As indicated in my reply to Question No. 1768 of 16 January 2018, in making a decision on a planning application or appeal, a planning authority or An Bord Pleanála must consider the proper planning and sustainable development of the area concerned while having regard to the provisions of the relevant development plan, relevant Ministerial or Government policies and guidelines, as well as the views of members of the public on the proposed development.
Public participation is, therefore, a crucial element of all substantive decision-making processes under the Planning and Development Act 2000, as amended, and is also a requirement under the UN Aarhus Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation on Decision Making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters (the Aarhus Convention) and the European Union Environmental Impact Assessment Directive 2011/92/EU in relation to specific types of developments.
It is open to any member of the public to make an observation or submission on a planning application and the planning authority is statutorily obliged to consider such submissions before making a decision on the application. Persons who make submissions are also entitled to be notified of any significant further information provided to the planning authority by the applicant and to be notified of the authority’s decision on the application. Furthermore, any person who made a submission on a planning application may appeal the planning authority’s decision on the application to An Bord Pleanála or may make a submission to the Board in relation to an appeal of that decision.
The fees payable by members of the public to participate in the planning decision-making process are set at a level that, as well as contributing towards the cost of processing applications and appeals, discourages frivolous or vexatious submissions without hindering genuine public participation. In addition, the Board has discretion to dismiss an appeal where it is satisfied that the appeal is vexatious, frivolous or without substance or foundation, or where the appeal is made with the sole intention of delaying development or of securing the payment of money, gifts, considerations or other inducement by any person.
I am satisfied that the current arrangements in relation to public participation in decision-making contribute significantly to the openness and transparency of the planning process and I have no proposals to amend the legislation in this regard.