The Irish planning system has a strong emphasis on third party rights where the planning process has three parties:
1. The Planning Authority
2. The applicant
3. The general public
There is also the general right of any person to see a copy of your application and to make written submissions or observations to the Planning Authority and/or to appeal the Authority decision to An Bord Pleanala.
There also exists the opportunity for your a locally elected Councillor to make a representation on your behalf. That is, to meet with the planner assigned to your application and to put forward reasons why your application should be looked upon favourably. There is no fee for this as effectively he is working to represent his constituency.
Also, an elected Councillor can also make a representation at the (generally monthly) Council meetings.
These Council meetings are generally headed by a chairman (the Cathaoirleach) and are attended by Council Staff (Chief Executive, Director of Services, Head of Finance, Senior Planner etc…) together with the Councillors.
So when should this representation happen?
I always recommend a pre-planning consultation at sketch design stage; this can either be undertaken formally by the Council (where that have to give a response) or informally where a pre-planning meeting is held to discuss the design without formal, written response. In County Mayo (and many other counties) these are held on a ‘drop-in’ basis once a week. If the response therefore is negative at this stage then you could get political representation early.
When the planning application is lodged; not much happens until the final week (of the 8 weeks); this is another good stage to enquire about political representation; the trick is to time the meeting between Councillor & planner/meeting to be not to early (so is not at that relevant stage) or too late (when the decision has been made).
A third option is if the Council is requesting Further Information at the end of the 8 weeks then you could then enquire about your Councillor making a representation on your behalf.
Does Political Representation work?
It could be simply a vote garnering exercise; the Councillor takes the credit if the planning application is passed and simply says ‘bloody planners’ if it’s refused? Either way, it’s worth a punt.
I’ve had applications where I’d been convinced that a refusal was imminent and then the drawings are passed following a Councillor intervention and equally the opposite that no matter how many times we’ve had meetings/discussions the application is refused; it should be remembered that even with the best representation your application will need to comply with the relevant Local Authority County Development Plan and Housing Strategy? Have there been brown envelopes? Who knows, certainly not from me.
Do I like Political Representation? No not really; when I first arrived in Ireland I believed the planning application should stand on its own merits but everyone seems to be doing it and is part and parcel of the poor planning system we are currently working under.
Feedback & comments welcome…