Councillors warn of consequences for local democracy

Derren Wiliam

Sinn Fein’s Dublin mid-west Cllrs William Carey and Derren O’Bradaigh in a joint statement have said that the news that South Dublin County Council are to use the temporary exemption of the part 8 planning process is a dangerous precedent and a blow to local democracy. At April’s full council meeting councillors were informed of the proposed use of the derogation that allows local authorities to by-pass the normal planning process in relation to residential projects. The derogation is to be used initially in relation to 10 projects that have been in the pipeline for some time. A list of these projects was presented to council on Tuesday.

In December of 2022 the FF/FG government introduced an amendment to the Planning and Regulations 2001. The amendment sought to by-pass the Part 8 planning process and was intended to speed up the delivery of housing. However according to Cllr William Carey, this will have no real impact on the delivery time. Instead, the new process will simply deny councillors their limited powers to affect planning and building in their local authority area. The implication of this action is a blow to local democracy and could have future permanent consequences for the future of the planning process.

Speaking at the council meeting, Cllr Carey sought assurances that despite the Part 8 process being by-passed councillors would have their views properly taken account of when representations would be made in relation to the projects. Cllr Carey said, “We all want a speedier process and less bureaucracy, but this derogation will not have any serious impact on the delivery of these projects. Rather, it will simply deny the right of councillors to approve of housing developments within the council’s jurisdiction.

Cllr Carey pointed out that, “in the past 4yrs since my election there has only been one Part 8 denied by councillors”, (and this was to preserve the use of sports grounds in the Knocklyon area). Cllr Carey added that delays in housing delivery can not be attributed to the democratic process being undertaken by councillors. The derogation will shorten the official time line for approval from 20 weeks to 8 but the real time delays have always been in the administrative  blockage between the councils and the relevant government departments controlling the purse strings. The recent news that there was an underspend of over €1bn by the dept in the delivery of housing projects had nothing to do with the Part 8 process.

Also commenting Cllr Ó Brádaigh said“ Due to continued failure of government housing policy to adequately plan and meet real time housing need, we arrive at a sticking plaster j uncture and worryingly away from good practices. This exemption compromises and dilutes processes that are in place for very good reason. Concerns here are twofold – We risk alienating residents and the general public from affording them reasonable and fair public consultation and secondly, this wilts away the important democratic role of the councillor.” 

Cllr Carey concluded, “it would seem that the minister is engaged in a process of misdirection to excuse his own failures and incompetence as a minister”.

Sarah Brooks

Sarah Brooks

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