DEMOCRACY and the democratic process of transparency and openness in the local authority planning system is now under threat, according to Limerick City Labour Party councillor Joe Leddin.
The City West representative has described a proposal by Housing, Planning and Local Government Minister Simon Coveney to exclude local councils from deciding on applications that involve the building of 100 or more houses as “disgraceful and dangerous”.
“At the heart of local democracy is the power of people to have their voice heard either directly to the council planning department or through their local councillor. While councillors do not have direct input into planning decisions, we can discuss various applications with the relevant planner on behalf of constituents,” said Cllr Leddin.
“Local knowledge in terms of development is important and officials in the relevant planning authority are better able to address concerns in relation to sustainable development and local infrastructure following consultation with councillors.
A piecemeal approach to the removal of planning functions from local councils will undermine certainty, efficiency and efficacy of planning system leading to further democratic deficit at local government,” he predicts.
Cllr Leddin believes the section of the Minister’s legislation entitled ‘Planning and Development Residential Tenancies Bill 2016’ is in effect blaming councils for delays in the delivery of new houses.
“However, it is widely accepted that bureaucracy within the Department is delaying and stalling any public housing projects by up to three years. Giving more powers to the department and An Bord Pleanala is trying to solve a problem that doesn’t exist while simultaneously damaging a well established planning process,” he said.
by Alan Jacques