Questionable Rezonings and the Flood Report. Evening Herald, 1st October 2002
‘Outrageous’ was the word used by the Irish Planning Institute when it commented on rezoning back in the early 1990’s. In a detailed submission to Dublin County Council it stated that many of the proposed zoning changes were in the outrageous category. The Institute urged the Council to look again at the implications of the rezoning proposals. It stated that ‘a cursory glance at the display maps shows how inappropriate and indefensible many of the proposals are.’
Green Party Councillors on Dublin County Council were also concerned. They looked on aghast as Councillors from the major Parties proposed lengthy lists of rezoning proposals to the Council Meetings at the time. We drew attention to the allegations of corruption, but felt that no-one was really listening. Even if they were, the libel laws in Ireland made it difficult to voice our suspicions in public. When the Green Party’s leader Trevor Sargent TD held up a cheque he had received from a builder and asked had anyone else on the Council received one he was bundled into the corner of the Council Chamber and physically threatened.
Certainly there was less rezoning taking place on Dublin City Council when I was elected to it in 1991, but that was simply because there was almost no land left to rezone. However, the remaining farmland in the Dublin City Council area in Pelletstown, between Finglas and Ashtown was rezoned by the Councillors a few years ago. It is now set to be developed with a mixture of different types of buildings.
Often the public only get to hear about building proposals when it is too late to have an input. Certainly most people in County Dublin had no idea what was going on behind closed doors in the headquarters of Dublin County Council on O’Connell Street back in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. Even if they did the Byzantine work methods would have made it all but impossible to grasp what was going on when the re-zoners were hard at work. Often the Councillors rezoned land in areas far across the city from the area that they represented, so that they wouldn’t get the flak for unpopular decisions at a local level.
Many incorrect decisions on zoning are still being made in County Councils around the country. Perhaps we should ensure that all Development Plans go to an independent body for review before they are finally approved. It wasn’t much fun watching all the re-zonings that took place in Dublin ten years ago from the side-lines, but at least Justice Flood is now starting to unravel the sordid tale of what was really going on in planning in Dublin.
City and County Councillors
Every five years the Councillors review or make a new Development Plan. This is the document that provides the overview for development within the City or County. The Plan consists of a written document accompanied by maps showing the zoning for the entire County. The Councillors have the right to make their own Plan from scratch, but in practice they take advice from the City and County Manager. However they often take the opportunity during the making of the Plan to rezone land, often against the advice of the City or County Manager. Back in the early 1990’s Minister Michael Smith described ‘zoning as a debased currency in the County Dublin area’
The City or County Manager
The Manager is responsible for dealing with Planning Applications on a day-to-day basis. The Manager usually listens to the advice from the full-time staff of the Council such as planners, engineers and administrators, but at the end of the day it is usually the Manager who has the last word. The Manager is often in a difficult position, as he or she has to listen to both sides of the story. It can be difficult to get the right balance between growth, and protecting communities and the environment from the wrong type of development.
Members of the public can make Planning Applications for land that they own, and can comment on Planning Applications made by others. In the past you could make comments on Planning Applications for free, but now you have to pay a fee of twenty euros. If don’t like the decision made by the Planning Authority, you can appeal that decision to the Planning Appeals Board, An Bord Pleanala. They will then completely re-consider the Planning Application. In the case of Spencer Dock in Dublin’s Docklands, the Dublin City Manager granted permission for the proposal with many conditions, but on appeal, Bord Pleanala turned down most of the proposed development. Every five years the public are consulted for their views on the Development Plan, but it is the Councillors who have the final say. ENDS
Evening Herald, 1st October 2002, webpage published 10th January 2018