Guidelines for Planning Authorities on preparation of local area plans published


Mr Phil Hogan T.D., Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government and Ms Jan O’Sullivan T.D., Minister for Housing and Planning, today (25 June 2013) announced the publication of the first set of statutory guidelines on the preparation of local authority local area plans.

Minister O’Sullivan welcomed the new guidelines as another positive step in delivery of the Government’s programme in relation to planning as well as responding to the findings of the Mahon Tribunal, and in moving towards a stronger, more evidence-based and plan-led planning system.

“The past decade has changed the face of Ireland, of our cities, towns and villages.  We need to ensure that all our decisions about the country we want to live in will be based on the needs of our communities and will be in line with our national objectives for building a more sustainable future”, the Minister said.  “City and County Development Plans include core strategies that reach up to the National Spatial Strategy and Regional Planning Guidelines, while also informing the objectives of Local Area Plans.  These new Guidelines will further strengthen the quality and evidence base of local plans drawing upon the positive influence of recent planning reforms through the core strategy process”.   

The document “Local Area Plans – Guidelines for Planning Authorities” was finalised taking account of over 40 submissions made by interested bodies and members of the public on foot of an earlier public consultation draft.

“Communities are at the heart of our planning system, and should be integrally involved in planning for a more sustainable future and the public consultation phase confirmed this approach as a fundamental principle”, Minister Hogan stated.

The new guidelines will bring about higher standards in the preparation, presentation and implementation of some 350 local area plans that are prepared by local authorities around the country ensuring that such plans both reflect the needs of local communities and comply with national legislative and policy requirements.

The new Guidelines are the first statutory guidance published for planning authorities on how to deliver on their mandatory obligations to prepare Local Area Plans since the concept of local area plans was introduced in legislation in 2000.  The guidelines will inform the preparation of local plans for all towns with populations of over 5,000, as well as informing on-going reviews of local area plans required by the Planning and Development (Amendment) Act 2010.

These Guidelines will bring an end to developer-led draft local area plans ensuring more community planning with ownership of the local area plan-making process firmly centered on the local authority while all the time enabling input of relevant information to the local authority through the statutory consultation process whether by community groups, development interests or others.

“This review process, allied to wider efforts around local government reform, is an excellent opportunity to revisit Celtic Tiger era excesses in terms of inappropriate zoning in particular and I intend to work closely with my officials and the planning authorities to ensure that our planning system is fit for purpose and meets real needs at community level. A key element of this is our commitment to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of our planning system by having a smaller number of local plans but at the same time significantly improving the quality of those local plans remaining into the future”, Minister Hogan said.

The Guidelines particularly highlight the importance of building a strong consensus for the plans through local consultation, of the need to consider the financing and delivery mechanisms for the implementation of the plans, and of the requirements for environmental assessments to comply with relevant EU Directives.  A best practice manual has also been developed to offer additional support to planning authorities in developing these plans. 

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