The Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government has published the Planning and Development (Amendment) Bill 2009 which proposes a number of measures related to the promotion of sustainable development and infrastructural investment. The Bill also provides for a number of amendments in relation to the zoning of land.

A key element of the Bill is the introduction of a requirement for an evidence based core strategy in development plans which will provide relevant information as to how the plan and the housing strategy are consistent with regional planning guidelines and the National Spatial Strategy. The location, quantum, and phasing of proposed development must be shown as well as growth scenarios, details of transport plans and retail development and proposals for development in rural areas.

Amongst the provisions of the Bill are:

  • the making or variation of a development plan or local area plan will require the support of two-thirds of the total number of members of the planning authority as opposed to a simple majority as is currently the case
  • in the preparation, making and variation of a development plan, the Manager’s report indicates clearly the extent to which the draft plan complies with the National Spatial Strategy (NSS) and Regional Planning Guidelines
  • amendments to a draft development or local area plan which have been the subject of public consultation may only be modified in minor respects. This introduces greater transparency for the public into the plan making process by removing the likelihood of significant changes being made to plans at a late stage in the process.
  • the views of the Minister will be dealt with separately in the Managers Report on the development plan  
  • Ministerial guidelines (on, for example, development planning, flood risk management, sustainable residential development) will have greater legal force and local authorities will be required to set out how their policies are consistent with national policy and objectives as well as Ministerial guidelines
  • the making or variation of a development plan or local area plan will require the support of two-thirds of the total number of members of the planning authority as opposed to a simple majority as is currently the case which will give greater force to the decisions taken at local level
  • Existing provisions for the issue of ministerial directions are being amended to provide a new consultative procedure where the Minister issues a draft direction and seeks local views on his proposal before a final direction is issued. There is also the possibility of the Minister appointing an independent inspector to advise him on the local authority report on submissions on the draft direction before a final direction issues.