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Planning and Development Bill, 1999: Report Stage
1st December, 1999

An Cathaoirleach: I remind Senators that a Senator may speak only once on Report Stage except the proposer of an amendment who may reply to the discussion on the amendment. Each amendment must be seconded.

Mr. Norris: I move amendment No. 1:

In page 16, line 15, after "advertisements" to insert "or any attachment to a building or structure used for advertising purposes".

The Minister accepted an amendment of the definition to take account of balloons and so forth. Amendment No. 1 is put down to counter the imaginative creativity of the advertising industry which might find ways and means, which we have not thought of yet, to attach materials to buildings for advertising purposes. The amendment proposes a catch all phrase. We have already discussed this matter so I will not waste more time on it.

Mr. Coogan: I second the amendment.

Minister for the Environment and Local Government (Mr. Dempsey): I accept the amendment.

Amendment agreed to.

Mr. Norris: I move amendment No. 2:

In page 16, line 23, after "plaster" to insert "or the removal or alteration of doors, windows and roofing materials such as slates, tiles, timber, metal or concrete".

There was some discussion on this on Committee Stage. The removal or alteration of doors, windows and roofing materials is a substantial change to a house and the results can be disastrous, for example, using the wrong type of slates or the wrong fenestration on an 18th century building. The Minister suggested that this concern was met by other sections of the Bill or other legislation. However, I strongly believe that it should be included in the Bill.

Mr. Coogan: I second the amendment.

Mr. Dempsey: This amendment would add extra words to the Bill but no extra meaning for the reason suggested by the Senator. The definitions have to be considered in the overall context. Section 4(1)(h) provides that a "development consisting of the carrying out of works for the maintenance, improvement or other alteration of any structure, being works which affect only the interior of the structure or which do not materially affect the external appearance of the structure so as to render the appearance inconsistent with the character of the structure or of neighbouring structures" shall be exempted development. No matter how the definition of works or alterations is changed, the requirement to obtain planning permission only comes into play where development does not meet the test of section 4(1)(h).

In accordance with section 55, section 4(1)(h) does not apply to any works which would affect the character of a protected structure. Similarly, where a planning authority designates an architectural conservation area under the 1999 Act, it will be able to specify higher standards in those areas than would normally apply. It could, for example, state as a policy that it considers the installation of PVC windows in such an area as development which would render the appearance of a structure inconsistent with the character of neighbouring structures. Planning control of PVC windows would be introduced in such an area while not affecting normal suburban areas.

I understand the Senator's concern but I assure him that the Bill contains the protections he seeks.

Mr. Norris: I am satisfied with the Minister's reply.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Mr. Norris: I move amendment No. 3:

In page 18, between lines 30 and 31, to insert the following:

"'material contravention' is where an application if granted would be in breach of a specific policy, or a specific objective and a specific zoning in a development plan, local area plan, an area of special amenity or a landscape conservation area;".

I will not delay the House on this. There is no definition of "material contravention" in the Bill. Despite the arguments the Minister made on Committee Stage, where a material contravention is referred to in the Bill it should be clearly defined.

Ms O'Meara: I second the amendment. In the context of a planning Bill, particularly one as comprehensive as this, it should be essential to include a definition of "material contravention".

Mr. Dempsey: This is a classic case, and there are a few more instances in the Bill, of silence being golden. My concern is that if a definition is included, we might inadvertently leave something out. Planning and development are dynamic concepts and the Bill tries to capture that. If we include such a definition, we might permit loopholes. An unforeseen circumstance could arise which would not be covered by the law. We would be left in a situation where, because it was not within the definition, it would be excluded, thus allowing a loophole to develop.

I understand the Senators' motivation but the best advice available to me - advice with which I strongly agree - is that to be absolutely safe and ensure that loopholes do not arise, it is best to leave the Bill as it stands and "material contravention" undefined. I ask the Senators to withdraw the amendment.

Mr. Norris: This is a type of force majeure so there is not much point in my resisting. I understand the Minister's concern that we do not create loopholes. However, one must wonder how people will decide or who will decide where a material contravention occurs. There is also a worry that it goes back to the manager. However, I am prepared to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Government amendment No. 4:

In page 19, between lines 19 and 20, to insert the following:

"(f) in the case of a referral under section 82 (4), a prospective party to an agreement under section 82(2);".

Mr. Dempsey: This amendment is consequential on an amendment to section 115 on Committee Stage, changing the definition of "party to an appeal or referral" to define the party to a referral under section 82(4). That section provides that any dispute in relation to an agreement relating to the operation of a housing strategy other than a dispute in relation to the amount of compensation to be paid may be referred to An Bord Pleanála. The content of that agreement is not a land use decision. The land use issues will have been decided in granting the planning permission, subject to entering an agreement in relation to the transfer of the land. An example of the type of disagreement which might be referred to the board would be the location of the land to be transferred. It is appropriate that the only parties to a referral under this section to An Bord Pleanála should be the parties to the agreement. We are providing for that.

Amendment agreed to.

Mr. Coogan: I move amendment No. 5:

In page 22, line 14, after "alteration," to insert "cleaning,".

When we discussed this matter on Committee Stage, the Minister said he would consider the possiblity of introducing wording similar to this amendment or to an earlier amendment. The use of sandblasting techniques or high pressure water cleaning can damage buildings. All we need do is reflect on the latest revelation regarding the Elgin marbles. I am not saying we have Elgin marbles in Ireland. Given that the British Museum with all its experience and deep concern can end up perhaps destroying such unique material, the possibility of people destroying a building who have no such concerns is even greater. That is why I ask the Minister to insert the word "cleaning" in this definition, which would cover works such as sandblasting and heavy water cleaning.

Mr. Norris: I support Senator Coogan's amendment. The cleaning of buildings can be very damaging. That is not just in the case of things like the Elgin marbles. In particular, in the 18th century context or earlier, if brick buildings are sandblasted the bricks can very easily become spalled and porous and this can damage an entire building. What starts out as nice, hygienic cleaning operation can turn into something that is very damaging to a building. High pressure water cleaning must be very sensitively done.

I point to the example of Trinity which has done an extremely good job under careful supervision over a number of years in restoring the facade of the building. This is a very serious point. Buildings can be damaged by inappropriate methods of cleaning.

Mr. Dempsey: Senator Coogan is correct in that I said on Committee Stage I would consider if I could accommodate this proposal, but unfortunately I cannot. I explained that in accordance with section 4(1)(h) planning permission could be required only in circumstances where such cleaning would lead to the appearance of a building being inconsistent with its neighbouring buildings. While I do not envisage what the Senator said happening, I understand his point about sandblasting and cleaning in general, but it is not possible for me to accept this amendment in the context of the Bill.

Mr. Coogan: While I am not overly disappointed by that, such protection should be included in the Bill. Otherwise this area is open not necessarily to abuse but individuals who are asked to carry out sandblasting work, who are not committed or concerned about a project, will have little knowledge of the structure on which they are working and will not have the same concern for the work on it that others would have. Could the words "appropriate preservation" or words to that effect be inserted to address that concern?

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Mr. Norris: I move amendment No. 6:

In page 23, between lines 14 and 15, to insert the following:

"(c) any intensification of a existing use that leads to a greater impact on the adjacent environment particularly its residents due to increased noise, odours, wastes including slurry and more transportation shall be regarded as a material change of use which shall require permission under section 34.".

I will not rehearse the arguments made on Committee Stage, although I raised a specific case, that of a quarry. I referred to a person who had lived for many years in happy enjoyment of his premises and then a disused quarry was reopened and massively exploited and the character of the quarry and the surrounding area was changed. It was subjected to noise, odour, traffic and so on. This matter should be examined and, as Senator Coogan said, the Minister undertook to examine this matter to see if something could be done.

Ms O'Meara: I second the amendment. I recall we had a considerable discussion on this matter on Committee Stage during which it emerged that this is a significant issue and a potentially significant problem. I recall the Minister said he would examine it.

Mr. Coogan: As the previous speakers said, we spent some time discussing this on Committee Stage. It is recognised that intensification of use can have other effects. Senator Norris mentioned the case of quarrying, which leads to a more lorries on our roads which carry dust from the quarry. When such work is carried our in Great Britain, lorries must be covered to prevent material falling from them. We might consider including such a provision in future legislation to ensure that dust or stones do not fall from lorries. I had hoped that the Minister might have tabled an amendment on this matter.

Mr. Walsh: I am inclined to agree with the thrust of this amendment, if not its wording. Intensification of use can give rise to significant changes for the people of a locality. From my experience of being a member of a local authority, I thought that where serious and significant intensification of use occurs developers are obliged to have prior approval for such an intensification of use. The Minister might clarify that.

Mr. Norris: Local authorities do not chase it up.

Mr. Dempsey: As Senator Walsh said, if one proposes an intensification of use, one is supposed to seek approval for that through the planning system. I accept what Senator Norris said, that it is not easy and there are usually court arguments about what is an intensification of use. The purpose of this amendment is to try to give a definition of intensification.

I have the same difficulty in accepting this amendment as I had in accepting the amendment proposing the inserting of the definition of "material contravention". A definition may omit something, leave a loophole for somebody to exploit the legislation and I am not prepared to take that chance. I accept that I said I would consider this area because the current situation in relation to quarries and the pre-1963 rule must be examined.

I addressed the annual dinner of the Irish Mines and Quarrying Society last weekend and I raised this matter with its members and explained that I felt difficulties were arising. They had made complaints about the number of illegal quarries operating and local authorities transacting business with them for road purposes. I explained the difficulty about the pre-1963 rule and that many people are using it. I have reason to believe they may examine this, but I intend to examine it between now and when we deal with Committee Stage of the Bill in the Dáil to see if improvements can be made. We will probably be back here talking about quarrying some time in the future.

Mr. Norris: I had better not be pestiferous and press this amendment at this point. The Minister now sees what happens when he rushes. If he had given himself more time, he could have dealt directly here with us and Seanad Éireann would have been seen by the public to fulfil its statutory role of revising and refining legislation. This is a very refined House. I am at least grateful he is examining this matter between now and Committee Stage in the Dáil. I am sure he will refer to the fact that the Seanad played a role in drawing this matter to his attention.

Mr. Dempsey: I always give credit where credit is due.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

An Cathaoirleach: Amendment No. 137 is related to Government amendment No. 7 and they can be discussed together by agreement.

Government amendment No. 7:

In page 23, line 38, to delete "or pursuant" and insert "pursuant".

Mr. Dempsey: This amendment arises on foot of a discussion we had on amendments tabled by Senators on this matter on Committee Stage. It seeks to clarify the provisions which exempt local authority development carried out by the local authority or through a public private partnership. Concerns were expressed on Committee Stage that the current wording of the provision is too broad. This amendment clarifies that Part X type procedures under section 163 will apply to projects carried out pursuant to a contract on behalf of a local authority or in partnership with a local authority and they will, therefore, be subject to the democratic control of the members. Alternatively, if they are subject to an EIA, they will be subject to the approval of An Bord Pleanála under section 159.

Amendment No. 137 in the names of Senators O'Meara, Costello and Ryan would apply normal planning controls to developments by local authorities by way of public-private partnership. My amendment achieves this. The planning control to which a local authority will be subject will apply to PPP projects. However, if the amendment is intended to require planning permission for local authority PPP projects, requiring the PPPs to have two sets of procedures, a double set - the normal planning procedure and the Part X procedure - would make no sense. The Government intends to facilitate public private partnerships, particularly those that will allow for the provision, by the local authority in partnership, of infrastructural facilities in the future. The amendment, as I read it, would run contrary to that and I cannot accept it. My amendment No. 7, in this case, solves the problem that Senators had.

Senator Walsh spoke on this and Senator Coogan mentioned incinerators, which is how this arose. My amendment will address those particular concerns. Whichever route is taken, the local authority development or the PPP development for local authorities will go through one or other procedure, but I am not prepared to make it go through both.

Mr. Coogan: We did express concern and the issues raised by Senator Walsh and myself concerned a case of a partnership where, for example, a local authority decided first of all to commence the work and then handed it over or went into partnership, then changes or modifications were made and these people would not have gone through due process. The Minister has gone some way to doing that by this slight modification in the Bill. It is quite impossible to tie it down completely but it has gone some way to meet the concerns we expressed.

Ms O'Meara: I too can see that the Minister's amendment has gone some way towards meeting the concerns which we raised on Committee Stage. It was not our intention with our amendment to have a situation whereby those involved in public private partnerships would have to go through both procedures. The Minister said one or the other. Our amendment No. 137 was to ensure that public private partnerships would have to go through the same normal planning controls as a private development, particularly where public private partners are involved in major projects, which we anticipate in the future, judging from the national plan and so on. It is very important that a situation is not created where there is some sort of exemption because a local authority is involved. It might be a small partner in some ways. I am concerned that there may be a level of abuse there.

The Minister has not gone far enough. Our amendment is designed to produce a particular situation, as the Minister knows. Our amendment No. 137 arises directly out of our discussions on Committee Stage and is designed to ensure that public private partnerships are subject to the same planning controls as private applications. One can see the potential for large projects in the future such as incinerators, landfill or thermal treatment or whatever one wants to call it being subject only to Part X and not to planning. These situations are controversial enough but this would generate a huge amount of controversy. In that context I am not prepared to withdraw amendment No. 137 at this stage at least. I would like to hear the Minister's response.

Mr. Walsh: The Minister has gone some way in the change that he has made to this. It is a case of whether it would be better going through the planning process in the normal way rather than Part X. Part X is a relatively recent introduction to the process. Prior to that, local authorities could proceed without taking any course. Public private partnerships need to be facilitated and it should be ensured that they are not bogged down in actions taken by all sorts of self-interest groups, holding them up and interfering with the common good.

On the other hand I am concerned and the Minister might look at Part X to ensure that there is some process of procedure to be followed by the elected members. Part X tends to come back before the councillors after the consultation and generally goes through on the nod. Maybe that should be examined and a more stringent process provided for because one is preventing people with genuine objections from using the planning appeal route to An Bord Pleanála, which is a significant denial of a right under the planning legislation. If that is happening, it is important to put a greater onus on the elected local authority members to analyse and give more consideration than might be currently given, particularly where there could be very significant developments. As Senator O'Meara said, that could in time come in under this section.

The commerciality of the project is relevant as well. Maybe this can be covered by the contract between the local authority and whichever private organisation is involved. Under the planning process, the planning authority can levy development charges to cover infrastructural facilities for this development. Under Part X, I am not sure whether the same scope is available to the local authority and, therefore, a PPP could have some commercial advantage over a similar type of activity that might be provided purely on a commercial basis. There are areas which probably need further teasing out.

Mr. Dempsey: We are talking about a public private partnership with the local authority having to go through one or other process. It will go through the Part X process, and major projects, which I mentioned the last time, such as incinerators or whatever else depending on the value of it, would have to go through an EIA procedure. If it has to go through an EIA procedure, as most of those large ones mentioned will, then An Bord Pleanála will make the decision if there is an appeal or anything else. If there is an EIA it must go to An Bord Pleanála and they decide it.

The Part X procedure has been strengthened in this Bill as well. On Senator Walsh's point, we have strengthened the procedures in this Bill for Part X where local authority members have to go through certain procedures and they have to make sure that they take into account what a manager would be taking into account. They have to get the reports from the manager, summaries of the submissions and so on. My concern with the Part X procedure is that, in some councils, councillors will hold up procedures and developments. It might be quicker, in some cases, to put the PPP through the normal planning procedure than the Part X one, which is a judgement which people will have to make themselves.

Senator O'Meara's amendment would mean that a planning authority would be deciding on the planning application of someone that was in partnership with itself and that causes its own difficulties. No matter how open the system is made, people would say, "What were they going to do anyway?" and shrug their shoulders. We have tried to address the major concern in the original amendments, which was that something would pass through without any scrutiny at all, from a planning point of view, because it was going to be in partnership with a local authority. The amendment which I put down does that without totally hamstringing the local authority or the PPP system. We are devising the PPP system and there is a lot of work being done on the legal and financial aspects. It is possible that we may have to change this again after some experience. This is the best way to facilitate local authorities and public private partnerships. I ask Senator O'Meara not to press the amendment.

Ms O'Meara: May I reply to amendment No. 137?

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: The Senator may reply to it because the two amendments are being discussed together. However, she cannot move the amendment until we reach it.

Ms O'Meara: I accept what the Minister said that public private partnerships are in an early phase of development. Perhaps it is too early to legislate for them in this Bill. I will not press the amendment, but I hope it does not lead to controversy at a future date.

Amendment agreed to.

Government amendment No. 8:

In page 24, line 10, after "of" to insert "non-public".

Mr. Dempsey: Senator Coogan and others expressed concern about the exemption for roads serving forests, which could have a wide interpretation and could include the building of new roads up to forests. In response to these concerns, my amendment makes it clear that the exemption for roads serving forests only extends to non-public roads. In other words, only private roads serving forests would benefit from this exemption. A new entrance on to a public road will still require planning permission in accordance with existing planning regulations.

Mr. Coogan: I understood that non-public roads were mentioned in the Bill. While I am concerned about the construction of roads, other Members expressed concerns that roads exiting on to a public road would be exempt. We had a problem with the definition of a road. Is a track used by felling machinery defined as a road? We spoke about hard surfaced roads and we were concerned they could be used for whatever purpose one wished once they were constructed.

I came across an example recently where an individual claimed the road he was constructing was for land reclamation purposes. However, that was not the case. Under the Bill, there is no way of stopping him from doing that. He will probably apply for planning permission to build a number of houses on the land and he will prove the infrastructure is already in place, which will make it easier to get permission. We want to ensure the word "construction" is not acceptable and that people will have to go through the planning process.

Mr. Norris: I support Senator Coogan. The Minister has gone some way to meet our concerns, particularly with regard to the development of forestry and especially in light of the fact that Coillte may be privatised, which would introduce a new commercial element.

Amendment agreed to.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Amendment No. 9 is a Government amendment and amendment No. 10 is an alternative. Amendments Nos. 9 and 10 may be discussed together by agreement.

Government amendment No. 9:

In page 26, between lines 28 and 29, to insert the following:

"(d) where the development to which the application relates would materially affect a protected structure or is situated in an area declared to be an area of special amenity under section 185, an indication of this fact,".

Mr. Dempsey: I promised on Committee Stage to introduce this amendment to add to the content of the register in the interests of making it as user friendly as possible. This amendment would require the planning authority to show on the register when an application for development would materially affect a protected structure or when the proposed development is in an area of special amenity. This amendment covers the point Senator Norris and others made on Committee Stage. On that basis, I ask him not to press his amendment.

Mr. Norris: I am grateful to the Minister for accepting the bulk of the principle involved. It is not quite as strong as my amendment because it uses the words "materially affect". I presume some changes will not be registered. I am left wondering who will decide that it will "materially affect" or that it will be put on the register. If there is difficulty defining a material contravention, surely the same argument applies to "materially affect"? The Minister has argued on different sides of the case. I will not press the amendment and I am glad the Minister has gone as far as he has in meeting it.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment No. 10 not moved.

Mr. Norris: I move amendment No. 11:

In page 28, line 38, to delete "development" and substitute "sustainable land use".

Arguments were made in the initial stages of discussion so I do not propose to go over old ground. It is a reasonable amendment and I commend it to the House.

Ms O'Meara: I second the amendment.

Mr. Dempsey: As I explained on Committee Stage, we have tried to use as much as possible normal and accepted wording throughout the Bill. The normal and accepted wording for the city or county plan is the development plan. Such a word change does not add anything substantive to the Bill. It does not bring the ethos of sustainable development into the Bill, as that is already in many other provisions of the Bill. I ask the Senator to withdraw the amendment.

Mr. Norris: I thank the Minister for his reply. The word "development" suggests something aggressive, interventionist and commercial. However, I will not press the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Amendment No. 12 is a Government amendment and amendment No. 22 is an alternative. Amendments Nos. 12 and 22 may be discussed together by agreement.

Government amendment No. 12:

In page 29, between lines 13 and 14, to insert the following:

"(5) In making a development plan in accordance with this Chapter, a planning authority shall, where appropriate, take into account any significant likely effects the implementation of the plan may have on the area of any adjoining planning authority having regard in particular to any observations or submissions made by the adjoining authority.".

Mr. Dempsey: Senator Coogan spoke about this matter on Committee Stage and we said we would try to respond to it. This amendment requires a planning authority, where appropriate, to take into account any significant effects which the plan might have on the area of an adjoining authority, in particular where an adjoining authority has made submissions or observations to the authority. I had fears about Senator Coogan's amendment. While I accepted the principle and the thrust of what he proposed, I was afraid we would cause problems for ourselves by making it rigid and statutory. I hope this amendment responds fully to Senator Coogan's concerns. It is a good amendment which is necessary to improve the Bill.

Mr. Coogan: I thank the Minister for tabling this amendment which is much better than mine. It deals with the full thrust of what I intended. It is only right and just that a local authority must take into account developments in an adjoining authority.

Mr. Walsh: I also welcome the amendment which recognises that it is often the local authority which makes the observations that will be greatly affected by the decision made by a county council in another county.

Amendment agreed to.

Mr. Coogan: I move amendment No. 13:

In page 29, line 25, after "question." to insert "These written statements and plans will include the likely effects on landscape characterisation.".

I use the term "landscape characterisation" because something can affect a landscape in the same way as it can affect a streetscape. We should examine the likely effects any development would have on landscape characteristics. While some aspects of the view are taken into account, often they are not all taken into account. An electricity substation in a scenic part of Connemara was painted green in an attempt to disguise it so that it merged into the background. That is not always as effective as it should be. The regulations should ensure that such objects should be sunk below ground level or surrounded by trees native to that area where appropriate. The landscape and the effect of a development on it should be taken into account.

Mr. Dempsey: Senator Coogan expressed himself eloquently on Committee Stage when this was discussed. I thought we had agreed then that my amendment addressed his concerns. That amendment is now contained in section 10(2)(d): "the preservation of the character of the landscape where, and to the extent that, in the opinion of the planning authority, the proper planning and sustainable development of the area requires it, including the preservation of views and prospects and the amenities of places and features of natural beauty or interest;". We agreed on Committee Stage that that wording met the concerns of the Senator. For that reason I ask him to withdraw this amendment. It is close to the Senator's heart and he spoke eloquently about it on Committee Stage but it is now covered.

Mr. Coogan: On Committee Stage I tried to make the point that it should have been included at an earlier stage in the Bill. I accept it is covered and withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Mr. Coogan: I move amendment No. 14:

In page 29, line 40, after "heritage" to insert ", as defined by the Heritage Act, 1995".

We discussed this on Committee Stage. My concern was that the definition might be clearer in the Heritage Act and I asked the Minister to examine it. He said he would. We did not debate the matter in detail. I would like to know if the Minister has looked at it and if he feels it could be included.

Mr. Dempsey: We discussed this briefly but, as I explained on Committee Stage, the situation has not changed. The term "natural heritage" is not defined in the Heritage Act. We are back to square one with that. The amendment would not, therefore, make any sense in this context.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Amendment No. 17 is related to amendment No. 15 and they may be taken together by agreement.

Mr. Norris: I move amendment No. 15:

In page 30, line 7, after "amenities" to insert "including rights of way".

I have been briefed on this and it was brought to my attention that the waters were muddied by the fact that the two amendments were discussed together on Committee Stage. Both amendments sought to amend section 10(2), which deals with mandatory matters to be included in development plans. The first of the two amendments, amendment No. 44 on Committee Stage, sought to amend section 10(2)(h) by including rights of way. Amendment No. 49 on Committee Stage sought to provide an additional subclause by making it mandatory to make a list of rights of way.

Amendment No. 15 deals with a matter about which there was some confusion on Committee Stage when amendments Nos. 44 and 49 were taken together. This simple amendment seeks to highlight the importance of rights of way. It imposes no burden on local authorities and, in fact, appears already in most county development plans.

I do not need to labour the importance of rights of way. They are a significant part of our heritage. Increasingly people spend their leisure time making use of these rights of way. With increasing urbanisation people must have legal access to the countryside and natural amenities. One of the groups which briefed me, Keep Ireland Open, informed me that access in many areas is now being denied by landowners. The only way to rectify this is by the maintenance and indeed creation of rights of way. I hope the Minister will accept this simple amendment.

Amendment No. 17 was not fully teased out when it was debated on Committee Stage. The Minister's response was to refer to section 14, which removes a ridiculous layer of bureaucracy in existing legislation and makes it easier for councils to establish the legality of a specific public right of way. It does not, however, make the preparation of a list mandatory. If we are serious about rights of way, it should.

Looking back at the debate, I was concerned by the negative quality of the Minister's response. He referred to the onerous job of protecting and maintaining rights of way. Of course it is onerous. Most local authority tasks are onerous. We cannot avoid such tasks by saying they are a burden, we should not do them and they need not be put in the Bill. It is impossible to make legislative progress in that manner - simply to exclude things from consideration because they are bit of a problem.

The Minister talked about possible court cases. That is a possibility. At least this Bill would provide the framework within which those cases would be heard and would provide one which would be positive from the point of view of those wishing to secure rights of way.

In conclusion the Minister said, "It is not practical or legally sound to require rights of way to be included in the development plan." That is an outrageous statement because it sends a message from the Minister to local authorities that rights of way are nothing more than a pain in the backside - perhaps I should say they are "onerous" - and the less one has to do with them, the better. If the Minister feels they should not be bothered with because they are onerous, the local authorities will certainly take their cue from him. They will say, "The Minister thinks it is onerous. Look at all the powers and staff he has. If he thinks it is onerous, we will not bother with it."

For that reason it would be a disastrous abrogation of responsibility by the Department and the Minister when they should be giving a lead to local authorities. I urge the Minister to accept both amendments.

Mr. Coogan: One of the pastimes which is becoming more popular is hill and country walking. If I was a farmer I would be concerned about trespassing and other rules and regulations, but I would prefer to know if something was a right of way within which people would have to stay to avoid trespassing on my land. It would be confirmed in that way.

I do not like to draw comparisons with Britain but traditionally the value of rights of way has been recognised there for walkers, horse riders and photographers. These rights of way are easily preserved. The more they are used, the less work is needed on them. Most of them are mere pathways. These amendments do not seek street lighting and concrete paving, they seek to preserve the paths by trimming overgrown hedges and such so they are kept open. They would also make a list available so people would know exactly where they can go.

Mr. Norris: That is the way in which cliff walks are maintained.

Mr. Coogan: Exactly.

Ms O'Meara: I support these amendments. Senator Coogan mentioned the increasing popularity of hill walking. This is an activity which is not just increasingly popular, it is increasingly important for tourism, particularly for counties which do not have a coastline and which are developing inland tourism. Walking is the activity which is expanding most in terms of its attraction to foreign visitors. It is important that this Bill should clarify the matter so that problems do not arise in the future. It is not that we would be placing onerous responsibilities on local authorities that they do not already have. They are partners with other sectors within counties and regions in promoting tourism and in ensuring landowners are protected, that everybody knows where rights of way are situated and that they are properly maintained, that the signage, where appropriate, is maintained and that the system is working as well as possible.

Mr. Dempsey: This is a classic example where one improves something and is then told by everybody that one should improve it further. I am in favour of public rights of way and encouraging as many people as possible to engage in hill walking and other healthy activities. New and simplified procedures are set out in section 14 to allow a planning authority include specific rights of way in its development plan. Once included it will not be necessary to continue to notify landowners as required under the provisions of the 1963 Act which contains a small section on rights on way. This matter was raised with me many years ago when I was in opposition by former Deputy Roger Garland who is in the Gallery. While he regards this section as an improvement, he takes the view that it is only removing a stupid provision but at least we are doing that much.

There is a danger that the amendments would require a planning authority to protect and maintain all rights of way in its functional area. Whether one would describe this as a pain in the backside or onerous, it would not be practical to place such an obligation on local authorities. As Senators are aware it is often difficult to know where a public right of way is situated. For this reason uniquely section 14 provides for a right of appeal to the Circuit Court where somebody objects to the inclusion of a right of way in a development plan. Such a dispute can only be resolved through the courts. As I said on Committee Stage, it would not be practical or legally sound to require that all rights of way be included in a development plan. Paragraph 8 of Part IV of the First Schedule specifically provides for the inclusion of rights of way to ensure their preservation, particularly those which give access to mountains, lakeshores, river banks and so on.

The Bill allows a local authority to include rights of way in its development plan at any time through a public notification procedure. Interested members of the public and groups will now have an opportunity of ensuring rights of way which give access to river banks, lakeshores, mountains and so on are preserved by their inclusion in development plans and once listed are not removed. This is a major advance.

Whether one would describe them as onerous, the amendments are not legally sound. On that basis I cannot accept either of them.

Mr. Norris: As we have much work to do I will not press the amendment, although I am inclined to do so. I imagine the matter will be raised again in the other House. On the question of it being onerous, that might be a good thing, particularly if this is a resource we will develop. On the neighbouring island local authorities are required to maintain rights of way. That is the reason they do such a good job and it is such a pleasure to go on walking tours in England in particular. It is also the reason they are recognised as a national resource.

In the old days boreens competed for attention in local authorities with really serious problems of housing, health and so on and there was no money to do these things. One could then have made an argument that they were onerous because they might take money away from more essential projects. Nowadays, however, particularly in light of what Senator O'Meara said, which is absolutely true in terms of the development of the tourism industry, it is no harm to require that they be maintained properly. As I mentioned in an interjection when Senator Coogan was speaking, the hill walks in Howth are maintained. It is important that they are maintained not just to ensure public access but also public safety. Some of these areas, if not maintained, can rapidly become dangerous because of erosion.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Government amendment No. 16:

In page 30, line 12, after "Gaeltacht", where it firstly occurs, to insert "including the promotion of Irish as the community language".

Mr. Dempsey: Bhí an-chuid dea-thoil anseo nuair a phlé muid ceist na Gaeltachta le linn céim an Choiste. Bhíomar go léir aontaithe go bhféadfadh ról dearfach a bheith ag an gcóras pleanála i gcaomhnú agus neartú na Gaeltachta, cé nach rabhamar go h-iomlán ar aon intinn conas sin a chur chun cinn.

There was general agreement on Committee Stage about strengthening the Gaeltacht. My amendment strengthened the references to the protection of the Gaeltacht in the development plan. Senator Ryan in particular suggested that the amendment could be phrased more positively. I am responding by further amending section 10 to provide that the development plan should contain objectives to protect the linguistic and cultural heritage of the Gaeltacht and to promote Irish as the community language of the Gaeltacht. I hope this will meet the points raised on Committee Stage.

Mr. Coogan: Tá mé lán sásta leis an leasuithe seo. The intention of the amendments related to the Gaeltacht was to ensure protection of the Gaeltacht and, in particular, the Irish language. In Ring there was an imposition of a large development which the local community believed would encroach on the Gaeltacht and would not be committed to it. There are a number of large holiday home developments throughout Connemara where are all the signs are in English. At the very least they should be in Irish. If one travelled to a foreign country and did not know the language one would soon learn the difference between fir and mná by mistake. That mistake might be made in some cases. The thrust of the amendment is worthwhile.

Mr. Walsh: Cosúil leis an Seanadóir Coogan cuirim fáilte roimh an leasú. Molaim an tAire. Táimid go léir ar aon aigne go bhfuil dualgas orainn an Ghaeilge a chur chun cinn agus tá sé níos láidre sa Bhille seo anois.

Mr. Norris: Ar an gcéad dul síos ba mhaith liom a rá go díreach leis an Aire, go raibhmíle maith agat agus tá mé sásta leis an leasú seo.

I put down a number of amendments on this subject and the Minister has combined them all into this one amendment, which is the principle of the matter, and I am grateful to him for that. For that reason, I will not move the screed of amendments in my name, with the exception of an important related amendment which I hope the Minister will examine. It involves the question of making facilities available for the hearing of planning cases through the medium of Irish. I hope I will be here to argue the point. It is related to this and it is virtually the only one of the amendments in my name remaining on the Order Paper. I hope the Minister will be able to accept it, regardless of whether I am in the House.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment No. 17 not moved.

Ms O'Meara: I move amendment No. 18:

In page 30, line 33, after "any" to insert "variation thereof or in any".

This amendment, which we discussed on Committee Stage, extends the Bill by removing any presumption that land which has been zoned in a particular way will not be altered in any variation of the development plan. This will help to reduce the possibility of a landowner taking a case against a properly adopted variation of the plan.

Mr. Norris: I second the amendment.

Mr. Dempsey: Subsection (8) of section 10 makes it clear that there will be no presumption in law that any land zoned will remain so zoned in any subsequent development plan. The amendment put down to this section would extend this presumption to any variation of a development plan. I stated on Committee Stage that while at first glance this seemed to be a sensible amendment, it was not well founded. For example, it should be noted that the rezoning of land midway through a development plan period could have compensation consequences as landowners would have an expectation that their land would be zoned for a six year period. That is not something local authorities would want. During the debate on Committee Stage, Senator O'Meara clarified that the intention of the amendment was that there would be no presumption that any change in zoning made by way of variation during the lifetime of the plan would necessarily continue into the next plan. The amendment, however, would not have that effect. In any case it should be noted that the major changes we have made to the provisions of the 1963 Act would render the intention of Senator O'Meara's amendment unnecessary.

There has always been confusion between a varied plan and a new development plan, but this has been clarified in the Bill and it means that where a plan is varied within the lifetime of the plan, that variation automatically forms part of the original plan. Subsection (8) makes it clear that there will be no presumption that any zoning in the plan, regardless of whether it was contained in the original plan or inserted by way of variation, will continue in the subsequent plan. The intention in Senator O'Meara's amendment, therefore, is already covered in the Bill as drafted.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach Amendment No. 19 is in the name of Senator Coogan. Amendments Nos. 24, 29 and 32 are cognate so they will be discussed together, by agreement.

Mr. Coogan: I move amendment No. 19:

In page 30, line 43, after "area" to insert "and where available to announce on local radio, or radios and on the Internet".

The intention in the Bill is to have as much public participation as possible in terms of planning and development. This could be suitably done through local radio stations. As far as I am aware, many local authorities have websites on the Internet and while the Internet is currently available only to a minority of people, it is growing in popularity and if people want to know what is happening in their local authority, they refer to it. I do not want to refer again to the little old lady in the wheelchair who cannot afford the local newspaper, even though such people do exist, but I would be satisfied if the Minister would ensure that at least in the guidelines all available forms of media would be used for this purpose.

Ms O'Meara: I second the amendment, particularly the reference to the Internet. This was one of the most useful set of amendments put down on Committee Stage and we had a lengthy discussion at that stage. The inclusion of the Internet in the amendment is important because I understand Ireland has one of the highest rates of Internet usage in western Europe. We are obviously heading towards mass usage of this technology. I support Senator Coogan's sentiments in that the inclusion of this amendment would encourage the greatest level of public participation and ensure that modern technology is included in the framework of the Bill.

Mr. Dempsey: I assure the Senators that the intent of these amendments is already covered in section 225(1) which provides that where any provision of this Act requires notice to be given, the public planning authority may, to the extent they consider necessary, draw the attention of the public to the notice through other forms of media, including the broadcast media and electronic forms of providing information. That meets the point in Senator Coogan's amendment. I take on board what he said in relation to guidelines. We will be having further discussions with local authorities on the implementation of the Bill when it is completed and we will encourage them to use every form of media to get the information across to the public.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Amendment No. 20 is a Government amendment. Amendments Nos. 23, 25, 26 and 28 are related so we will discuss Nos. 20, 23, 25, 26 and 28 together, by agreement.

Government amendment No. 20:

In page 31, line 32, to delete "6 months" and substitute "5 months".

Mr. Dempsey: On Committee Stage, many Members called for the retention of the three months public display period for the draft development plan. I said at that time that I was willing to examine this matter but that I did not want to compromise my overall aim of having the development plan completed within the six year period, which was sufficiently long. These amendments, therefore, provide that the initial period for reviewing an existing plan and for drawing up a draft development plan will last for 11 months instead of the proposed year. This in turn allows for a one year and one month period for adopting the final plan and includes the extended public consultation period to 12 weeks instead of eight weeks as I originally proposed. The extra time is achieved by reducing from six months to five months the preconsultation phase in section 11 before the draft development plan is drawn up. A number of amendments are involved. The changes in the time period in one provision obviously will have knock-on consequences for others. I hope these amendments meet the concerns expressed.

Ms O'Meara: I welcome the Minister's amendments and his remarks. He has noted the concerns raised by us on Committee Stage. The amendments are very acceptable.

Mr. Coogan: The Minister has struck the correct balance.

Amendment agreed to.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Amendment No. 21 is in the name of Senator Henry. Amendment No. 34 is an alternative and they may be discussed together by agreement.

Ms O'Meara: I move amendment No. 21:

In page 32, line 4, after "consideration." to insert "This report shall be available for inspection by the public.".

Mr. Coogan: I second the amendment.

Mr. Dempsey: My amendment ensures that reports prepared by the manager on the various stages of the development plan process are made available to the public. This is in response to amendments tabled by Senator Henry on Committee Stage. This concerns the report on the preparation of the draft development plan under section 11, the report on the results of the public consultation on the draft development plan under section 12 and the report on the results of public consultation on a variation of the development plan under section 13. The reports mentioned by Senator Henry will be made public through the comprehensive amendment which I have tabled. On that basis I ask that this amendment be withdrawn.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment No. 22 not moved.

Government amendment No. 23:

In page 32, line 20, to delete "one year" and substitute "11 months".

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment No. 24 not moved.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Amendment No. 25 is a Government amendment. It was also tabled by Senators Norris, Ross, O'Meara, Costello and Ryan.

Government amendment No. 25:

In page 32, line 36, to delete "8 weeks" and substitute "12 weeks".

Amendment agreed to.

Government amendment No. 26:

In page 33, line 4, to delete "8 weeks" and substitute "12 weeks".

Amendment agreed to.

Ms O'Meara: I move amendment No. 27:

In page 33, lines 15 to 17, to delete ", if the proposed addition or deletion was recommended by the Minister for Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands,".

This matter was discussed on Committee Stage.

Mr. Norris: I second the amendment.

Mr. Dempsey: There was some discussion on this and much confusion on Committee Stage - even I got confused. The effect of the deletion would be to require planning authorities to send copies of any submissions or observations received on any proposed addition or deletion from the record of protected structures to the Minister for Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands for observation regardless of whether that addition or deletion was recommended by him or her. As I tried to explain on Committee Stage, structures of international, national or regional importance will be recommended by the Minister for Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands based on their status in the national inventory of architectural heritage. However, the planning authority cannot include other structures of solely local importance in the record of protected structures.

As matters stand planning authorities will notify the Minister of a proposal to add or exclude a structure of local importance, but the Minister will have no involvement in recommending its inclusion and, therefore, no submissions on the matter need to be forwarded to him or her. The Minister will receive a proposal to add or exclude a structure of local importance, but will have no direct involvement in it. Therefore, it is not necessary for the Minister to receive submissions. Decisions on buildings of local importance are a matter for the planning authority and I see no reason to burden the Minister with additional unnecessary work. For that reason I am not prepared to accept the amendment and ask the Senator to withdraw it.

I am sure that when the Minister gets notification regarding a local structure in which she has a specific interest she will be able to make observations. We are trying to avoid the sending of all submissions on local structures to the Minister. In the midst of such submissions there could be one of national importance on which we do not return information in time thus leading to a certain course of events. I spoke to officials subsequent to the discussion on Committee Stage. This has been cleared with the Minister who, together with her officials, is perfectly happy with the section as it stands.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Government amendment No. 28:

In page 33, line 22, to delete "16 weeks" and substitute "20 weeks".

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment No. 29 not moved.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Amendment No. 30 is in the name of Senator Coogan. Amendment No. 33 is cognate and they may be discussed together by agreement.

Mr. Coogan: I move amendment No. 30:

In page 34, between lines 21 and 22, to insert the following:

"(iii) provide full copies of the submissions to the members of the planning authority, where requested.".

The wording of amendments No. 30 and 33 should be exactly the same and include the phrase "where requested". The section provides that the manager shall prepare a report. A report is a synopsis of the comments and observations made and may be subjective in nature. I am not saying a manager would produce such a report deliberately, but he may do so unwittingly. Therefore, the report may be a slanted version. While I know that local authority members are entitled to have access to all submissions, I wanted to include the proviso, "where requested" on the simple basis that it would mean the manager did not have to supply comments and observations to every member, given the associated work. It would ensure that a councillor who wished to see material would be entitled to do so, while at the same time it would not be mandatory for the material to be given to every member of a local authority.

Ms O'Meara: I second the amendment.

Mr. Walsh: I concur with what has been said. The current position is that a member is entitled to any submissions which are received. To avoid doubt perhaps the Minister, in the context of the local government legislation, will look at this matter and ensure that any communication with the local authority is available on request to individual members. A manager should not be allowed take the view that he is not prepared to divulge information unless the council resolves that it be divulged. Individual members with electoral mandates should be entitled to such material.

Mr. Dempsey: I assure Senators that members of local authorities are entitled to all submissions on request - there is no doubt in my mind about that. Therefore, the two amendments are unnecessary as what they propose is already catered for. Regarding Senator Walsh's comments, the matter is being taken into account in relation to the local government reform legislation. It is ridiculous that elected members of local authorities have to take legal action to get documents from a county manager.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment No. 31 not moved.

Mr. Coogan: I move amendment No. 32:

In page 35, line 46, after "area" to insert "and where available, to announce on local radio, or radios, the proposed variation in the development plan".

I wish to clarify that some of my amendments were tabled because I had not received the most recent Government amendments in time. All I believed I could do was leave the existing amendments, some of which the Minister has modified or agreed to. The reason they are tabled again is not that I am obtuse, but it was the easiest way to deal with the matter given that Report Stage so quickly followed Committee Stage.


Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment No. 33 not moved.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: The reference in paragraph (3) of amendment No. 34 to subsection (2) should be italicised.

Government amendment No. 34:

In page 38, to delete lines 21 to 24, and substitute the following:

"(2) A planning authority shall make available for inspection and purchase by members of the public copies of a report of a manager of a planning authority prepared under sections 11(4), 12(5) and (9) and 13(4) and extracts therefrom.

(3) Copies of the development plan and of variations of a development plan and reports of the manager referred to in subsection (2) and extracts therefrom shall be made available for purchase on payment of a specified fee not exceeding the reasonable cost of making a copy.".

Amendment agreed to.

Government amendment No. 35:

In page 40, line 5, to delete "may make regulations or issue guidelines" and substitute "shall make regulations and may issue guidelines".

Mr. Dempsey: When discussing section 21 regarding the Minister's power to make regulations for the preparation of local area plans, I promised to see if the mandatory nature of the provision could be strengthened. We are back to the "may" and "shall" again. At present, section 21(5) states that the Minister "may make regulations or issue guidelines" regarding the preparation of local area plans. The amendment provides that the Minister "shall make regulations and may issue guidelines" on these matters. I hope this meets the concern of Senator Henry's amendment and that Senators are satisfied that the change strengthens the provision.

Mr. Norris: I welcome the amendment. I believe I may have had something to do with it because I tabled a number of "may" and "shall" amendments and this might have been one of them.

Amendment agreed to.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Amendments Nos. 36 and 39 are related and may be discussed together by agreement.

Ms O'Meara: I move amendment No. 36:

In page 40, line 26, to delete "may" and substitute "shall every 6 years".

I echo Senator Coogan's words regarding a number of our amendments. We discussed this amendment on Committee Stage and, having thought about it, I believed it was worth tabling it again given that regional authorities should make regional planning guidelines regularly, especially taking into account how economic development has progressed. I read the national plan at the weekend and it struck me that the large projects which may come onstream in the next few years and the manner in which infrastructure will be developed and large projects will be progressed make regional planning guidelines very important, so it is obvious that such guidelines should be updated on a regular basis.

Mr. Norris: I second the amendment.

Mr. Dempsey: When we discussed these amendments on Committee Stage, I said I opposed the mandatory formulation of regional planning guidelines by regional authorities either generally or every six years. The basic provisions for making regional planning guidelines under section 21 leave it to the discretion of the regional authorities to decide whether to draw up RPGs. If discretion is available to draw up regional planning guidelines, it follows there should be discretion to review them. Regional planning guidelines will obviously be useful where huge developmental pressures exist. For example, guidelines have been drawn up for the greater Dublin area.

Bearing in mind the debate on this subject, I brought forward a compromise amendment to section 26 which will require regional authorities to review as circumstances require any regional planning guidelines they make and also to make new regional planning guidelines. That wording is mandatory in approach but leaves some discretion with the regional authority to decide on the circumstances in which a review should be carried out. I have gone as far as I can without removing discretion from regional authorities. Once a regional authority decides it will formulate regional planning guidelines, which I believe most will, there is a mandatory requirement on it to review them as circumstances require. That is as far as we can go.

Ms O'Meara: I accept the Minister has gone some way, although not as far as I would have liked, so I withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Acting Chairman (Mr. R. Kiely): Amendment No. 38 is an alternative to amendment No. 37 and both may be discussed together by agreement.

Mr. Norris: I move amendment No. 37:

In page 41, line 46, after "transportation" to insert "especially public transport".

I felt strongly about this at the time. I am glad the Minister has accepted the principle of the amendment. There is a slight difference in the wording, but I am happy with the Minister's amendment and withdraw mine in favour of his.

Ms O'Meara: I second the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Government amendment No. 38:

In page 41, line 46, after "transportation" to insert ", including public transportation".

Amendment agreed to.

Government amendment No. 39:

In page 44, line 6, to delete "it may, from time to time" and substitute "it shall, from time to time, as circumstances require,".

Amendment agreed to.

Acting Chairman: Amendment No. 41 is an alternative to amendment No. 40, amendments Nos. 42, 43 and 44 are related to amendment No. 40 and amendment No. 45 is an alternative to amendment No. 44. Therefore, amendments Nos. 40 to 45, inclusive, may be discussed together by agreement.

Mr. Norris: I move amendment No. 40:

In page 44, line 37, after "authorities" to insert "which must be available for public inspection".

The basic thrust of these amendments is to secure access by the public to these materials and to make them available for public inspection. It seems the Minister has met many of our concerns. The only one of which I am uncertain is amendment No. 45. I am happy to withdraw my other amendments and accept the Government's amendments. However, I am unsure my amendment No. 45 is addressed by any Government amendment. It is an important one which requires that: "(5) Any Ministerial direction issued under this section and the reasons why the Minister considers such directions are necessary shall be laid before each House of the Oireachtas and shall be made available for public inspection at the planning office of the local planning authority concerned." I do not see that being addressed by a Government amendment.

Mr. Dempsey: It is addressed by amendment No. 44.

Mr. Norris: Yes. I thought it would come after my amendment which is why I did not see it. The Minister has met our concerns and I am grateful to him for that.

Ms O'Meara: I second the amendment and thank the Minister for his amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Government amendment No. 41:

In page 45, between lines 5 and 6, to insert the following:

"(6) A planning authority shall make available for inspection by members of the public any guidelines issued to it under this section.".

Amendment agreed to.

Government amendment No. 42:

In page 45, between lines 16 and 17, to insert the following:

"(5) A planning authority shall make available for inspection by members of the public any policy directive issued to it under this section.".

Amendment agreed to.

Government amendment No. 43:

In page 45, line 32, after "may" to insert ", for stated reasons,".

Amendment agreed to.

Acting Chairman: There is an error in amendment No. 44. The term "house" should read with a capital "h".

Government amendment No. 44:

In page 45, after line 44, to insert the following:

"(5) The Minister shall cause a copy of any direction issued under this section to be laid before each House of the Oireachtas.

(6) A planning authority shall make available for inspection by members of the public any direction issued to it under this section.".

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment No. 45 not moved.

Acting Chairman: Amendments Nos. 47 and 48 are alternatives to amendment No. 46 and all may be discussed together by agreement.

Mr. Norris: I move amendment No. 46:

In page 46, to delete lines 7 and 8.

Senator Henry has arrived. I will speak on my amendment later.

Dr. Henry: We discussed this at great length on Committee Stage and the Minister said he would consider it. I was concerned that the legislation seemed to make little distinction between those who seek planning permission before they proceed with development and those who proceed with development thinking they will receive retention permission in any event. Has the Minister given the matter any thought since Committee Stage? I recall saying that even if some differentiation had appeared in the Bill, albeit in small print and in brackets, I would have been somewhat cheered.

There is a terrible problem of people proceeding with development and subsequently applying for retention permission. Indeed, it seems to be de rigeur in some places - some very important and influential people seem to feel it is quite the thing to do. Sufficient distinction is not made in the Bill. I realise there will be an increase in the fees people will have to pay but they are as nothing compared to the value of some of the developments which are being built without planning permission and which so easily receive retention permission afterwards.

Mr. Norris: I ceded to Senator Henry to second her amendment and I would now like to refer to amendment Nos. 47 and 48. I will not be moving amendment No. 48. The amendment should not have gone in because No. 47 contains an alternative wording. Amendment No. 48 contains the original wording discussed on Committee Stage. The Minister pointed out some problems and flaws with the wording and I reworded the amendment to read:

In page 46, line 8, after "development" to add "though the applicant shall be disbarred from deriving any benefit or financial profit from any such development until the applicant has obtained a grant of permission from the local planning authority or on appeal from the Board".

The amendment is an attempt to prevent people deriving benefit from developments during what may be a lengthy appeal process. Although they may eventually win the appeal, the amendment seeks to discourage people from believing they can proceed with development and seek retention afterwards. I think the wording of amendment No. 47 is an improvement on that of amendment No. 48 and is an attempt to meet the concerns expressed by the Minister on Committee Stage. I hope he will consider the amendment favourably.

Mr. Walsh: Obviously, there are some notable abuses of retention but it would be a retrograde step to provide for a complete disbarment of retention in the Bill. In practice, many retentions are for very minor changes which occur, sometimes inadvertently, during the course of development. We must have the scope to deal with those. I do not believe it would be justified to prevent people moving into a house if a slight alteration had occurred during the course of construction. The planning authority is increasingly diligent in this area and the enforcement provisions contained in the legislation will act as a further deterrent. I do not believe there is a need to go much further than what is already contained in the Bill.

Mr. Cassidy: I concur with Senator Walsh. Many major projects are currently being constructed in this country and a very slight alteration, perhaps of less than six inches, on paths and so on could hold up massive projects and their potential for employment creation. In the main, the alterations for which retention is sought, are very slight. We must create an understanding of the current climate.

Ms O'Meara: Senator Henry is absolutely right that the preponderance of the use of retention rather than original planning permission constitutes an abuse of the planning law. While I accept that there are some exceptional cases, my recent experience is that retention is being widely used as a way around applying for planning permission in the first instance. The power exists for local authorities to come down very heavily on the practice of unauthorised building and development. Unfortunately, that is not happening in many cases. Local authorities merely pursue people to make them apply for retention. In other words, they are saying, "Go ahead, be our guest and break the law". That attitude undermines law and brings it into disrepute.

Mr. Coogan: We are talking about two possible major abuses here. The first relates to the abuse carried out by those who proceed with development knowing they will subsequently apply for retention. The second type of abuse is carried out by those who may, for a variety of reasons discussed on Committee Stage and which may even include blackmail attempts to make a developer pay back money, see an opportunity in a small modification in a huge development plan. How does one find the middle ground to ensure that a genuinely small alteration in a plan, perhaps the inclusion of a window or a difference of a few inches, does not cause hold-ups, as distinct from people who proceed with huge developments and dare the planning authority to tell them to knock them down afterwards? The latter rarely happens.

The real solution lies in the constant vigilance of local authorities. We must ask ourselves whether local authorities have sufficient staff to carry out examinations. If one is only talking about an additional window or an extension which exceeds measurements only by a few inches, a local authority staff member may fail to notice the difference. We are trying to prevent developers from abusing the system, a practice which is not as infrequent as people think.

We must also consider court procedures. I know of cases where developers have merely been fined in court. The developers leave court laughing because they would have lost a great deal more money had they delayed their applications. Courts must be more strict in regard to unauthorised planning applications.

Local authorities must also be extremely vigilant but they can only do that if they have properly trained staff. There is no point sending an administrative official out to examine a building because he or she may not have the necessary technical knowledge. The Minister should consider allowing people who are nearly qualified or who may have obtained a qualification at less than degree level to be employed by local authorities in this area. It would provide students with valuable work experience. Third year students would certainly be sufficiently competent to read plans, make measurements and carry out examinations. The local authorities would benefit from not having to employ full-time additional staff.

Mr. T. Hayes: I concur with Senator Coogan, particularly in regard to the need for local authorities to be more vigilant. The system was certainly abused in the past. Local authority members are aware of what is happening in their local areas and the Minister should consider appointing additional staff in the planning sections of local authorities to ensure that various projects are properly monitored. Members of the public are becoming increasingly vigilant and that vigilance, together with a more vigilant local authority, could help to resolve this problem.

Mr. Dempsey: We debated this issue at length on Committee Stage. While I understand Senators' concerns, I am not prepared to accept these amendments. There must be a provision in law to allow people who make genuine mistakes to apply for retention. All Members are concerned about people who consciously abuse the system and the Bill provides for severe punishments in that regard. We have increased the level of fines substantially and have included a provision so that, by regulation, the fees charged to somebody who seeks retention in relation to a premises or whatever else, can be decided by reference to the square footage or the area of the development rather than the normal fees. That is fairly severe. It also encourages local authorities to chase offenders to get the fines provided for here and ensures that when people seek retention, the fees are as I described. That enforces the action.

Ms O'Meara: Those fees "can" be rather than "will" be charged.

Mr. Dempsey: I do not know of any local authority which would pass up the opportunity to take money from people.

Ms O'Meara: I do.

Mr. Dempsey: It may be an exceptional one.

Ms O'Meara: I think it is.

Mr. Dempsey: That is another debate.

The British system, which is much less flexible than ours in many respects, also has comprehensive provisions to allow people to apply for retention permission. We cannot simply get rid of that. I understand what Senator Henry said about including it on different lines and so on, but this is the section which deals with it. There is not much one can do other than the way it is presented at the moment.

As regards Senator Norris's amendment, I understand he was trying to improve a previous amendment. Amendment No. 47 would be totally unworkable and is impractical. Local authorities would spend most of their time in court trying to prove somebody benefited from a development during the course of the proceedings and for that reason it would not be practical to include it in the legislation.

The balance struck as regards the provisions on enforcement is as far as we can go at this stage. It will lead to an improvement. It does not matter what legislation is in place unless local authority members, through their SPCs which will be involved in planning from now on, force the issue on managers and ensure that illegal developments are pursued. It should be the strong policy of their local authority, otherwise it will not happen. I could introduce laws here but it will not happen.

On Senator Coogan's point, I had discussions with Professor Bannon of UCD who runs a postgraduate planners course there, the only one in this part of the country. We had discussions about increasing numbers and strengthening that type of course. If an undergraduate course is introduced, perhaps it could include one year's practical experience with local authorities. It is an issue we are looking at and to which we are open.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendments Nos. 47 and 48 not moved.

Acting Chairman: Amendments Nos. 49 and 54 are related and may be taken together. Is that agreed? Agreed.

Mr. Coogan: I move amendment No. 49:

In page 46, line 21, after "applications" to insert ''including site notices which must be dated to include a system of coding which would indicate where the original notice did not properly state the proposed development, where a second or subsequent application has been made for the same development and where additional information has been requested by the planning authority. Such site notices should be of such a size and erected and displayed in such a manner that they can be reasonably viewed and read.".

The intention behind this amendment, which I tabled previously, is to ensure site notices are seen. If the site is large a number of notices should be located on it. One could proportionately decide on the number of notices vis-à-vis the size of the application. The size of the notice should be enlarged so that it may be seen easily.

One of the abuses in respect of site notices is that when a person makes a subsequent application for planning permission, the individual, who will look at the first site notice, accepts it is the same as the subsequent notice and does not look at it to see whether the development may have changed substantially and may affect them. The Bill provides that if a person does not appeal to the local authority at that stage, they cannot appeal subsequently. This is critical to the Bill. We must ensure no deviousness creeps in.

I suggest site notices be colour coded. The Minister and his staff may have a better proposition than that. If a particular colour was used for a first application and another for a subsequent application or modification to the plan, an individual passing by would know one colour related to the original application and that the other colour meant a change had been made to it. Perhaps it would be better if the original notice was left on the site and a subsequent notice was placed beside it because that would certainly attract a person's attention - they would want to know why there were two site notices. The words "changed" or "modified" could be printed on the original notice while the new one could carry the details of the application. It would not be too difficult to introduce such a measure and it would not be too onerous or costly for anybody. It is in the interests of clarity and openness. While I am only making suggestions, the thrust of the amendment is important to openness and transparency.

Mr. Norris: I second the amendment. My amendment provides for notice to be given to adjoining landowners and, following in Senator Coogan's footsteps, that the erection and display of any specified site notices shall be legible from any place accessible to the public on or nearest the site boundary of this application. I will not go all through this again. We had much discussion about it, the question of the visibility and whether people could see notices which are often placed in obscure and remote locations precisely with the intention of frustrating openness and accountability. On this side of the House we feel, given the various amendments, that the public should have access to as much knowledge as possible and should be given notice which should be clearly visible.

Dr. Henry: I support the amendments. On Committee Stage I gave examples of how difficult it can be to know whether the same planning permission is sought or if there has been a total change. Senator Coogan's idea about colour coding is good. I gave an example on Committee Stage - Senator Norris may note that it is not the one about planning permission for a nest because the notice was placed on a branch of the tree. Permission was sought for a hotel on Burlington Road. I do not know what happened to it or to a subsequent application for another hotel on the same site. There is a third application on the site for an office building. There is, however, a major change. This office building fronts onto Mespil Road as well, so the application is for a much larger site. As far as I can see, there is nothing on Mespil Road outlining what will happen there as the permission being sought is on a notice on Burlington Road. This creates much confusion. I am sure they are not doing it for any ulterior reasons because they are major developers in the city and I am sure they are very honourable people.

It is interesting to see a succession of notices erected. If I had not known where the notices were - the old notices were left up - I might not have realised that there had been an ongoing debate on the site. I was particularly struck by it because another street is involved in the planning application.

Acting Chairman: In accordance with the Order of Business it was decided to have a sos now.

Mr. Cassidy: I propose an amendment to the Order of Business and ask that we complete amendments Nos. 49 and 54 before we break for lunch because we have discussed them.

Acting Chairman: Is that agreed?

Mr. Coghlan: Does the Leader want the Minister to respond?

Mr. Cassidy: Yes.

Mr. Coogan: I discussed the possibility of a modification to the sos with the Leader for a particular reason.

Mr. Cassidy: I propose still to have 45 minutes for lunch in ten minutes' time when we conclude.

Acting Chairman: The Leader has proposed that we deal with these amendments before the sos. Is that agreed? Agreed.

Dr. Henry: This matter leaves the people on Mespil Road in an invidious position. Planning permission is being sought for a development but on the Burlington Road side. Perhaps the Minister could ensure that all roads onto which development will face would be obliged to have a site notice. It is important that there is clarity in terms of the change in the development plans for a site. Senator Coogan's point about colour coding is extremely useful.

Ms O'Meara: I support both these amendments. The Minister agreed to colour coding on Committee Stage. The erection of site notices in recent years is a positive development, but it is clear, based on all our experiences, that it is being observed only at the minimum. As a result a number of issues have arisen, and they are met by these amendments. I hope, particularly considering the response given by the Minister on Committee Stage, he is prepared to take them on board.

Mr. Cassidy: The size of signs should be standard. Local authorities should not have varying sign sizes. I know of two different local authorities which both want different sign sizes. When people make their applications and inquire about them seven weeks later they are told that the size of the sign was not the one required by the local authority. That is a ludicrous scenario especially when we are encouraging people to invest, re-invest and create employment.

With regard to advertisements in local or national newspapers, I have personal experience of a constituent who did not know for five months that planning permission was granted to a neighbour for a site up to 20 yards from his hall door. When the local authority checked out this case it was discovered that the planning permission was advertised in the Evening Herald, but only six copies of that paper are distributed in his village. That is not good enough. Advertisements should be published in the Meath Chronicle, the Longford Leader, the Westmeath Examiner or local rural newspapers and in the morning and evening editions of newspapers circulated in the cities. Nowadays when there are so many publications, it is important that people are given a chance. Fly-by-night opportunists should not be allowed to continue as they do under the Act at present.

Mr. T. Hayes: In many cases objectors are motivated and objections gather momentum. They often come about because the site notice cannot be seen. People may not be able to read the reason given for planning permission. Notices are also damaged when it rains. Many problems have been created because of inadequate site notices. If we do not deal with site notices in this Bill, we will be going down the wrong road. That is why I support this amendment. It is vital for us to be open about site notices and to insist that applicants are also open about them. Colour coding of site notices is a good idea. We also need to insist that large notices are placed on the side of the road or on the site. In recent weeks in my local authority a site notice was placed at the bottom of a tree located on a hillside in a remote area. Local people looked at it but could not view it properly and they jumped to the conclusion that it was about a mobile telephone mast. A meeting was arranged to discuss the location of a mast in the area. At the meeting people were informed about the health hazards posed by a mast, such as that people would have pains in their heads. It transpired that the notice was about a wind farm monitor. That is an example of why this amendment should be taken on board.

Mr. Dempsey: We discussed this matter at length on Committee Stage when I explained that the last place we should get involved with specifics like this is in primary legislation. I do not want to be running into the Seanad and Dáil every four to eight weeks to amend this Bill because of such specifics.

Mr. Burke: There may be a change in Government.

Mr. Cassidy: Wishful thinking.

Mr. Dempsey: I could talk about that matter as well but I do not want to depress the Senator. I agree with comments made by Senators. With regard to notices, as I said on Committee Stage, the place for all these matters to be dealt with is in the regulations. They can be changed if loopholes are discovered and, as Senators outlined, loopholes have been found. Everything to do with notices, their size and colour, will be dealt with in regulations rather than in primary legislation. Senator Coogan mentioned his idea on Committee Stage and it is a good one. The size of signs and so on need to be stated in regulations that can be changed. Members have cited various ways people have of getting around regulations and that shows that we need to be able to respond. The cases mentioned here were also referred to on Committee Stage.

With regard to the process of applying for planning permission and putting up a notice, in one case published in the newspapers planning permission was granted by the local authority and appealed to An Bord Pleanála. While the appeal was being processed a similar notice was erected in the same place, on the same site as a result of another planning application to the local authority. An Bord Pleanála eventually made a decision about the appeal and the appellant was delighted until he discovered that the local authority had granted planning permission to a second applicant. As one month had expired, the first applicant could not make an appeal. Clearly this matter needs to be examined and must be dealt with by way of regulation. It should be referred to the Joint Committee on Environment and Local Government. It should be a specific item on that committee's agenda and Members could make their views on the matter known there. The committee could make recommendations to me to cover these loopholes. I note the matters raised, such as colour codes for different times and sign size. There might be some merit in having the local authorities provide the signs and fill in details such as the reference number. When a person applies for planning permission that reference number and other details could be put on the sign. It might cost the applicant £5 more, but it would ensure that there are standard signs. We should consider this.

People have a responsibility to find out what is going on in their own areas. Although we cannot spoon feed them totally, we must ensure reasonable steps are being taken to inform the public of what is happening in their locality. Senators mentioned the possibility of notifying people living within 200 yards of a development by leaflet and that might also be considered.

Mr. Coogan: The Minister has given the reasons for my amendment. Regulations have failed so far and there are extraordinary abuses in this regard. In the last two weeks a site notice was put up near my house and I tried to read it from the road. I could not decipher it and thought I would have to get binoculars to do so, although the print was so small that even then the print would probably be invisible. I felt this amendment was necessary for the reasons the Minister and other speakers have given. If I had given more thought to it I might have come up with an idea like the Minister's - that the local authority would supply signs with size, colour coding and so on.

The Minister suggested this might be dealt with by the Joint Committee on Environment and Local Government, but I am not a member of that committee and cannot raise it there. However, subsequent to this debate I may put my name down for it, as I hear it is a very good committee. I will be satisfied if the Minister indicates he will specify the regulations and if he is very stringent about it.

Mr. Dempsey: I will give that commitment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Sitting suspended at 1.15 p.m. and resumed at 2 p.m.

An Cathaoirleach: Amendment No. 51 is an alternative to amendment No. 50 and they may be discussed together by agreement.

Dr. Henry: I move amendment No. 50:

In page 46, lines 22 and 23, to delete "on payment of the prescribed fee".

We discussed at length on Committee Stage the payment of fees and the difficulty this may cause those who do not have access to plenty of money. Senator Norris was concerned that elderly people worried about developments taking place in their localities might not be in a position to lodge objections to them. Further fees must be paid as appeals proceed and it could transpire that a person might be obliged to pay a considerable amount of money. A small residents' organisation might be obliged to pay several fees in respect of its submission and that could amount to a substantial sum. For those reasons this amendment, which seeks the deletion of the words "payment of the prescribed fee" from section 33(1)(c), was tabled. We do not know what the prescribed fee will be. The Minister suggested it would not be any more than £20 but we are not sure about that.

Mr. Norris: I second the amendment.

The division bell is not ringing in my office - it is inaudible. That makes it difficult to me to hear the bell for the Order of Business and for the resumption of this Assembly. I hope something will be done about it so that I can hear when we are being summoned back to the House.

I thank my colleague, Senator Henry, for moving this amendment. I feel strongly about this matter. The Minister volunteered the information that 77 organisations lobbied against this requirement. He has failed to give information to the House on the proposed amount of money he imagines will accrue from this requirement. Although I asked this question, I have not been given that information. I do not think it will be very much.

I made the point that multiple fees may have to be paid and the Minister accepted, in principle, that was a reasonable point. In the case of individuals, there are cases of hardship. There are still people for whom £20 is a significant amount of money. Why should they be disbarred by financial consideration from the planning process? In the case of organisations, one of their responsibilities is to monitor developments and make planning applications, planning appeals, objections and so on. It is extraordinary to charge voluntary organisations for work we require them to do.

As I pointed out to the Minister, there are situations where multiple applications are made. The fee to be paid may not be £20; it could be £40, £60, £80 or £100. The subscriptions to voluntary organisations are quite small, sometimes as little as £1. The reason for that is to involve as many members of the public as possible.

The Minister has not demonstrated a requirement for this fee to be imposed. He said it will help out in terms of the local authority's finances, but he has not indicated how much will be generated and, in any event, this funding should be supplied from central government. This is a matter on which I feel strongly. Virtually every organisation involved in this sector has said they feel strongly about this requirement, they have lobbied people like Senator Henry and myself on this issue and asked us to take up this matter as strongly as possible.

I told the House on the previous occasion that I had met no less a person than Professor Kevin B. Nolan, without whose efforts in the past half the city of Dublin would be in rubble. He told me this requirement would be a disaster for these organisations. In view of the Minister's openness and transparency in frankly acknowledging that 77 people contacted him to lobby against this, would he be kind enough to let the House know which institutions, groups or companies lobbied for it? Were there any and, if so, could we know who they are? I cannot imagine why people would be against my amendment unless they want to slide planning permissions through as easy as possible. This amendment will be vigorously proposed to the House.

Mr. Coogan: We had a lengthy debate on this matter on Committee Stage. This requirement is a prohibition of a democratic right in that it will exclude certain people from making observations or appealing a decision. That is wrong. Even if one individual was prohibited by not being able to afford the £20 fee suggested by the Minister to make a submission, that would be wrong. It is wrong to exclude an individual on any basis from the planning process. This requirement is an erosion of a democratic right.

This requirement would be similar to a case where, if I telephoned for an ambulance to come to the scene of an accident, I was thanked for my observation but asked to remit £20 before the hospital would authorise the sending of an ambulance or a case where, if I witnessed a criminal offence and reported it to the police, but was asked to remit £20 before they would do something about it.

Mr. Norris: Do not suggest it because they will follow up on that.

Mr. Coogan: I have no doubt they will. I am not suggesting that. I just make those comparisons. On Committee Stage Senator Norris said that this provision is one of the most important aspects of this Bill. That is evident from the number of people who contacted him and me to object stringently to it. I am not talking only about groups but individuals who wrote to me and to other Members outlining their abhorrence of what they perceive as a erosion of a democratic right. I ask the Minister to change his view on this and to eliminate this section.

Mr. D. Kiely: I have a strong view about this provision. It is unfair to draw a comparison between reporting an incident to the Garda and submitting a claim or lodging an objection to a planning application. Having been a member of a local authority for 20 years, I am aware that many people put in objections for the sake of holding up the planning process and being awkward. People from as far away as Donegal and Roscommon have objected to planning applications for a project in County Kerry in order to hold up the planning process.

Mr. Norris: That will not stop it.

Mr. D. Kiely: When that planning application was granted and they had an opportunity to appeal it to An Bord Pleanála on payment of a small fee, they did not do so. A nominal fee of £20 is not a huge disincentive to a person with a genuine objection. There is some justification for requiring members of local authorities to pay this fee because if we had the privilege of putting down objections with no fee, every Tom, Dick and Harry in the country would be lobbying us and we would be the objectors for them. We would not know whether their objection was genuine.

Mr. Coogan: It would be the Senator's decision.

Mr. D. Kiely: The whole structure is there for the elected members of the local authority anyway if they want to put in any observation on any planning application.

Mr. Norris: The Senator is contradicting himself.

Mr. D. Kiely: A fee of £20 is reasonable for someone who feels strongly enough about lodging an objection. People want to get on with their projects rather having people objecting just because -

Mr. Norris: That is what the Senator wants.

Mr. D. Kiely: I have more experience of this than most other people. I know people from distant places who put in an objection just for the sake of objecting and they did not even know the site in question.

Mr. Callanan: I support the Minister on this. I suggest to him, with respect, that the figure is not high enough. The figure for an objector should be at least £50, comparable to the fee paid by the applicant. I suggest that if a person's objection was upheld, the fee could be refunded. Making a contribution when making an objection is absolutely essential. There are frivolous objections and the fee of £20 is not high enough.

Ms O'Meara: We know the Minister's view on this because we heard it loud and clear on Committee Stage. One of the central elements of this legislation is a new charge to users of the planning system. It is a great pity that this is happening because I have absolutely no doubt that it will prevent people from making objections. The object of the exercise, according to some people, is to prevent objections, but how can a fee such as this prevent frivolous objections? People who want to make trouble will do so. The people about whom I am concerned are those who genuinely cannot afford it, which sounds extraordinary but is true. There are people on fixed incomes, such as pensioners for instance, for whom this amount of money is beyond their ability to pay.

Mr. Norris: Yes, exactly.

Ms O'Meara: I have a fair idea that the response to that is, "For heaven's sake, would you cope yourself on. In this day and age, this isn't a large amount of money." For people on a fixed income it is and nobody should be prevented from making their objection, their observation and so on. It will have no effect on frivolous objections because those who want to make trouble, will make trouble. I regret this new element of the planning law contained in this part of the legislation.

Mr. Dempsey: We discussed this at great length and Senators voted on it. I am surprised we are discussing it again. Members have made the same arguments they made on Committee Stage and I give the same reply. This is not designed to prevent anybody from objecting. The argument, which was well made by those opposing this amendment, is that a very important right is being given to members of the public in that their observations will be given statutory recognition. The local authority will have to have regard to them, and as I stated before, that is not the case currently. That is an important new right. As a result of this, they will also have the right to be informed by the local authority of the decision made and the payment of the fee will also give them the right to appeal to An Bord Pleanála. It will give them statutory recognition and once this Bill is passed only those that have lodged an objection or observation and have paid the required fee to the local authority will have the right to appeal. That is as it should be. I do not accept the argument that £20, if it is £20 - that is not decided yet - will in any way inhibit -

Mr. Coogan: It might be £50 as the Senator said.

Mr. Dempsey: It will not be any more than £20 at the start.

Mr. T. Hayes: Will it be linked to inflation?

Mr. Dempsey: I am always in favour of linking things to inflation.

Mr. Norris: Except Senators' salaries?


Mr. Dempsey: Fines of two and sixpence are still on the Statute Book, which makes a joke of the law. Some Senators alleged that the fee is for nothing and is to remove vexatious claims. I said quite openly that it will not remove vexatious claims. I explained very clearly that we are giving an important new right and in return we are asking people to make a very small contribution to the administration costs involved for the local authority. This will not discourage them.

I do not accept the argument that because 75 different groups or individuals made representations on something, I should decide on amendments based on the quantity rather than on the quality. If I were to accept that kind of an argument then I would be scrapping Part V of the Bill because of the huge numbers of builders who have assailed and assaulted me throughout the country because of Part V of the Bill.

Mr. T. Hayes: Are they still assaulting the Minister?


An Cathaoirleach: Order, please.

Mr. Dempsey: I do not accept the quantity argument. After the past three or four weeks, the Senators who did not know me that well before know me almost intimately at this stage. I have attended the debate for 50 hours. They will accept that I accept qualitative amendments, quantities do not impress me at all.

On the question raised by Senator Norris on the amount of money that might be generated, I have no idea the amount of money that might be generated in this. I cannot give him a definitive answer but if one takes it that there were 50,000 applications to local authorities last year and if there was only one observation at £20 on each one of those, that would amount to £1 million. I have no way of knowing the numbers of observations submitted on those. I hazard a guess that on average there are probably two or three or maybe four observations or objections on each planning application submitted. This is a considerable sum of money which hard-pressed local authorities could do with, because of the increased volume of applications. Senator Coogan made an analogy with the Garda. I am sure Senator Coogan knows that if he calls the Garda and reports that something is happening in a particular area, they have no obligation to inform him of the outcome of their investigations or of any court action. It is not the same thing. I know some people who called out the fire brigade, left their name and address and got the bill for doing so although the fire was in a neighbour's place.

Mr. Coogan: As a former fireman, I am well aware of that.

Mr. Dempsey: I know Members have been lobbied extensively about this issue. However, my views have not changed. This is a well balanced Bill which will enhance people's rights rather than diminish them. This is necessary, so I will not accept the amendments.

An Cathaoirleach: I am conscious of the statement by Senator Norris that the bells did not ring in his office and I accept that was the reason he was not in the House at 2 p.m. Otherwise, I would have called him to move the amendment. If the House and Senator Henry agree, I will give the right of reply to Senator Norris.

Dr. Henry: On this occasion only Senator Norris may speak.

An Cathaoirleach: Is that agreed? Agreed.

Mr. Norris: Senator Henry is a tough cookie but I am grateful to her.

Senator Dan Kiely and others conjured up an amazing picture of people from all over the island rushing to make long distance telephone calls to object to things happening in Kerry - perhaps it is only things in which Senator Dan Kiely is involved and about which we do not know. That is slightly absurd.

I was interested in the Minister's comment that this is not designed to stop vexatious objections. That news does not seem to have travelled among the soldiers because the Fianna Fáil Members said it was designed for that purpose. They welcomed it as a wonderful idea because it would stop people from making what they regarded as vexatious objections. A dangerous frame of mind is developing on the other side of the House. The other day Members decided off their own bat who are legitimate asylum seekers and refugees and who are not. Now they are deciding who are vexatious objectors. It is all in the mind of the beholder.

We will press this amendment. I accept what the Minister said that this is good legislation and that it is reasonably balanced. When every professional and voluntary organisation involved in this area sings the same tune and says this will be damaging, I will listen carefully to what they say.

An Cathaoirleach: For the information of the House, the amendment we voted on was a different amendment. We voted on an amendment in the name of Senator Coogan to delete paragraph (c) in its entirety and substitute a different paragraph.

Mr. Norris: I thank you, a Chathaoirligh, for that clarification. I appreciate the efficiency of the staff of the House.

Question put: "That the words proposed to be deleted stand."

The Seanad divided: Tá, 27; Níl, 14.

Bohan, Eddie.

Callanan, Peter.

Cassidy, Donie.

Chambers, Frank.

Cox, Margaret.

Dardis, John.

Farrell, Willie.

Finneran, Michael.

Fitzgerald, Liam.

Fitzgerald, Tom.

Fitzpatrick, Dermot.

Gibbons, Jim.

Glynn, Camillus.

Hayes, Maurice.

Keogh, Helen.

Kett, Tony.

Kiely, Daniel.

Kiely, Rory.

Leonard, Ann.

Lydon, Don.

Moylan, Pat.

O'Brien, Francis.

O'Donovan, Denis.

Ó Murchú, Labhrás.

Ormonde, Ann.

Quill, Máirín.

Walsh, Jim.


Burke, Paddy.

Caffrey, Ernie.

Coogan, Fintan.

Cosgrave, Liam T.

Hayes, Tom.

Henry, Mary.

Manning, Maurice.

McDonagh, Jarlath.

Norris, David.

O'Dowd, Fergus.

O'Meara, Kathleen.

O'Toole, Joe.

Ridge, Thérèse.

Ryan, Brendan.

Tellers: Tá, Senators T. Fitzgerald and Keogh; Níl, Senators Henry and Norris.

Question declared carried.

Amendment declared lost.

Amendment No. 51 not moved.

An Cathaoirleach: Amendments Nos. 52 and 53 are related and will be taken together by agreement.

Dr. Henry: I move amendment No. 52:

In page 47, between lines 9 and 10, to insert the following:

"(k) enabling planning authorities to require an applicant to erect siting poles or a frame of the proposed building or structure as well as to peg out the spatial extent of any proposed building or structure so as to facilitate the planning authority in its assessment of the application,". As we discussed this amendment at length on Committee Stage I will not labour the point, but it is important that one should have a clear idea of what a development entails. The amendment would require applicants to give a three dimensional view of the proposed development to allow a proper assessment to be made by those who might object to it.

Ms O'Meara: I second the amendment.

Mr. Dempsey: Planning authorities already have the power to require the erection of poles and pegs etc. The amendment is, therefore, unnecessary. On amendment No. 53, regulations can be made under paragraph (e) to require applicants to submit any further information that is required in respect of their applications. This can include statements, drawings, photographs etc. This is sufficiently comprehensive. The purpose of the amendment is, therefore, catered for in the Bill.

Dr. Henry: The Minister made it clear that projects can be explained more carefully and three dimensional studies provided, if necessary.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendments Nos. 53 and 54 not moved.

Dr. Henry: I move amendment No. 55:

In page 47, lines 18 and 19, to delete "or without".

Ms O'Meara: I second the amendment.

Mr. Walsh: It would not be sensible to remove the discretion of a local authority to grant permission without conditions. Some planning applications do not require conditions. There should not be an onus on a local authority to dream up conditions to attach.

Mr. Dempsey: I will not repeat what Senator Walsh said. I hold the same view. Local authorities have the right to grant planning permission with or without conditions. It is unusual nowadays but there are circumstances - admittedly very few - where planning permission is granted without conditions. The discretion of local authorities and the board should not be removed.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

An Cathaoirleach: Amendment No. 57 is an alternative to amendment No. 56 and they may be discussed together. I draw the attention of Members to a correction in the wording of amendment No. 57. In the second line the word "or" should appear after the word "is".

Dr. Henry: I move amendment No. 56:

In page 48, between lines 16 and 17, to insert the following:

"(c) a local authority manager or anybody to whom he or she had deputed powers in relation to their planning function may not instruct a planning official to alter his or her report on any planning matter in any way. No planning official may be disciplined in any way as a result of a recommendation that official has made in a planning report on any application, referral or other planning matter. Should a manager wish to override the recommendation of a planning official he or she must provide a file note which shall state the reasons in a planning context why the manager has decided to do so and this note must be inserted on the file available for public inspection once a decision has been made.".

We also discussed this matter at length on Committee Stage. Its purpose is to ensure independence within the system and that pressure cannot be exerted on officials to alter their reports. The Minister insisted at the time that this would not happen. Senator Norris retabled the amendment to ensure that it will not.

Ms O'Meara: I second the amendment.

Mr. Coogan: While I agree that a local authority manager should not instruct a planning officer to alter his or her report, the manager will discuss the report with the planning officer before signing it. The amendment states that a planning officer should not be disciplined. It would not be correct to include such a provision as it has nothing to do with the Bill. The amendment also provides that such a decision should be placed on file and made available to the public, if demanded. Amendment No. 57 in my name may be more moderate and acceptable.

ont size="2" face="Arial, Helvetica">Mr. Dempsey: This amendment would prevent a local authority manager from directing a planning officer to alter his or her report or disciplining an official as a result of a recommendation in a report. It would also require the manager to place a note on file where he or she wished to overturn a recommendation of a planning official. This matter was discussed at length on Committee Stage. Without going into great detail the decision on a planning application is an executive one and, therefore, vested in the local authority manager who like all others with decision-making responsibility, be they managers in the private sector or Ministers, has to consider the information put before him or her and come to an informed decision. There is no obligation to accept all recommendations but there has to be evidence to support his or her decision.

In response to what was said on Second Stage, in an effort to make the decision-making process more transparent I included a provision in section 34(9) under which a planning authority must outline the main considerations on which a decision is based. These will have to be given regardless of whether the local authority manager accepts the recommendation in the planning file and will ensure the transparency sought. The amendment is, therefore, unnecessary. The planning file is a public document and the recommendations and decisions contained therein are there for all to see. The changes made to the Bill go a long way towards meeting the intention of the amendment.

Dr. Henry: I have no option but to accept the Minister's assurances that the document may be viewed by the public and that it will contain the reasons for the decision.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment No. 57 not moved.

An Cathaoirleach: We now proceed to amendment No. 58. Amendment No. 59 is cognate and amendments Nos. 58 and 59 may be discussed together.

Mr. Coogan: I move amendment No. 58:

In page 48, line 31, to delete "or vibration" and substitute "vibration, fumes or noxious emissions".

This matter was discussed in reasonable detail on Committee Stage when I thought the Minister would respond to some of my concerns. I cited, as I am wont to do, quarrying as an example. There are a number of quarries in my area and I am aware that the effects can be devastating. The intensification of use was mentioned. When this happens very often the noise level is increased. I wish to include the words "fumes" and "noxious emissions" which include lime dust etc. Their effects should be minimised. Trucks leaving a quarry carrying light sand scatter dust everywhere. This impinges on individuals. There should be very strict regulations under which trucks should be washed down and covered.

It is difficult to explain how one can be affected by vibrations. In quarrying the effects are obvious. In blasting they can be felt in any direction, along a fault line in particular. No quarry owner would be able to guarantee that the effects would not be felt in a particular direction. Many quarries blasting close to large housing estates have received claims in respect of fractures, cracks and broken windows. A huge face can be taken down depending on the concentration used in blasting. If the concentration was reduced the effects would not be as great, although this would mean that the operation would take more time. It is more important, however, that houses in the area be protected even if it means that the quarry would have to blast two or three times to get the same amount of rock.

Dr. Henry: I second the amendment. Perhaps I am prejudging what the Minister will do, but I am surprised he did not decide to accept this amendment because these are the types of concerns that will come into play when people are examining proposals for, say, incinerators. Fumes and noxious emissions are an important issue in terms of many developments and I would have thought it would be wise to include them in the Bill. Senator Coogan explained clearly how dust and sand emanating from a development can be just as irritating as the noise for those living in the vicinity. We are not saying these emissions should not be allowed but that their effects should be minimised.

Ms O'Meara: I support these amendments. Senator Henry has said what I intended to say about noxious fumes and other odours. It is important that these are included in the Bill.

Mr. Dempsey: I agree with the Senators that dealing with the problem of fumes and noxious emissions is extremely important. That is the reason it is dealt with under a special code of legislation under the aegis of the Environmental Protection Agency. Where it is not dealt with under the EPA Acts it is dealt with under the Air Pollution Act, 1987, and the Local Government (Water and Pollution) Acts, 1977 and 1990. All this legislation is designed to address the problem of fumes, emissions etc. I made the point on Committee Stage, and reiterate it now, that the best place to deal with these serious matters is in the codes already established to regulate them. When we try to cover issues in two types of legislation there is always a danger of falling between two stools. It is not a good idea to take this area into the planning laws as it is already addressed. The problem of vibrations referred to by Senator Coogan is addressed in the Bill.

On the problem of trucks creating dust and so on, that is already being dealt with by local authorities through planning conditions on large sites. Perhaps it is not being enforced but they can condition a planning permission to keep that problem to a minimum. I am not a senior counsel but it is my understanding that most loads carried on public roads that are likely to cause a danger have to be covered. That, however, is more a question of honour than practice.

Mr. Coogan: Other Senators talked about alternative areas that can cause fumes and other emissions, but the law is different in regard to decisions on quarrying. For example, an individual can say he or she quarried in an area five weeks ago and is entitled to quarry there again even though the site may not have been used in 20, 30 or 40 years, and it is almost impossible to prove otherwise. Most quarry operators say they do not need to apply for planning permission because the sites have been in existence for years. I have seen people go into court and tell lies to this effect. The regulations that can be imposed through planning will not apply to those people who expand their developments, and the problem expands in the process. Perhaps there should be some degree of retrospection to prevent that happening.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment No. 59 not moved.

An Cathaoirleach: We now come to amendment No. 60. Amendment No. 62 is an alternative to No. 61. Amendment No. 64 is an alternative to No. 63. Amendment No. 66 is an alternative to No. 65 and all are related to amendment No. 60. Amendments Nos. 60 to 66, inclusive, to be discussed together, by agreement.

Dr. Henry: I move amendment No. 60:

In page 48, between lines 40 and 41, to insert the following:

"(d) conditions for requiring, in any case in which the development authorised by the permission would damage or alter the conservation value of a designated site, a record of the ecological importance of the site;".

In the past we have been casual about valuing our environment and the ecological importance of certain areas. We have also been casual about our architecture and the possibility of trying to reinstate buildings threatened with demolition and so on. We have improved in that respect, but the basis of these amendments is to ensure that people are made aware of the damage that may be done to areas of ecological importance, and even keep records in that respect. We must ensure that we utilise as much as possible of the architecture of importance in an area. These amendments were discussed at great length on Committee Stage so I will not delay the time of the House with any more details.

Ms O'Meara: I second the amendment.

Dr. Henry: The Minister has gone a long way towards meeting the various concerns expressed during the Committee Stage debate and Senator O'Meara has very eloquently outlined the problems associated with this issue. An Bord Pleanála still has huge powers but the Minister has made a great effort to delineate those more carefully.

Mr. Coogan: My amendment was harsher than any of the other amendments tabled because I feel very strongly about this matter. Local authorities go to the community, outline their proposed development plans and invite submission on them. They spend more time on development plans than on any of their other areas of responsibility, including estimates. I have always felt strongly that, once local authorities had the majority of the public on side, An Bord Pleanála did not have any right to overrule their decisions. I did not expect the Minister to accept the amendment but I felt that by being extreme we might arrive at a modification which would go some way towards meeting these requirements. I am delighted the Minister has introduced a number of changes which, although they may not go as far as I or other Senators might like, address some of the problems which can occur.

Other Senators referred to paragraphs (b)(i) and (iii). I want to refer to paragraph (b)(iv) because I believe a great deal of strength lies in the provision that permission for the proposed development should be granted having regard to the pattern of development and permissions granted in the area since the making of the development plan. In other words, An Bord Pleanála must take the pattern of development into account when making decisions and whatever it decides should not be adverse to such patterns. This issue may require more detailed explanation at a later stage in the same way as it will be necessary to explain more fully the word "strategic". I have always had difficulty with that word - it is a moveable feast and depends on which side of an argument one is on.

I thank the Minister for going some way towards addressing the concerns expressed across the House in regard to the heavy hand which An Bord Pleanála can impose on local government. It may be necessary to further tease out some of the terms used here to elicit their exact meaning.

Mr. Walsh: I join with other Senators in welcoming the Minister's flexibility on this issue. Undoubtedly, it has been a bone of contention among local authority members for some time that An Bord Pleanála could decide to set aside a development plan. While that power may not have been used extensively, it caused a certain degree of angst among councillors in situations where it was used. The refinement of An Bord Pleanála's discretionary powers is welcome and commonsensical. The amendment provides for extenuating circumstances, for example where a proposed development is considered to be of strategic or national importance.

I concur with Senator Coogan that words such as "strategic" can be interpreted subjectively. However, there are generally accepted interpretations of what such words and phrases mean. Given that a very comprehensive national development plan has been unveiled recently, it is important that the planning process facilitates the early implementation of important national decisions in regard to infrastructure. An Bord Pleanála will have the discretion to interpret conflicting objectives within a plan and I do not think anyone would disagree with that.

I do not expect the Minister to agree with me but I always have difficulty with ministerial intervention in regard to policy guidelines. That has been the subject of debate at my local council and elsewhere where it was felt that local knowledge should prevail in the planning process. The idea embodied in paragraph (b)(iv) that precedents created by local authorities, subsequent to the adoption of the development plan, should be taken into account is a good one. The most widespread public complaint relates to the apparent lack of consistency in the system at times and we must strive to achieve the desired consistency.

An Bord Pleanála will be obliged to state its specific reasons for contravening development plans. This is a very good amendment and I welcome it.

Mr. Dempsey: I thank Senators for their comments and support for this amendment.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment Nos. 81 to 84, inclusive, not moved.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Amendment Nos. 85 and 86 are related and may be discussed together, by agreement. Is that agreed? Agreed.

Ms O'Meara: I move amendment No. 85:

In page 56, to delete lines 38 to 40.

This amendment relates to the availability of documents. As it stands, section 37 has the effect of not allowing maps to be made available for purchase. We are told this is because of copyright restrictions. Not all maps are subject to copyright and, with some obvious exceptions, they should be subject to the same availability requirements as other documents. When this issue arose on Committee Stage, I pointed out that people are experiencing difficulties obtaining copies of documents relating to planning permission. I do not want to go into detail on this but I am currently experiencing difficulties in obtaining a copy of a document which, according to this section, should be easily available. I am a member of a local authority but have been refused a copy of the document I require. Despite the Freedom of Information Act, there is still a problem, and the problem relates to the words "in accordance with regulations under this Act." I may have a word with my colleague in the Dáil, Deputy Gilmore, on this section in order to bring forward an amendment to deal with the difficulty I and, indeed, many people face. It possibly relates to a small number of circumstances, but a difficulty exists and the spirit of the legislation is not being implemented.

On these amendments the Minister knows what I am attempting to do because this matter came up on Committee Stage. I am attempting to ensure the spirit of freedom of information is properly implemented. It is not right that a map cannot be purchased. I know the Minister said this was covered by the Copyright Act and so on, but this is an important issue and, in the context of the Planning and Development Bill, 1999, it is essential we set out as clearly as possible what is available and that easy availability is ensured.

Dr. Henry: I second the amendment.

Mr. Coogan: What ran through my mind was our local authority office and what happens when a person goes in to look at a planning application. The room is approximately five feet by eight feet and all the desk space, bar about three feet, is taken up by glass partitions. If an individual asks to inspect a plan, there is not even elbow room. If anybody else comes along, they cannot access the staff. The facilities are not there to enable people inspect plans properly and there is no comfort in so doing. Many people who go into these offices have no experience of how to look at a plan and access information to see what is going on. They end up more confused coming out than they were going in.

Documents which are not under copyright should be provided at a cost which is not too great. I do not know if there is a difficulty in this regard, although plans with the architect's name on the bottom are covered by copyright and could be inspected in the offices. Other documentation which does not fall under the Copyright Act should be given to people to inspect at their ease and in comfort, otherwise we will have to consider providing rooms in which people can sit.

Local authority staff are overworked at present. If an individual goes into a local authority office and says that he or she does not understand something, the person at the front desk will not be a planning expert and may not be able to help. While they may be able to help to some degree, they are not experts in the area. The individual is left trying to make sense of six or seven maps and a number of submissions therein. He or she will go away totally confused and will have to try to remember what he or she saw. Often people leave with misinformation and go to the local councillor who takes it on board and discovers after two hours work the person was wrong. He or she then has to go and look at the plans again. It would make life easier if, where copyright was not being impinged, documentation was provided.

Mr. Walsh: It is unacceptable that an elected member of a council was denied access to documentation.

Ms O'Meara: I was not denied access but could not get a copy of them.

Mr. Walsh: That is not acceptable and the Minister said earlier that he would look at it in the local government Bill on renewal, which will be welcome. Maybe there should be a stipulation that all photographs are in black and white because they come out reasonably well if photocopied. I am conscious that all documentation under copyright is made available. I do not know if there will be a change in copyright law, but if not perhaps there could be a stipulation that some A4 drawings, which are quite small, be made available and should not be covered by copyright. They could be copied by people with an interest in them. Perhaps there is a way to solve the problem and I am sure the Minister will be amenable to so doing if it is possible.

Mr. Dempsey: As we discussed on Committee Stage, the problem is the Copyright and Related Rights Bill. Section 69 of the Copyright and Related Rights Bill, as passed by the Seanad, states that any material which is comprised in records which are open to public inspection may be copied without infringing copyright. When that Bill is enacted the problems the Senators outlined should not occur. At the moment people have access to and can copy every other document on a planning file.

If there are difficulties, particularly with members of local authorities - I am not picking on Senator O'Meara as I have heard this complaint from members of various local authorities - it is time they stood up for themselves and told managers what they should do.

Mr. D. Kiely: Hear, hear.

Mr. Dempsey: I hope the Senator gets support from all sides of the council chamber.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment No. 86 not moved.

Government amendment No. 87:

In page 57, between lines 6 and 7, to insert the following:

"(6) At the end of the period for the availability of documents referred to in subsection (3) a planning authority shall retain at least one original copy of each of those documents in a local archive in accordance with section 65 of the Local Government Act, 1994.".

This amendment is in response to the debate on Committee Stage. My amendment makes it clear that at least one of the original planning files must be held in the local archive after the five year period for inspection has elapsed. Senators were anxious that would happen and I am providing for it.

Amendment agreed to.

Dr. Henry: I move amendment No. 88:

In page 58, line 9, to delete "or" and substitute ", provided such ancillary works are completed within the life of the permission or within one year of the expiration of the relevant permission, or".

We are back to the same problem of trying to ensure ancillary works are completed. While we have gone some way towards trying to do this in the Bill, this amendment provides that if it is not done within the life of the permission, it must be done within one year of the expiration of the relevant permission.

Ms O'Meara: I second the amendment.

Mr. Dempsey: I said on Committee Stage that I thought the amendment was unnecessary as the planning authorities already have sufficient enforcement powers which they should use to ensure that such works are carried out. Introducing a time limit may have the opposite effect to what is intended. It could lead to further applications for planning permissions to enable the works to be carried out if, for some reason, they have not been carried out within the 12 month period. It could also be a handy excuse for developers to get out of doing the ancillary works, particularly in estates and elsewhere because they may say they have no planning permission and are not going to go to the bother of getting further planning permission. The enforcement provisions, which have been strongly supported in the House, are the best way to meet the Senator's proposal.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Dr. Henry: I move amendment No. 89:

In page 64, line 22, to delete "8 weeks" and substitute "one month".

A slight spanner appears to have got into the works here. We had agreed on weeks but one month has been included. I believe the Minister was going to agree to reduce the length of time from eight to fours weeks.

Ms O'Meara: I second the amendment.

Mr. Dempsey: I said on Committee Stage I would consider this amendment before Report Stage. Having done so, I decided not to table an amendment. This is a notice which requires someone who has been lawfully using a building to stop. It would be unfair to give a person, who is served with what is a relatively draconian measure, only four weeks to prepare an appeal. sIt would be unfair on a person served with a relatively draconian measure to give them only four weeks to prepare an appeal. We should give them a little bit longer than that. For that reason I decided not to table an amendment and I ask the Senator to withdraw her amendment.

Dr. Henry: It is fortunate for the developers that Deputy Dempsey is the Minister and not I because I would have been far fiercer. If people are carrying on illegally they should be made stop forthwith and that is why I proposed such a short length of time.

Mr. Dempsey: It is a draconian measure.

Dr. Henry: I know it is draconian.

Mr. Dempsey: This amendment would require someone who is lawfully using a building to stop using it, for example, the Ann Summers shop on O'Connell Street. In such a case, someone would be lawfully using a building and being made to stop, which is draconian. The Senator is removing a right and she has only given them four weeks to appeal that decision. I think we are talking at cross purposes here.

Dr. Henry: We are.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Amendments Nos. 90 to 92, inclusive, are related and may be taken together by agreement.

Dr. Henry: I move amendment No. 90:

In page 66, line 12, after "scheme." to insert "The special concession of reduced development contributions shall only apply where the proposed development is primarily for community rather than private benefit like a community centre, educational or health or recreational facility. The only private benefit that should benefit from these reductions is the appropriate restoration of listed buildings or those situated in an architectural conservation area or in an area of special amenity or in a landscape conservation area.".

These amendments relate to the conservation of areas. Amendment No. 90 seeks to have special concessions applied to community developments. Amendment No. 91 seeks to include rail and Luas as well as bus. Amendment No. 92 seeks to insert "railways, waterways and greenways" after the word "facilities".

Ms O'Meara: I second the amendment.

Mr. Dempsey: We debated this issue on Committee Stage and I explained my reasons then for not-----

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Do you wish to contribute, Senator Coogan?

Mr. Coogan: The Minister can continue.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: If the Senator does not speak now he cannot contribute later.

Mr. Coogan: I realise that but I indicated just as the Minister stood up. It is a question of who got to the ball first.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: I try to get everyone in.

Mr. Dempsey: With regard to amendment No. 90, I said that I sympathise with the first part of it. Reduced contribution rates should only apply to development which is primarily for the benefit of the community, such as schools and hospitals. However, I consider that discretion in these matters should be left to the local authority in case it wants to include others. I agree with the sentiments expressed.

The second part of this amendment provides that the only private cause that should benefit from reduced contributions should be the restoration of listed buildings or buildings situated in an architectural conservation area. In the normal course of events such developments do not and should not attract a development contribution because they are already in developed areas. Therefore, I do not see why a person getting planning permission in an area of special amenity or a landscaped conservation area should benefit from a reduced rate of contribution.

With regard to the two other amendments, which refer to parks and wildlife reserves, rail, including Luas, railways, waterways and greenways, the current wording is sufficient to cover any of these facilities in so far as they are provided by local authorities. As I said on Committee Stage, I concluded that it was best to restrict development contributions to facilities on infrastructure provided by the local authorities. Demands have been made to build schools and hospital railways by using development contributions. There is only so much we can reasonably expect development contributions to provide. To extend the burden much further could impose huge additional costs on development and could not support the provision of houses at affordable prices.

Dr. Henry: These amendments are not being pressed.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Debate adjourned.

Sitting suspended at 3.45 p.m. and resumed at 6 p.m.

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