22 May 2022
By Elaine Murphy
A Green Party councillor in Cork has said Cork City Council must divert resources to tackle a growing backlog of planning enforcement complaints in the city.
Following a request for information, Cllr Oliver Moran was provided with information on a growing backlog of planning enforcement cases still being investigated at the end of each year between 2019 and 2021.
Over the period, the total number of planning enforcement cases referred to or initiated by Cork City Council remained relatively static at 132 (2019), 134 (2020) and 139 (2021). However, only 60–70% of these cases were closed each year, leading to a growing backlog of open cases: 241 (2019), 279 (2020) and 332 (2021).
Table: Data provided by Cork City Council to Cllr Oliver Moran
|Total number of planning cases referred to or initiated by the local authority in the calendar year that were investigated||132||134||139||32|
|Total number of investigated cases that were closed in the calendar year||85||96||86||1|
|% of the closed cases that were dismissed as trivial, minor or without foundation or were closed because statute barred or an exempted development||57%||60%||71%||3%|
|% of the closed cases that were resolved to the LA’s satisfaction through negotiations||14%||14%||7%||0|
|% of the closed cases that were closed due to enforcement proceedings||29%||26%||22%||0|
|Total number of planning cases being investigated at end of year||241||279||332|
Responding to Cllr Oliver Moran, officials from Cork City Council explained:
“Cork City Council’s [Planning] Enforcement Team consists of a team of four, including an enforcement inspector, planner and administrative support. Due to staff changeovers (due to turnover with posts being taken up elsewhere, promotions, etc), there have been periods during 2020, 2021 and 2022 where there has not been a dedicated enforcement planner in place.”
Commenting on the information provided to him, Cllr Oliver Moran said:
“The issue that provoked me to dig into these figures was a simple case of electric car charging points that should be provided by Lidl in Churchfield on the northside of the city. There are no electric car charging points in that part of the city. Providing these was a simple condition of planning for Lidl in 2016. However, this wasn’t done and residents there have been looking to have the matter enforced ever since.
“After having been put off first for bureaucratic reasons, their complaint is now caught up in this growing backlog of cases. They rightly want to be able to use electric cars in the same way as other part of the city, but they are being denied that. This is just one example from 332 cases now backing up that are affecting residents in all kinds of ways.
“Planning enforcement is a key function for any local authority. It’s the responsibility of Cork City Council to ensure the city is well planned for the future and residents have the services they need. Each case in this growing backlog is a dis-economy for residents. Collectively, they amount to a significant failure of proper administration by Cork City Council.”
A member of Bakers Road Residents Association, who have been seeking to have the case against Lidl enforced by Cork City Council, said:
“Local residents just want to know an answer to one simple question. Why did Lidl submit planning for two stores in 2016 and yet it only fully complied with conditions in the one of those stores. The store in Wilton got their EV charge points and yet the store in Churchfield is still waiting six years later. To us it seems that Lidl don’t appreciate their customers as much in the northside as they do in the southside.
“Lidl claim to be driving a very ambitious, sustainable and carbon neutral program over the next eight years. I would just like to remind them that we are waiting six years to have our concerns addressed and, that being the case, I would be very pessimistic about their green energy program being a success.
“All patrons of Lidl should be treated equally and unfortunately this is not the case in Churchfield which just so also happens to be one of its busiest stores in Ireland.”