Councillors have slammed the Minister for Housing’s decision to withdraw ‘planning rights’ from councillors at Local Area Meetings.
The measures by Minister Eoghan Murphy directed at local councils came into effect last week.
It means that local county councillors will no longer be able to discuss major planning applications at district or Area Committee meetings, or at other meetings of city and county councils.
Cllr Dermot Lacey (Lab) said that the new measures are “bizzare”.
“It is bizarre and hypocritical that the letter would advise us that it has come to his attention now, seeing that, as a previous councillor in the south east area, he would have been aware of this long-established practice.
“This represents a grievous attack on local government and on the rights of communities to have planning issues aired in public and their concerns represented in a democratic forum.
“This has been a long-standing right going back over many years, and is the further destruction of local democracy and the right of the people’s representatives to voice their concerns to planning officials,” he said.
Prior to the introduction of the new directive, councillors were allowed to request a presentation on a planning application to be given to local councillors.
A planning official would then go through the application for the development, and councillors were allowed to give comments on the application. Councillors will no longer be permitted to do this under the Minister’s instruction.
The chair of DCC’s housing committee, Cllr Daithi Doolan, has asked for the Minister to withdraw the new directive.
Cllr Doolan (SF) said: “Private developers must be held to account. As a former city councillor himself, Minister Murphy must realise that this directive will only make developers less accountable and the planning process less transparent. The directive is wrong, and the minister must withdraw it immediately.
“This amounts to nothing less than a gagging order on democratically elected representatives. It is unacceptable and must be opposed.
“This is an attack on councillors from all parties. I am urging other city councillors to support a call for a special meeting of DCC to debate this issue.”
Another new planning measure means councils are even more limited in their influence on planning decisions. Certain planning applications can now by-pass county councils if the developments are for more than 100 housing units.
Dublin councillors have previously bashed the new planning application process, with Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown county councillor Deirdre Donnelly (Ind) previously calling it “undemocratic” as councillors are unable to discuss the impact on a local area in the same way as before.
Dublin Gazette reached out for official comment but had not received a reply by the time of going to press.