As Deputy Corish has already said, we in the Labour Party welcome the Bill because we believe it is long past the time when amending legislation to the 1939 Act should be introduced. We do not agree with everything the Bill contains. As a matter of fact, we disagree with the way in which many of the sections are put. I would not go so far as Deputy Donegan went, and say they are deliberately trying to prevent the citizen from exercising his right to do what he wants with his own property.
One of the things in the Bill to which we object is the fact that while the local authority is mentioned on numerous occasions and the right of the local authority to do certain things, in fact, the Bill means the county manager. Very few functions are reserved to the members of the local authority themselves. For that reason, we feel that while the managers may be people who have the interests of the area they govern—and "govern" is the right word—at heart, nevertheless, we do not think they have the local knowledge, in many cases, which is necessary in order to put the point of view of the local people of what is required. That is where I agree with Deputy Donegan. I think the interests of the local people must be taken into consideration.
Advertising hoardings were mentioned by practically every Deputy who spoke. I have mixed views about them. I remember an incident where a rather poor person had a small portion of land adjoining a main road. He had a house and he had erected a rather ugly-looking shed. He was offered quite a considerable sum by an advertising agency if he would allow them to put up what I thought was a very artistic poster between the shed and the road. The local authority said it would disfigure the area and he was refused permission. In fact, nothing could be more disfiguring than the old shed. I would not like to see it on any main road. In his wisdom, or otherwise the county manager decided that it would be wrong to put a poster on a hoarding between the shed and the road and the result is that we still have an uninterrupted view of the old shed which, I assure the House, is not improving with age.
I know that quite a number of hoardings have been erected throughout the country which are objectionable. They are not obscene or anything like that, but they impede the view of the area, or the scenery of which there should be an uninterrupted view. At the same time, certain types of hoardings have been erected in certain areas which could, in fact, improve the area, provided they are kept in good order and not allowed to become tattered and remain in a tattered and rustry condition for years. As Deputy Donegan said, they may be covering up, perhaps, a field of bad wheat or something like that. In my opinion, if advertising signs are properly designed, there is nothing wrong in putting them up. I still think it depends on the individual case and I believe the right to decide whether or not they can be erected might possibly rest with somebody who would know the area well and would know whether or not it would interfere with the amenities.
When we talk about hoardings, particularly advertisement hoardings, we should go a little further and inquire about the poles and wires which the ESB and the Post Office are erecting all over the place. Surely nobody in this House or outside will deny that there is more disfigurement of amenities by such poles and wires than there is by advertisement hoardings? At present the Post Office appear to be making an effort to lay some of their cables underground. When that is done, I hope the old poles and wires will be taken down. That will get rid of some of the disfigurement. I do not know if anyone here has ever gone along the seashore and has gone out to sea to view the land from there. The one thing that strikes one is the ugliness of the array, or disarray, of poles and wires which seem to be spread all over the place. When we speak about preventing the disfigurement of areas and the protection of scenic beauty, we should remember that more than advertising hoardings are involved.
Reference has been made to the right to zone areas and to decide whether or not the local authority has the right to say that only buildings of a certain type will be put in one area and buildings of a different type in another. I am not too sure that that is what is meant. I understood it was a recommendation rather than an actual decision that is contained in the Bill. However, I am sure that will be explained later on. Deputies who spoke here this evening seemed to think that we should have everything planned and that we should get away from the traditional type of building and should adopt more modern styles. A few Deputies who have recently visited Brasilia will remember that the planning there is of the most modern, but I do not think that any of us would like to see Dublin city developed on the same lines. The attempt which has been made in Brasilia to be ultramodern has defeated itself. Of course, as Deputy Cummins said, O'Connell Street is a lovely street and anything that disfigures it should be condemned but there are lovely streets, lovely villages and lovely towns in this country. We must be practical and remember that while O'Connell Street is supposed to be the widest street in Europe, there are very many lovely towns in this country that have streets that are not O'Connell Streets, that are, in fact, so narrow that it is impossible for two vehicles to pass each other. In such cases one of two things must be done. If possible, the street must be widened, or alternatively, the street will almost certainly be by-passed eventually. We must face up to that. Under existing legislation, there is very little provision for that situation. It is past time when the necessary powers should be taken to ensure that such cases can be dealt with.
With reference to the legislation as it stands at present, particularly the 1939 Act, those of us who are members of a local authority are aware that the legislation is mainly carried out on pure bluff, that if the public knew exactly what the local authority was entitled or not entitled to do under the Act, there would be very little action taken against the people who are doing things which the local authority say they cannot do under the law. I am aware that there was a provision made to cover the position where the local authority decided by resolution that there should be planning for a certain area. I have in mind a particular area where such planning was prepared for and quite a considerable amount of money spent in having a plan drawn up. When the plan was examined, the engineer for the area estimated the cost at approximately £20 million. This was some years ago before costs went up.
I hope when this Bill becomes law and it is mandatory on local authorities to prepare plans that we will not have any £20 million plans being prepared by people such as those who prepared the plans for Brasilia, people who have no idea of costs, who merely want to show what they would like to do if they had not to foot the bill. There is grave danger that something like that may occur. I would ask that that aspect be given grave consideration and that when we say a plan must be prepared within three years, it will not be a case of putting the pistol to the head of a local authority who then must hire somebody. The architects with the ability to prepare plans such as I imagine are required here are not so numerous that a local authority could rush out and get one tomorrow who would be prepared to go right into the job. We could finish up with some more of these £20 million or £40 million schemes which would make the entire Bill unworkable.
Reference has been made to ribbon building. I know the Department are completely against the type of ribbon building which we have had but can one blame local authorities if they are inclined to carry out ribbon building when the only hope they have of doing a job any way reasonably is by building along existing roads? If the question of adding new roads to a building scheme arises, the cost of the scheme and of the houses being built is increased considerably. For that reason, there will have to be a new approach by the Department, and I hope it can be adopted under this Bill, when it comes to the question of development in an area where extended new roads are required.
A number of Dublin Deputies this evening referred to building in Dublin but I did not hear anybody referring to something which has occurred in Dublin where schemes have been started and roads have been run a certain distance and, at a later stage, somebody decides to develop the scheme further and finds that not only will he have to make a road into the scheme which he is developing but will also have to re-make a road which was only half-made by someone else.
There is one case which I understand is under consideration at the present time where a contractor is being asked to take down a corner which is not on the property he is developing, in order to make the road safe. The corner is on a portion of road supposed to have been already developed many years ago by a predecessor of his. These are matters which should be covered in a Bill of this kind. Provision should be made to ensure that anything that is done is done properly. The local authority and the people who are going to live in the houses should have the fullest possible coverage from the Legislature so that they will not have their eyes wiped by some smart Aleck who decides to take the easy way out by gerrybuilding. Somebody suggested that we will probably see the end of gerrybuilding when this Bill is passed. I think we are a long way from seeing the end of the type of building the smart Aleck gets away with.
The question of planning and developing areas has been referred to mainly as affecting the cities and some towns but, in fact, rural Ireland must also be considered in relation to development. A number of rural areas at present, because of industries and other reasons, have recently increased their populations and as a result require many extra houses. Some local authorities have begun making provision for an increased number of houses in country villages. Two or three problems immediately arise. One is the question of acquiring the land. The second is the question of dealing with the roads to get into the new buildings before they are completed and then there is the question of public lighting. All those things should be very fully covered in a Bill of this sort.
Certain public lighting has been carried out in villages throughout the country over the years. At every estimate meeting of a local authority we find somebody has suggested that all the villages in the county should be lighted and the county engineer usually submits an estimate of the cost and, as the estimates go along, and as the people who want to keep the rates as low as possible take off a farthing here and a penny there, we eventually find that the couple of pence extra required for public lighting is deleted. Year after year it comes up and year after year it goes out. Occasionally, as a big concession for some reason or other, a half-penny or a farthing will be included in the estimate to have extra public lighting in one of the villages where someone has already been killed. I think the onus is on the Department to ensure that extra houses are built and that if an area becomes a built-up area the Department should insist that there is proper public lighting.
Last year or the year before, a revised public lighting system was suggested by the Department of Local Government and that recommendation was sent to all local authorities. No doubt if the lighting, as laid down in this recommendation, were carried out we would have a wonderful lighting system, almost as good as they have in Brasilia but the trouble is that if the local authorities were unable to find the few extra pence required or were not prepared to find them in order to have the existing type of lighting installed in the country villages where it was required, it was surely nonsense to suggest that they be asked to replace all the lighting in the area with a system costing about ten times as much.
This is something that has been glossed over in this Bill. It should be dealt with very fully and local authorities should be forced to provide proper lighting in all built-up areas under their jurisdiction. It is all right to say that amenities which are mentioned here are desirable but unless it is mandatory and unless local authorities must do these things they are not prepared in many cases to provide any amenities at all. It is all right for nonmembers of local authorities to say here that the amenities should be provided but it is another thing to be a member of a local authority and try to get the money provided for an amenity. Therefore, I believe the Department must do much more than simply say that the planning authorities would be empowered to do certain things. Finding the money to pay for what they may do is an entirely different matter.
Deputy Crinion referred to rights of way. So did one or two others. I think this must be considered not alone by the Minister but by a number of other Ministers. For years past, rights of way were required in certain places and by general usage the width of a cart has been the maximum width of most of them. It is now found with modern machinery, particularly harvest machinery, that it is almost impossible to get in and out of some farms because the existing right of way has an entrance of a certain width. I have in mind a recent case where a farmer in getting a combine into a farm which was passing through portion of a lane owned by somebody else had to take down a pier of a gate. He harvested his crop but when he was finished not only did the other farmer insist on having the pier rebuilt exactly as it was but also on getting fairly heavy damages for disturbance of the pier. He took advantage of the man trying to harvest his crop. Since I came to this House this is the first Bill in which I found any reference to rights of way and I think that it should set a lead and if a right of way is laid down it should be wide enough to allow modern machinery to go in and out and should not just be wide enough to take merely a donkey and cart which would be all right many years ago.
There is another case in which possibly the Department could help and that is where entrances to seaside places are concerned. We have a number of seaside resorts in my constituency and, unfortunately, the entrances to most of them are not what they should be. As a local authority, we have some difficulty because when we wanted to acquire one of those entrances, which is normally accepted as being a public entrance, the persons who owned the adjoining land claimed they were paying rates on that entrance and would not allow the county council to spend money on improving it, making it possible for people to go in and out. This is something I think the local authority should be empowered to do under the new Bill and I hope it is included.
This has been described as a Committee Stage Bill and I believe that is a true description of it but I hope there will be a number of amendments introduced to improve it. Unlike some speakers, I hope the Minister himself, after listening to the suggestions offered, will amend the Bill. It is very easy for a Minister to delete or improve a section, compared to having it done by somebody on the opposite side.
Let me refer again to the question of who has the right to make decisions in those cases. The Bill says "the local authority": surely, the fact that it is not the local authority but the manager who makes the decision should be clearly set out? I believe the right should lie with the local representatives. I am aware that some managers are a long way ahead of many elected representatives as regards doing progressive things but still I believe when the local authority is empowered to do something, that should mean the elected representatives.
Under existing legislation, when the local authority or the county manager refuse permission to somebody to do something and an appeal is laid before the Minister, I believe the matter is dealt with very fairly. I was rather surprised to hear somebody say tonight that if the manager makes a decision, the Minister will make the same decision. Under existing legislation, such as it is, in 99 cases out of 100, appeals to the Minister have been successful if the case is in any way reasonable at all.
Petrol pumps were mentioned and whether or not there should be some way of trying to control them. It is rather unfortunate that in the area around the city, we have petrol pumps every 50 yards of the road. In country districts, particularly villages, people who have sought permission to erect petrol pumps in perfectly safe places have been refused. This is one instance in which the Minister might be a little more lenient when appeals come before him.