Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Questions (508, 509, 510, 511, 512)

Barry Cowen

Question:

508. Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the reasons for the establishment of an independent planning enquiry into six local authorities; the estimated cost of such enquiries; the previous estimated cost of such enquiries in 2011; when they were discontinued; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31629/13]

View answer

Barry Cowen

Question:

509. Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if his Department will use the original panel of planning consultants in place in January 2011 for the upcoming independent enquiry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31630/13]

View answer

Barry Cowen

Question:

510. Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the total cost of the internal review of the planning irregularities conducted by his Department following the discontinuation of the original independent planning inquiry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31631/13]

View answer

Barry Cowen

Question:

511. Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the timeframe for the new independent inquiry and the safeguards he is putting in place to protect its independence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31632/13]

View answer

Barry Cowen

Question:

512. Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his views on the accuracy of the internal departmental review on planning irregularities in six local authorities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31633/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Environment)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 508 to 512, inclusive, together.

The Planning Review Report I published, on 12 June 2012, was prepared internally by my Department. The only costs therefore were the salary and relevant travel costs of the officials engaged in preparing the report. I committed to having the Report assessed by an independent planning expert and, on 8 March 2013, I published the Independent Evaluation of the Planning Review Report June 2012 prepared by Mr. Hendrik van der Kamp at a cost of €12,096.00. The Planning Review Report produced strong recommendations which have stood up to independent assessment. Both reports are available on my Department’s website www.environ.ie.

On 14 June, 2013, the High Court made an Order quashing that part of the Planning Review Report relating to Donegal following a settlement between my Department and another party who had brought judicial review proceedings in respect of that part of the Report. The matter has now been disposed of to the satisfaction of both sides.

I am continuing my efforts to restore public confidence in the planning system by opening up the review process and the system to maximum scrutiny. Accordingly, and for the avoidance of any doubt over the validity of the process to date, I have decided to appoint independent consultants, following a new tendering process to be commenced shortly by my Department, to conduct an independent review of the application of planning practices and procedures in the other six local authorities included in the Planning Review Report in light of the settlement of the judicial review proceedings. I have also sought the Attorney General’s advice on how best to proceed in the case of Donegal County Council.