€25 fee won’t deter bogus planning objectors

Cllr John O’Donoghue: Delays can add thousands to the cost of building
Minister Peter Burke: Fees discourage frivolous or vexatious submissions

The story of a young couple who had an objection lodged against their planning application to build a house, only to later learn that the person named as the objector had no knowledge whatsoever of the dwelling even being built, was again highlighted at a meeting of Killarney Municipal District Council.

The case was outlined to council officials by Cllr John O’Donoghue who asked them to make representations to the minister to pass whatever legislation is necessary to ensure anyone objecting to any planning application whatsoever must provide proper supporting ID.

But, following receipt of a reply from Minister for Planning and Local Government, Peter Burke, Cllr O’Donoghue said he extremely disappointed with the response which he deemed extremely unsatisfactory.

Minister Burke said the fees payable by members of the public to participate in the planning decision making process are set at a level that, as well as contributing toward the cost of processing applications and appeals, discourages “frivolous or vexatious submissions” without hindering genuine public participation.

How Minister Burke concluded his letter to the council

Cllr O’Donoghue responded: “The cost of submitting an objection to a planning application is €25. The suggestion that this is punitive to the point where it would deter people with nefarious intentions is laughable.”

“We are living in times of economic hardship and with the cost of living soaring for us all, every euro counts more than ever. Many families may endure financial hardship this winter on a scale not seen in our lifetime but €25 is still not going to deter people from lodging appeals,” he said.

Cllr O’Donoghue stressed that he was not suggesting that the cost of lodging an appeal should be increased but he wants fairness and balance to apply on both sides and people should have to prove they are who say they are when objecting.

Anything that could potentially hold up the building process illegitimately needs to be addressed

In his letter to the council, Minister Burke also said that where a planning authority or An Bord Pleanála has suspicions that specific submissions on planning applications or appeals may not be genuine, it is a matter for them to refer the submissions to An Garda Síochána for investigation.

But Cllr O’Donoghue said he immediately counters and rejects that assertion by asking if they do not require people objecting to provide proper identification at the time of lodging the objection, how can they possibly know if the objection is genuine or not?

“Planning applications are very often made by young couples who endure enormous stresses due to the financial enormity of getting a mortgage, without grey areas such as this adding to their anxiety,” the Kerry Independent Alliance representative said.

“Delays in the process can add thousands to the cost of building and anything which could potentially hold up the process illegitimately needs to be addressed.

“I am not trying to prevent anyone in this country from objecting to any application they see fit as I accept it is their right, all I am asking is that they stand over their objections in an effort to rule out those which are not genuine,” Cllr O’Donoghue stated.

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