Venue: Council Chamber, City Hall, Dame Street, Dublin 2.. View directions
The Lord Mayor began by informing the Members that this Special Meeting had been convened to discuss the impact of Circular Letter PL 02/2018 from the Minister for Housing, Planning, and Local Government in relation to the discussion of planning matters by Members of the City Council and how the Council might respond. A copy of the Circular Letter is attached to these minutes as Appendix A.
He explained that a motion had been submitted by Councillor Rebecca Moynihan and seconded by Councillor Dermot Lacey in relation to the circular and would form the basis of the debate. A Member from each political group would be given the opportunity to speak on the issue after which he would open the discussion to the floor.
Before the debate began the Lord Mayor invited the City Planner, John O’Hara to brief the Members on the current position with regards the discussion of planning applications by Councillors.
Mr. O’Hara began by clarifying that the granting or refusing of planning permission was an executive function of the Chief Executive or his delegated officials. Decisions are made in accordance to the Development Plan and national policy. He explained that currently there are two paths through which Councillors can be informed about a planning application. Firstly, a Councillor can make a request for a presentation on an application to the Area Committee by the Area Planner. The information provided will be factual and technical in nature. It is not a discussion and it will have no bearing on the final decision. Secondly, a Councillor may request the Area Office to make arrangements for the Planning Information Unit to make a presentation to the Area Committee. The presentation will be given by a planner from the Forward Planning Section. Again, the information provided will be of a technical and factual in nature and will have no bearing on the final outcome. In both cases the presentation is not a forum for the discussion of the merits of the application.
Mr. O’Hara confirmed that Dublin City Council’s Planning and Development Department will be writing to the Minister requesting clarification on whether the current situation as described conforms to the contents of Circular PL 02/2018.
The following Councillors spoke to the Motion No 1 as submitted by Cllr. R. Moynihan (Appendix B). Councillors R. Moynihan, D. Doolan, P. Hand, T. Brabazon, P. McCartan, D. Lacey, T. MacVeigh, C. Cuffe, P. Dunne, D. Heney, C. Ni Dhálaigh, C. O’Moore, R. McGinley, R. McAdam, D. O’Farrell, J. Boylan, C. Perry, E. Ryan, M. Flynn, J. Lyons, A. Keegan, N O’Muiri, P. McAuliffe, A. Feeney, N. Sammon, G. Kelly, L. O’Toole and tArdmheara Micheal MacDonncha.
During the debate Members made the following observations:
· Although the Circular does not affect the statutory powers of Councillors in the planning process, it does negatively impact on their ability to inform and advise their constituents.
· It seriously undermines local democracy and is characteristic of a continuing campaign by the current Government to reduce and undermine the role of Councillors.
· It ensures that private developers have access to planning expertise but elected representatives do not.
· It is effectively a gagging order on Councillors and Planners.
· The Circular is an unwarranted intervention into the operation of Local Government and the Planning Process. There is no justification for it and it implies that Councillors are using undue influence to pressurise the Planners.
· This Council wants open, public and transparent discussions on planning matters but this Circular seeks to protect private discussions with developers.
· The planning process is already a complex and expensive process and this only serves to prevent Councillors from assisting their constituents.
It was proposed by Cllr. D. Doolan and seconded by Cllr. J. Boylan that the Lord Mayor writes to the Minister to convey the Council’s disapproval in the strongest terms and to ask the Minister for a meeting on this matter.
It was proposed by Cllr. D. Heney proposed and seconded by Cllr. R. McGinley that the motion be amended to include the request that the Circular be rescinded. Therefore, the following motion was put:
“This Council is concerned at the impact that Circular Letter PL 02/2018, issued by Minister Eoghan Murphy will have on the ability of elected members to properly understand the technical and planning implications of planning applications in their area. These presentations at our Area Committee are essential in informing our submissions as part of the formal planning process and helping us advise residents on their planning submissions. We ask that this Circular be withdrawn.
We ask that the Chief Executive send a letter to the Minister, outlining our concerns about the impact that this decision will have on our ability to properly carry out our functions as elected representatives, and asking for the following clarification from the Minister in relation to the Circular:
1. Does the ability of planners to give technical and planning advice to developers in pre planning consultation meetings remain unaffected?
2. Has the Department received legal advice to how this Circular impacts on the Aarhus convention which guarantees Public Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters, while issuing no direction to local authority ... view the full minutes text for item 2.