The Seanad have voted to end the fee that councillors pay for planning application submissions.
If the Dail rubber stamps the Seanad decision, city and county councillors will no longer have to pay the €20 fee in their electoral area or ward.
Local independent Senator Victor Boyhan told Dublin Gazette he proposed the change because he is outraged that councillors must pay out of their own pockets to make a submission or observation on planning applications in their areas, and they cannot even claim it back on expenses.
He said: “I think there is something fundamentally wrong in a democracy where the elected members, who are elected to represent their communities, are having to pay to engage with the planning authority.
“Even if it’s a positive thing. Even if they said: ‘This a great proposal, I think it could benefit jobs and the economy and I would like to support it,’ the councillor has to pay €20 euro to say that.”
Senator Boyhan said that councillors could be putting in 10 objections a month which adds up, and added that the expenses does not stop there for councillors.
He said: “If you want to appeal a decision to An Bord Pleanala (ABP) as well, you have to have a receipt to demonstrate to an ABP that you have paid your fees to the local authority. If you don’t have a receipt and evidence of paying, then they will refuse to accept your appeal. The appeal is in excess of €200 which you would also have to pay.”
At the recent Seanad debate, Minister of State at the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government Damien English asked the opposition not to call a vote on the Planning and Development (Amendment) Bill.
He said that there was agreement that councillors should not have to pay the fee, but he added: “We still disagree on whether it should be in regulation or in legislation. We would be strongly of the view that it is better done in regulation.
“Senator Boyhan is of the view that it should be in legislation and we have been debating that.”
Senator Boyhan told Dublin Gazette he wants Minister English not to oppose the amendment.