Planning Fee

addressed to Ireland under Article 226 of the Treaty establishing the European Community, on account of its failure to fulfil obligations under Council Directive 85/337/EEC of 27 June 1985 on the assessment of the effects of certain public and private projects on the environment and Council Directive 97/11/EC of 3 March 1997 amending Directive 85/337/EEC
COMMISSION OF THE EUROPEAN COMMUNITIES

Brussels, 21/01/2003
2000/4078
C(2003) 352


REASONED OPINION

addressed to Ireland under Article 226 of the Treaty establishing the European Community, on account of its failure to fulfil obligations under Council Directive 85/337/EEC of 27 June 1985 on the assessment of the effects of certain public and private projects on the environment and Council Directive 97/11/EC of 3 March 1997 amending Directive 85/337/EEC


PROVISIONS OF DIRECTIVES

1. Council Directive 85/337/EEC of 27 June 1985 on the assessment of the effects of certain public and private projects on the environment ("Directive 85/337/EEC") as amended by Council Directive 97/11/EC of 3 March 1997 ("Directive 97/11/EC"), hereinafter referred to as "the Impact Assessment Directive" sets out a framework for the environmental impact assessment of certain projects.

Article 2(1) of the Impact Assessment Directive defines a basic duty to ensure the prior environmental impact assessment of environmentally significant projects.

Article 4 of the Impact Assessment Directive defines the projects to be made the subject of an environmental impact assessment.

Articles 5 to 10 of the Environmental Impact Assessment Directive set out requirements to be respected with regard the conduct of environmental impact assessments. These requirements inter alia include an obligation to consult the public concerned (Article 6) and to take information, including information derived from public consultation, into account in the decision-making process (Article 8).

By virtue of Article 12 of Directive 85/337/EEC, the measures necessary to comply with this directive were due by 3 July 1988.

Article 3 of Directive 97/11/EC requires Member States to bring into force the laws, regulations and administrative provisions necessary to comply with it by 14 March 1999 at the latest, and to forthwith inform the Commission thereof.

Article 3(2) of Directive 97/11/EC provides that, if a request for development consent is submitted to a competent authority before 14 March 1999, the provisions of Directive 85/337/EEC prior to these amendments shall continue to apply.

2. In 2000, the Commission registered two complaints against Ireland under numbers P2000/4078 and P2000/4188 concerning then proposed legislation which inter alia provided for payment of fees by members of the public as a pre-condition for considering their opinions in development consent procedures. The principal legislation - which has since been adopted - is the Planning and Development Act, 2000. This provides for payment of participation fees at local authority level. Earlier legislation provides for the payment of participation fees at other tiers of decision-making. The complainants inter alia argued that the requirement of payment of a fee was contrary to the provisions of the Impact Assessment Directive.

2.1. By letter dated 29 August 2000 (ref D(0)432590), the Commission requested the Irish authorities to comment on the complaints referred to in the previous paragraph.

2.2. By letter dated 6 December 2000 (ref. DGENV 813803), the Irish authorities responded. They stated that: "For administrative purposes, and in keeping with the provisions of Article 6(3) of the EIA Directive which provide that determination of "the detailed arrangements" is a matter for individual Member States, the Act enables regulations to be made to require an administrative charge or fee for making a submission or observation on a planning application." They also noted that there was existing provision for fees in relation to certain development consent procedures in Ireland.

2.3. On 23 October 2001, the Commission addressed a Letter of Formal Notice to Ireland (SG(2001)D/260437) inter alia in respect of the subjecting of rights under the Impact Assessment Directive to payment of participation fees.

2.4 By letter dated 7 March 2002 (ref. DGENV802296A), the Irish Authorities responded, referring the Commission to new Irish regulations concerning participation fees adopted pursuant to the said Planning and Development Act, 2000. They contended that the Impact Assessment Directive did not debar the imposition of such fees and that Article 6 of the Impact Assessment Directive left the detailed arrangements for the consultation of the public to Member States. They argued that the new fee (set at € 20.00) would contribute to an enhanced service under the new legislation, that it would not discourage participation, that it would not apply to certain non-governmental organisations or to persons merely seeking information in an EIA process, and that only a minority of developments would attract separate participation fees.

LAW

3. The Commission considers that it is contrary to the Impact Assessment Directive to make the right to express an opinion or have that opinion taken into consideration in a development consent procedure involving EIA subject to payment of a participation fee. Its reasons are set out at paragraphs 3.1. to 3.24. below.

3.1. Firstly, the Impact Assessment Directive contains no express provision allowing for such participation fees. The Commission would submit that, had the Community legislator intended to allow the possibility of such a fee, it would have made express provision for them. In support of this, it would cite Council Directive 90/313/EEC on the freedom of information on the environment. In subject-matter, this is closely related to the Impact Assessment Directive in as much as it creates rights for the public with regard to information on the environment. In its Article 5, it expressly allows for a charge which may not exceed a reasonable cost. The Commission would content that, a contrario, the absence of such express provision in the Impact Assessment Directive supports the argument that Member States are not entitled to constrain the right to express an opinion or have that opinion taken into account by reference to payment of such fees.

3.2. Secondly, the Commission considers that participation fees run contrary to the scheme and purpose of the Impact Assessment Directive.

3.3. The third recital of Directive 85/337/EEC provides:

"Whereas development consent for public and private projects which are likely to have significant effects on the environment should be granted only after prior assessment of the likely significant environmental effects of these projects has been carried out; whereas this assessment must be conducted on the basis of the appropriate information supplied by the developer, which may be supplemented by the authorities and by the people who may be concerned by the project in question;"

3.4. This indicates that a fundamental purpose of an EIA is to ensure that decisions on environmentally significant projects are adequately informed in terms of information emanating from relevant information sources. Information from the public concerned represents one of these information sources, as is expressly recognised by Article 6(2) of the Impact Assessment Directive. Consequently, to see the role given to the public concerned under Article 6(2) only in terms of an entitlement to have a service rendered to them by the authorities is, in the Commission's view, misplaced. On the contrary, that role can be considered in terms of the public providing a service to the decision-making authorities, i.e. providing supplementary information that can help these authorities make a fully informed decision. In an Irish context, such supplementary information can be particularly important, especially when it comes from expert non-governmental organisations, given that many Irish decision-making bodies lack specific expertise to judge environmental impacts (see also paragraphs 3.7 and 3.16 below).

3.5. In this regard, it may be noted that the role of the public under Article 6(2) is intended to be exercised with reference to specific projects. The general interest of having environmentally informed decision-making with regard to specific projects is paramount. In the context of this general interest, the Commission would submit that the imposition of participation fees on the public concerned is inappropriate, since it cannot be justified by reference to this interest. On the contrary, it works against this interest by making it less likely that one specified information-source, i.e. the public, will contribute to decision-making on such projects as intended. In contrast, Directive 90/313/EEC is not concerned with specific projects but with the general interest of giving the public access to environmental information. Because Directive 90/313/EEC does not set any conditions as to the reasons for seeking information (which may be entirely a private matter), and because those obtaining information under it do not necessarily render a service or contribute to a public-interest procedure related to the precise information requested, a charge for providing information is not similarly inappropriate. In any case, Directive 90/313/EEC makes specific provisions for a charge whereas the Impact Assessment Directive does not.

3.6. The Commission understands that the role of the public in helping decision-makers to make informed decisions was highlighted in many submissions to the Irish government opposing participations fees prior to their introduction at local authority level.

3.7. Fourteen local authorities, including the General Council of County Councils, passed motions to request that the fee would not be implemented, inter alia highlighting the poorer decisions that would result as members of the public had consistently supplied these authorities with information that was useful and relevant.

3.8. The relevant professional bodies, the Irish Planning Institute and the Royal Town Planning Institute (which represent professional town and country planners), together with a number of statutory consultees, the Heritage Council and An Taisce, advanced similar arguments against participation fees. The Heritage Council noted: "The introduction of a fee which would be payable by third parties to make submissions or observations on applications for planning permissions is not in line with one of the key principles of sustainable development, that of public participation. Given the current lack of specialised expertise amongst planning authorities in relation to a number of areas of sustainable development, the submission of observations from third parties provides an invaluable service to planning authorities in their attempts to assess applications in a comprehensive manner."

3.9. Key non-governmental organisations concerned with the protection of Ireland's environment also voiced concern that the participation fees with make it more difficult for them to inform decision-makers of environmental impacts. The Irish Georgian Society, which is concerned with the protection of Ireland's architectural heritage noted that the provision for charging in the proposed Irish legislation "is of particular concern, in that charging people to make submissions to local planning authorities will discourage public participation, and, in regard to conservation, will be adverse as local historical and archaeological societies, as well as bodies like the Irish Georgian Society, will be penalised financially for trying to encourage the authorities, and others, to respect our architectural heritage."

3.10. Thirdly, the Commission considers that the precise wording of Article 6(2) and (3) of the Impact Assessment Directive does not allow for the latitude in interpretation that the Irish authorities seek to give it.

3.11. Article 6(2) itself sets no qualification on the duty of authorities to provide information to the public "in order to give the public concerned the opportunity to express an opinion before the development consent is granted."

3.12. While Article 6(3) allows Member States to determine the detailed arrangements for information and consultation under Article 6(2), the Commission would submit that the scope of the Member States role must be considered as delimited by what is reasonably necessary to give meaning to the basic duty set out in Article 6(2). Support for this interpretation is found in indented particulars set out in Article 6(3), all of which relate to what is needed to make the duty in Article 6(2) effective in practice, and none of which advert to the possibility of fees.

3.13. In contrast, the imposition if participation fees by way of "detailed arrangements" cannot be considered as coming within the ambit of what is reasonably necessary to give effect to Article 6(2), a point reinforced by the fact that Ireland is the sole Member State to resort to such fees.

3.14. Furthermore, the Commission would submit that the imposition of participation fees by way of "detailed arrangements" runs contrary to the polluter pays principle, one of the principles on which Community environmental law is founded, and a principle which should not be overlooked in any interpretation of Article 6(3). In particular, the Commission considers that the principle is not adhered to if costs properly attributable to those proposing to create environmental impacts are instead allocated to those who may be affected by them. With reference to environmental charges, it may be noted that Council Recommendation 75/436/Euratom, ECSC, EC regarding cost allocation and action by public authorities on environmental matters states "the costs to be borne by the polluter (under the "polluters pays principle") should include all the expenditure necessary to achieve an environmental quality objective, including the administrative costs directly linked to the implementation of anti-pollution measures." In contrast, although any administrative costs arising from public participation are a consequence of initiatives taken by developers, the charges that Ireland imposes by way of participation fees fall on the public.

3.15. In this regard, and with reference to the equity of participation fees, the Irish General Council of County Councils has pointed out that it is developers who seek to change the status quo: "A householder, for example, is quite happily living in his or her house when an applicant applies to build an intensive pig unit in the field across the road. Naturally the householder is concerned and wants to make an observation to the planning authorities on this. Why should the householder then be forced into expense, no matter how nominal, because of a third party's unsolicited proposals?"

3.16. Furthermore, it appears form the submissions of local authorities and the General Council of County Councils that, as a matter of general policy in Ireland, developers are not expected to properly defray the administrative costs that result from their development proposals, and that inter alia, as a consequence, local authorities are discouraged from engaging the professional expertise that is needed to properly consider such proposals. This further underscores the potential contribution that the public, including expert individuals and organisations, can make to decision-making, by supplying a deficit in the expertise available to local authorities.

3.17. Fourthly, and without prejudice to the preceding arguments, the Commission considers that, in the legislative provision it has made for charges, Ireland has exceeded the scope for making detailed arrangements given by Article 6(2) of the Impact Assessment Directive.

3.18. Section 33(1) provides that "The Minister shall by regulations provide for such matters of procedure and administration as appear to the Minister to be necessary or expedient in respect of applications for permission for the development of land." Section 33(2)(c) provides that, without prejudice to the generality of subsection (1), regulations under this section may make provision for…."enabling persons to make submissions or observations on payment of the prescribed fee and within a prescribed period." Leaving aside questions of principle, the Commission takes the view that this gives the Minister a very broad latitude to set participation fees at a level which is prohibitive or dissuasive in cost terms, and cannot be considered compatible with the scope given to the Member States to determine detailed arrangements under Article 6(2).

3.19. Fifthly, and without prejudice to the preceding arguments, the Commission considers that, in the charges it has actually provided for to date, Ireland has proceeded in a manner that impedes or potentially impedes the rights given to the public concerned under Article 6(2) of the Impact Assessment Directive. The Commission considers that the level of participation fees which currently obtain in Ireland are such as to inhibit the public participation foreseen by Article 6(2) of the Impact Assessment Directive, especially with regard to a number of categories of persons. The fees are set at € 20.00 for participation in an EIA where the decision is determined at local authority level, and € 45.00 where, following an appeal, the decision is determined at the level of Ireland's Planning Appeals Board. Decisions on major projects requiring a consent from Irish local authorities are commonly appealed to the Board. Even if they pay the initial € 20.00 participation fee at the local authority level, and do not themselves make the appeal (the developer may appeal, for example), members of the public who wish to express an opinion are obliged to pay a further € 45.00 participation fee in order for their submissions to be taken into account by the Board. Further fees may arise where a decision involves the Environmental Protection Agency.

3.20. In the first place, the participation fees are especially prohibitive in relation to persons dependent on social welfare payments (including recipients of unemployment benefit and disability allowance). The standard rate of payment currently stands at €118.80 a week. Recipients represent 8.6% of the population nationally, rising to 11.1% in Counties Leitrim and Wexford. In specific locations, the public concerned by individual projects requiring EIA may include a higher percentage of social welfare recipients. The cumulative participation fees of € 65.00 which will very often arise in an EIA amount to over 50% of an already exiguous weekly income.

3.21. In the second place, the participation fees are prohibitive in relation to persons or organisations which, because of a concern for the environment and/or a particular area of environmental expertise, wish to participate in a multiplicity of different development consent procedures. It should be noted that participation fees are not limited to procedures involving EIA, but apply to all planning procedures. This means that the potential cumulative burden may be considerable. In a submission opposing participation fees, the Barra Salmon Angling Association, County Mayo, stated: "The proposed fee may not be excessive in a once-off situation. However, our group and I assume many others around the country have occasion to lodge objections to various applications on a regular basis. Our only concern for doing so is to try and protect and preserve our unique environment in the West. The pressure, especially in recent years and the experience in all kinds of developments is making it more and more difficult to preserve what we have. Objections, appeal to An Bord Pleanala, and Oral Hearings are for a voluntary body with no outside funding time-consuming and financially draining. Your proposal if implemented will add to that burden and will result in restrictions on the number of objections we would normally make." It may be noted that this voluntary body operates in an area that has seen a steady decline in water quality, and a deterioration in game fisheries. The environmental concerns that underlie its wish to participate in decision-making procedures are therefore well-founded.

3.22. With reference to Ireland's submission that participation fees do not apply to certain non-governmental organisations or to persons merely seeking information in an EIA process, the Commission would observe that the exception for non-governmental organisations is of very limited extent (it understands that only one non-governmental organisation currently benefits and then not under all circumstances), and that the obligations contained in Articles 6 and 8 of the Impact Assessment Directive inter alia relate to the expression of opinions by the public as well as to the information of the public.

3.23. In the third place, the participation fees are especially prohibitive in relation to the public concerned by developments involving a multiplicity of separate development consent procedures. Citizens wishing to express an opinion on any separate EIAs that result will incur separate participation fees. This situation is described in relation to the re-development of Ballymun in a Commission Reasoned Opinion of 6 August 2001 (SG(2001)D/290823).

3.24. A consequence of the imposition of participation fees contrary to Article 6 is that Ireland also fails to comply with Article 8 of the Impact Assessment Directive. This is because Ireland fails to ensure that opinions expressed by members of the public who do not pay participation fees are taken into account in the development consent procedure.


FOR THESE REASONS

THE COMMISSION OF THE EUROPEAN COMMUNITIES


after giving Ireland the opportunity to submit its observations by letter dated 23 October 2001 (ref. SG(2001)D/260437) and after taking account of information provided by the Irish authorities in a letter dated 7 March 2002 (ref. SG(2003)A/00670),


HEREBY DELIVERS THE FOLLOWING REASONED OPINION


under the first paragraph of Article 226 of the Treaty establishing the European Community that Ireland, by making the full and effective participation of the public in certain environmental impact assessments subject to prior payment of participation fees, has failed to comply with its obligations under Article 6 and 8 of Directive 85/337/EEC on the assessment of the effects of certain public and private projects on the environment as amended by Directive 97/11/EEC.


Pursuant to the first paragraph of Article 226 of the Treaty establishing the European Community, the Commission invites Ireland to take the necessary measures to comply with this Reasoned Opinion within two months of receipt of this Opinion.


Done at Brussels, 21/01/2003


For the Commission

Margot WALLSTR?ñM
Member of the Commission


IN CONFORMITY WITH COMMISSION
DECISION
For the Secretary-General

Sylvain BISARRE
Director for the Registry




Dail report, 21 February, 2002

TEXT OF THE TAOISEACH'S INCREDIBLE RESPONSE

We reprint this extract from the Dail and invite readers to consider for themselves whether the Commission's reasoned opinion contains a statement about the legality of the situation.


Mr. Cuffe: On the same matter, now that the European Commission has ruled that the €20 planning fee is illegal, will the Minister for the Environment and Local Government be refunding those who paid the fee? Will he introduce regulations to ensure that members of the public will not have to pay this draconian fee in order to participate in the planning process?

The Taoiseach: I understand that the European Commission has given a reasoned opinion but I do not think it has made any statement about the
legality of the situation. Obviously, the Minister will now have to examine the judgment.


We are especially concerned at the proposed introduction of charges for the making of Planning Objections and Observations; the restrictions on Appeals to san Bord Pleanala; the limitation on access to the Courts and some aspects of the changes in the Development Plan processes.


Letter from the Labour Party Spokesman Eamon Gilmore to FIE

"Thank you for your recent letter concerning the planning Bill.

I have already on behalf of the Labour Party expressed our serious concerns at some aspects of the new Planning Bill, which in our opinion will restrict the rights of citizens in relation to the planning process.

We are especially concerned at the proposed introduction of charges for the making of Planning Objections and Observations; the restrictions on Appeals to san Bord Pleanala; the limitation on access to the Courts and some aspects of the changes in the Development Plan processes.

The Labour Party will be giving the Planning Bill a thorough scrutiny as it progresses through Seanad and the Dail and we intend to submit a large number of amendments.

We would like to keep in touch with you regarding this process. Any help you could give us by way of information or advice would be greatly appreciated.

We are anxious to see our planning system modernized but in a way that makes it more open, accessible, and accountable and not less so."

Yours sincerely,

Eamon Gilmore



We have availed of the EU Directive on Access to Information on the Environment to examine the submissions made to the Department of the Environment in relation to the proposed planning fee and are able at this stage to reinforce the argument of the more than 70 groups who supported our campaign through the attached summary of submissions.

Text of the Supplementary Information for EU Complaint


Mr. George Kremlis,

European Commission,

Directrorate General Environment

ENV B-3, Legal Affairs,

Brussels, Belgium fax 00 322 299 1070

6 March, 2002


Re: Complaint P2000/4078 relation to participation fees in Ireland on submissions on development consent procedures under Environmental Impact Assessment Directive 85/337


Dear Mr. Kremlis;


Thank you for your letter stating you are awaiting the reply of the Irish Authorities in relation to the extent which the proposed participation fee will effect citizen and NGO participation in environmental impact procedures and act as a disincentive to participation in the decision making process. We are grateful for your continued interest in this matter.


We have availed of the EU Directive on Access to Information on the Environment to examine the submissions made to the Department of the Environment in relation to the proposed planning fee and are able at this stage to reinforce the argument of the more than 70 groups who supported our campaign through the attached summary of submissions.


These submissions demonstrate that the opposition to the proposed fee is throughout Irish society. They are from local authorities, elected representatives, institutions, and environmental NGOs. They represent a wide range of socio-economic interests and a wide geographical spread and they all speak of a "barrier to public participation".


The EIA Directive makes no express provision for the payment of a fee for participation. Such a provision will act as a serious impediment to the expression of opinions and undermine the purpose of the Directive.


The fee will become law on 11 March, 2002.



Tony Lowes, Director,

Friends of the Irish Environment



SUMMARY OF SUBMISSIONS

OPPOSED TO THE IRISH PLANNING FEE



LOCAL AUTHORITIES


14 elected Local Authorities, including the General Council of County Councils, passed motions to request that this fee not be implemented, highlighting:


¬? the poorer decisions that would result as members of the public had consistently supplied them with information that was useful and relevant

¬? the difficulty of public representatives fulfilling their own role in making representations on behalf of their constituents [This is particularly true as functional illiteracy is high in Ireland]

¬? an inevitable lessening of public involvement in decision making (with consequent lose of commitment)

¬? a lose transparency and therefore a decrease in public confidence

¬? the task of dealing with objections or submissions is not considered onerous anyway

¬? the planning fee at IR£ 47 is totally inadequate and results in a net cost to the State of IR£ 10m while in Northern Ireland the fee is UK£ 375

¬? the cost of the planning system should be met by those availing of the service



General Council of County Councils

Fees for planning applications: Section 34 & 222

(a) The General Council would have difficulty with the prospect of a fee for making observations on, or objections to, planning applications.

There is fIR£tly a problem on the level of principle. It is the applicant, not the objector, who is the one who initiated the application. It is the applicant who is changing the status quo. A householder, for example, is quite happily living in his or her house when an applicant applies to build an intensive pig unit in the field across the road. Naturally the householder is concerned and wants to make an observation to the planning authority on this. Why should the householder then be forced into expense, no matter how nominal, because of a third party's unsolicited proposals?


(b) Local authority elected members - and indeed Oireachtas members - are called on to make representations on planning applications, be they supportive or in objection to the applications. This activity has become one of the biggest facet of Councilor's workloads. While the higher theory of the planning system might be that Councilor's have their say at the Development Plan stage, the fact is that individuals, resident's associations etc expect councilors to make representations on their behalf. There could be no question of councilors having to pay a fee for such an integral part of their representative duty.


It is accepted that the charging of a fee would help contribute to the increasing administrative costs on Councils in dealing with planning files. However to impose a charge on a person's right as distinct from a charge for service is neither logical nor fair."


Ardee Town Commissioners

"The members objected to the proposal to introduce a fee for persons who wished to lodge planning objections to the Local Authority. The members feel that any fee would discourage less well off people from lodging valid objections."


Offaly County Council

"That we the Council call on the Minister for the Environment and Local Government to amend the Planning Bill 1999 to remove the fee payable by members of the public wishing to comment on planning applications."


Killarney Urban District Council

"I wish to inform you that at the November meeting of Killarney Urban District Council it was resolved that "in the interests of maximizing public involvement, ensuring transparency and thereby increasing public confidence in the planning system, this Council rejects the proposed introduction of a fee to accompany planning submissions and the proposed bar on submitting an appeal to An Bord Pleanala if a prior acceptable submission had not been received by the relevant local authority, and calls on the Minister for the Environment and Local Government to withdraw this unjustified attack on the democratic rights of citizens."


Sligo County Council

"That in the interest of maximizing public involvement, ensuring transparency, and thereby increasing public confidence in the planning process, this Council rejects the proposed introduction of fees to accompany planning submissions and the proposed bar on submitting an appeal to An Bord Pleanala, if a prior acceptable submssion has not been received by the relevant planning authority, and call on the Minister for the Environment and Local Government to withdraw this unjustified attack on the democratic rights of citizens."


Trim Urban District Council

"The members are particularly concerned at the intention as part of planning regulations, to introduce fees for making submissions on planning applications and have asked that this element of the streamlining of the planning system be re-examined."


Galway County Council

"It was noted that under Section 222 of the Bill the Minister may require fees to be charged for the making of submissions or observations on planning applications. The members felt that councilors should be exempt from any such provision and that no fee should apply to any councilor making a submission or observation on a planning application."


Cork Corporation

"That this Council expresses its outright condemnation of the proposals included in the current Bill before the Houses of the Oireachtas, that members of the public and/or elected public representatives will be required to pay a fee to relevant local authorities when making observations, objecting to, or expressing opposition to planning applications made to local authorities. That the imposition of such a fee places an unfair onus on people affected by planning applications and represents an attack on the democratic right to protest."


Dun Laoghaire - Rathdown County Council

"That this Council request the Minister for the Environment and Local Government to eliminate the proposed fee to comment on planning applications, as proposed in the new Planning and Development Bill.


That this Council requests the Minister for the Environment Mr. Dempsey to drop the proposal to introduce a charge for planning objections and observations at Planning Authority level."



Dublin Corporation

Introduction of Fees for Objectors

"Members were in favor of streamlining proposals and the elimination insofar as it was possible of mischievous objections. However, they expressed their concern to the widespread charging of fees on submissions especially in so far as they related to submissions by residents Associations, occupiers or neighbors of adjoining properties, bodies charged with the restoration or preservation of the built environment and other such bodies that were above board. As this proposal is linked with the right to make an appeal to An Bord Pleanala, concern was expressed that a bone fide objector, e.g. a next door neighbor might be away when the application was being dealt with by the planning authority and would thus be prevented from lodging an appeal with An Bord Pleanala.



Killarney Urban District Council

"At the November meeting of the Kilarney Urban District Council it was resolved that "in the interests of maximizing public involvement, ensuring transparency and thereby increasing Public Confidence, in the planning system, this council rejects the proposed introduction of a fee to accompany panning submissions and the proposed bar on submitting an appeal to An Bord Pleanala, if a prior acceptable submission had not been received by the relevant local authority, and calls on the Minister for the Environment and Local Government to withdraw this unjustified attack on the democratic rights of citizens".


Newbridge Town Commissioners, Co. Kildare

"The Commissioners feel that the right to make a submission on a planning application is an important one and they have resolved to request that this would continue to be free of charge."


Leixip Town Commissioners, Leixlip, Co. Kildare

"I am asked by the Town Commissioners, on foot of a resolution adopted by them, to inform you that they object to the proposal to introduce a charge for making submissions on planning applications which is included in the new Planning Bill." Mary Foley, Town Clerk


Offaly County Council

"That we call on the Minister for the Environment and Local Government to amend the Planning Bill 1999 to remove the fee payable by members of the public wishing to comment on planning applications."


Monahan County Council

"The levying a small charge for making a submission on planning applications will discourage frivolous objections. However submissions from locals do highlight issues which the planning authority may not be aware of in a locality and presently, the task of dealing with objections or submissions is not considered onerous.

A proposed levy with a nominal charge (£5, £10 or £20) would not raise income levels significantly (one joint or shared submission could be presented per application) and will place another unnecessary administrative burden on planning authorities.

My personal preference would be for a 100% increase in the application fees for non-commercial planning permissions. I see no reason why the cost of providing a planning service in a rural planning authority such as Monaghan County Council should not be met by those availing of the service.

In 1999 Monaghan County Council will expend £246,302 directly on Land Use Planning. The receipts from this source will be £126,700. In addition overheads of £115,000 in respect of Central Services must be added to the expenditure figure, resulting in a net charge onto the rates of £234,602. The total estimated cost of the planning services provided by the 29 County Councils in 1999 is £19.44m (excluding Central Service charges). The estimated income is £9.95m. In Northern Ireland the planning application fee for full permission for a single domestic dwelling is £375. Here it is £47!


If the planning service "paid for itself", local authority managers would be more inclined to allocate the extra resources that are required to release the bottlenecks in the system. Presently, managers have to balance demands for extra resources for the planning service with Iimited increases in the Local Government Fund Grant."




INSTITUTIONS


The institutions were concerned that the proposals were a "seriously retrograde step", citing in particular:

¬? that giving statutory recognition to such submissions merely reflects current practice in any event

¬? the fee is not in line with one of the key principals of sustainable development, that of public participation

¬? the submission of observations from third parties provides an invaluable service to planning authorities

¬? the fee would prevent many of those most vulnerable to poor planning from making submissions on developments that adversely affect them.

¬? Community and amenity groups will not be able to take a systematic approach to planning in their areas.



Irish Planning Institute and Royal Town Planning Institute


"The Institutes are disappointed that our suggested recommendations were not taken on board in relation to aspects of this Bill.


"We remain convinced that the imposition of a fee to make a submission under Section 34 (3) (b) on a planning application to a planning authority is a seriously retrograde step. Planning authorities provide a public service which is paid for partly by the users of that service, i.e. the applicants, but also largely by the public. It is considered to be a public service element of the functions of planning authorities that interested parties in individual planning applications can make comment. Giving statutory recognition to such submissions merely reflects current practice in any event, and this statutory recognition should not be at the cost of a fee. If it is considered that administrative costs are to be addressed, then such costs should be covered by the application fees since all the issues surrounding individual planning applications are effectively raised by the applicants themselves in making an application."


The Heritage Council,

Re: Section 33(2)(c)

"The introduction of a fee which would be payable by third parties to make submissions or observations on applications for planning permissions is not in line with one of the key principals of sustainable development, that of public participation. Given the current lack of specialized expertise amongst planning authorities in relation to a number of areas of sustainable development, the submission of observations from third parties provides an invaluable service to planning authorities in their attempts to assess applications in a comprehensive manner. This section should contain an explicit recognition of the value of third party involvement in the planning process."


The Arts Council

"Subsection 2(c) of Section 33 enables persons to make submissions in respect of applications on "payment of the prescribed fee". Given the status of the prescribed bodies in the planning process and to encourage the planning authorities to utilize their expertise by seeking out their submissions on certain applications, a further paragraph should be included along the following lines:

Enabling prescribed bodies to make submissions and observations with respect to applications forwarded to them by the relevant authority without payment of prescribed fee."


An Taisce, The National Trust for Ireland

"One provision in the Bill (33(2)(c) is extraordinary - and unacceptable in a modern democracy. The imposition of an entirely new fee that has been mooted at IR£ 20 to lodge an objection is an affront. In our experience it would prevent many of those most vulnerable to poor planning from making submissions on developments that adversely affect them. Other community and amenity groups might not be able to take a systematic approach to planning in their areas. We note that, on a recent visit to Dublin, an OECD representative commented on this matter "What? Next they will be charging to vote!"


Charges for submissions was previously tried in 1984 for financial reasons but was abandoned within months as it did not make a positive contribution to the operation of local authorities."




RESIDENTS GROUPS


A number of residents groups made representations outside of the 70 that were represented by Friends of the Irish Environment. These were largely Dublin based community groups who would have been more aware of the proposed fee than many rural groups. They made the following points:


¬? They all would find it extremely difficult to continue their work if this charge is imposed

¬? They already have to dip into their personal pockets when they wish to be a party to an appeal and so the fee is unjust and unfair

¬? The charge was tried in the past and was rapidly dropped



Selected comments include:


Hillwatch, Sutton, Dublin 13

"We are strongly opposed to the proposed IR£ 20 charge to third parties, including groups such as ours. As a voluntary organization, making several such submissions a month, we would find it extremely difficult to continue our work if this charge is imposed. We already have to dip into our personal pockets when we wish to be a party to an appeal. We believe the planning system will not be served by this proposal. Valuble information will not be available to the planners. Apparently in the past a IR£ 10 charge such as this was imposed and I am reliably informed it was dropped. As a past Chief Architect said the planners were as a result without necessary information to come to reasoned opinion."



Infirmary Road and District Community and Environmental Group

"Dear Minister;

I refer you to a recent telephone call by a member of the above group with an official on your staff in connection with the above matter. We strongly object to such a proposed levy. This is a small area with less than 200 houses, built in the late 1800's and situated in the center of the largest tourist area in Dublin overlooking the Phoenix Park. The area is also situated in the Taoiseach's own constituency.


We have many many problems in the area with landlords and developers. We work very hard to keep the area environmentally friendly. We won fIR£t prize overall in the Dublin Corporation Tidy Districts Competition 1999, and are nominated to go forward to represent the residential category in the Guinness Living Dublin Awards in November.


In the past number of months we found it necessary to lodge an objection to two planning applications, where we felt that the buildings proposed were not in keeping with the existing houses in the area. As we are a voluntary organization we would have had to pay any levy out of our own resources.


We are of the opinion that the proposed levy is unjust and very unfair, and we ask you not to implement same."



PUBLIC REPRESENTATIVES


TDs acted on behalf of constituents and in particular of residents groups. While some were neutral in performing this role, others - even in the Government Party - thoroughly agreed with the concerns of their constituents. They suggested:


¬? the fee was taking away from the citizen his right to object

¬? the Local Authority Registrar of Residents Associations should have a limit put on how much they would be required to spend on submitting objections

¬? Residents Associations should in fact receive professional help and assistance in preparing their cases

¬? there are still high levels of households in receipt of welfare payments so that even a small fee might present difficulties

¬? any fee collected would be of little value to a local authority and could be a disincentive to people who may have important views to express

¬? the prolific pace of development require multiple submissions



Bertie Ahern, Taoiseach

I am writing to you on behalf of Ms Eileen Lynch regarding her concern that there will be a charge of IR£ 20 for all planning objects lodged with Dublin Corporation. Ms Lynch feels that this is taking away the right of a citizen to object to any particular planning application and gives the developer the advantage. I would be grateful if you would take on board Ms Lynch's views."


Eoin Ryan, TD, Dublin 4


I have received a number of letters from residents Associations in my constituency about the recent planning Bill.


As you are aware, in some areas there is a considerable amount of development taking place and Residents Associations are rightly vigilant on these applications. Sometimes, they are making observations and objecting to some small matters regarding these developments and other times, they are objecting completely to the development. The point they are making is that there will be a serious increase in their spending if they had to put IR£ 20 in

with every single residents association submission. They are asking that the Local Authority Registrar of Residents Associations would have a limit put on how much they would have to spend on submitting objections."


Nutley Residents Association

"As the local Dail representative you will be all too well aware of the excessive development in the Dublin 4 area and the recent prolific development of hotels and guesthouses which have added considerably to the traffic and against the residents wishes. We expect you to oppose the proposal to charge for making objections to planning applications as we see our area under siege and all green space need not be built upon. We would be prepared to register with the local authority annually as an approved entity that could oppose development for the common good and channel all objections through our license.


"We are also concerned that it is so expensive on our funds to oppose professional institutions such as the St. Vincent's Hospital, RTE & Tesco when they plan developments, the fIR£t two with taxpayers money. Would the Deputy consider recommending that approved Resident's Associations could have access to assistance and help to make their point properly and professionally?"



Liam Lawlor, TD

"You will appreciate I am in receipt of representations from individuals and groups residing in areas where there are still high levels of households in receipt of welfare payments so that even a small fee might present difficulties."



Cllr. Tommy Broughton, T.D.

"Please find enclosed submission on the Planning Bill for the Sutton Park and Lawns Resident's Association. I thoroughly agree with all the concerns they raise and would welcome your comment."


Cllr. Brian McKenna

"I would propose that in relation to Section 33 (2) (c) that the words 'the payment of a prescribed fee' be deleted in relation to observations or comments concerning a planning application. The number of observations, I would contend, are relatively small in terms of the total number of applications submitted and as such any fee collected would, in my opinion, be of little value to a local authority and could be a disincentive to people who may have important views to express.'



NON GOVERNMENTAL ORGANISATIONS


Ireland's major non-governmental organizations were all signatures to the complaint made by Friends of the Irish Environment. Other submissions highlighted:


¬? these groups were not objecting on a once-off basis but faced significant accumulated costs

¬? it would financially penalize those who were tryingto encourage our authorities to achieve better architectural standards

¬? OECD performance evaluator Henri Smets, told Irish NGOs that "It is not simply a financial matter, it is a matter of principle."

¬? the fee is out of scale with Irish NGO budgets, where IR£ 30 is the amount that would be collected from donations at a well attended branch meeting




Barra Salmon Angling Association, County Mayo

"The proposed fee may not be excessive in a once-off situation. However, our group and I assume many others around the country have occasion to lodge objections to various applications on a regular basis. Our only reason for doing so is to try and protect and preserve our unique environment in the West.


The pressure, especially in recent years and the experience in all kinds of developments is making it more and more difficult to preserve what we have, either from direct pollution in waters or visual pollution of our landscapes. Objections, appeal to An Bord Pleanala, and Oral Hearings are foir a voluntary body with no outside funding time consuming and financially draining.


Your proposal if implemented will add to that burden and will result in restrictions on the number of objections we would normally make."



Irish Georgian Society

A detailed commentary on this Bill follows, but the Society would like to emphasize a number of provisions that we hope you will change before this Bill is enacted.


Section 33 (2) (b) is of particular concern, in that charging people to make submissions to Local Planning authorities will discourage public participation, and in regard to conservation, will be adverse as local historical and archaeological societies, as well as bodies like the Irish Georgian Society, will be penalized financially for trying to encourage the Authorities, and others, to respect our architectural heritage."



The Irish Wildlife Trust

"The proposal (section 222) to charge individuals and organizations a fee to comment on planning applications is unjust and should be removed. It is stated that this fee would "not be such as to deter people who have genuine concerns from making submissions to the planning authority".(Feargal O Coigligh, Streamlining the Planning Process). However, the IWT believes that the fee may act as an inhibitor. It would certainly affect the work of the NGOs which is already constrained by lack of funding. In many instances, comments at this stage may help planners identify an unknown problem with the proposed development e.g. the site floods in the winter. The OECD stated at the Environmental Performance Review of Ireland on Friday 8 October, 1999 that the right to comment / object was akin to the right to vote. Henri Smets, OECD said "It is not simply a financial matter, it is a matter of principle." The IWT calls for the proposal to introduce charges to be dropped."



BirdWatch Ireland (South Dublin Branch)

"We would urge you not to impose a charge for submissions on planning applications, as this will waste our already scant resources without changing the number of such submissions. IR£ 30 is the amount that would be collected from donations at a well attended branch meeting, or a good fee for a conservation lecture to an outside organization (both of which require several hours of preparation and no little effort) and is an unfair imposition when no benefit is derived thereby. Indeed, we would feel that it would instead benefit your Department to encourage public participation in the planning process, as this would make citizens take 'ownership' of their areas and encourage responsible use."


COMHAR, The National Sustainable Development Partnership

Participatory Democracy

Comhar is opposed to the principle of charging persons to make submissions and recommend that Section 33(2)(c) should be omitted.


Comhar feels that the implementation of a prescribed fee for making submissions:

¬? Would be contrary to the principal of participatory democracy

¬? Would be costly for local authorities administratively unless a higher fee was charged

¬? Could lead to the exclusion of comments made in the interest of the public good.


ENDS


ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS TO REPRESENTATIONS ON THE PLANNING BILL

(to 20 October, 1999)

FF is Fianna Fail; FG is Fine Gael; Lab is the Labour Party, now joined with DL, Democratic Left. PD is progressive Democrats. FF and PD are a majority coalition and without support from some of them, the Government can ignore the protests. Support of Independents like Mildred Fox could also be critical. [FF 76; FG 53; Labour 18; PD 4; DL 4; Others 10]



TDS REPLIED,
POLITICAL PARTY, COMMENT

Bertie Ahern FF, Dublin Central,
Taoiseach
Refered to Dempsey.
John Gormley Green Like to chat before bill comes up.
Liz O'Donnell PD, Dublin South Refered to Dempsey.
James McDaid FF, Dublin North East Will be brought to Minister McDaid's attention.
Ruairi Quinn Labour Refered to Gilmore asking him to make direct contact.
Tony Gregory Independent, Dublin Central Supports removal of fee.
Jan O'Sullivan Labour, Limerick Need to ensure the decision making process is constrained by public participation; will inform Gilmore.
" " Letter enclosing Labour Party spokesman Eamon Gilmore's response
.
Sean Doherty FF Longford/Roscommon Receiving attention.
Bernard Durkin FG, Kildare North Initiated urgent enquiries; will be in touch again.
" " Enc letter from Noel Dempsy. "Observations will be considered in advance of the consideration of the Bill by the Oireachtas." Failing further response, please remind me so that a satisfactory conclusion can be reached.
Dermot Ahern FF, Louth Refered to Dempsey.
Tony Killeen FF, Clare Will take account of our views
David Andrews FF, Dun Laoghaire Making enquiries - when further news will write again
Tom Kitt FF, Dublin South Will bring the letter to Minister's attention at the earliest opportunity
Sean Fleming FF, Laois/Offaly Asked Minister to take on full contents
Frances Fitzgerald FG, Dublin South East Refered to Alan Dukes
Bobby Molloy PD, Galway West
(Minister for State at the Dept. of Env.)
Observations will be considered in advance of the consideration by the Oireachtas
Nora Owen FG, Dublin North Parliamentary Question 29 September, 1999

Mildred Fox Ind., Wicklow Have raised a number of the issues which you highlighted with the Minister for the Environment and will revert to us.
" " The Minister writes "observations will be considered in advance of consideration of the Bill by the Oireachtas."
Martin Cullen FF, Waterford A matter for my colleague, Robert Molloy, Minister of State at the Department of the Environment.
Noel Dempsey FF, Meath
Minister for the Environment
Your observations will be considered in advance of consideration of the Bill by the Oireachtas.
Sean Ryan Lab., Dublin North Note concerns and will raise during second stage Debate in the Dail.
Mary Harney PD, Dublin South West
Tanaiste
Secretary will bring your correspondence to her attention at the earliest opportunity.
Eamon Gilmore DL, Dun Laoghaire See letter of support.

Liz McManus DL, Wicklow I support the points made in relation to the Planning Bill and have already put these views on record.
Liam Lawlor FF, Dublin West Enclosing clipping from the Echo and letter to Dempsy who is "having enquiries made in the matter".
John Ellis FF, Sligo Leitrim "Have noted contents"
Monica Barnes FG Dun Laoghaire Enclosed letter from Alan Dukes, party spokesman: "Concerns expressed by FIE will be fully taken into account..."
Dan Wallace FF, Cork North Central "Contents of which I have noted."
Brian O'Shea Lab., Waterford "Have taken up the matters you have raised with the Minsiter and will be back in contact as soon as possible..."


SENATORS
Fergal Quinn Ind., Dublin Delighted to bear your views in mind... always good and useful to hear from interested parties such as yourselves...