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23/03/2018

Murphy urges councils to clamp down on application discussions

Words: Roger Milne
Eoghan Murphy / Fine Gael

Irish planning minister Eoghan Murphy has urged councils to clamp down on discussion of individual planning applications before they are determined by officials and to ensure that officials don’t participate in exchanges about the merits of proposals.

In a letter to council chief executives and senior planners signed by Terry Sheridan, chief planner in the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government, and sent to The Planner, concern is voiced over the risk to “due process”.

The two-page letter also expresses concern that predetermination discussions “could convey an erroneous impression to the public of the role of elected members in the statutory process for deciding on planning applications”.

In the Irish Republic planning applications are determined by council chief executives or delegated officials and not by council planning committees. However, officials do brief councillors about the planning background to proposals when members are making observations or written formal submissions about applications.

The letter says: “Discussion of the merits of individual planning applications at municipal district/area committee and council meetings does not form part of the statutory process for the consideration of applications and should not be used by elected members to advocate that a particular decision be made on an individual application.

“Such a practice could be viewed as an attempt to undermine due process and exert undue influence on the planning authority and/or to make a decision that would not be in the interests of the proper planning and sustainable development of the area concerned.

“Furthermore, the practice could convey an erroneous impression to the public of the role of elected members in the statutory process for deciding on planning applications.”

Murphy’s move has already been characterised as a “gagging” operation by some councillors.

Image credit | Fine Gael

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