29 May 2009

From John Gormley’s statement yesterday announcing the new legislation which will improve planning around the country:

“A sound development plan is the key to ensuring good planning at local level. Decisions taken at development plan stage affect all other planning decisions” said the Minister. A key element of the Bill is the introduction of a requirement for an evidence based core strategy in development plans which will provide relevant information as to how the plan and the housing strategy are consistent with regional planning guidelines and the National Spatial Strategy…’

Apart from sounding like something which well meaning Dissenter  industrialists say about improving the lot of their workers in Dickens novels, what does the phrase ‘evidence based core strategy’ actually mean? The ‘evidence based’ approach is the latest iteration of a particularly English life-simplifying illusion which begins with David Hume, courses through John Stuart Mill and any number of Victorian men of letters and now, in a new line which traces itself back to 1920s Oxford, has found voice in Gordon Brown’s administration. It’s an approach that distrusts imagination, personality, spirit and all those other things which make us human (and Irish) (in an article in the Guardian lately, an ‘evidence based’ commentator criticised some new British Government initiative as being ‘overly reliant on ambition’). The only compelling evidence that I personally would base a planning policy on is that there’s no evidence that the English planning system is the one we want to adopt.  More Kant, Minister, and lest cant (sorry, couldn't resist...).

The new Planning Bill was, of course, announced in advance of the Local elections as part of a shameless piece of Green Party self promotion. (In this morning’s Times, a piece about the proposed planning changes is so fawning it feels like one of those ‘advertisement features’: it’s actually an ‘exclusive interview’.) And that's about all you can say about it - it's more a party position paper that a thought through piece of legislation.

The planning system in this country needs radical, radical, radical change. There isn’t any hope whatsoever that the necessary change can be delivered by our current bunch of political leaders or, indeed, that the change can happen under our political system. What are we supposed to do?

28 May 2009

It's a real website, check it out, add to it, etc.: www.ghostestates.com, that's .www.ghostestates.com.




Does anyone have any more info on John Gormley’s proposals for what to do with unfinished housing developments? I read something a few weeks back about how he hopes to prevent the sponsors of such developments from getting planning permission on future projects. To this end, apparently, a system will be put in place which will allow local authorities to exchange information with each other about rogue builders. But do the Minister’s proposals have anything to say about the hundreds of half built housing estates already littering the country? I’m not being rhetorical – I’d really like to know if anyone has heard anything in this regard.


Meanwhile, on the issue of facilitating local authorities to exchange information about bad builders, it all just seems like so much whispery/gossipy/judgmental fuss – a whole nuther way for local authorities to don’t do what they’re already excellent at not doing (not to mention a whole lot of law suits (not to mention, is this the way we run our planning system?)) How about we do what they do elsewhere – planning applications get judged on their merits, but the actual construction can only go ahead after the contractor has been issued a permit. The permit is issued on foot of proof that the contractor’s insurances are up to date, there are no certificates of ‘incomplete work’ on his file and (crucially) there are no judgments against him/her for non payment of subcontractors. No gossiping, no mid ranking functionaires finding a new way to frustrate us all in the practise of their arbitrary discernments, just a little bit of constitutional discipline.



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19 May 2009

Is it possible that the Bilderberg group really doesn’t control the planet afterall? In a year when they run the risk of having their Lisbon Treaty defeated by the Irish people for the second time and as the Irish Government displays an economic/managerial incompetence that will soon have average people storming Leinster House, who amongst Ireland’s elite did the Bilderbergers invite to Athens for their informal knees-up this weekend past? Former AIBman Dermot Gleeson! (For the second year in a row.) (Hope he cleaned that suit.) No Sir Anthony O’Reilly (I heard he once used to be Irish) and no one from the Irish Times invited to discuss ways in which the level of the Lisbon debate may be raised (by saying nasty things about Libertas) in their respective media orgs prior to the vote.

Anyway, still a bit giddy after my moment of madness in Nenagh, I had half a thought to go down to Athens myself and join all the ding-bats of Europe in a bit of girly civil disobedience. By all accounts that would not have been a great move. Last week, in an attempt to prove that the Bilderberg group are a harmless bunch of international financiers and attorneys general and that you’d have to be a right Fr. Horan to think otherwise, the Guardian of London sent some young comedian called Charlie Skelton to the conference location near the Greek capitol. His self confessed aim was to poke light hearted fun at the claim-they’re-lefties-sound-like-fascists anti-Bilderberg lunatics as they blow whistles and chant the Lords Prayer backwards through bullhorns outside the Astir Palace Hotel. Things didn’t turn out as he had planned. Within minutes of his arrival in Athens Skelton had been picked up the Greek police three times. By Friday it was clear from his reports that he was having a fully fledged, unscheduled nervous breakdown. Followed by shadowy figures everywhere he went, convinced that people were searching his hotel room when he wasn’t there and, when confronted by Greek security types, reduced to paranoid blubbering, Skelton ended up seeking help from America’s foremost subversive, Alex Jones, before making his surreptitious way to the safety of the British Embassy.

When it comes to being civilly disobedient, I prefer to do it with a laptop and a glass of red wine.


12 May 2009
I’m not sure if it's the case that I don’t understand the purpose of Sean Dunne’s proposed Developers-Against-Nama-Association, or that I do and I just don’t give a damn. Either way I’ve been having a hard time getting my head around the whole National Asset Management Agency thing myself: it’s characteristically hard to find anything that explains it in the thought-through-detail you’d find if we were living in the US, Germany or wherever. And on that basis alone, it deserves to be rejected.
8 May 2009

Dermot Gleeson’s departure from AIB last week reminds me that Bilderberg season is almost upon us - Gleeson along with Attorney General, Paul Gallagher, were our representatives at last year’s event near Washington DC. This year, the international banking community will attempt to influence well placed, second rate intellects from ‘open economies’ at their meeting in Athens due to take place on the 14th of this month. I’m curious to see which Irish people will be included on this year’s list of invitees. There’s nobody on the boards of the banks worth asking and yet, even though we’re a very small customer, as one of the spots on the planet most reliant on some new global financial ponzi scheme to get us out of our mess, they need some Irish bodies in the conference room. The question is: who? These are my guesses: Peter Bacon and someone with a high-up back room position at the Irish Times. I’m no conspiracy theorist – if the disillusionatti want to meet and greet in Greece it’s alright with me. So long as no one from the Irish Government is there. 

The important news outlets (New York Times, et al) agree never to cover Bilderberg meetings and the lesser news organisations – the Irish ones, for example (except the Irish Times) – have no idea what it is, so don’t expect the names of the Irish attendees to be reported on the SixOne News. We’ll have to wait for their identities to be leaked on the whacky-fringey internet sites, which is always kind of fun. And, then, later that same week we have Eurovision! Its like The Rapture for agnostics.

With all the Chelsea/Barca/Drogba drama of earlier in the week, you might have missed this:

8 May 2009

In answer to your breathless and sometimes deliciously tart texts and emails which I received on the day of the paint-ball massacres, no I had no hand act or part in encouraging Ms Hoctor to consider returning to her teaching job from which is in on leave. My only contribution to her difficulties is that I managed, anti-G8-summit-style, to get her kicked off the dais in Nenagh (which I'm still sore about because Sinn Fein, whom I happened to be standing beside at the time the red mist decended, got all the credit for for the fracas! Lads, if that's all the thanks I get, I'm standing with the Legion of Mary at the next big demo.)  

By the by, has anyone been noticing how much trouble the world's major newspapers have been getting into lately? The Boston Globe was teetering on the brink last week and within the past year the precarious business models of Le Monde, the New York Times and the LA Times have been exposed. In the case of the New York Times, its well known their monopoly on revenue for classified advertising has been shattered with the arrival of giant internet sites like Craigslist. And the quality of punditry on the big commentary sites - both left and right - is so much better that what you'll find on the news stands. So what's going to happen in Ireland, I wonder. Already, the Sunday Tribune and Sunday Business Post are delaying the publication of their on line editions, presumably to encourage folks to go out and buy their papers. And already the quality of commentary you'll find on some news sites is better than that available in the print media. Interesting.

8 May 2009

Thanks to Richard and everyone else for their info/photos of unfinished housing schemes, abandoned by bankrupt developers after half the houses have been bought by (typically) middle income young couples trying to raise families.

Has anyone any idea how to tackle the problem? Feel free to comment. Maybe we should think about meeting.