MEA Council’s planning committee has defended a study visit to England which a member previously described as “a waste of taxpayers’ money.”
The best practice study visit to Peterborough in October 2014 was funded by the DOE Capacity building fund and was attended by 22 elected members and officers.
At a meeting prior to the trip, Sinn Fein Cllr Paul Maguire said that a model of best planning practice in Fingal could be accessed by bus in an hour and a half, rather than sending “twenty members on a two night stay, all expenses paid.”
A council report said that the purpose of the Peterborough trip was to “observe planning in operation at first hand, prior to the transfer of planning pwers to the new council.”
A follow-up visit on January 22 and 23 was attended by the Area Planning Manager, the Development Management and Development Plan Principal Planning Officers and two Economic Development Officers.
Councillors said they had been impressed with the way Peterborough integrated planning and economic development in an innovative way.
Councillor Paul Reid said that information on operational issues such as office organisation, IT systems and how to use private sector investment to fund public infrastructure such as schools had made it a “beneficial trip.”
According to a Council report, Peterborough Council views planning as “key to unlocking private investment for publicly funded projects.” The Council deals with 1,900 planning applications per year, and the average time to process a planning application being six weeks.
Further to the visit, the report says that MEA Council could “investigate the potential for hard charging for services to create an additional revenue stream.” This involves charging other Councils for providing expertise in a particular area.
Another suggestion involves considering the use of legal agreements to “lever private sector investment.”
Peterborough City Council planning committee members have been invited to visit the local area.