Kildare gets a pass on its planning decisions

KILDARE County Council emerges as one of the better local authorities in an An Taisce planning report issued on 16 April, writes Henry Bauress.

KILDARE County Council emerges as one of the better local authorities in an An Taisce planning report issued on 16 April, writes Henry Bauress.

The planning and heritage watchdog put it seventh best in a list of authorities when marked on what it interpreted as good planning practice.

But it said it had the worst enforcement record in the State.

South Dublin topped the list getting 200 or 74% of total marks, followed by Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown, Galway City, Fingal and Meath.

Kildare was next with 163 marks or 60% and was the highest of the D marked authorities. “Kildare is not too bad,” was how An Taisce spokesperson, Charles Stanley-Smith, described its peformance to the Leader on Monday.

As well as being the the worst in the country on enforcement, it had the lowest rate of prosecution of developers who failed to obey enforcement notices.

The report said the legal cost of enforcement is a problem and this needs to be fixed. “It is essential that the new planning regulator proposed by the Mahon Report is given strong statutory powers to oversee enforcement,” it said.

Statewise it paints a picture of “systemic failure on a nationwide basis and a very poor performance by local authorities in discharging their planning functions.”

An Taisce, whose current President is Maynooth based NUIM Professor, John Sweeney, strongly backed the Mahon Report call for an independent planning regulator to veto reckless rezoning and investigate allegations of impropriety. He said he lesson from the “Celtic Tiger” is that persistent marginalisation of questioning voices weakened our democracy, our economy and our society.

The organisation says it only appeals 3% of all decisions and 80% of its appeals have been successful at appeal stage.

The report (see An Taisce website) is critical of the Dublin and Mid East regional authorities for not commenting on breaches of the Regional Planning Guidelines.

Among the Kildare related developments referred to in the report were a technical park at Kilcock, housing at Rathangan, hotels at Kill and Palmerstown, the proposed business Smart park at Carton Demesne, nursing homes at Rathangan and Ballyhagen, Carbury, development at Donaghcumper demesne near Castletown House in Celbridge.

It says its successful appeals probably saved taxpayers €505m in NAMA related problems, including between €85 and €142m in three Kildare proposed developments, at Palmerstown, Kill and Monasterevin.

The An Taisce report (see www.antaisce.org) also refers to the pyrite problem and calls for better legislation.