NEW PLANNING BILL DENIAL OF RIGHTS Friends of the Irish Environment said today that they were appalled by the Minister's attempts to silence local communities and environmentalists through onerous new regulations in the planning system. In a move that FIE described as "almost beyond belief" the provision in the new legislation which appears to proposes a £20 payment simply to object to the local planning authority . FIE wonders "how constituencies across the country will react to this crass discrimination between rich and poor in the planning system." The clause requiring that a person must have objected to the original planning permission in order to appeal the decision to An Bord Pleanala is also a non-sensical restriction contrary to all trends in EU environmental law and policy. These call for enhanced citizen participation, making this proposed amendment particularly cruel and retrograde. Where an Environmental Impact Statement is required, under European law no legislation can restrict the right of citizens to maker submissions. The group expressed shock and dismay that the government was reported to be attempting to restrict the right of the public to judicial review of planning and environmental decisions. FIE intended to oppose all the new provisions which restrict citizen's rights to participate in environmental decision making, through the Dail and certainly to Brussels. If Ireland wishes to be considered a modern European democracy it is long past time for its involved citizens and hard working environmental groups and to be recognised as important protectors of the public interest and not betrayed in this manner.
First Press Release 29 September 1999
COMMUNITY GROUPS CHALLANGE NEW PLANNING BILL At the first of the Seminars run by the Minister for the Environment on the new planning Bill at the Berkley Court Hotel today, more than 60 community groups are presenting the Minister for the Environment, the Taoiseach and members of Dail Eireann with a letter asking for three provisions to be removed from the Planning Bill. The groups state these provisions restrict their legal right to participate in the environmental decision making process. The letter specifically quotes the Aarhus Agreement on Public Participation in Decision Making which Ireland recently signed. The Group's request are: ¬? The elimination of any planning fee to comment on planning applications, ¬? The elimination of the restriction on the right of appeal to those who had made and paid for submissions at the planning application stage. ¬? The elimination of the requirement for "substantial interest" to be proved to take a judicial review as the group believes that the court may take this to be a property interest. If the government wishes to streamline the planning process it has many other options available to it, such as increasing staff numbers in the processing of applications and modernising procedures. Effecting efficiency at the expense of the public's right to participate is obviously wrong. Recent case law of the European Court of Justice makes absolutely clear that interested citizens have the right to seek review in the national courts of decisions made by national authorities under the EIA Directive. These amendments to the planning law in Ireland will, if allowed to stand, ultimately be struck down by the European Court of Justice. LETTER TEXT SIGNATURES ORIGINAL PRESS RELEASE FIE Steering Committee Contact: Dr. Sara Dillon, 87 Ashfield Road, Raneleagh, Dublin 6. Telephone: 01-706 8789
Friends of the Irish Environment welcomed the Judicial Review taken by a resident of the decision of An Bord Pleanala to overrule its Inspector and grant permissions for 1 of the 13 permissions in the first phase of the development. In a decision dated 23 December, 1999 An Bord Pleanala struck out the recommendations of its Senior Inspector, Philip Jones. The Inspector supported the appellants and recommended no development take place until an additional permission was sought to permit the public to have the opportunity to comment on the proposed drainage systems. The Inspector wrote: "I cannot ignore the valid objections raised by the observers on this issue and certainly do not accept that it is reasonable that the issue should be solely one to be agreed, effectively privately, between Ballymun Regeneration Ltd. and Dublin Corporation, without further public comment. The attenuation measures are, most likely, going to require large ponds in open spaces. Those residents close to these open spaces have a legitimate right to make representations in respect of such major engineering works, to the extend that they may be affected by them." Other grounds include the loss of public space, both in Poppintree Park and the 46 hectares of Silloge Park purchased by the Corporation in the 1970s for the benefit of residents of the area, as well as the use of "project splitting" to avoid an EIA [Environmental Impact Assessment] process which would have given proper consultation to residents. =============
PRESS RELEASE 28 AUGUST 2000 PLANNING BILL TO FACE EU CHALLENGE While FIE welcomed today's decision by the Supreme Court, it is lodging a formal complaint against the fees proposed in the legislation.
FIE claims that Article 6(2) of the Environmental Impact Assessment Directive 85/337 as amended by Directive 97/11 specifically requires that Member States shall ensure that any "requests for development consent" are made available to the public "in order to give the public concerned the opportunity to express an opinion before the development consent is granted". "By creating an economic barrier, the proposed fees infringe our rights under the Directive", FIE stated. The spokesperson added that "the Commission has indicated to us informally that we are raising a question that will require their consideration". While the complaint applies only to larger scale projects covered by the Directive, FIE claims that the introduction of the fee will also permit greater corruption by placing a barrier to submissions while disenfranchising genuinely concerned residents, residents associations and environmental non-governmental organizations. "Residents, especially those faced with multiple developments so common today, will be unable to object to each separate application and so lose their right to appeal. It will make the work of Ireland's underfunded NGOs almost impossible."

Press Release 10 February, 2000 EU Legal Challenge to Planning Bill Gains Support 75 environmental groups around the country were supported by all the opposition parties and the President of the Irish Planning Institute in calling for the removal of the fee on planning applications in the proposed Planning Bill. A copy of a letter sent to Environment Commissioner Ms Margot Wallstr??m was handed in to the Dáil Wednesday after a protest meeting in Dublin. The letter, drafted on behalf of 75 environmental and community groups around the country, asserted that the statutory provisions proposed in the Planning Bill to restrict the right of citizens to participate in the planning process are illegal under European Law. "Where planning applications involve the inclusion of an Environmental Impact Assessment, the EIA Directive gives absolute rights to European citizens to participate in the decision making process. Article 6 (2) makes it very clear that Member States shall ensure that they give "the public concerned the opportunity to express an opinion before development consent is granted". The - Campaigns received support from Alan Dukes of Fine Gael, Eamon Gilmore, Labour, Patricia McKenna and John Gormley of the Green Party and Independent Socialist TD Mr Joe Higgins. The specific measures in the Planning Bill which these groups oppose are ¬? the fee to comment on a planning application ¬? the requirement to have previously commented on an application locally, and paid the fee, in order to appeal to An Bord Pleanala ¬? the new requirement for a person to have a 'substantial' interest in order to request Judicial Review of a planning decision. Supporting the protest, Philip Jones, President of the Irish Planning Institute, said that "As a matter of principle we feel as practicing planners that people shouldn't have to pay to put their concerns about a development in their area to the local authority The local authority after all is supposed to be the guardian of the local environment." Pointing out that the Minister was unlikely to require County Councilors to pay such a fee, the Irish Planing Institute suggested this aspect of the Planning Bill "did not seem to be a workable piece of legislation" as Councilors would be "inundated by potential objectors who will use that route to get into the local authority". FIE says the Minister has repeatedly claimed that in compensation for a fee Irish citizens will now have a statutory right to make these observation. "This supposed benefit to citizens is utterly without substance and in no way makes up for the loss of the right to observe without charge." David Healy, spokesman for FIE, said "It is astonishing that the Government should be attempting to restrict citizen's rights in Ireland at a time when European policy is clearly headed in the opposite direction". FIE's spokesman added that "It has been suggested that the proposals are unconstitutional but the attitude of the Irish Courts to those individuals who take environmental cases in the public interest gives us little hope that the matter can be resolved effectively within Ireland." Legal comment: Dr. Sara Dillon 01 706 8789 Spokesman: David Healy 01 8324087 List of Community Groups and Press Conference Organizer: Judy Osborne 0404 40523