Advertisement
If you have a new account but can't post, please email Niamh on [email protected] for help to verify your email address. Thanks :)
New AMA with a US police officer (he's back!). You can ask your questions here

Rethinking public consultations

  • 21-05-2019 5:37pm
    #1
    Registered Users Posts: 474 ✭✭ Pixel Eater


    While it's good in theory to give everyone a say, in practise it can be abused by NIMBY groups with parochial self interests and any uninformed individual can submit an objection no matter how absurd. Indeed the nature of the beast means that it's mostly negative feedback that the authorities get as people that are happy for the project to go ahead usually don't submit. This has the effect greatly slowing down the whole process, watering down perfectly good proposals and even getting whole projects shut down.


    Is it time to rethink the whole public consultation procedure? Could a better way be found that could streamline the whole process while allowing people's legitimate concerns be heard by planners?


Comments

  • Registered Users Posts: 5,148 ✭✭✭ prunudo


    Maybe we should leave it to our elected representatives to make presentations on behalf or our concerned residents. Sure what could go wrong :D
    The current process works in theory but I don't know how you'd go about streamlining it. Certainly reducing the time frame from plan being published to submission date may help.
    Also the drip feeding or leaking of false info into the public domain has to be stopped too as it feeds into the anti progress narrative of these nimby campaigners.


  • Registered Users Posts: 9,948 ✭✭✭ DaCor


    While it's good in theory to give everyone a say, in practise it can be abused by NIMBY groups with parochial self interests and any uninformed individual can submit an objection no matter how absurd. Indeed the nature of the beast means that it's mostly negative feedback that the authorities get as people that are happy for the project to go ahead usually don't submit. This has the effect greatly slowing down the whole process, watering down perfectly good proposals and even getting whole projects shut down.


    Is it time to rethink the whole public consultation procedure? Could a better way be found that could streamline the whole process while allowing people's legitimate concerns be heard by planners?

    One person's legitimate concern is anothers frivolous and vexatious concern.

    It has to be open, that means that you take the good with the bad


  • Registered Users Posts: 78,217 ✭✭✭✭ Victor


    I was thinking about this the other day.

    It would be useful, especially with major projects to have a citizens' assembly-type arrangement, where a fuller-spectrum of views and a greater sense of proportion.

    However, one needs to realise that project sponsors are also on the pro-project side.


  • Registered Users Posts: 474 ✭✭ Pixel Eater


    Well I was chatting to an engineer from Spain involved in the Metrolink, told me that there is no public consultations over there and just look at the Barcelona and Madrid Metro Systems.

    Maybe that may be a bit extreme in the other end of things but perhaps concerned citizens would have to go through a specific organisation or group - even one that they could set up themselves - that them would liaise with the planners. This could work for larger, ore important infrastructure while smaller more local schemes could have the direct, individual approach we have now.

    Doesn't the Government already push through some vital pieces of infrastructure without public consultations already? Like the new runway at the airport and some motorways?


  • Registered Users Posts: 5,268 ✭✭✭ Pete_Cavan


    The problem isn't the consultation, it's the bull**** that gets spread through social and general media. The negatives get greatly exaggerated and presented in the most emotive language possible. They are essentially cleverly disguised smear campaigns and can be pretty slick PR operations. Anyone who disagrees with them are dismissed as wanting to rip the heart out of their community or some such. There is little or no balance in these debates.

    The media also love the NIMBY angle. Articles about poor villagers fighting back against government quangos practically write themselves. There isno shortage of cliché ridden quotes from exasperated local residents to pad out any article/news reports.

    Certain "experts" who are regularly rolled out are only pushing their own agenda (Frank Mcdonald and Colm McCarthy, Barrett, etc.) shouldn't be given the respect they get given their track records (predicting Luas would be a failure). There are regulations around lobbying yet these guys get free reign to actively work against projects and unduly influence public opinion.

    I don't know how you redress the balance, you'd need something like the Referendum Commission ensuring that all claims are factually correct and that media outlets have to provide balanced coverage. The problem is that once an unfounded claim is made, it can't be unmade and will spread through word of mouth.


  • Advertisement
  • Registered Users Posts: 13,673 ✭✭✭✭ Zebra3


    Our main problem is spineless politicians.

    Leaders who don’t lead, but who react to a handful of people and basically shi* themselves when a couple of people start moaning.

    The knock on effect then is that well off middle aged people see it as a challenge to get political leaders to bend to their will.

    Varadkar loves to give the impression that he’s some sort of cool down to earth let’s make the future happen politician but at the end of the day he’s no different to narrow minded fools who went before him.

    Leeches that we pay to keep in great style at huge expense to the taxpayer who have no idea what it’s like to be commuting at rush hour twice a day, 5 days a week, 48 weeks a year.


  • Moderators, Motoring & Transport Moderators, Technology & Internet Moderators Posts: 20,994 Mod ✭✭✭✭ bk


    If I'm not mistaken, public consultations are not actually required. They could simply send these projects straight to ABP, with no initial consultation. The public can then make observations * to ABP, who can then decide on it.

    * ABP don't call them objections, rather observations, but much the same thing.

    I think the idea behind consultations is to honestly get public feedback and make adjustments based on that, so that it doesn't need to be redesigned further down the line if ABP turned it down, which would be much more expensive to do.

    It is noticeable that the plans released during these consultations are relatively rough, general route, general station locations, etc. and not the very detailed plans that would later go to ABP. I'd assume these detailed plans are being done behind the scenes while the consultation process is happening.

    This is all good, the problem arises when politicians take it as an opportunity to get attention and get people all wound up and upset with lots of miss information etc.

    Given the dishonest way that many politicians have recently treated this process, I do wonder if it would be better if they just did the full design on the quiet and just submit it straight to ABP. Both approaches have their pros and cons.


  • Registered Users Posts: 256 ✭✭ alanucc


    bk wrote: »
    If I'm not mistaken, public consultations are not actually required.

    Not true. Public consultations are required under the Aarhus convention, which created a right for the public to participate in environmental decision-making.

    See Article 6 of the convention, which spells it out.
    http://www.unece.org/fileadmin/DAM/env/pp/documents/cep43e.pdf


  • Moderators, Motoring & Transport Moderators, Technology & Internet Moderators Posts: 20,994 Mod ✭✭✭✭ bk


    alanucc wrote: »
    Not true. Public consultations are required under the Aarhus convention, which created a right for the public to participate in environmental decision-making.

    Would that not be covered by the ABP process anyway? ABP allows the public to make submissions and thus the public is consulted.


  • Registered Users Posts: 256 ✭✭ alanucc


    bk wrote: »
    Would that not be covered by the ABP process anyway? ABP allows the public to make submissions and thus the public is consulted.

    Doesn't appear so. From Article 6:

    4. Each Party shall provide for early public participation, when all
    options are open and effective public participation can take place.

    5. Each Party should, where appropriate, encourage prospective applicants
    to identify the public concerned, to enter into discussions, and to provide
    information regarding the objectives of their application before applying for
    a permit.


  • Advertisement
  • Registered Users Posts: 17,958 ✭✭✭✭ Del2005


    While it's good in theory to give everyone a say, in practise it can be abused by NIMBY groups with parochial self interests and any uninformed individual can submit an objection no matter how absurd. Indeed the nature of the beast means that it's mostly negative feedback that the authorities get as people that are happy for the project to go ahead usually don't submit. This has the effect greatly slowing down the whole process, watering down perfectly good proposals and even getting whole projects shut down.


    Is it time to rethink the whole public consultation procedure? Could a better way be found that could streamline the whole process while allowing people's legitimate concerns be heard by planners?

    Just make it easy to agree with a project by having a voting buttons, agree/disagree or even the smiley faces you see in some shops, so that people who do agree with the project don't have to go to any effort to show their approval. If you want to object you can still submit your comments but if you think it's OK you can easily show your approval.


  • Moderators, Motoring & Transport Moderators, Technology & Internet Moderators Posts: 20,994 Mod ✭✭✭✭ bk


    alanucc wrote: »
    Doesn't appear so. From Article 6:

    4. Each Party shall provide for early public participation, when all
    options are open and effective public participation can take place.

    5. Each Party should, where appropriate, encourage prospective applicants
    to identify the public concerned, to enter into discussions, and to provide
    information regarding the objectives of their application before applying for
    a permit.

    Again, I don't see how ABP doesn't give you that public participation. You can make your observations to ABP and even ask for an oral hearing. It would seem to cover all that.

    Also I note Spain is also party to that convention, so it doesn't seem to be an issue for them from what others say.

    No one is taking the publics right to be heard away, that is still there. It is just streamlining the process so that it goes quicker.


  • Registered Users Posts: 256 ✭✭ alanucc


    bk wrote: »
    Again, I don't see how ABP doesn't give you that public participation. You can make your observations to ABP and even ask for an oral hearing. It would seem to cover all that.

    Also I note Spain is also party to that convention, so it doesn't seem to be an issue for them from what others say.

    No one is taking the publics right to be heard away, that is still there. It is just streamlining the process so that it goes quicker.

    There are sections of the convention dealing explicitly with public participation during the consenting process (i.e. following submission of a planning application). See section 7.

    The "early" stage described in section 4 is when "all options are open" e.g. route selection stage or constraints stage. By the time that an application is made for permission to ABP, it is for one scheme only i.e. when other options have already been ruled out. If the early consultation was skipped, it would appear to contravene this section.

    Section 5 refers to "encouraging" public participation before the application. There may be some room for interpretation here as the language is a bit wooly!

    I'm not familiar with how it has been interpreted in other countries, but this is my understanding of the situation here.


  • Moderators, Computer Games Moderators, Recreation & Hobbies Moderators Posts: 9,198 Mod ✭✭✭✭ CatInABox


    alanucc wrote: »
    There are sections of the convention dealing explicitly with public participation during the consenting process (i.e. following submission of a planning application). See section 7.

    The "early" stage described in section 4 is when "all options are open" e.g. route selection stage or constraints stage. By the time that an application is made for permission to ABP, it is for one scheme only i.e. when other options have already been ruled out. If the early consultation was skipped, it would appear to contravene this section.

    Section 5 refers to "encouraging" public participation before the application. There may be some room for interpretation here as the language is a bit wooly!

    I'm not familiar with how it has been interpreted in other countries, but this is my understanding of the situation here.

    All that this requires is a public consultation at the start of the process, at a very high level. I.e. Ask the public should there be a metro to the airport. If yes, proceed with the project, then allow the public to have their say once it gets to ABP.


  • Registered Users Posts: 17,516 ✭✭✭✭ Idbatterim


    I dont see the harm in a quick public consultation, the issue is we have extreme weakness politically! look at varadkar the rat, objecting to four floors in his own constituency, never has one man blustered so much and delivered so little! He epitomizes why this country is in the state it is in!


  • Registered Users Posts: 256 ✭✭ alanucc


    CatInABox wrote: »
    All that this requires is a public consultation at the start of the process, at a very high level. I.e. Ask the public should there be a metro to the airport. If yes, proceed with the project, then allow the public to have their say once it gets to ABP.

    Reducing complex issues to yes/no questions is hardly meaningful participation. Particularly when "all options" are supposed to be open. The problem is if you try to avoid/ignore the provisions of the convention, the objectors will be waiting for you down the line at judicial review stage with a strong argument.

    I'm not advocating for the current system, I'm just trying to help clarify why it's set up this way, and the limitations of potential modifications.


  • Registered Users Posts: 17,516 ✭✭✭✭ Idbatterim


    Originally Posted by CatInABox View Post
    All that this requires is a public consultation at the start of the process, at a very high level. I.e. Ask the public should there be a metro to the airport. If yes, proceed with the project, then allow the public to have their say once it gets to ABP.

    are you serious?! we probably wouldnt have the over capacity luas if we asked the local experts on their opinion!

    How many of the nimbies use public transport or have to use it at peak times?!


  • Registered Users Posts: 920 Last Stop


    I don’t think there’s anything wrong with consulting the public in projects that will likely impact them.
    By the looks and sounds of things, Metrolink has set the new standard for this with a first round based on the emerged preferred route and a second round on the preferred route which hopefully has addressed most of the major issues before going to ABP.

    What is incredibly frustrating is the political influence. If we could address this we’d be sorted. I know you’re never going to remove it fully nor should you, after all they are elected representatives so that’s their job, but their influence should be limited.

    What I would suggest is that projects currently at public consultation cannot be discussed in the Dail. If politicians have concerns then the consultation is the place to raise them!

    Also this ****e of public meetings hosted by every Tom, Dick and Harry who have no knowledge of transport needs to stop. I’m not saying stop free speech but it needs to be made clear that these are not actually related to the project or a rep from NTA needs to attend or something. Otherwise we will continue to have fake facts being spread and the only people to benefit are politicians.


  • Registered Users Posts: 78,217 ✭✭✭✭ Victor


    CatInABox wrote: »
    All that this requires is a public consultation at the start of the process, at a very high level. I.e. Ask the public should there be a metro to the airport. If yes, proceed with the project, then allow the public to have their say once it gets to ABP.
    Ahem!
    From Article 6:

    4. Each Party shall provide for early public participation, when all options are open and effective public participation can take place.
    How does "should there be a metro to the airport" equate to considering environmental issues?


Advertisement