26% of planning applications in Roscommon have defects

Council to ‘proactively engage’ with agents as invalidation rates soar

Addressing the recent monthly meeting of Roscommon County Council, Cllr Orla Leyden thanked the Executive for including the planning application invalidation rate in the monthly Management Report but said the high rate continued to be an issue.

Cllr Leyden also welcomed news that the Executive had noted issues around invalidations and would “proactively engage” with agents and applicants on minor defects.

Comparing Roscommon’s 26 per cent invalidation rate with neighbouring authority Mayo (3 per cent), Cllr Leyden said she hoped to see the rate decrease in coming weeks.

Responding to Cllr Leyden, Chief Executive Shane Tiernan said the planning process in Roscommon was ‘completely transparent at all stages’ but that the Council would be more proactive in their communication with agents over minor defects. He added that most invalidations were not caused by minor deficiencies.

“We want, of course, to have success for planning applicants in line with our County Development Plans but the applications have to reach a particular standard,” he said.

“If there are minor things and processes that we can improve we will, but it doesn’t mean there’s going to be an automatic decline in the invalidation rates. That will boil down to quality and compliance of the applications”.

Cllr Nigel Dineen, however, said the current invalidation rate was “a major concern” and issues around planning had caused Roscommon to lose out on economic development.

“We can all go around in circles and say everything is fine, but it’s not fine. It needs to be addressed and as Cllr Leyden said, we need to get that 26 per cent down because it’s a serious, serious issue,” he said.

Director of Services Greg O’Donnell said a balance would have to be struck when it came to applications.

“Our neighbours Mayo are at 3 per cent but that is an outlier and we are an outlier too at 26 per cent. The national average is in around the late teens percentage-wise and that’s where we would like to be. I can assure you that any application that is invalid… there is a reason for it,” he said.

“The quality of applications has at times from some agents left something to be desired. By the same token, there shouldn’t be a zero tolerance on (incomplete) applications that come in either, so we are trying to get to a happy medium and strike a balance,” he said.

“We can’t have a target reduction, we can only respond to what comes in and try and be reasonable,” he said.

Cllr John Naughten said it was in everyone’s interests to get the validation process right and proposed an open day for agents and regular applicants to discuss issues that arise. The motion was later carried by members.