The Irish Planning Institute, the all-island body for professional planners engaged in physical, spatial and environmental planning in Ireland, has announced the appointment of Mary Mac Mahon MIPI as president for the 2022-2023 term. Gavin Lawlor MIPI has been elected vice president.

Mac Mahon said: “I am delighted to have been elected as the 34th president of the Irish Planning Institute and a key part of my role will be to help rebuilding public confidence in planning in Ireland.

Third party rights

"The next six months will be critical in terms of new legislation for planning. I want our members to be central to the discussion, because we are the people who enact it on a day-to-day basis. A system that is comprehensive, integrated, understandable and usable, which protects third party rights, is central to rebuilding a working planning system that can deliver for this country.”

Discussing recent developments regarding An Bord Pleanála, she said: “The IPI welcomes the appointment of independent experts to the Office of the Planning Regulator’s recently announced review of An Bord Pleanála which will be an important step in restoring public confidence in the organisation.

"Our members in the inspectorate of An Bord Pleanála – who are recognised by the public as independent, fair-minded persons of integrity – have been under significant strain in terms of workload and the recent public controversy. Steps by the minister to improve resources in the board are welcomed.

"However, temporary board members are needed to deal with the backlog in decisions and we look for the minister to take action in the short time, until the new procedure for appointing board members in place.”

Lawlor said: “With the increasing complexity of planning, it is critical that the IPI further supports our members through training and education, while delivering more independent research to support planning practitioners and inform policy.”

Mac Mahon concluded: “Given the immense challenges of meeting both our housing and climate change targets, there is an urgent need to address under-resourcing of the planning system. While we welcome the recent announcement by the minister of a further 24 posts for An Bord Pleanála, we also hope to see further resources allocated to other areas of the system, particularly within local authorities.

As an all-island body, I also look forward to deepening links with our members in Northern Ireland to ensure the planning profession plays its part in sustainable social, economic and environmental development across the whole island.”

Mac Mahon qualified from Queen’s University Belfast in 1992, with a master's in town and country planning, following a social science degree from University College Dublin.

Environmental engineering

She has a number of postgraduate qualifications, including marine spatial planning, environmental engineering, environmental and planning law, and environmental assessment.

She previously ran her own planning practice, lectured and served as a board member of the Aquacultural Licences Appeals, and board member of An Bord Pleanála for seven years. In recent years, she worked as a senior planning manager for Marlet Property Group and Director of John Spain Associates.

Lawlor is a director of Tom Phillips + Associates. He graduated from University College Dublin with a master's of regional and urban planning degree, following a social science degree from University College Dublin.