An Bord Pleanála must undergo a "radical overhaul" that would see the break-up of the planning appeals board into a regionalised entity, operating under strict time limits for decision making.
This is the view of Independent Galway West TD Noel Grealish, who is proposing ABP be broken up, so that the head office in Dublin concentrates on infrastructural and major projects, while regional offices deal with smaller developments in their area. He says this would cut out delays, and allow for decisions to be made more efficiently.
To illustrate his point, the Carnmore TD gives the example of young people planning to build a house, but who run into objections, after being granted permission by either the Galway city or county council. "They may have to wait six months to a year for An Bord Pleanála to rule on the objection," he says, but they are not, during that time, permitted to contact the bord. While Dep Grealish acknowledges the importance of APB's independence, he believes allowances should be made for the applicant and objector to "meet with the person making the decision to discuss issues of concern".
“A regional office in Galway could see a lot of these decisions being made a lot faster," said Dep Grealish. "This way, the whole operation would be made more efficient.”
Dep Grealish is also calling for time limits to be introduced for ABP decisions, similar to those which apply to local councils’ planning departments. Local authorities must make their decision on a planning application within an eight-week period. He said "there is no reason why" ABP should not have to operate under similar time limits, excluding where an environmental impact study must be undertaken.
“That’s a much more sensible approach than what happens at the moment, where you ring up and they say a decision won't be made until such and such a date and then you get a letter saying there has been a delay of another two or three months and it just goes on and on," he said. "An Bord Pleanála generally took much too long at the moment to come to a decision."