At the Construction Industry Federation conference earlier this month, the Taoiseach commented that the sector was inefficient and used many outdated construction practices. While direct criticism is uncomfortable, I am sure plenty in the room would acknowledge that there are efficiency gains that could be achieved in the sector. If we accept that improvements can be made in the private sector, we should also consider where the public sector can make the construction process more efficient.
I returned to Ireland in 2018 following 11 years working as a planning consultant in London. This provides a different perspective on how the planning system operates in Ireland and where improvements could be made.
Firstly, it is important to note that there are many areas where the English planning system could learn from Ireland. Decision timescales in Ireland are shorter, application fees are much lower, and Development Plan preparation is more streamlined. In London, local authorities can charge £5,000 for a single pre-planning meeting. Better still, local authorities can ‘request’ that applicants pay the salary costs of their planners to determine the application. This is on top of the planning application fee and increases costs by £30,000 or more. This ongoing escalation of cost ensures that only a diminishing pool of developers can engage in the process.
Turning back to the Irish planning system, it is disappointing that we are still required to submit planning applications in hard copy in 2019. For a normal planning application, the requirement is six hard copies of all documents. If the application has an Environmental Impact Assessment Report, it is ten hard copies. Environmental Impact Assessment Reports are regularly 500+ pages in length leading to many thousands of printed pages.