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First ever Irish planning watchdog named

Words: Roger Milne
Ireland / iStock_000022788127

Niall Cussen, current chief planner at Ireland's Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government, has been named as the country's first-ever planning regulator.

The Public Appointments Service recommended Cussen’s appointment as the new watchdog.

Before heading up the department’s planning service, where he was closely involved with the new National Planning Framework, Cussen worked at An Bord Pleanála and in Dublin City Council as well as for Meath, Clare and Roscommon County Councils. 

Housing minister Eoghan Murphy said: “I am delighted that the government is in a position to have someone of Mr Cussen’s experience and expertise to lead the Office of the Planning Regulator (OPR) in its crucial early, formative years. 

“The appointment of a planning regulator is a vital step in ensuring a sound and sustainable approach to planning in Ireland in the years ahead.


“It comes at a significant time, when the implementation of the National Planning Framework is at a critical juncture, with regional assemblies and local authorities all due to make plans arising out of the framework over the coming year. Niall Cussen is exceptionally well placed to take on the role and I wish him every success in the months and years ahead.”

The appointment of an independent planning regulator with oversight of the planning system in Ireland was one of the key recommendations of the Mahon Tribunal, which investigated corrupt political payments involved with planning and rezoning decisions in the capital.

The OPR will be responsible for assessment of all local authority and regional assembly forward planning, including zoning decisions. The regulator will also ensure that planning authorities are operating with the highest standards of integrity and best practice, giving the public confidence that important planning decisions are taken in line with national policy.

The watchdog will have the power to review the organisation and procedures used by any planning authority or An Bord Pleanála. The regulator will also be empowered to advise ministers on whether a plan made by a local authority conflicts with national planning policy and to recommend that the minister make directions where any plan is not in compliance with national policy.

Additionally, the OPR will set up national research, education and public information programmes to highlight the role and benefit of planning.

The OPR will be formally established next month in January 2019.

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