The chairman of the Planning Tribunal, Judge Alan Mahon, today thanked witnesses, their legal representatives and tribunal staff, as well as members of the public and the media on what he said was effectively the tribunal’s final day of hearing evidence.
The tribunal was established in November 1997 to investigate allegations of planning corruption.
It was common knowledge for decades that land rezoning was the main source of political corruption in Ireland.
Local government power had been transferred to county and city managers to reduce the opportunities for corruption but local councillors were left with the power to rezone agricultural land for development. It gave the often uneducated elected officials, a powerful means of raising funds ostensibly for election campaigns.
In 1973, the Kenny commission under the chairmanship of a High Court judge, recommended that a ceiling of agricultural value plus 25% be put on development land.
It was a year before income tax was first applied to farming income and the Kenny Report has been ignored in the interval.
Land rezoning has been a huge tax on property but it has remained an untouchable sacred cow as it makes farmers very wealthy.
Since the establishment of the Planning Tribunal, the property boom has made land rezoning a huge bonanza and despite the incentive for corruption where a political decision results in values jumping by a multiple of 100 times or more, nothing has been done to change the system.
Irish Farmers and Sacred Cows
Irish Property Obsession, British Landlordism and Myths
The Planning Tribunal is expected to cost the Exchequer in excess of €300 million when third party legal costs are submitted following the publication of its final report some time in 2009.