The Office of the Planning Regulator (OPR) is an independent public body which was formally established by Government in April 2019 to oversee the effective delivery of planning services to the public by planning authorities, whether a city / county council, a regional assembly or An Bord Pleanála, and is empowered to, where necessary, review the organisation and the systems and procedures applied by planning authorities in the performance of their planning functions.
1. OUR MISSION
The overall purpose of the OPR is to enhance proper oversight of the planning system and to promote quality outcomes from, and consistency within, Ireland’s planning system. The OPR has a range of functions, including:
independent assessment of all local authority and regional assembly forward planning, including the zoning decisions of local authority members in local area and development plans;
conducting reviews of the organisation, systems and procedures used by any planning authority in the performance of any of their planning functions under the Planning Acts, including risks of corruption and on foot of individual complaints from members of the public; and,
driving national research, education and public information programmes to highlight the role and benefit of planning.
2. QUALITY SERVICE STANDARDS
The OPR is committed to delivering fair, effective, courteous and timely services to all its customers. The purpose of this Charter is to improve customer service and to set out the standards of service that customers are entitled to expect from the OPR in accordance with the Government’s twelve ‘Guiding Principles for Quality Customer Service’.
Please bear in mind that the OPR was formally established on 3rd April 2019 and is still in the recruitment phase; the OPR will endeavour to urgently deal with all customer correspondence but apologises if customers experience any delays during this initial phase.
Contact by Letter / Email
From the date of receipt of written / email correspondence, the OPR aims to:
acknowledge the correspondence within five working days;
issue a full reply within twenty-one working days. Where a full reply cannot be provided within twenty-one working days, because for example of the complexity of the matter, we will write to you to explain why and to indicate when you can expect a full reply;
provide appropriate contact details, including name of the official dealing with your correspondence, telephone number and an email address;
use automated e-mail responses, with alternative contact details, when out of the office;
reply to your correspondence in clear plain language, free, wherever possible, from jargon and technical terms.
Contact by Telephone
Currently, the OPR can be contacted by telephone between 9:30am – 1:00pm and again between 2:00pm – 4:00pm (while an immediate answer cannot be guaranteed, enquiries may also be answered outside of these core hours). In responding to telephone enquiries the OPR will:
answer the telephone promptly and politely;
give the name of the official answering and the name of the business-area you have called; and,
where possible, answer your enquiry straight away – if this is not possible we will take your details and inform you when to expect to hear from us again.
If it is necessary to transfer your call, we will advise you of the reason for the transfer and will identify the business-area and / or official to whom you are being transferred. It is our intention that no caller should be transferred more than once.
Visitors to the Office
The OPR does not operate a public walk-in office or counter service, however, where customers require a face-to-face meeting, such meetings will be arranged by appointment and at the discretion of the OPR. If you are meeting us for a face-to-face meeting by appointment the OPR will:
meet you at an agreed time;
treat you with courtesy, respect and impartiality;
ensure that an appropriate level of privacy is provided;
keep our public meeting spaces clean and tidy, ensuring that they meet health and safety standards.
Service through Irish
The OPR will take all reasonable steps to assist people who wish to carry out their business with us through Irish as follows:
correspondence received in Irish will be answered in Irish;
key documents will be published in both Irish and English;
an Irish version of our website will mirror, as far as practicable, the English version.
Equality and Diversity
The OPR is committed to dealing with customers without discrimination or prejudice. The OPR will respect your right to privacy. The OPR respects equality and human rights in accordance with Public Sector Duty principles and the relevant equality legislation. The OPR will accommodate diversity in providing services to our customers. Where face-to-face meetings, by appointment, are required, the OPR will ensure ease of access for people with disabilities or specific needs. The contact email for the OPR’s Access Officer under the Disability Act is email@example.com.
The OPR is committed to dealing with all complaints promptly, fairly and impartially.
Customer Service Complaints
If you have a complaint about the service provided by the OPR you may speak to the relevant line-manager, who will consider the matter, or you may send a letter or email to the OPR using the heading ‘Customer Service Complaint’. The OPR will acknowledge written or emailed complaints within five working days of receipt and will endeavour to deal with customer service complaints within twenty-one working days of receipt; if further enquiries are necessary we will let you know and complete the process within a reasonable timeframe. We guarantee that your complaint will not affect how we treat you in the future.
Complaint in Respect of a Planning Authority
A member of the public may make a complaint to the OPR, under section 31AU of the Planning Act, if there is evidence to suggest that a planning authority:
may not be carrying out its functions in accordance with the Planning and Development Acts;
is not complying with Ministerial Guidelines, Policy Directives and Directions;
may be applying inappropriate standards of administrative practice;
may be applying systemic discrimination; or
may be operating in a manner where there is a risk of corruption or there are serious diseconomies or inefficiencies in the conduct of its functions.
The legislation provides that an individual should take all reasonable steps to pursue the subject matter of their complaint with the relevant planning authority in the first instance, and should exhaust any appeal or review procedures open to them, or the OPR may not carry out any examination of the matter. Accordingly, an individual should allow an appropriate period (at least six weeks) for the authority to implement its review procedures, before making a formal complaint to the OPR.
The OPR does not conduct reviews of complaints relating to the individual decisions of planning authorities whether in respect of a planning permission or an enforcement matter.
As with all written correspondence, the OPR aims to acknowledge complaints under section 31AU of the Act within five working days from the date of receipt. Given the likely complexity associated with some complaints submitted under section 31AU of the Act, and the probable need to gather evidence, seek additional information and to solicit records and / or statements from the relevant authority, it is expected that such complaints may take a more significant period of time to resolve.
Nevertheless, the OPR will keep customers advised of progress with regard to their case and aims to issue advisory correspondence outlining the next steps, or seeking additional information, within twenty-one days from the date of receipt. Where the OPR is satisfied that no additional information is required from an individual, to allow consideration of the complaint progress, the OPR will advise the likely timeframe for the consideration and determination of the complaint.
4. HELP US TO HELP YOU
As our customer, you also have an important role to play in helping us offer you the best service. By doing the following, you can greatly assist us to provide the optimum service to you:
provide accurate information – this is particularly important if making a complaint under section 31AU of the Act, to assist swift the progression of consideration, copies of all relevant documents, including correspondence and other evidence, should be provided to the OPR;
where available, quote appropriate reference numbers in all correspondence;
provide contact details, including a daytime telephone number or email address;
provide feedback – the OPR is committed to consulting with our customers and to evaluating our services all comments or suggestions regarding the service you receive will be considered;
cooperate with OPR officials and treat officials with the same courtesy you would expect to receive. It is not acceptable in any circumstances to harass officials or use aggressive, abusive, racist or threatening language in written or other forms. Any behaviour that is disruptive to the delivery of quality customer service may result in the permanent termination of contact.
How to Contact the OPR
(contact details will be kept up-to-date on the ‘Contact Us’ page of the website)
Telephone: +353 (0)1 553 0270
Written: Office of the Planning Regulator
Block C, 77 Sir John Rogerson’s Quay, Dublin 2, D02 VK60.