Irish Planning Myth #5 – You need to be 'in with the planners' to get pp (espec 4 @paulmknally )

This Planning myth follows on from a comment by fellow architect Paul McNally:

“Hi Mark,
Like the topic.
One of my favourite myths is that clients need a designer who is ‘in’ with the planners. i.e. has an inside track, wink and nod, a bit of pull (which the Irish fetishise!) in order to be able to ‘get planning’. I am not sure where this comes from, but it stinks of the bad old days when Irish people bowed and scraped to get ahead in life. It is like people do not realise that you have rights, property rights, rights to develop, and the planning process in my opinion is a fairly transparent and predictable process. Sure, a bit of experience helps in understanding development plans, planning policies and good design principles, but given these what the planners want is usually in black and white in the development plan and if you are an architect you will be able to design within that framework.
Perhaps this is a myth perpetuated by unqualified designers, such as the draughtsperson or engineer in order to balance their inability to design with a comprehensive grasp of aesthetics, context, culture or spatial complexity.

I am basing this on a wide planning experience covering at least six different rural county councils and as many borough or city councils over 15 years.
many thanks!
Paul McNally MRIAI”

And Paul is correct, it is a myth and is a legacy of the brown envelope days of getting your permission with a nice nod & a wink and a bundle of notes. What is required however is:

  • Good design (ahem)
  • Making sure you adhere to the County Development requirements; occupancy, scenic areas etc…
  • Making sure you adhere to technical standards regarding effluent disposal, road safety for example.

    And remember: It isn’t the design that will scupper your planning application…

    But have the brown envelope days really gone? Is the Irish planning system more likely to promote brown envelopes?

    I can honestly say that I haven’t been party to any underhand planning dealings but I have been surprised when planning magically goes through when a Councillor or TD gets involved; who’s to know what is going on behind closed doors?

    What is interesting is the difference between the Irish system (a single planner making decisions that then get ‘signed-off’ by higher person) vs. the UK system where frequently planning committees are involved. As I have experience of both systems I have really enjoyed the BBC2 series ‘The Planners’ and to be honest I’d like to see the UK system implemented here in Ireland. You’d think that a committee of this type would be less likely to be ‘bought’ than a single planner but as we’ve seen with the raft of people taking ‘donations’ over the rezoning of planning land that is obviously not the case. Maybe Ireland is has more corruptible people in power?

    I’d love to hear your comments on this issue…

  • 4 thoughts on “Irish Planning Myth #5 – You need to be 'in with the planners' to get pp (espec 4 @paulmknally )

    1. Hi Mark / Paul,
      I think the planning process here is fairly transparent and democratic too in its appeals procedures. I think the ‘in’ business though was true in certain areas and there were / are people whose whole businesses / practice cornerstone was their ‘good connections’ be it with planners or more often councillors. There are definitely less rotten apples in the barrel now thank god. The bbc programme is really interesting – now there’s real tranparency and democracy in action – i think it would cause a lot of convulsions over here if it was introduced. we have personal freedoms that trump societal interests in my opinion which most countries dont have and most people don’t realise this half the time.
      On a tangentail point I do think that sometimes it has been beneficial to a project to have a ‘big name’ architect behind a project and they often receive a better reception to therir plans in the planning office shall we say that the schemes of your more regular joe architects whoc can be just as acapable of designing sometihing nice within development plan requirements.

      1. Hi David

        Thanks for comment, yes you’re right. I think generally that planners receive better schemes from architects rather than ‘non’, probably because they have less design training and experience. The problem as I’ve highlighted is all the other stuff that goes with planning like effluent disposal and sight visibility that can easily give a planning rejection


    2. hi mark,
      i think i didn’t make my last point too clearly. I am certainly not about to defend the situation where non architects can lodge planning applications…much like pulling a tooth is done by a dentist i think the wider societal interst would be served by only letting professionals ie registered architects lodge planning applications.
      I wa trying to suggest that sometimes a scheme will be viewed more or less favourably in the planning section depending on whose name is in the title block. someone who wins awards or someone a bit more regular joe architect but who obviously can still design. getting your ‘starchitect’ on board even if they are only one in the irish sphere can be ‘helpful’ i think. i suppose perhaps i’m cribbing that sometimes it seems like a bit of a closed shop in this country amongst a selct no of frims. anybody else feel this is the case is just my related point to pauls’ original myth of needing to be in with the planners

      1. Hi David

        Point was very clear & I agree in part; there’s relatively so few architects out there and of those only a few could be deemed ‘starchitects’ that I don’t think at this end of the country (Dublin may be different) that it makes much difference


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