The principle tenant of policy objectives going forward must be driven by sustainability. All stakeholders will need to be included in order to foster democratic debate and obtain sufficient support for policies. This will included political, economic, sectoral and the public at large. A robust decision matrix will need to be considered.
Significant reform is required in the planning sector. Here are just some points from a list of over 40 separate areas in need of reform.
A Tax on the extraction of nautral resources is encouraged as this would serve to conserve sparse natural resources. Unlike agriculture, horticulture and manufacturing, all of which operate on the principle of 'adding value' to generate income, the converse is true in most of the extraction industry where agricultural land is usually rendered redundant and taken out of production for ever. Such a tax would also contribute to 'Resource Efficiency'
Mandatory guidance notes on extraction below a specified aOD (above ordinance datum) would be welcomed. In one case, a quarry was permitted to descend to 7m aOD where the established norm in the area was 60m aOD. Average ground level in the same area were c.85m aOD. This application got through the planning net without specifying depths on the planning notice and merely stated an 'extension'. In deed, the 7maOD could not be found in a subsequent examination of the planning application either. Local residents were then powerless to address this in the absence of specified mandatory criteria.
Mandatory refusal for non-compliance with previous grants of planning permission would be welcomed and is long overdue.
A prohibition on all statutory or government funded authorities from purchase of material from operators of unauthorised developments. An annual certification process should be examined?
The practice of conditioning that a person reside in a house for 5 years after grant of planning is dubious and may fall fowl of the Irish Constitution. Planning applications should of course be assessed on planning rational. It is irrelevant who resides at a location.
A revision of the penalties imposed for breaches of various offenses is overdue. Penalties are often so low as to warrant a transgressor factoring in the penalty as a cost for flouting the law and profiting from its transgression.
A phasing out of our reliance on fossil fuels needs urgent attention to ensure energy security and economic sustainability going forward. Such policies are already underway in Denmark and some Nordic countries.
On the issue of greenhouses gases; the two principle gases are CO2 and Methane, the former of which derives from the consumption of fossil fuels and the latter of which derives from ruminant animals. The debate has for too long centered on the rather negative 'we need to reduce by' rather than on the more progressive debate of 'how to reduce'. This is unfortunate. The mindset needs to change to encourage behavioral change.
Legislative reform is a very big subject and the above examples are but a flavor of the type of reforms requiring attention in Ireland.
We continue to give guidance and direction on measures which we consider will enhance the principle of sustainability both in terms of environmental and employment perspectives.
At Eco Advocacy, we endeavour to seek representation on various policy forums and actively engage with statutory bodies. Kieran Cummins, Secretary of Eco Advocacy is himself a member of the Planning and Economic S.P.C. (Strategic Policy Committee) in County Meath and regularly prepares submissions on the revision and formulation of policy documents in Meath and in other counties.