Echo Letters: Planning guidelines and appeals procedures

The following is a reply from the Dept. of Housing, Planning and Local Government to an open letter from Aidan Thomas to the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government.

Dear Mr Thomas,

I refer to your recent letter to the Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government in connection with planning in local authorities.

The role of the Minister in relation to the planning system is chiefly to provide and update the legislative and policy guidance framework. The legislative framework comprises the Planning and Development Act 2000, as amended and the Planning and Development Regulations 2001, as amended.

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With regard to policy guidance, the Department has issued a large number of planning guidelines (available on the Department’s website under section 28 of the Planning Act which planning authorities and An Bord Pleanála (the Board) are obliged to have regard to in the exercise of their planning functions.

The day-to-day operation of the planning system is however a matter for the planning authorities.

Local authorities are independent statutory bodies, with democratically elected councils and their own management systems.

The Twentieth amendment of the Constitution Act 1999, provided constitutional recognition of the role of local government, whereby the State recognises the role of local government in providing a forum for the democratic representation of local communities, in exercising and performing at local level powers and functions conferred by law and in promoting by its initiatives the interests of such communities.

Similarly, section 63(3) of the Local Government Act, 2001 (as amended) provides that a local authority is independent in the performance of its functions. 

Ultimately, local authorities, like all State bodies, are answerable to the Courts where breaches of the law are alleged.

Under planning legislation, the decision as to whether to grant a planning application, with or without conditions, is a matter for the relevant planning authority in the first instance.

In making decisions on planning applications, planning authorities must consider the proper planning and sustainable development of the area having regard to the provisions of the county or city development plan, any submissions or observations received, and relevant Ministerial or Government policies, including any guidelines issued by the Department.

An appeal is a fundamental feature of the planning system: the applicant and any person who made a submission on the planning application may appeal the decision of a planning authority on a planning application to An Bord Pleanála, the independent statutory appeals board.

The Board, in determining an appeal, reviews the entire case, having regard to the same matters as the planning authority was required to have regard to in the first instance.

As it is required to, the Board reaches its own conclusion on the matter in line with the proper planning and sustainable development of the area.

The planning authorities are required, under the Planning and Development Act 2000 - 2015, to adopt a development plan for their functional area every six years.

The planning authorities may also make local area plans for particular areas within their general functional areas. All applications for planning permission are considered in the context of the policy objectives set out in the relevant plans.

The making, reviewing and varying of a development plan is a reserved function of the elected members of the planning authority for the area.

In drafting their development plan, it is a matter for the planning authority to take account of comments received and ensure that these plans set the objectives for the proper planning and sustainable development of their areas, in line with national and regional policies and priorities.

If any person considers that he or she has been adversely affected by a planning authority's action, or lack of action, which he or she considers was unlawful, unfair or unreasonable, or considers that he or she has received an inadequate service from the authority, it is open to him/her to make a complaint to the Ombudsman, provided that he or she has complained to the planning authority in the first instance.

The Ombudsman's role in planning matters is confined to the examination of the administration of the planning process by planning authorities and to their enforcement of the planning laws in instances where planning breaches arise.

The Ombudsman's contact details are: Local Authority Section, Office of the Ombudsman, 18 Lower Leeson Street, Dublin 2. Tel: 01 6395600; lo-call: 1890 22 30 30; e-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Yours sincerely,
Department of Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government.

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