I was away at the tail end of last week in Scotland talking, appropirately enough, on the property crisis in Ireland and its causes and effects.  The result was I missed most of the Mahon media frenzy.  At the moment I’m flat out with work that has a Thursday deadline.  This blog really does need to have a considered piece on the Mahon Report and its implications for the planning system.  I will try to draft something soon, in the meantime here is a link to a piece I wrote in June last year concerning the downgrading of the independent review into planning in six local authorities.  Here’s what I concluded at the time.

The reason given by the Department is that the format for the review was considered ‘inappropriate’ by Minister for Environment, Phil Hogan TD and Minister of State for Housing and planning, Willie Penrose, TD.  By ‘inappropriate’ one presumes they mean ‘independent’ with a license to ask difficult and awkward questions.  By downgrading the review to an internal process, the Department has left itself open to accusations that it is seeking to narrow the parameters, remit, autonomy, openness and transparency of any review.  Whether such accusations are fair or not, presentation and process are important in creating trust, faith and confidence in the system of governance.  Downgrading a review does not built such sentiment.

In the wake of the Mahon Report it seems entirely appropriate that these reviews are now carried out.  If there are no problems the Dept and the Councils should have nothing to fear by such a process.

Planning corruption and cronyism are not victimless crimes.  People are living in landscapes scarred by poor and empty structures, citizens are left with the cost of servicing inefficient development, and with the costs of the bank bailout and fiscal crisis.  We deserve a robust, fair and transparent planning system. Part of the process of getting such a system is to determine existing flaws, expose wrongdoing and to reform practices and structures.  Mahon provides an entry point, not the final analysis.  These independent reviews need to be recommenced.

Rob Kitchin

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