23 February, 2011
Re: PLANNING AND DEVELOPMENT (AMENDMENT) BILL 2009
We write to you to urge you to commence the remainder of the Planning and Development Act 2009 before leaving office on March 8, 2011. 28 Sections or parts of sections of the act have not been commenced.
Three critical measures are not yet in place.
• The first is to ensure that any projects that are undertaken which require an environmental impact assessment cannot under any circumstances be exempt from planning control. [Section 5]
• A second is the commitment to end the ‘retention culture' given to European Commission after a Judgment against Ireland by the European Court of Justice in 2008, particularly in relation to unauthorised quarries. [Section 6]
It took more than 3 years for the sections intended to control quarrying in the 2000 Planning Act to be commenced, and this inexcusable delay can not be allowed to be repeated.
The arrangements for addressing this situation though ‘substitute consent' procedures have also not been implemented.
• The third critical measure still not in place is the closing of the loopholes whereby quarries and industrial peat extractions which have continued for more than 7 years are immune from prosecution. [Section 47]
This provision has long been sought by Local Authorities to control not only rogue quarries but the wide spread industrial peat extraction by private operators for the horticultural trade where this loophole is seen as the biggest single barrier to development control.
Other Sections still not commenced are
• New provisions enabling Local Authorities to take over the infrastructure of ghost estates and pursue developers for the cost of completion are not in place. [Section 59]
• The presumption in law that any land zoned in a particular local area plan shall remain so zoned in any subsequent local area plan remains in place, in spite of the Act specifically ending this custom. [Section 12]
• Provisions of the Act which would clarify the status of the Ministers powers of intervention in development plans. [Section 21]
Some of these Sections, such as the one relating to the European Court of Justice ruling in Case C-215/06 of 3 July 2008 relating to the ‘retention culture', have been the subject of detailed Circular Letters and need no further Information Notes. Some are simplicity itself - the ending of immunity if an illegal activity continues for 7 years.
In these circumstances, we would urge you to sign Commencement Orders for these Sections as bone fides of your Government's commitment to the mandate of the people as expressed by your colleagues in the Oireachtas in enacting this legislation and the President in signing it into the law of the land.