Delays to planning process a challenge for economy

Updated / Thursday, 9 Nov 2017 10:10

Caroline Spillane, chief executive of Engineers Ireland, tells Conor Brophy that a robust planning system is key for the economy

Engineers Ireland have called for a streamlined planning and development process for critical infrastructure projects, including data centres. A survey of its members finds two thirds of engineering firms believe the law needs to be changed. The research was carried out in the lead-up to the annual Engineers Ireland Excellence Awards, which will be held tomorrow night. 

Caroline Spillane, chief executive of Engineers Ireland, said a robust planning system is very important, pointing out that some strategically important projects in transport, health and energy have suffered significant delays. She said that while the planning process has quite defined timeframes, the legal process which allows challenges to projects can result in major delays and cause huge problem for the project. 

Ms Spilllane said there is a possibility of examining the legal framework that sits around the entire planning process. The Government is involved in the development of a national planning framework - which stretches out to 2040 - and a national investment plan which will run beside that. This presents a really good opportunity for the Government to think about the kind of environment that this longer term planning horizon is going to create, and that could afford an opportunity to examine the entire planning process to see how it could be streamlined, she added.

The Engineers Ireland Excellence CEO said the issue is about competitiveness both on an international and regional level. She said that big projects result in vibrancy for local communities and job creation. Ms Spillane said it is very important that the issue is tackled so that there is a clear line and a flow of projects, especially large scale infrastructure projects. 

Ms Spillane also said that half of engineering employers believe that there is an inadequate supply of engineers with the necessary skills to meet their organisation's needs in the medium term. On Brexit, she said that employers are getting "Brexit ready" and the organisation is seeing an inflow of engineers into Ireland, adding that there is an increase in the level of interest from engineers in working in Ireland.

MORNING BRIEFS - Independent News and Media has said will see a material reduction in its expected full year pre-tax profit. The profit warning is due in part to legal costs related to the ongoing investigation by the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement and an Independent Review undertaken by the company. Both of these relate to a boardroom spat between company chair Leslie Buckley and former chief executive Robert Pitt as the two disagreed over the price INM would pay to acquire radio station Newstalk - though the acquisition never went ahead. INM said it is also seeing challenging market conditions including continued uncertainty related to Brexit.

*** Sportswear maker Adidas reported strong growth in China and in the US where the German company is winning market share from rivals Nike and Under Armour. Adidas' sales for the three months to the end of September were up 9% to €5.7 billion and its profit up by more than a third to €526m. 

*** Telecoms company AT&T has been told by the US Justice Department that it must sell the news channel CNN if its $84.5 billion takeover of Time Warner is to be approved. AT&T's Randall Stephenson said the company had never offered to sell CNN during its negotiations with the regulator and had no intention of doing so.