An Taisce…Villified for vigilance?

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    • #708487

      Do An Taisce deserve their negative public image?
      Have they brought it upon themselves by being unjustly critical, or are they taking the flak for the failings of the current planning system?

    • #775613

      @DJM wrote:

      Do An Taisce deserve their negative public image?
      Have they brought it upon themselves by being unjustly critical, or are they taking the flak for the failings of the current planning system?

      Seems like you’ve presumed they have a negative public image. Strikes me as a leading question.

      I’m a member of the public (a planner, but not a member of An Taisce) and I think they do great work by and large, particularly in the Dublin office. Perhaps the rural branches not so much, but they are largely run by volunteers afaik. I know many other people who agree that their work is important. In many cases it might bother local authority planners because it makes them think more than they’d like to about the real merits of a project, but that’s why they’re there.
      I think the bottom line with An Taisce is that they are grossly under-resourced. If they are to be a prescribed body with a defined role in the planinng system they should be sufficiently resourced to carry out their tasks (instead of having their funding drastically cut because the Minister doesn’t like what they have to say). Otherwise, it’s like lobotomising the part of your brain that houses your conscience.
      If there’s any fair criticism to be made of them it’s that sometimes their language can be a bit inflammatory and they can be somewhat entrenched in their views. Not that they’re wrong in holding those views, but sometimes the way they put their points across can leave a bit to be desired.

      Perhaps a fairer question would have been ‘What is the general public opinion of An Taisce?’ and lead on from there.

    • #775614

      Not this again 🙁

      A fine institution staffed by a great crew of professionals that give applicants the benefit of the doubt in all but the most exceptional cases 😀

      And before you ask I am a paid up member who is happy to throw a small annual membership fee towards the costs of running the office

    • #775615

      OK fair point Ctesiphon, perhaps the title was a bit biased, but I do think that the question was fairly impartial!

      Sorry Devin, but you’ve got me totally wrong on this one – I gave no personal opinion in the original post, but merely posed a question for the sake of starting a debate. The majority of public opinion I’ve heard, be it from relatives, friends or the media (without reference to any particular case) has been mostly negative, not all, but mostly. Perhaps this is incorrect, but it’s my understanding of the situation.

      There are clearly strong feelings on this – as can be seen in your response to the topic, which I thought was unnecessarily hostile – but maybe a reasoned arguement to disuage me from what you have perceived as my hatred of AT, would have been more constructive???

      Far from hating An Taisce, I would personally subscribe to the latter part of the original question & have got a great deal of admiration for them. I’ve not got a great deal of insight into the topic however, (as I say, the latter part of the question is my basic understanding of the situation) and was hoping that a constructive debate on the matter would enlighten me.

      I don’t think that AT is infallible, and just for arguements sake, should I be talking to a sceptical person at some point in the future, I would need a bit more than photos of Henrietta Street to defend them. That’s the reason for starting the topic.

    • #775616

      😮 What a splendid topic DJM!

      My personal view is that An Taisce is negatively perceived by the general public and very negatively perceived by those involved in development.

      Some of this, in my view, is a result of negativity in the media – essentially lazy journalism, where negative comments from those with vested interests are regurgitated. Some of it arises from ‘own goals’ by An Taisce.

      They do extraordinary work. Many of the Honorary Planning Officers put in long hours reviewing applications, commenting on drafts and variations of plans, meeting with local communities etc. All are unpaid and I know of cases where they absorb the postage, mileage and phone calls themselves. Because they genuinely care about planning and sustainable development.

      In the UK the National Trust is generally respected (I think) but not here – and so the activists do not expect any public recognition – but are regularly vilified by our fine local elected representatives.

      At a national level the elected representatives are also uncomfortable with the organisation (and imo culturally illiterate) – hence the threats re funding.

      So – what are the ‘own goals’?

      For a start they should stop objecting to one off houses – this merely provides cover for the local planning authorities whose job is to implement the Development Plan. It also provides ammunition for the gombeens and entrenches the negativity – and that particular battle is long lost anyway.

      Secondly they need to get their act together organisationally – most of their planners have no formal (and very little informal) training. They lack a nationally co-ordinated policy with regard to planning – for example some counties object to almost all one off houses – some do not object to them at all.

      Thirdly they need to moderate their language. Strident opinions may (?) be acceptable in a discussion forum but they are inappropriate for a publically funded organisation – also unwise. Better to be inside the tent in this case I believe and if they don’t change they will be outflanked by more ‘amenable’ types ( I think that they have been pointedly cut out of the currently mooted national heritage organisation – anyone know the details?)

      I’m not suggesting they should be supine – and this is a danger of course – the last thing we need is another rubber stamping quango.

      Of course resources are an issue – and they have been starved in this regard, and they need to increase and diversify their membership.

      Maybe a fairy godmother/father in the PR/Lobbying industry could help ?

      I do believe if things go on as they are that the organisation will wither (it’s nearly there) and we will all be very much the poorer.:o

    • #775617

      A point I forgot to mention – in the context of An Taisce and ‘own goals’ is that they cannot control their membership – as say a professional organisation might.

      Thus some of their members (a minority admittedly) may act in a juvenile manner from time to time. While this may add to the poor perception of the organisation it should perhaps be indulged for a while, in the hope that eventually they may mature and develop more confidence and even logical and debating skills. :rolleyes:

    • #775618

      Back to the topic in question: I’d no idea that An Taisce members were subject to such personal expense in the running of their organisation.

      Phew! Thats a fairly in-depth summary publicrealm, much obliged.
      As you said regarding their funding, it seems then that they’re on to a looser either way.
      Under funding results from politically unpalatable views and thus inevitably restricts their activities, but were they to become more restrained in these views, in the hope of securing additional funding, it would defeat their raison d’etre!

      The position draws some similarities with the Green Party in this respect. Do you rigidly stick to your principals, thereby isolating yourself from power & influence, or do you make a pragmatic compromise to sacrifice X to obtain Y and Z. It’s a tough call…(NO sarcasm intended)

      If they were to look for a sugar daddy, as was suggested above, and break the link with political funding would they loose their status as a prescribed body and if so, would this affect their current entitlement to be informed of planning matters?

      Re. the UK’s National Trust, another body, Historic Scotland is quite similar to AT in the role that they play in the planning process. They’ve got a bit of an image problem though for being a rather uncompromising hard-line bunch, Hysteric Scotland a commonly used nickname.

      Again, while I do agree in principal with this type of stance, in practice, I think compromises sometimes have to be made for the greater good.

    • #775619

      One-third of Irish rivers and lakes polluted
      LOCAL authorities are being ordered to restrict housing development to halt the alarming pollution of our once pristine rivers and lakes.
      More than a third of rivers and lakes are now polluted, mainly from farms, a damning report reveals today.
      Polluting council sewage plants and septic tanks of one-off houses in the countryside are also slammed in the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) water report.
      It lifts the lid on the full extent of the pollution, which also affects drinking water, and the inaction of many local authorities in tackling the crisis.
      A total of 36.6pc of rivers and lakes are polluted by phosphorus which is blamed on agricultural activities and sewage discharges. Almost 100 out of 496 lakes were polluted with phosphorus alone.
      A worrying trend highlighted in the annual EPA water quality report on phosphorus pollution is the number of rivers of highest biological water quality which have declined.
      Counties with the highest number of polluted lakes which did not comply with new regulations on phosphorus included Monaghan (31), Cavan (14), Clare (14), Leitrim (9), Cork (7) and Longford (6).
      Only 63.4 pc of lakes and rivers which were investigated by the agency were not polluted with phosphorus which kills fish, a slight increase on a previous report. Three quarters of our drinking water is abstracted from rivers and lakes.
      Agricultural sources nationwide are slammed as the major cause of pollution. Yet only 11 local authorities had carried out any significant survey of farms between 2002-2004 and the EPA demands that councils should carry out farm inspections, control septic tanks and identify ‘hot spots.’
      Only 17pc of council sewage plants discharging effluent into freshwaters had facilities to extract the deadly phosphorus and nitrates pollution.
      The report also highlights the overloading of these plants and their poor performance and frequent storm water overflows causing pollution.
      A number of local authorities had also revealed that the septic tanks of many single houses in the countryside were not installed or properly maintained. These septic tanks were causing major water pollution, said the EPA report.
      Despite the implementation of local authority measures under the regulations the EPA investigation found that “national water quality has not yet significantly improved”.
      “Significantly increased efforts will be required to meet the water quality targets,” the report adds.
      Tracey Hogan
      © Irish Independent

      Did anyone see this in today’s Indo? I think it gives justification to a lot of the submissions and appeals taken by An Taisce as in the majority of cases their arguments are based on the fact that a development is going to pollute groundwater/lake/river.
      I wonder if these new figures will slow down the ‘free-for all’ planning system that seems to be in operation in some places?:rolleyes:

    • #775620

      SSsiiigghhhh! Replying to threads about An Taisce is like cleaning up after a kiddie’s party! – that’s why I didn’t bother the first time.

      Publicrealm’s post is full of wild office-floor gossip opinions about An Taisce. I’m not even going to bother correcting, but suffice to say it is full of inaccuracies.

      The only thing I can say is the thread is not about the Fisheries Boards because the Fisheries Boards don’t make any appeals.

    • #775621
      Devin wrote:
      SSsiiigghhhh! Replying to threads about An Taisce is like cleaning up after a kiddie’s party! – that’s why I didn’t bother the first time.

      Publicrealm’s post is full of wild office-floor gossip opinions about An Taisce. I’m not even going to bother correcting, but suffice to say it is full of inaccuracies.


      As for my ‘wild inaccuracies and office floor gossip about An Taisce ‘ – I recently spent a number of years as Honorary Planning Officer for An Taisce, at both County and City level. I speak from experience.

      And you?

      (Your move – you could always try spamming the thread again?):p

    • #775622

      Hey Devin?

      So what are the wild inaccuracies?

      Are you still there? 😀

    • #775623

      An example would be the phonecall taken by an ex-staff member which opened with the line ‘yiz f*****n B******s keeping me stuck in a f****n traffic jam over the carrickmines and the f****n M50’

      another is the number of planning objections taken which as An Bord Pleanala stats prove are very few and have an exceptional level of grounding 94%

      another is that all An Taisce do is planning given the role in environmental education, water quality certifiaction Blue Flag, litter monitoring with IBAL, environmental advocacy such as waste management policies and rogue detection such as the recent CRH turnover at Glending, Property managment with sites such as Kanturk Castle, The Burren and Booterstown Marsh

    • #775624


      these may be examples of something all right, Thomond Park, but are they in any way connected with my request to Devin to justify his statement about my wild inaccuracies? or are they related to something else?

      Sorry if I missed something!

    • #775625

      I as much as anyone else am guilty of moving away from the issues on these threads and getting sidetracked by contributors who talk about wild inaccuracies but don’t back them up.

      I can’t speak for any other contributors but would say from having done quite a bit of consultancy for them (mostly on a pro-bono basis) that your interpretation does not accurately reflect either the structure or stage of development of the organisation.

      Given their annual budget the amount of work they get through accross a number of different fields and geographic regions is a testiment to those who run the organisation both professionally and the volunteer board of managment who collectively have more degrees and professional qualifiactions than any of the industry professional bodies that I know.

    • #775626

      Fair enough Thomond Park,,

      I agree with you regarding the important work they do.

      I also agree that they have many eminently qualified members who do ‘trojan work’ (as they say around Thomond Park). And I know and respect many of their head office people. But I never claimed or implied otherwise.

      I stand by my comments about their weaknesses – as I stated I have personally served as Hon Planning Officer at County and City level and am very familiar with the organisation and with its strengths and weaknesses..

      And very supportive of it – but it is important to recognise weaknesses where they exist if the organisation is to survive. And I believe their survival is in some doubt, regrettably.

    • #775627

      Given the current board of managment and new appointements such as Gavin Harte Director; Anja Murray National Environment some key losses in personnel have been adequately replaced.

      I agree that like every organisation that they have some areas that require attention but I am confident that the current board of management and divisional directors have a firm grasp of the briefs and are very cognisent of the PR implications of each move that is made.

      I would further say that the past 2 years has seen a real maturing of the organisation with attitudes focussed and key programmes rolled out; critically their PR has tightened up and their funding situation has moved into positive territory aided in no small way by the number of volunteers that undertake work that if at assessed at market value would total more than their annual expense bill.

    • #775628

      hmm, desperate for an answer public realm ….

      Well if you are what you say you are you’re obviously carrying a gripe to be speaking of An Taisce in the tone you do.
      … and yes your post still contains numerous inaccuracies

      Your pronouncements on An Taisce on this thread will never have any credibility as you only made them because you didn’t like what I had to say about Paraic Fallon on the Henrietta Street thread.

      My last word on the subject 🙂

    • #775629

      Well that’s it then – I am completely overwhelmed and exposed by your superior debating skills.

      Cunningly you have also seen through my base motivation in posting on the topic (?) and my hatred, nay – loathing- of An Taisce (?). I fully understand why you don’t wish to identify the base inaccuracies in my post – such trivial details really in the context of an adult debate!

      I shall have to change my name – O the shame.:(

      And never to hear from you again? Alas. 😀

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