Well done John Gormley and Greens

The Greens have made their first significant impact (3rd item) on the way things have been traditionally done in this country. John Gormley, Minister for the Environment has overturned hundreds of land re-zonings made by Monaghan County Council.

Traditionally, county councils ignore development plans, disregard advice from the Department of the Environment and local officials and proceed to grant planning, as Minister Gormley describes it, in a sporadic and haphazard fashion. Reasons for such curious planning decisions often come to light in tribunal’s decades hence – too late to rectify the damage.

I have to admit it’s difficult to get used to an Irish politician acting in the public interest. Actually using legislation, Section 31 of the 2000 Planning Act, to

“protect the national interest and ensure proper planning and sustainable development.”

Destructive and irresponsible planning has been part our culture for decades. Yet I have never heard of a minister using this power, indeed, I didn’t know such powers existed as County Councils usually do as they please without censure.

Planning decisions, as everybody knows, can make ‘lucky’ individuals very rich overnight. This happens when agricultural land is rezoned for residential use; the Monaghan case involved around 300 such re-zonings.

Unfortunately, such re-zonings can also add considerably to the cost of buying a house so the explanation of Monaghan County Councillor, Padraig McNally is curious to say the least.

“We are conscious that we did, to some degree, over-zone. But we did it in the knowledge that it would bring down the price of land and maybe have a knock on effect on the price of houses which is obviously the greatest problem that society, as a whole, has to deal with in terms of housing.”