The Office of the Planning Regulator (OPR) in Ireland was established in April 2019 on foot of recommendations made by the Tribunal of Inquiry into Certain Planning Matters and Payments (the Mahon Tribunal).
The appointment of an independent Planning Regulator, empowered to oversee the planning system in Ireland, was one of the key recommendations of the Tribunal. While not a policy-making body, the OPR’s role is to ensure that local authorities (city and county councils) and An Bord Pleanála* support and implement Government planning policy.
The OPR also delivers comprehensive programmes of planning training for local authority and regional assembly elected members and staff and conducts research in relation to matters relevant to its functions (see below). In addition the OPR actively works to promote public awareness of planning through the publication of planning leaflets, the production of animated explainer videos and infographics and flowcharts explaining the planning process.
The OPR has three main functions:
Evaluation and Assessment of Statutory Plans
The OPR is responsible for independently evaluating and assessing all local authority statutory plans, such as county and city development plans and local area plans, with a view to ensuring that the plan provides for the proper planning and sustainable development of the area. These assessments ensure that relevant government policies are being implemented and that issues such as urban regeneration, land use zoning, transport, housing, employment, climate change and town centre sustainability are reflected in the plans. This means that that Ireland’s cities, towns and villages can develop in a sustainable way and are vibrant places to live and work.
Planning Reviews and Examinations
The OPR reviews the systems and procedures used by local authorities and An Bord Pleanála in performing their planning functions.
This aspect of the OPR’s work helps to ensure the effective delivery of planning services to the public and significantly strengthens institutional arrangements to ensure the proper functioning and integrity of the planning system. It allows for the monitoring of the general performance of the planning system and the identification of areas for improvement and shared learning across all of the 31 local authorities in Ireland.
The OPR also provides a fair and independent mechanism through which members of the public may submit complaints relating to the planning services delivered by local authorities.
Education, Training, Research and Public Awareness
The OPR conducts education and training programmes for members of local authorities (city or county councillors) and of regional assemblies in respect of their role in the planning process. Education and training programmes are also delivered for local authority and regional assembly staff on matters relating to proper planning and sustainable development.
The OPR also harnesses existing research in the planning sector, enhances coordination and ensures proper dissemination as well as identifying new and emerging research and information needs to enhance the delivery of proper planning and sustainable development.
It’s vital that the public understand how they can participate in the planning process so that they can influence the decisions which will affect their daily lives.
This is why the OPR actively promotes public involvement in the planning process by producing accessible information on the planning system, collaborating on awareness raising media projects and by creating online resources which explain how to contribute to the planning process.
For more information about the OPR visit its website: www.opr.ie
*An Bord Pleanála is Ireland’s national independent statutory body to determine appeals on planning applications and other cases as well as direct applications for strategic infrastructure and other developments.