didn’t want to cause some sort of offence to Ian Ritchie?
Due process? Bord Pleanala hearings are to due process what Junior Cert physics practicals are to the Hadron Collider.

Meanwhile, how many of you have had the following conversation on O’Connell Street with your 8 year old on a trip to Dublin:

8YO (losing patience)  
I can’t see the stupid thing.

YOU (equally losing patience)  
It’s the big huge thing beside the GPO!

8YO  
WHAT big huge thing?

YOU 
 … the feckin metal yoke THAT LOOKS LIKE A NEEDLE…

8YO:  
I CAN’T SEE ANY METAL… thing… oh, I see it now. Is there a McDonalds on this street?

29 Sep 2008


Permit me a little diversion...

Friends from America tell me about a new ad campaign from Lifebuoy , encouraging people to use their soap to wash their hands before they eat. Because 'you eat what you touch'.







But what if... ?



... sure you'd never wash your hands.

(Its Katsia Damenkova, lads.)
29 Sep 2008
I’m given to understand that not so long ago the planning-powers-that-be in County Clare decided that, where planning applications were to be refused, at least four reasons had to be cited. This, apparently, in an effort to ensure that any appeal to An Bord subsequent to the refusal would have less chance of succeeding.

Anyway. In one of the first ‘four reason’ refusals to have emerged, one of the reasons cited for turning down an application to build a family house was that the proposal didn’t comply with County Council’s policy of ‘encouraging’ people to move from rural to urban areas. Some legal folks have advised that ‘encouragement’ can’t be cited as a reason for refusal. In other words you can’t say just because you’re encouraging something to happen, you can refuse an application which doesn’t fit with your long term goal. It'll be interesting to see where this argument goes.

In a simultaneous development on the same matter, FF Councillor PJ Kelly is questioning the reasoning behind other aspects of the refusal. Apparently, in arriving at their decision, Council planners took account, as the development guidelines suggest, of the ‘applicant’s personal circumstances’ (Are you gay or straight? Do you take two sugars in your tea? Give me a break – one massive discrimination law suit in the making, I’m hoping). Councillor Kelly specifically wants to know how this ‘having to take personal circumstances into account’ squares up with a court decision - Flanagan v Galway County Council - where the court decided that ‘personal circumstances’ could not be taken into account when reaching a planning decision.

What happened was this: an application was made to Galway County Council to build a single family house which the Council officials were of a mind to refuse. The Councillors were aware that the applicant’s personal circumstances weren’t good so they decided to ignore the planner’s advice and invoke their powers under Section 4 of the planning act (the precursor to Section 140 of the 2000 Act) to allow the applicant to build his house. Discovering (in a funny incident in a bar) the reasons for the Councillor’s actions, Council officials were upset that ‘personal circumstances’ should be taken into account on planning decisions. They took their case to court and won. Now, ironically, planners, like  the lads in Clare, are trying to do exactly of what they once believed they weren’t supposed to be doing.

I understand PJ will be raising the issue at the Council meeting this evening. If I hear more, I’ll let you know.

24 Sep 2008
Following yesterday's rant about the state of architectural conservation in this country I came upon this by Olvia Kelly in today's Irish Times:
THE LEGAL representative for 21 appellants opposing Sean Dunne’s plans for Ballsbridge has accused a conservation expert engaged by Mr Dunne of lacking impartiality and “holding a brief for the developer”.

Architect David Slattery wrote the architectural conservation report submitted as part of the environmental impact statement (EIS) for Mr Dunne’s planning application.

Counsel for 21 local residents opposing the development, Colm Mac Eochaidh told the An Bord Pleanála hearing on the scheme that under the rules of the EIS process the conservation report must consider negative impacts of a development as well as positive and neutral impacts. However Mr Slattery had ignored any potential negative impacts of the scheme, he said.

Mr Slattery in his report had emphasised the negative impact on the area’s architectural heritage of the 1960s and 1970s buildings on and near the site, and had used this to justify Mr Dunne’s development, Mr Mac Eochaidh said. He had not considered the negative impact of Mr Dunne’s development, but had written a “partial, limited, client-serving” report, he said.

“You were holding a brief for the developer,” Mr Mac Eochaidh said. “That is almost offensive,” Mr Slattery replied.

Mr Mac Eochaidh asked if Mr Slattery felt he had been completely independent in writing his report. “In any sense were you seeking to promote the merit of Mr Dunne’s proposal?” he asked.

Mr Slattery said he had been completely impartial in writing his report.

Mr Mac Eochaidh suggested that Mr Slattery’s services had been engaged too late in the process to have any influence over the development.

“When an expert is brought in at the end of the process impartiality is a problem. If you said ‘this is a terrible proposition for the Pepper Canister Church [on Mount Street]’ they couldn’t lop off a couple of storeys two weeks before the planning application was made. You were consulted too late.” Mr Slattery said it might have been more valuable if he had been consulted at an earlier stage. However, he said that did not affect the integrity of his report.

“What is most important is that my impartiality has not in any way been compromised.”
You have to feel bad for David - having found myself on more than one ocassion in the situation where the developer starts discussing my views of his proposal while simultaneously waving the cheque for the money he owes me in front of my nose I know how awkward these things can be.

Assessments of the impact of development on buildings of architectural or historic importance should be carried out independently. Having the developer pay for the assessment is ludicrous. The Minister, his officials, the local authorities, the architectural profession, the building industry and Colm Mac Eochaidh know this already. So change the system and stop wasting our time and money on these ridiculous hearings where a charade of due process is put on display but not due process itself.

23 Sep 2008
Perusing (via the internet) planning applications received by a random selection of local authorities in the first half of the year, I was struck by how few applications involved ‘Protected Structures’ (listed buildings) and how, of this number, fewer still were brought to any kind of completion. So what are the country’s Local Authority Conservation Officers doing with their new found time?
23 Sep 2008


With the, you know, utmost respect and sensitivity to anyone who might be directly affected, please don’t be offended when I report to you that a conference a couple of weeks back on new treatments for various types of mental illness was addressed by a Prof. Nutt. (If he were from Eritrea, that would be nutt.er, right?.)

All this by way of introducing you to someone who could possibly benefit from a visit to Prof Nutt’s couch, and man after my own heart, Gareth Kennedy. And his inflatable bandstand.
"The Inflatable Bandstand is a 4.88 metre tall structure inspired by the development of the Irish economy over the last 10 years. From mid August it will tour towns and villages of Leitrim and Roscommon. A marker in time, an epic musical score composed by Ian Wilson will be performed live from the bandstand by Saxophonist Cathal Roche.
A white van with the crew inside (musician, artist & assistant) will arrive at selected sites across Leitrim and Roscommon. The bandstand will be laid out and will inflate in minutes. Hence the musician will take his place within the bandstand and perform a 15 minute musical score inspired by the Irish economy. Afterwards the Inflatable Bandstand will fall and slowly but epically deflate."
Each live performance lasts 20 minutes and audience members are strongly advised to arrive on time so as not to miss any action. I meant to give Gareth a plug for his most recent performance. Luckily for him I forgot all about it or else I would have given the people of Killargue a bum steer because, as it turns out, the previously advertised 2 o’clock performance had to be changed to 4 o'clock because of a wedding in the local church. Here’s a sampler of the gang in action.



Gareth, I’m sure it’s on behalf of the entire Dispatch community that I express joy and relief that the tradition of pure mad Irish lunacy has passed on to the next generation undiluted. Contact Gareth at garkeus@yahoo.com or call 087 616 8813.
22 Sep 2008

The Taoiseach formerly known as Bertie wants a title. Looking forward to hearing your suggestions. Here are mine:

   Iar infection
   Iar wig
   Iar relevent
   Iar ittant
   Iar-ksome
   Iar of the sow (that you can’t make a silk purse from)

Wasn't it funny when people pointed out that, in wanting to be referred to as Iar Taoiseach, he'd forgotten the aspiration!

22 Sep 2008
18 Sep 2008

Architects and fans of architecture everywhere will be saddened by this one - as a fall out from Hurrican Ike which hit the US late last week, the river adjacent to the Farnsworth house burst its banks and caused a 14 ft flood. Much of Mies's best work was under water for the weekend. Furniture was rescued in time, but damage has been caused to finishes and services and the house is closed to the public until further notice.

What it normally looks like

17 Sep 2008

I was prepared to put up a fight with the Local Authority, but my client was so desperate to get approval for anything he forced me to accept this compromise....







12 Sep 2008
As if we didn’t need another reason to vote No to the Lisbon Treaty, along comes news that a bunch of Commission nitwits in Brussels have written a secret report (ooooh) proving beyond all doubt that we Irish are being brainwashed into becoming Euro-sceptics by an increasingly independent and, therefore obviously, tabloid media. Details of the weird, creepy, tax payer funded (?) report were published in the Irish Times last week. Insights included:
9 Sep 2008

Reduction in the Number of Planning Applications in 2008
The number of planning applications made in the first quarter of 2008 are down by considerable numbers for most planning authorities throughout the country. There are a few exceptions, however, these authorities are dealing with smaller numbers e.g. Limerick City has increased from 83 in 2007 to 90 in 2008 and Waterford City is only slightly down from 87 to 83.
The figures are as follows:

 

2007

2008

2007-2008 % Difference

Invalidation Rate
Jan-Mar 2007

Invalidation Rate
Jan-Mar 2008

Carlow

309

158

48

14

21

Cavan

725

379

48

14

16

Clare

725

416

43

19

19

Cork

3039

1617

46

21

45

Donegal

1774

1124

36

25

24

Dun Laoghaire Rathdown

713

519

17

21

13

Fingal

507

444

13

16

29

Galway

1333

885

34

2

4

Kerry

1353

756

44

19

23

Kildare

628

498

21

11

17

Kilkenny

600

359

40

5

19

Laois

480

298

38

29

31

Leitrim

332

184

42

16

45

Limerick

783

513

34

33

28

Longford

263

126

52

14

37

Louth

421

314

19

0

0

Mayo

682

462

32

13

5

Meath

952

659

30

7

39

Monaghan

633

331

48

13

16

North Tipperary

496

274

45

14

31

Offaly

460

227

50

16

16

Roscommon

546

276

49

18

43

Sligo

316

233

26

3

4

South Dublin

459

348

24

10

20

South Tipperary

451

283

37

29

34

Waterford

437

267

39

18

17

Westmeath

445

293

34

8

11

Wexford

1106

753

32

7

9

Wicklow

599

384

36

20

41

 

 

 

 

 

 

City Councils

 

 

 

 

 

Cork

238

218

8

13

12

Dublin

1176

889

24

31

28

Galway

170

149

12

55

43

Limerick

83

90

8

31

23

Waterford

87

83

4.5

38

27

 

8 Sep 2008

Regular Dispatch readers will know that this is an extremely ongoing saga (http://www.garrymiley.com/2008/05/16/IfYouKnowWhoDeepThroatIsKeepItToYourself.aspx). When last we left it, people who know something about these things were insisting that there was no Garda investigation into the rezoning of lands outside Dungarvan. However, it was true that the the Garda were investigating something – that something was an alleged wrong doing on a specific planning application for development within Dungarvan town and possibly/maybe involving a Town Councillor.

Last week, the whole thing kicked off once more: the Minister announced that he was, after all, intent on overturning the Council’s decision on the rezoning of its lands and, if yesterday’s trouncing by Kilkenny weren’t enough, the Deise’s Councillors have lots of causes for their collective sore heads this morning: first, the Indo (as well as, from time to time, the locals) are hinting that the Councillors’ decision to rezone lands near Dungarvan had a whiff of corruption about it when, in fact, there doesn’t appear to have been any kind of funny business: second, some folks resent Minister John Gormley’s heavy handedness in dealing with what is a very, very small matter: but, mainly, there’s the whole issue of where the ‘Garda investigation’ story came from, who’s gaining from it and why its still making it into the papers.

You can argue the toss about whether the Councillors’ decision to rezone the lands in question was a good idea or not. But when some people insist in perpetuating the rumour that the Councillors were, en masse, acting improperly when they weren’t, well, what hope have we then of getting good people to stand for election at local level? This kind of thing undermines our democracy and the media would do well to put their finger on the personality(ies) who are at the centre of this and what their true motives may have been.

8 Sep 2008

Here's my suggestion, beginning with the full forward line:

Thierry Henry

Fernando Torres

Lionel Messi

Christiano Ronaldo

Deco

Alexander Hleb

Andrea Pirlo

Andres Iniesta

Usain Bolt

Michael Essien

Padraig Harrington

Christian Chivu

Fabio Cannivaro

Christian Panucci

      Gianluicci Buffon

8 Sep 2008

I meant to say something about RTE’s Future Shock episode last week where Philip Boucher-Hayes talked about the looming water crisis. It was really quite interesting for the first half: how are we going to deal with the water shortage facing Dublin? Options are few. Dublin, for all sorts of technical reasons, doesn’t lend itself to further local collection. The experts say the only option is to divert water from the River Shannon. Future Shock suggested that, if such a plan were to go ahead, water would most likely be drawn from Lough Ree and piped to collection points further east. Opposition to this proposal would be extremely strong (as one participant in the programme indicated: water would be drawn from Ree ‘over his dead body’), but nothing like as strong as if the point of diversion were to be located further south near Lough Derg.

Yet, some of your emails from last week suggest that this is actually what's going to happen: the powers-that-be have already shifted from the Ree proposal and are briefing folks about a plan to draw water from Portumna (north end of Lough Derg) instead. Is this so? Anybody got anything solid?

4 Sep 2008

'As an actual feminist, I have the great good joy of getting to determine what is and isn’t sexist. Sexist: Asking whether Sarah Palin shouldn’t be staying home with her baby and her other children. Not sexist: Pointing out that Sarah Palin is an utter twit.'

Rebecca Schoenkopf  LA City Beat

Four minutes into Sarah Palin’s acceptance speech in Minnesota and I had to remind myself that this woman wasn’t auditioning for the part of ‘Schoolteacher – Attractive – Early Middle Age’ on the Suite Life of Zack and Cody – which she’d be perfect for – but for the second biggest job on the planet: a job that, given John McCain’s age and the fact that his wife has already had an airplane-piloting malfunction (not to mention her other malfunctions too many to mention) she (Palin) could eventually find her self doing.

If you want an accurate appraisal of why I don’t thing she’s qualified for the job, here it is: there’s too much of the Fianna Fail Front Bench about her – something of the Willie O’Dea, yet slightly more convincing; something of the Mary Coughlin, yet slightly less authoritative; something of the Dick Roche, but not as oily.

2 Sep 2008

The Government is considering creating the position of STATE ARCHITECT (sweet Knights of Columbus!) as well as employing more architects in local authority planning offices. Presumably, to – I don’t know – make things better, maybe? (I used to work as an architect within the local authority system (did I just say the words ‘local authority ‘system’’?  I might have meant: I’m an architect, and I used to attend City Hall with people from other walks of life with whom I'd exchange emails in the name of coordinating matters of public interest (which remained a secret to me in all the time I was there)), so I’ll be very interested to see, exactly, how such an initiative is supposed to succeed without rewriting the planning legislation from scratch). Mr. Gormley, please. Don’t waste all our money on this idea unless you’re getting top quality advice from people with real experience in how these things work. Otherwise you’ll just make my life so much harder when I take over from you as Minister for the Environment.  

Anyway… All these initiatives are contained in the Government’s proposed new policy on architecture, which is being circulated (somewhere) for comment. We know all of this because a draft of the document somehow fell into the hands of the Irish Times who's environment correspondent, Frank McDonald, wrote about it on Monday.

So, how did Frank get to see what’s inside of such a closely guarded document? I mean, did he:

  1. lodge a Freedom of Information request?
  2. get a high-powered invite to the Minister’s office for a little heads-up on a balloon the Government is about to float?
  3. sit on the actual steering committee which wrote the policy document on the Minister’s behalf (and which isn’t being made generally available to the press)?

The answer is in fact 'C'. Frank was one of the people who wrote up the draft document. He then leaked it to himself over the weekend, obviously, before writing a piece about it as if it were a news story and not a personal agenda he was peddling.  

Here’s the, eh… what do you call this kind of thing? A report?

http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/ireland/2008/0901/1220218691077.html

2 Sep 2008

This, from the Sunday Business Post, is quite interesting. In brief, a Dublin developer, Bill Doyle, apparently agreed to build a new stadium for Drogheda United just outside the town and across the border in County Meath as part of a larger development which would have included 2,500 residential units. Doyle spent a lot of money acquiring the land on the assurances of the relevant authorities that development of the type he had in mind would be permitted. However, under the terms of a recently circulated local area plan, Doyle’s expensively acquired lands have been designated for ‘light industrial’ and ‘open space’ uses only – in other words, there will be no apartments, no houses, and no stadium. Threats of legal action, etc.,... but who cares? That’s not the interesting part.

The interesting part is that in some way related to this situation Fine Gael TD, Shane McEntee, has written to the Minister for the Environment seeking a review of all planning decisions made in County Meath during the last ten years. (!) And Dick Roche is in some way involved (innocently naturally).

Anybody know what this is about? Are we talking crooked Councillors, crooked officials, or both? And I shall be very cross if I find out that Dispatch readers from the Kings County have been sitting on this one and keeping me out of the loop.

Here’s the full story:

http://www.sbpost.ie/post/pages/p/story.aspx-qqqt=IRELAND-qqqm=news-qqqid=35569-qqqx=1.asp