Planning Regulator publishes first local authority planning performance review

Report finds Tipperary County Council’s planning function performing well, while making 16 recommendations.

The State’s independent oversight body for planning, the Office of the Planning Regulator (OPR), has today published its first review report into local authority systems and procedures for performing planning functions.

The purpose of such reviews is to highlight good practice and areas for improvement and promote learning across the local authority sector with a view to enhancing the overall planning process.

Reviewing the performance of planning functions of local authorities is one of the three key roles of the OPR. The process is being piloted in 2021 across a number of local authorities, with Tipperary County Council being chosen as one, given its mixture of urban and rural contexts, recent re-organisation arising from the merger of the former North and South Tipperary County Councils and its innovation in service delivery (such as its current piloting of the national e-Planning initiative).

The report considers the authority’s performance in the context of 11 key operational processes in planning service delivery1. It makes recommendations on how systems for operational process could be improved or how current standards may be maintained. Recommendations are graded as critical, high, medium, low or advisory

Some of the review’s key findings include:

  • Tipperary County Council operates generally effective systems and procedures to deliver its planning functions;In some areas of performance, the council demonstrates highly effective practice;
  • It has robust procedures in place to ensure a focus is placed on consistency with evolving national planning policy;
  • Extensive efforts have gone into preparing a single, county-wide Record of Protected Structures with 3,000 structures included in the overall project; and
    Sixteen recommendations, four of which are graded as high

These relate to:

  •  forward planning resource capacity,
  •  invalidation rates (Tipperary has the highest national invalidation rate),
  • architectural heritage practice, and
    capacity of the Council’s enforcement team.

The OPR wishes to acknowledge the positive engagement with the Council throughout the reviews process and notes that the Council has committed to developing a robust implementation plan arising from the recommendations and findings of the review. The OPR looks forward to engaging further with the Council in the implementation process.

Commenting on the completion of the first review, Planning Regulator, Niall Cussen said:

“Every day, people throughout the country interact with their local authorities in relation to planning issues ranging from planning applications, planning enforcement to environmental protection. That’s why it’s so important to ensure that the systems and procedures local authorities use to deliver these services are robust and effective.

One of the principal roles of the OPR is to conduct strategic reviews of these systems and procedures in order complement and add value to councils’ own performance and improvement plans, while at the same time highlighting areas in need of improvement.”

Speaking about the report into the review of Tipperary County Council’s planning systems and procedures, Niall Cussen said:

“Tipperary County Council’s planning department operates in a complex and demanding environment. Despite the challenges and pressures under which it operates, the planning department is generally delivering all of its statutory planning functions effectively which is demonstrated throughout this report.

The department benefits from clear leadership, a structured corporate approach and the commitment and talent of individual staff. These factors have allowed the department to develop and implement good systems and procedures to guide its operational processes and to monitor and evaluate outputs.

The planning department has many considerable strengths and it can reinforce, and enhance, that strong competency base by implementing the 16 recommendations proposed in this report.”

Chapter IV (‘Review of Planning Functions’) of Part IIB of the Planning & Development Act 2000, as amended, (‘the Act’), in particular section 31AS of the Act, gives the OPR the discretion to review the systems and procedures used by local authorities and An Bord Pleanála in performing their planning functions.

The OPR is implementing a programme of reviews under section 31AS of the Act whereby, broadly over a six-year cycle, each authority will be reviewed. To guide and give structure to the reviews programme, we published the OPR ‘Pilot Methodology for Conducting Reviews of Local Authorities’.

1.These 11 processes are as follows:

  1. Forward Planning
  2. Guidelines and Directives
  3. Control of Development
  4. Architectural Heritage
  5. Land Activation
  6. Planning Enforcement
  7. Environmental Assessment
  8. Part XI – Local Authority own-development and Taking-in-Charge
  9. Amenities
  10. Events and Funfairs
  11. Part XVIII – Miscellaneous Provisions