Dáil Éireann - Volume 550 - 28 February, 2002

Written Answers. - Planning Regulations.

  121. Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for the Environment and Local Government his views on whether local authorities lack the resources necessary to enforce the planning laws and regulations. [6490/02]

  Minister for the Environment and Local Government (Mr. Dempsey): Strong and visible enforcement is critical to ensuring that the planning control system works properly and for the benefit of the whole community. A key objective of the Planning and Development Act, 2000, was to bring forward strengthened provisions in relation to planning enforcement. These new provisions come into force on 11 March and will address a variety of issues. The changes in the 2000 Act will encourage increased enforcement and more compliance by developers and include a new streamlined enforcement procedure. Fines [178] under the Act have also been greatly increased and planning authorities will retain the income from such fines. Planning authorities will also be able to recoup their expenses when they prosecute a case. In addition, applications for permission to retain unauthorised development will no longer be a defence to an enforcement action or be a reason for staying a criminal prosecution. I have also provided increased penal fees for applications for such retention permission which will act as a significant deterrent to developers from undertaking unauthorised development. The Planning and Development Act, 2000, will also enable a planning authority to refuse to grant permission to a developer who has not complied with previous permissions, subject to the consent of the High Court.

  I have also been concerned to ensure adequate staffing levels for local authority planning departments. I have approved numerous requests from planning authorities for sanction for additional planning posts, both professional planners and administrative staff. Staffing of local authority planning departments has almost doubled over the last four years from 660 in June 1998 to 1,284 in October 2001 and involves significant recruitment of planners from abroad. I am confident therefore that the resources available to the planning system are increasing and will continue to increase over the next number of years as a significantly expanded number of graduate planners becomes available from the educational institutions.