Time to stop third party meddlers from progress prevention

A common theme in the frustrations of life generally is where you have a third party who can disrupt the intentions of another and in turn remain fairly unaffected themselves. This article appeared in the Sunday Business Post on the 29th of May and was on that topic.

(original below)

A system which allows unfair delays to those trying to deliver housing must be scrapped.

Best known for penning The Prince, a Renaissance-era handbook for unscrupulous politicians, Florentine historian Niccolo Machiavelli advised: “Never attempt to win by force what can be won by deception.”

To that end, if there’s one way to annoy a third-party meddler it’s to identify them. It gets their back up.

The ‘deception’ in this respect is the common acceptance of third-party rights. Unconnected third parties should not (and don’t) have the right to intrude on your private life or private moveable property as long as you aren’t breaking the law. But when it comes to immovable or fixed property, we don’t act the same way. We allow anyone to voice their dissent and disrupt a process which often has nothing to do with them.

This is a mistake, and a costly one that leads to long and expensive delays which are usually only to the benefit of the objector. The great tragedy is the disproportionate nature of it. If you could cost another party €1 million at a personal cost of about €250 to you, you are ahead by a multiple of about 4,000 times the impact.

If the Department of Environment, Community and Local Government is going to be serious about getting our cities both functioning and functional, then they need to show strong leadership in this regard.

Alan Kelly was laughed at when he said the constitution stood in the way of his vision of progress, even provoking a response from High Court Master Edmund Honohan. But what he didn’t articulate, and perhaps should have, was the role of the constitution in facilitating unfair delays to those that are trying to deliver housing.

Statutory, quasi-judicial bodies and quangos detest arguments that pit the real matters at hand against one another; they prefer to talk about ‘social inclusion’, ‘aesthetic values’, ‘cultural amenity’ and ‘fairness’ or other soft terms that usually lack a strict definition to normal-minded people.

Not so in the mind of the third-party meddler. They use this decorative jargon as a foundation from which to justify their inclusion in things that ought to have naught to do with them.

If somebody values the roofline on a street, then they should be willing to pay for keeping it. If they want a view that is unimpeded by other people who own the land between them and the ‘view’ they so cherish, then they should compensate the other party for imposing such a restriction.

If the proposition becomes one whereby you have to be willing to compensate a person for the delay you cause them – the idea being that long delays are a type of damages (which isn’t unheard of in tort) – then we’d see far fewer people expounding on the reasons we shouldn’t have high-rise buildings.

It doesn’t happen, of course, because third parties and quangos hate spending their own money (unless it’s government funding – which they spend in spades). They prefer a restriction granted for free in order to protect their perceived right to their ‘rights’.

Where were they when Liberty Hall was being built with the current Department of Environment building as a neighbour? An Irish skyscraper next to a Gandon Building; to say that we need such rules to prevent this is farcical. When was the last protest calling for Liberty Hall to be taken down because it is an eyesore in light of the Custom House? There wasn’t a protest because nobody really cares. After a while, these things become the new normal.

We need to stop trying to hold on to some golden-era affectation about Dublin city centre’s façade that doesn’t exist. Building upwards is one of the few things we can do to start seriously using available land to create the Dublin we need for future generations. The preservationists never mention that; by their nature, they are stuck in the past.

What if, instead of soft terminology, we use a language of strict definitions? Here’s one: ‘homelessness’, or another: ‘housing shortage’. These descriptions are clear and understood. These are also things the third-party meddler will purport to care about, but not to the extent that they’d keep themselves out of some other party’s business to see it solved.

The idea that, because you bought a property, you can tell the next person what to do with theirs, is ridiculous. Imagine telling a shop what they could and couldn’t sell to the next customer by virtue of the fact that you just bought something from them?

Planners make decisions. Those decisions need to be respected in full. That means no more second-round appeals and objections to An Bord Pleanála. It means empowered professional planners and a system that either scraps appeals of decisions, or where appeals will result in costs being awarded, where necessary, to get beyond the culture of objections that is pervasive in Ireland.

Making these changes will not be easy. I rely, once more, on Machiavellian wisdom: “It must be considered that there is nothing more difficult to carry out, nor more doubtful of success, nor more dangerous to handle, than to initiate a new order of things.”

Karl Deeter is compliance manager at mortgagebrokers.ie. Follow him on Twitter: @karldeeter
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