Tuesday, 10 December 2019
Department of Housing, Planning, and Local Government
654. To ask the Minister for Housing, Planning, and Local Government the action he has taken arising from a television programme (details supplied) that outlined serious planning and other issues in the quarry industry; his views on whether further legislation is required in this area; if he has received written complaints regarding the breach of planning laws or conditions of planning permission granted; if he is in receipt of complaints regarding the matter relevant to quarries in County Laois; if he is satisfied that local authorities have responded in a positive and constructive way to the ministerial policy directive issued in May 2013 under section 29 of the Planning and Development Act 2000; and the number of reviews of the performance by planning authorities undertaken by the planning regulator under section 31P of the Act. [51795/19]
In May 2013, a Ministerial Policy Directive was issued to all planning authorities under section 29 of the Planning and Development Act 2000, as amended (the Act), reminding them of their statutory obligations under Part VIII of the Act relating to planning enforcement. In light of the recent TV programme, as referred to by the Deputy, regarding unauthorised quarrying activity, my Department will shortly further engage with planning authorities regarding the need for more decisive action against illegal quarries, advising them to make fuller use of the enforcement powers that are available to them, so that the problem can be more effectively addressed.
Under planning legislation, planning enforcement is a matter for the relevant planning authority. In this regard, planning authorities have extensive enforcement powers under Part VIII of the Act to take action where the terms of a permission have not been met or where unauthorised development is taking place. In addition, any person or a planning authority may seek a court order under section 160 of the Act in relation to unauthorised development with a view to ensuring that the development works in question are not carried out or continued.
My Department occasionally receives correspondence regarding allegations of unauthorised development. However, under section 30 of the Act, I am specifically precluded from exercising power or control in relation to any particular case with which a planning authority or An Bord Pleanála is or may be concerned, including planning enforcement cases.
With regard to reviews under Section 31P of the Act, as referred to by the Deputy, I signed the Order to commence the operation of the Office of the Planning Regulator (OPR) in April 2019. The OPR has a specific mandate to conduct reviews of the performance by planning authorities of their planning functions, including enforcement functions, as required. I understand that, further to the recruitment of necessary staffing resources to fulfil its mandate, the OPR proposes to commence its initial programme of performance reviews of planning authorities during 2020.
Furthermore, in connection with claims in the TV programme referred to regarding the procuring by local authorities of materials from unauthorised quarries, my Department will shortly write to local authorities reminding them of the need to adhere to the Public Procurement Guidelines for Goods and Services as published by the Office of Government Procurement, which require that any materials, products or services being procured are sourced from authorised sources which are operating in compliance with relevant statutory requirements.