Brief for Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government

Business priorities and solutions 

1. Overhaul the commercial rates system


Why?

Local business, not central government, is the primary funder of local authorities. This is unsustainable. Exchequer cutbacks have left local businesses to plug the budgetary gap. This undermines local cost competitiveness and capacity for job creation.


How?

The Minister should:

  • reform and modernise the commercial rates system in order to rebalance local authority financing and reduce the burden on business
  • improve the effectiveness of the rates collection process. Coordinate with the Department of Justice and Equality to streamline the valuations process and commercial rates system, making them more efficient and transparent.

2. Improve the effectiveness of national and regional planning


Why?

We are living with the legacy of historic policy failure on spatial planning. The now-defunct National Spatial Strategy was well-intentioned but ineffectively implemented. Urban sprawl and traffic congestion adds to the cost of doing business. Regional economic development has been unbalanced and, in some cases, wasteful of scarce resources. Our housing and transport systems are struggling to cope with society’s growing needs. Given Ireland’s reliance on international trade, our cities need to become more attractive places to live and work.


How?

The Minister should:

  • expedite placing the National Planning Framework (NPF) on a secure legal footing. The NPF must set out a vision for making our major cities more liveable, for revitalising regional towns, and for targeted infrastructure investment in the regions.
  • ensure consistency between Regional and Local Authority planning throughout the implementation of the NPF.

3. Tackle bureaucratic barriers that are hindering the development of vital infrastructure


Why?

Many projects have been subject to unnecessary delays, postponement or worse, planning issues.  Despite the Department’s recent review of the effectiveness of An Bord Pleanála, the planning process for strategic projects remains slow and cumbersome, with poorly-defined timelines. Decisions on smaller projects are often hampered by local authority boundary issues or lack of expert resources. The supply of new housing for Dublin in particular has been restricted by perverse rules on maximum building heights.


How?

The Minister should:

  • provide sufficient resourcing to the new Office of the Planning Regulator. Given the slow rate of progress of much recent Oireachtas legislation, recruitment of key staff may well need to commence before the Office has statutory backing
  • require  An Bord Pleanála to publish meaningful data on the length of time it takes to process planning applications for strategic infrastructure, and to account for any undue delays in responding.

4. Avoid unnecessary restrictions on the delivery of indigenous clean energy


Why?

Ireland will struggle to meet its international commitments on greenhouse gas reduction and renewable energy. If we fail to make the best use of available domestic resources, the Government will be obliged to purchase a large number of credits from other EU member states.  That money could instead be spent creating high quality jobs in Ireland.


How?

The Minister should:

  • create Strategic Development Zones for renewable energy production, including biomass, wind and solar, in order to prevent vexatious objections
  • remain cognisant of the potential adverse effect of more restrictive wind planning guidelines on the available land resource
  • encourage community engagement while discouraging certain local authorities from imposing punitively high development levies that don’t actually benefit local communities.

5. Ensure that water and wastewater services are adequately and appropriately funded


Why?

The supply of clean, affordable water services is essential for business. High quality municipal wastewater treatment is also important to protect our lakes and rivers. Despite good progress by Irish Water in upgrading the creaking infrastructure, a huge amount of additional investment will be needed over the next decade. The ability to plan and prioritise a cost-effective investment programme hinges on Irish Water having certainty over long-term funding. However, the recent scrapping of domestic water charges in favour of general taxation means that that project planning may henceforth be done on a less efficient short-term basis.  Businesses are concerned that they may end up paying more for a lower quality service as a consequence.


How?
The Minister should:

  • seek an Exchequer commitment to guarantee funding for Irish Water’s capital programme over a multi-year period corresponding to the Commission of Energy Regulation’s (CER) Revenue Control Period. The Department should not seek to second-guess CER’s decision on the appropriate programme of capital investment.

6. Deliver a workable regime for Foreshore Licences and Marine Spatial Planning


Why?

Ireland’s coastal waters have a huge potential for sustainable economic development.  However, the potential remains largely untapped. One of the main obstacles is that the regulatory framework for foreshore planning dates back to the 1930s. It is simply not fit for purpose in Ireland’s twenty-first century economy. Beyond the foreshore lies a vast marine area under Irish control. Our marine spatial planning regime needs a complete overhaul if we are to achieve the economic benefits identified in ‘Harvesting Our Ocean Wealth’.


How?

The Minister should:

  • establish into law the Marine Area and Foreshore (Amendment) Bill
  • hasten the development of a Marine Spatial Planning Framework and align to be completed alongside the National Planning Framework.

 

About Ibec

Ibec is Ireland's largest and most influential business representative. We proudly speak on behalf of 7,500 Irish businesses; home grown, multinational, big and small, spanning every sector of the economy and employing 70% of the private sector workforce in Ireland. Together with our 40+ trade associations, we lobby government and policy makers nationally and internationally to maintain a positive climate for business and drive economic growth. Our policy is shaped by our members through the work of our board, national council, policy committees and trade associations.  We regularly produce market leading industry and business events, positions on issues impacting business, economic research, forecasts and analysis. We also provide a wide range of professional services and management training to members on all aspects of human resource management, occupational health and safety, employee relations and employment law.  With 200 staff in 6 offices around Ireland as well as an office in Brussels and connections in the U.K. and Washington, Ibec communicates the Irish business voice to key stakeholders at home and abroad.

 

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