Thomas Pringle TD

Pringle says planning bill is far removed from the robust legislation needed

Pringle says planning bill is far removed from the robust legislation needed

Independent TD for Donegal, Thomas Pringle, said the rushing through of planning legislation does not allow sufficient time for proper scrutiny of an important bill.

Addressing the Dáil on Wednesday, Deputy Pringle said: “I would like to begin by echoing the Irish Council for Civil Liberties’ point that it is absolutely staggering that 13 pieces of legislation are being rushed through the houses before Christmas, six of which will have normal parliamentary processes truncated through the merging of stages.

“There is obviously no regard for proper parliamentary process and it is extremely disrespectful to the democracy that we are supposedly living in. Planning legislation is complex and we must be allowed sufficient time to properly scrutinise such legislation in a thorough manner,” he said.

Speaking on the Planning & Development and Foreshore (Amendment) Bill 2022, Deputy Pringle said: “The rushing through of legislation in this way only serves to further destroy public trust in An Bord Pleanála and so of all the legislation pushed through this week, the Planning & Development and Foreshore (Amendment) Bill would have particularly benefited from more thorough scrutiny.”

The deputy said: “An independent planning system is an incredibly important part of a functioning democracy. This is threatened, however, by the bill, which proposes to provide the minister with unchecked powers over changes to the size of the board and its appointment of ordinary members.

“Section 3 allows the minister to appoint additional ordinary members without placing a limitation on how many, which removes the existing limits on the proportion of the board that can be appointed by the minister.

“Although I understand the need to increase the number of board members, it would be a step backwards to remove existing limits put on the minister, who could potentially abuse this power.”

Deputy Pringle said: “I’m not saying the current minister may do this, but we cannot be sure of what future ministers will do, and that’s the problem. The legislation needs to be future-proofed and should protect against any possible future misuse of power.

“I also believe it is a backwards step that Section 6 does not include a guarantee of a board member with environmental expertise, which was guaranteed in the previous legislation as well. We are clearly seeing a massive shift away from independent structures and directly towards the minister.

“This is deeply concerning,” the deputy said.

Deputy Pringle said: “It seems that this bill is being rushed through to provide a short-term, quick-fix solution to address the current backlog and it doesn’t even bother to include important limitations and guarantees set by the previous legislation.

“It is so far removed from the robust planning legislation that we so desperately need and so I would urge the government that if such important legislation is going to be treated as emergency legislation, then it is imperative that the legislation includes at least a sunset clause,” he said.