A report published today (22nd November 2023) by the Office of the Planning Regulator (OPR) has found that Offaly County Council operates effective and robust systems and procedures in the delivery of its statutory planning functions.
This is the first time that the systems and procedures used by Offaly 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:
“Offaly County Council’s planning department operates in a complex and demanding environment that places a high degree of pressure on the resources of its team and despite the challenges and pressures under which it operates, the planning department is delivering all of its statutory planning functions effectively.”
The report also highlights the positive impact of the Council’s dedicated architecture / heritage / conservation team who work closely with planners in the forward planning, development management and regeneration teams. The team has fostered a culture of collaboration, working with other departments across the Council, and external stakeholders including the Heritage Council, local communities, and property owners.
Commenting on the Council’s architectural heritage work, Niall Cussen said:
“The Council’s delivery of its architectural heritage responsibilities is operating on a highly effective basis. The proactive approach to communication and public engagement demonstrates a commitment to delivering its architectural heritage function and developing best practice.”
A recommendation which appeared throughout the OPR’s report is the need for the Council to prioritise additional resources for the planning department. This budgetary support will ensure the department has access to specialist expertise as required.
When addressing the necessity for additional resources, Niall Cussen said:
“The department benefits from clear leadership and the commitment and talent of the individual staff. These small teams could do with additional resources to help them deliver more effectively on the range of planning applications and enforcement cases they work on.”
To conclude Mr Cussen noted:
“I appreciate Offaly County Council’s dedication to enacting the review recommendations and their ongoing support in this matter. My team will maintain active involvement with the Council to track their advancements and offer support whenever needed.”