At its meeting on 7 May 2013, in line with the recommendation contained in the Final Report of the Mahon Tribunal, the Government approved proposals for the preparation of a new Planning and Development Bill to establish a new Office of the Planning Regulator (OPR). The OPR, which will be established with an independent corporate identity, will have three core functions. It will carry out independent appraisal of regional and local level statutory plans prepared and adopted under the Planning and Development Act 2000, as amended, including development plans, local area plans and regional planning guidelines. The Planning Regulator will advise the Minister on the content of the plans, and, where appropriate, provide advice that all or part of a plan should be amended or rejected (through a ministerial direction). The advice of the OPR will be published. The OPR will also have investigative powers to examine, inter alia, possible systemic failings in the planning system, again taking account of the recommendation of the Mahon Tribunal in this regard. The OPR will also be mandated to carry out the research, training and education roles identified by the Mahon Tribunal.
My Department is presently preparing a General Scheme of a new Planning and Development Bill giving consideration to the detailed issues to be addressed with regard to the establishment of the OPR, including those raised in the question. It is envisaged that the General Scheme of the Bill will be published in the coming months.