Green Party critical of ‘anti-democratic’ Planning Bill

Party claims Housing and Planning Development Bill harks a return to the dark days of unsustainable planning

The Green Party has criticised a new planning bill being brought forward by Minister for Planning Eoghan Murphy, claiming that it will undo recent progress in addressing the power imbalance between communities and big project developers. 

Speaking following the presentation of the ‘Housing and Planning and Development Bill 2019’ to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Housing, Planning and Local Government, Green Party Spokesperson for Local Government and Community Development, Cllr Malcolm Noonan said that the Minister was attempting to stifle the already limited powers open to communities and NGOs to take Judicial Review (JR) proceedings following significant planning decisions.

‘We were one of the last EU Member States to transpose the Aarhus Convention and Public Participation Directive into Irish Law; much of which we are still way under resourced to support at Local Authority level and now Government is attempting to undermine the rights of Irish citizens to participate in the planning system on parity with developers who have every planning and legal resource at their disposal’

Cllr Noonan.

He said that one of the pillars of the Aarhus Convention on access to justice on environmental matters was the protection of plaintiffs from excessive costs in Judicial Review proceedings and that a cap on such protection would mean that many community groups or eNGOs would just fold under financial pressure.

‘A previous Fine Gael administration was dragged kicking and screaming to transpose the Aarhus Convention into Irish Law as it was about to take up the Presidency of the European Union and now a few short years later a Fine Gael Minister is seeking to undo it’.

Malcolm Noonan

Cllr Noonan said that the requirement that an NGO must be in existence for a minimum of three years was a cynical attempt to eliminate the possibility of action groups opposed to large scale infrastructural or controversial road projects from taking part in the planning process.

‘This is an anti-democratic and deeply cynical piece of proposed legislation aimed at undermining public participation in the planning system and it runs contrary to the spirit of the Sustainable Development Goals and our commitments towards a sustainable future. We would urge Minster Murphy to think again before bringing it any further if he has any shred of concern for democratic accountability and citizen participation’

concluded Cllr Noonan. 

Ends

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News on the Housing and Planning Bill 2019