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Enhancing the planning process

The Office of the Planning Regulator (OPR) was formally established in April 2019 on foot of recommendations made by the Tribunal of Inquiry into Certain Planning Matters and Payments (the Mahon Tribunal). Niall Cussen, Chief Executive and Planning Regulator speaks with the Housing Magazine.

The Mahon Tribunal made 64 recommendations aimed at significantly enhancing the transparency of planning in Ireland against a backdrop of significant historical deficiencies in relation to decision-making on local authority development plans and other planning functions.

The appointment of an independent Planning Regulator, empowered to oversee the planning system in Ireland, was one of the key recommendations of the Tribunal. Niall Cussen, Chief Executive and Planning Regulator was subsequently appointed as Ireland’s first Planning Regulator in December 2018.

Speaking about the OPR and his role, Cusssen said: “The formation of the OPR represents an important milestone in the development of Ireland’s planning system.

“Put simply, our planning process directly affects every citizen of the State in meeting housing, physical and social infrastructural requirements, protecting and enhancing the quality of our environment and enabling the essential economic functioning of the country.”

Functions of the OPR

The role of the OPR is to ensure that the implementation of planning policy and legislation by local authorities and An Bord Pleanála supports government policy and statutory requirements, that effective programmes of research, training and public awareness in planning are in place to strengthen the planning process, and that the wider public are effectively engaged in the planning process.

The Planning and Development Act 2000, as amended, gives the OPR a statutory basis to carry out three main functions:

  1. Evaluation of statutory plans
    The OPR has responsibility for independently assessing all statutory plans to ensure that the plans provide for the proper planning and sustainable development of the area concerned.
  2. Planning reviews and examinations
    The OPR may review the systems and procedures used by any planning authority including An Bord Pleanála in the performance of any or all of their planning functions, making independent and evidence-based recommendations to planning authorities, and to the Minister.
  3. Education, training and research
    The OPR is responsible for driving national research, education and training, to highlight the role and benefit of good planning. The OPR delivers education and training programmes for both elected members and staff of local authorities and regional assemblies.

Commenting on the progress of the OPR since its establishment, Cussen said: “Since our establishment, we have delivered many successful events and contributions to the national planning process. We met with a large number of our stakeholders and ran various training events across the country. We have conducted evaluations of statutory spatial plans and made a series of recommendations. We have also laid the groundwork for a programme of reviews of the systems and procedures used by planning authorities.

“Ireland will change significantly over the next 20 years. It will become home to an extra million people, requiring 500,000 new homes and 600,000 extra jobs. We have an obligation to plan and manage that change in a much more environmentally responsible way, essentially the right development in the right places and at the right time. The OPR will be central to supporting this and ensuring a continual enhancement of the quality of our planning process.”

E: info@opr.ie
W: www.opr.ie