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Planners seeking workable legislation Conference told

Gavin Lawlor, President of the Irish Planning Institute, has said that the priority of planners is to ensure that the Planning and Development Bill, currently passing through the Oireachtas, is workable for the long term, not to slow the legislative process down.

Addressing over 300 professionals from across the planning, construction and sustainability sectors at the Institute’s annual conference in Waterford on the progress of the Bill, he said, “In its current form this Bill is not fit for purpose. It will have a detrimental impact on citizen engagement in the planning process, and it proposes unrealistic timelines, guidelines and compliance, making aspects of the Bill unworkable.

“Our ambition is not to slow down the Bill but to work with policy makers to get it right. We have made a number of submissions on the legislation and engaged very constructively and openly but remain convinced that the Bill requires further section-by-section consultation and review with practitioners so that the implications in practice of the new measures can be considered.

“The IPI want to see a Bill that serves the needs of society and the common good for generations to come. We remain fully committed to working with the Minister, Minister of State, Department, Oireachtas members and all stakeholders to make sure this legislation is fit for purpose, and we look forward to seeing further revisions and amendments at Report Stage.”

Addressing his first Conference as President, Gavin Lawlor, who became head of the Institute in January also said his focus for the sector is establishing planners’ critical role in delivering climate action and sustainability.  Attracting more people to planning as a career and ensuring the profession provides a united front are also priorities of his tenure.

He added: “Sustainability is at the heart of what we do. Planners understand the issues of climate, biodiversity, demography and economic development but our voice risks being drowned out by those that don’t have a holistic understanding of these issues.

“Planners know how to ensure the housing and infrastructure we need is delivered for the benefit of the environment and society and we need to be more assertive about the skills and knowledge we bring.”

“To do this we have to work collaboratively. Much of this year’s conference programme is about building understanding across the planning, technology, construction and sustainability sectors but we also need to build understanding across the planning profession itself and break down barriers. “

Also, welcoming delegates to this year’s Conference Mayor of Waterford City and County, Cllr Joe Conway said, “This year’s conference will focus on planning for smart, sustainable, and competitive regions and cities, and it is our vision in Waterford City and County Council to make Waterford City ʻthe most liveable city in Irelandʼ where our growing population can sustainably live, work and play.

“The North Quays is a flagship sustainable urban regeneration project. The project creates the opportunity to develop a sustainable and exemplary city centre by connecting the north and south sides of the city and will reduce dependency on travel by private car and will increase the modal shift of journeys to walking and cycling, and further encourage this by the creation of high-quality public realm space. The overall North Quays project is a model for the proper integration of land use planning and transport planning which is critical to delivering the smart, sustainable and competitive cities needed to meet our future challenges.”

He added, “Waterford City and County Council, in partnership with the Urban Regeneration & Development Fund and other stakeholders is also investing in the regeneration of the heart of the historic city centre, while investment in the sustainable regeneration of Waterford’s towns and villages is also continuing with the support of the Rural Regeneration Development Fund.”

Among those addressing the IPI Conference this year is Peter Mullan, new chair of An Bord Pleanála who gave the keynote address this morning (Thursday) while the conference will also be addressed by Michael Flood from the OECD.

Reminder : Closure of Public Planning Office

Due to construction works, the public planning office in Waterford City (Menapia Building) will be temporarily closed on:

  • Tuesday 9th April
  • Wednesday 10th April
  • Thursday 11th April

The Planning Office can still be contacted on planning@waterfordcouncil.ie and on 051-849562.

Regulator Publishes Waterford City & County Council Planning Review

 

A report published today (19th September 2023) by the Office of the Planning Regulator (OPR) has found that Waterford City & County Council is providing its key planning functions effectively.

This is the first time that the systems and procedures used by Waterford City & County Council’s planning department have been reviewed by the OPR. The report considers the Council’s performance across a range of functions and makes ten recommendations as to how existing service levels can be maintained and improved.

Commenting on the review, Planning Regulator, Niall Cussen said:

Waterford is a key asset for Ireland in terms of its location, ability to compete nationally and internationally along with capacity to grow and rebalance some of the prevailing development trends of recent decades. The Council has delivered notable successes in recent times including the outstanding Waterford Greenway and leveraging record funding for the flagship North Quays regeneration project. I would like to see this momentum built on to further deliver on the opportunities that are presenting for Waterford over the coming period”.

An overarching recommendation arising from the review is that the Council would give sufficient consideration towards the planning department’s longer-term resourcing needs. While the Council has achievements to be proud of, the planning department has been delivering against a background of significant pressures on resources.

Commenting on the need for additional resourcing, Mr Cussen continued:

It must be recognised that delivering on Waterford’s intended role as a regional driver for the south-east must be facilitated through a strengthened planning department. The OPR would like to see the planning department taking time to reflect on how it is organised to meet its current and future workloads and strengthen its capacity.”

The OPR’s report also recommends that the Council build on its existing proactive approach to special projects by providing dedicated resources to coordinate site activation projects – a recommendation that has been fulfilled since the review process was conducted through the establishment of a new team tasked with delivering on active land management, including derelict and vacant sites.

Noting this Mr Cussen concluded:

I very much welcome that Waterford City & County Council has committed to implementing the review recommendations, and is already making progress in this regard. My office will continue to engage with the Council in order to monitor progress and assist in any way possible”.

Waterford City and County Council’s approach to Urban Vacancy recognised

 

 

Waterford City has featured prominently in the recently published report Urban Vacancy in Ireland: Assessing Recent Responses and Opportunities.

This is the second and final policy output of the Irish Research Council-funded project Rethinking Urban Vacancy, led by Dr Cian O’Callaghan in partnership with Dublin City Council’s Housing Observatory. The report is co-authored by Dr Kathleen Stokes (University of Galway), Dr Cian O’Callaghan (Trinity College Dublin), and Dr Maedhbh Nic Lochlainn (University of Luxembourg).

The report outlines recent responses to urban vacancy in Ireland and the challenges and lessons drawn from the experience in the cities of Waterford, Cork and Dublin.

It was noted that Waterford City has recently undergone considerable transformations through area-based regeneration, which include the city’s Cultural Quarter and Viking Triangle.

The report highlighted that in policy and local governance circles, Waterford has been recognised as a national leader for its proactive efforts to bring urban vacant residential properties back into use.

In some instances, the Local Authority has directly purchased and converted properties, while many other properties have been brought back into use by encouraging property owners to avail of RLS support. Waterford City and County Council has also promoted the ongoing planning exemption for units over shops to be converted into residential dwellings, with funding from the Living City Initiative.

With over 140 units completed, Waterford’s promotion of Repair and Lease has had a significant impact on the city and suggests that it is possible to encourage and incentivise property owners to bring properties back into use, particularly with the promise of a guaranteed rental income and interest-free loans for repairs.

Officials and developers alike framed Waterford City and County Council’s active approach towards vacant housing as a necessity for the city, which they suggest will encourage complementary efforts by the private sector and property owners in the city.

The report also stated that, amongst interviewees, Waterford was repeatedly upheld as a relative success story in terms of Local Authority responses to vacancy and suggested that ease of access to different Local Authority departments and close relations between key actors within and outside of local government have made for a relatively smooth process when bringing properties back into use.

For further information and advice on help and supports available, please contact vacanthomes@waterfordcouncil.ie or derelictsites@waterfordcouncil.ie