——the Parliamentary Secretary, to a Bill which was brought in by the Fine Gael Party when in Opposition, which sought the establishment of an independent board and that the appointments to that board would be through the Civil Service Commission. I think it even specified that the person should have certain professional qualifications before being considered for the appointment. The acceptability of this new board, their independence and the confidence that they will make fair and honest decisions, will depend on how qualified the persons to be appointed are for the job and the way they are appointed. I do not see how the Minister can justify leaving this provision so open as it is at the moment, and I would ask him to consider an amendment setting out that at least by regulation the Minister would be obliged, following the passing of the Bill, to draw up qualifications for these positions. We might accept that, but we would want greater assurances than are contained in the Bill at this time. Clause 2 of the Schedule reads:
The Board shall consist of a chairman and not less than two ordinary members.
Again we would like to question the wisdom of allowing a board to be established which could, in fact, consist of only three members as the Bill stands. One of the over-riding considerations in amending the 1963 Act must be the speeding up of the whole planning appeal process. We do not believe that a board of three will be adequate to deal expeditiously and in a fair manner with planning appeals if it is to be confined to such a small membership. We also see a difficulty should one member of the three-member board become ill or be absent for some reason or other, that the two members then present would merely be approving of each other's recommendations. We do not consider that the Bill should allow such a situation to happen and we should guard against it. It must be accepted by the House that it will happen quite often, when there is a three-member board, that all three members will not be present for one reason or another. In that situation there would be two members who would be swopping each other's recommendations and proper and thorough consideration might not always be given in such circumstances. The only way to overcome that is to have a larger board of four ordinary members and a chairman.
There can be many problems with a small board, one of which is that there could be one personality completely dominating the other two and his thinking could have an enormous influence on all decisions. I do not think it would be practical to suggest that the members of the board should be changed after a short period. If you wanted to attract the right calibre of person to undertake this onerous work, then there must be some guarantee of tenure of office; there must be some constancy in the position being offered to him. On balance, I think that would be preferable, but in order to avoid the situation in which one person would dominate a small board, as those of us who have had experience of meetings know can happen, I suggest the larger board.
It is not provided in the Bill that the Minister's directives should be issued in writing to the board. We believe they should be placed before the Houses of the Oireachtas before being given to the board, that they be general directives of policy and not related to specific matters or to specific appeals. These directives which the Minister will issue will be of great importance and their contents should be known to the general public, to persons who are interested in planning applications or in appeals current at the time, or to persons who plan to make applications and who are trying to find out what exactly is the public policy in regard to planning in any particular area. There should be full public knowledge in relation to planning policies. Section 8 (2) reads:
The board shall supply the Minister with such information relating to its functions as he shall from time to time request.
This should be amended to include: "and the Minister shall lay before the Houses of the Oireachtas all such request in writing together with the replies thereto". What I am suggesting is that all such requests under section 8 should be in writing and that these and the replies received to them should be laid before both Houses for the very same reason.
Under section 10 there could be a situation in which part-time or consultant services are availed of. I think that these should, at all times, be accompanied by a statutory declaration (1) that the person or persons involved are acting impartially in the interests of and to the instructions of the board; and (2) that no vested or other interest, past or present, shall prevent such impartiality. That guarantee might be considered by the Minister.
The scheme of the Bill is embodied in sections 13 to 20. They deal, in the main, with the changing of the appeal system. The effect of these sections, as we know, is to transfer appeals from the Minister to the board. As I stated at the outset, we support this principle, though we recognise that it still does not overcome some valid critisisms of the 1963 Act. I should like to give one example: the person who conducts the appeal is not the ultimate decider. In other words, a person, at present the Minister, who has not heard the case and has not had regard to the demeanour of witnesses or the effectiveness or otherwise of the cross-examination of witnesses, should not as a matter of natural justice make a decision based on writing furnished to him by other persons.
The point I am making is that that has been used as a criticism of the 1963 Act and the appeals system laid down under it. In this Bill we are merely transferring that from the Minister to a board. Still, that criticism could be valid. I know it is difficult to see how this criticism could be overcome and all I am asking is that the Minister, who must have given some thought to this and fully considered it before finalising the Bill which is now before us would deal with that aspect of the criticism in his reply.
I should like to ask the Minister whether section 13 includes an application under section 26 (3) of the 1963 Act. That section provides for the Minister's consent to the granting of permission for a development which would materially contravene a development plan. As the Minister has said, the Bill is fairly complex and, of course, the 1963 Act is a substantial piece of legislation. I should like him to clarify that the Bill confirms that this function still lies with the Minister. If that is so I hope the Minister will tell us.
At this stage I wish to pose a question to the Minister. Would he consider putting a time limit on the period allowed for deciding planning appeals? The period could be three months or four months and that might seem reasonable. We are anxious by this Bill to improve the appeals structure and to provide a system which will allow for early decisions on planning appeals. This has been another major criticism against the 1963 Act—that it has been holding up development, that it has been difficult to get decisions from the Minister and the Department. The Minister has stated that he is short of qualified planners, that these people are scarce and that he has not been able to deal as expenditiously as he would have liked with the number of appeals coming before him. All Ministers have been concerned about this delay in the issuing of appeals. All have tried to take special steps to remedy it. It presents a big problem.
I submit that when it was considered valid to include a time limit in stating a period within which the local authority were obliged to grant permission— the two month period—then it might also be valid to include a limit on the time available for making appeals. I ask the Minister to consider that, why he has rejected it and if he would reconsider the whole matter and include a section stating a time limit. It would act as a spur and might give some assurance to persons that their appeals will be dealt with fairly quickly.
I should like the Minister to tell us how many cases have arisen under the sections of the 1963 Act which are covered by section 13 of this Bill, in particular sections 29, 48, 76 and 85 of the 1963 Act. I suspect there were very few but I should like to know how many.
Before I leave the question of the board and the appointment of members, it seems from the explanatory memorandum and from the Minister's opening statement that the real intention behind the Bill is that the Minister will appoint civil servants to be the ordinary members of this board. If he does that and if he insists on maintaining a minimum of three members on the board, this again will greatly limit the independence of the board. If, however, he agrees to our proposal for a five-member board, four of them ordinary members, he could then safely appoint a civil servant—one, or possibly two. This is an area we will have to go into in much greater detail on Committee Stage. There is the whole question of terms of reference and the qualifications of those persons or whether it is to be merely a shifting from the Minister's back on to civil servants who will be acting as members of the board.
It is a valid argument to say that to ensure the smooth introduction of this new planning appeals system one must avail of the services of staff who are accustomed to this work and who have been involved in it and who can be used during a transitional period. Some cynics might cast their eyes back to previous similar statements where this good intention actually became a practice in the long run. I do not think the civil servants themselves would wish to be the board as constituted; there must be outside persons from the community, fully and properly qualified.
This, of course, raises the whole question of the type of people the Minister will attract, really well-qualified people to undertake this work. The Minister has made no mention of the type of salary that will be available. Of course it would not be normal to go into such details as that at this Stage, but I would suggest to the Minister that if this system is to be made to operate successfully he will have to pay substantial salaries to those persons, that he will have to look on their appointment somewhat similarly to the appointment of justices. Those people will have to be allowed to act independently and will have to be paid accordingly. I trust the Minister will not be niggardly in this matter. It is the end result that will count and we want the best qualified people appointed to these posts. Section 14 is one of the shortest sections in the Bill and yet is one of the most important. It states:
The board shall have an absolute discretion to hold an oral hearing of any reference or appeal to the board.
I want the Minister and the Government to know that we have serious reservations about this section. In the first place, it cuts across section 82 (2) of the 1963 Act which provides that regulations shall be made under the section providing for oral hearings of any reference or appeal in respect of which an oral hearing is requested by any person. The radical change that is proposed here gives the board the right to refuse an oral hearing. I am aware it has been held that such a power cannot be exercised in an orbitrary way, but one may ask what is the need for the words "absolute discretion", unless it is to try to cut down the number of oral hearings? One can reasonably suspect that that is what is behind it. Indeed, the Minister was honest enough in his opening statement to spell it out—that that is the intention behind this section. On their face value, the words could be deemed to contravene certain articles of Bunreacht na hÉireann. Article 40.1 states:
All citizens shall, as human persons, be held equal before the law.
This shall not be held to mean that the State shall not in its enactments have due regard to differences of capacity, physical and moral, and of social function.
Paragraph 3.10 of the same Article states:
The State guarantees in its laws to respect, and, as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate the personal rights of the citizen.
I submit that it can be held that the right to appeal is a property right and that this section which enables the board to discriminate between one citizen and another brings about a situation where citizens may be held unequally before the law in respect of their property rights which the State in the Constitution binds itself to vindicate. I suspect the Minister will urge that this section is designed to deny a right to an oral hearing in respect of frivolous or vexatious appeals. When one looks at the Explanatory Memorandum this is what it states. The explanation given there dealing with section 14 states:
This section gives the Board absolute discretion to hold an oral hearing of any reference or appeal. This will help the Board to deal expeditiously with cases, particularly where an appeal appeared to be ill-founded or vexatious... The Act of 1963 required the Minister to accede to the request of any party to an appeal for an oral hearing and it seems clear that the provision was being abused in certain cases.
Most people will agree that it would be reasonable to hold that it would not be unconstitutional to deprive frivolous or vexiatious litigation of the assistance of the law but as the section stands it seems to go much further and, indeed, much further than any other provision dealing with appeals that one can find in legislation passed by this House over the years. It goes quite far; the House is being asked to accept it but we question it and express serious reservations about it. We look forward to hearing a fuller explanation from the Minister of the reasons for it.
I suggest that the matter could be easily dealt with in the same way as is provided by the Summary Jurisdiction Act of 1857, as amended by section 51 of the Courts (Supplemental Provisions) Act, 1961. These provisions relate to an application to a district justice for a case stated. Section 4 of the 1857 Act provides that if the justice be of opinion that the application is merely frivolous, but not otherwise, he may refuse to state a case and shall, at the request of the applicant, sign and deliver to him a certificate of such a refusal. We have serious reservations on section 14 as it stands and we ask the Minister to consider seriously the points we have raised. If he indicates his willingness to amend the section we can assure him of our full support. If the amendment we suggest to section 14 is accepted it would remove the necessity for the word "vexatious" in section 16 which comes later on.
Under section 15 the board may take into account... I suggest that the word "may" in this context should be changed to "shall" because the whole basis for the institution of the board is the proper planning and development of the area concerned and it is considered that this should be central to the board's deliberations. I fail to understand why the softer word "may" is used rather than the more positive one obliging the board to take these necessary matters into consideration.
I suggest that the absolute time limit in section 20 is undesirable and I should like the Minister to consider whether the board should be given a right in a proper case to extend the time for making an appeal in the interests of justice. This is made all the more important by the fact that a person other than an applicant is not entitled as of right to notice of the making of the decision to grant planning permission but, notwithstanding that, he has under section 26 (5)(c) (ii) of the 1963 Act a period of 21 days to make an appeal beginning on the day of the giving of the decision which may or may not have been communicated to him. I ask the Minister to consider granting the board discretion to extend the time so as to enable an appeal to be brought. An amendment along these lines would require much thought but I am sure the Minister would agree—I am not in any doubt as to the difficulties my suggestion could create in trying to meet it by way of sections in the Bill —that it is a point that should be considered because one can think of many cases where it would have been more just if somebody had the authority to extend the time limit. No provision was made for it. I do not expect such a provision would be availed of very often but it should exist. In that particular matter I would give absolute discretion to the board.
The section deals with the extension of the time in which an appeal or an application sent by letter shall, in fact, be deemed to have been received. This needed some tidying up. There was a good deal of confusion in the early days of the operation of the 1963 Act and it is well to avail of this opportunity to clear it up. The Minister's Explanatory Memorandum in relation to this section states:
Clarification of the position in regard to the latest time for acceptance of appeals under the Acts.
We are all aware of the appallingly bad postal service available from time to time in certain parts of the country. Generally it is fairly good but there are occasions when the post is not delivered regularly. I have had cases of the post being a week or ten days late. There is also the special position of persons living on islands where the post goes only once or twice a week, depending on the weather. No provision is made for such persons. I have had interesting cases because there is a number of islands in my constituency and in making representations for the people on them, living and working with these people over the years I have come across quite a number of cases where these time limits on acceptance dates for applications for planning permission or fishing licences have proved very awkward, when the boat did not travel and the person concerned was unable to go to the local post office or put a letter in the letter-box as is done on the mainland, and where we expect postal collection within 24 hours and delivery within 48 hours. These people have been omitted from all the legislation up to now and I am suggesting there should be some proviso to cover people living on islands who do not have regular postal service.
Even those who live on the mainland and enjoy 24 or 48-hour delivery service know that this service is not constant. It is the aim of the Post Office and they achieve it in most cases but there are occasions when they do not provide this excellent service. In such circumstances the three-day limit might be a bit rigid and I suggest that five days after the closing date if the application comes by post should be acceptable, an extension of two days in relation to the matters dealt with under section 20.
Under section 21 where a developer fails to provide proposed public open space, the section says that the local authority may purchase the open space and that an arbitrator can make a nil award unless it is shown that the value of the land has not been or will not be recovered as a result of the development. I consider that this device will be very difficult to operate if, in fact, not impossible. It will certainly be very cumbersome and probably ineffectual. My immediate reaction to it, I am sorry to say, is not very encouraging but perhaps I can be reassured by the Minister who may have a more detailed explanation to give of these matters than he has so far given. The amazing thing about this section is: why should any local authority be obliged to purchase open space when a developer provided in his application plans that he would supply such open space within the development? And the developer not having provided it, the Minister, to overcome that difficulty, is merely allowing a local authority to purchase the public open space from the owner, the developer.
The costs of purchasing and any costs arising from the development of the open space, such as laying it out in an orderly fashion, can be deducted from the purchase cost. I say "Thank you very much" in a sarcastic way for the powers given under this section. I do not see why the ratepayers should be obliged to contribute to the purchase of open space which it was intended the developer should provide. I cannot understand the logic behind this. There must be a reasonable explanation for it. One can see a situation where a local authority if they proceed under this section will be left with something which is of no value. Open space as such has amenity value but no market value. It is not an asset from which the community, or the local authority representing the ratepayers, can benefit in any way other than by its recreational and amenity value. The local authority are being asked to spend the ratepayers' money acquiring it. They can never resell it. It is a wasted asset. The onus was on the developer to provide this facility in the first place. Maybe I am misreading the section, but I demand a fuller explanation of section 21. Many persons whom I have consulted are puzzled by this section and cannot understand the thinking which would oblige a local authority to purchase open space which the developer should have provided. I find this extraordinary. It does not seem to be much of an improvement on the existing position.
I should like to suggest a way to plug this loophole in the 1963 Act, a loophole which has caused great difficulties and many headaches for communities and public representatives who had to deal with the problems. A condition should be included in the planning permission that a security bond be obtained by the developer to be held by the local authority until such time as the authority are satisfied that he has provided the amenities indicated in his plans. There are provisions in the 1963 Act which enable local authorities to include such conditions in planning permissions. I submit that unless this type of condition is included as a condition precedent, it has no strength, it is difficult to enforce and that developers can slip from under it and get away with nondevelopment of open space as required by the permission they obtained.
There can often be a condition requiring agreement between the developer and the local authority as regards the disposal of effluents, for instance. If such a condition is placed in a planning permission given on appeal, then that condition should be condition precedent, the developer should be obliged to show to the local authority, before planning permission would have been deemed to have been granted to him, that he had in fact complied with the condition precedent. The situation at the moment is that the Minister is granting permissions which contain conditions which oblige the developer to reach agreement with the local authority on a particular aspect of the development. Normally this is to do with sewerage, or water, where it will be laid, where effluent will be discharged and arrangements for disposal of sewerage. Once permission has issued, even though it includes such a condition and the developer has waited the prescribed period of 21 days, the permission is then deemed to have been granted. From that moment he is authorised to go into a site and commence development even though he has not yet reached agreement about the condition contained in the permission he got stating that he must consult with the local authority and reach agreement about the disposal of sewerage, and failing agreement that he can go back to the Minister and appeal.
Permissions with such conditions attached should not be deemed to have been granted until these conditions have been complied with. In other words, in law they should be deemed conditions precedent. I strongly urge the Minister to consider this point. It may be said that what I am suggesting will introduce further complications into the planning field. It might be claimed that it might act as a deterrent to development, but I submit that at least we will have orderly development. We will not have the position where conditions are included in name but in fact developers can proceed without paying much heed to them at all. This is happening to the open spaces. The local authority should seek an insurance bond of sufficient security and the developer should show that he has obtained that bond before permission is deemed to have been granted—in other words, before he is entitled to go in and develop. If that is done the many evasions of planning conditions will be ended. We expected that the amendment to the 1963 Act would deal fully and adequately with this problem which has caused many headaches to residents' associations because of the non-completion of their estates, but the section as worded here does not deal effectively with that problem.
Section 22 deals with the issuing of a warning notice. This is new. Would the Minister spell out the difference between a warning notice as proposed under subsection (2) and enforcement notices which one can apply under the 1963 Act? In the Bill, the procedures for serving warning notices and the penalties for ignoring them are set out in relation to the likely development in contravention of the Act—unauthorised land use, likelihood of removal or damage of trees, features or structures during development. This is a very good thing. I accept and welcome the warning notice but should like clarification of the difference between it and the enforcement notice. I suspect there must be some level of duplication between the effect the warning notice has and the effect the enforcement notice has. The enforcement notice is primarily to deal with anticipated unauthorised development. It seems to be designed to overcome a situation where there is a condition in relation to trees and a person goes in overnight and knocks down all the trees. There is no way in which the local authorities can then restore those trees. By anticipating that he might do such a thing, a warning notice can be issued which will involve him in substantial fines if he touches the trees. Of course this refers also to general developments, protection of amenities and any worthwhile features. This is welcome and the Minister has our support.
Section 23 states that any person may make application to the High Court to prohibit unauthorised development. The Fianna Fáil Party welcome this wholeheartedly. We feel that difficulties which were experienced over the years will now be overcome and one of the major loopholes in enforcing the 1963 Act will be closed.
Section 24 deals with withdrawal by planning authority of certain notices and cancellation of relevant entries in the register. I should like the Minister to give us some examples of what he has in mind.
Section 25 is a major section which provides for the first time for what the Minister called the withering of planning permissions. I should like to query the Minister on one point. I do not think that in fairness and in justice it is proper to apply this retrospectively. One can imagine a situation where a person received planning permission, quite legitimately, four years and 11 months before the coming into operation of this Bill and one month later the planning permission dies.
Retrospective legislation is something this House has been anxious to avoid wherever possible. When introducing benefits very little retrospection is applied. When grants are increased we are not inclined to give retrospection. There may be a good reason why a person who got planning permission has not acted on it, also there will be cases of people who have received planning permission and have not acted on it for no good reason. Such cases cause difficulty in drawing up development plans. It is very frustrating when drawing up development plans in towns and cities to have areas for which planning permission has been granted but has not been acted upon and the planner does not know what is to happen in those areas. He cannot decide whether it will be open space, whether it will be for commercial use or residential use. Planning permission has been granted. It is a black spot and it inhibits the planner. I agree that this is a problem and it is proper that we should have legislation to deal with it but I submit that it is unfair to make this legislation retrospective. The retrospective aspect of this section is open to serious question. I would ask the Minister to reconsider this.
Section (2) (b) relates to partially completed developments. The question of a completion certificate comes in here. As I read the section, the planning authority may issue a completed certificate and in the case of a dispute the developer may appeal to the District Court. Appeals must be decided by a district justice. I should like the Minister to explain why the board should not decide such cases. As I read the section, it seems to indicate that if a developer receives planning permission for 700 houses and proceeds to construct at the rate of 100 houses per year and if at the end of a five-year period he has only 500 houses completed planning permission for the remaining 200 dies. I wonder whether that is wise. The permission has been granted and obviously the developer had good intentions, had acted on the permission and the only inhibiting factor was the capacity of his organisation. It would seem to me that that permission should not die at the end of a five-year period. We will go back to that later.
Section 26 reads:
(1) Notwithstanding section 10 (4) of the Petty Sessions (Ireland) Act, 1851, summary proceedings against any person liable to be proceeded against pursuant to section 22 of this Act or in respect of a contravention of section 24 (2) of the Principal Act may be commenced—
(a) at any time within six months from the date on which the offence was committed,
I should like the Minister to give us some examples of what he has in mind here.
Section 28 is an important section. It provides for the first time that the Minister may make regulations providing for:
(i) the payment to planning authorities of prescribed fees by applicants for permission under the Principal Act to develop land,
(ii) the payment or lodgment with the Board of prescribed fees or deposits by appellants,
I submit that quite a number of people will consider this section, as worded, undesirable. We have some doubts about it. It must be remembered that in the main persons who will be seeking permission to develop will be persons anxious to develop their own property and that they are in quite a different position from persons who would be seeking legal redress in the courts. The matter is made worse by giving the Minister power to make regulations which may provide for the payment or lodgment with the board of prescribed fees or deposits by appellants. This seems discriminatory and without legal justification. I think it is going a little too far. Can the Minister give any precedent for this or can he give any explanation of what would happen the lodgment of fees or deposits? I do not know whether the Minister overlooked this or whether we are to assume where the money goes. I suggest to the Minister that there may not be any great necessity for this section when one considers that section 17 of the Bill provides that:
(b) in case the decision of the planning authority is confirmed on appeal, or where the decision is varied on appeal, if the Board in determining the appeal does not accede in substance to the appellant's grounds of appeal, the Board, if it so thinks proper, may direct the appellant to pay—
(i) to the planning authority, such sum as the Board, in its absolute discretion, specifies as compensation to the planning authority for the expense occasioned to them in relation to the appeal,
(ii) to any of the other parties to the appeal, such sum as the Board, in its absolute discretion, specifies as compensation to the party for the costs or other expenses occasioned to him in relation to the appeal.
(iii) to the Board, such sum as the Board, in its absolute discretion, specifies as compensation to the Board towards the expense incurred by the Board in relation to the hearing of the appeal.
The remarks relating to section 28 in the Explanatory Memorandum are misleading. This memorandum states:
The question of fees payable by applicants for permission is primarily associated with possible changes in the existing regulations requiring applicants to give public notice of their proposals.
When one reads section 28 in the Bill it is clear that no such restriction is built into it. I submit that it is wrong to try to suggest, as is suggested in this document, that these fees will only be charged to cover the cost of public notices which may, in the future, be inserted by the Planning Authorityen bloc, something I agree with but the Minister should have been more specific in the section in the Bill. If he was seeking authority from the House to charge a fee to persons making application for planning permission and the purpose in charging that fee was to cover the local authority's costs in inserting a public notice in a newspaper of the person's intention to apply for permission then he should have said so in the section instead of giving the board overall authority to charge fees or demand lodgements or deposits for persons making application or persons making an appeal without any limit, without specifying any circumstances in which it could be done.
I strongly favour the idea of requiring the planning authority to insert the public notice. For far too long we have tolerated a situation where persons anxious to keep their intentions in relation to development as quiet as possible, away from persons who may be interested in it and who may prove an obstacle to them by way of objections, third party or otherwise, try to proceed surreptitiously, inserting applications, sometimes abusing the Irish language, in a paper which may be deemed by the local authority to be circulating in the area but which is not normally the paper purchased by the majority of people living there. In western parts of the countryThe Irish Times does not have the same circulation in Connemara as The Irish Press or The Irish Independent and persons anxious to proceed in a sly way with developments have been known to put their advertisements in The Irish Times in Irish and it is then inserted in some obscure section of the paper in the hope that few people, if any, will see it.
I am against these dodges and the Minister should have spelt it out quite clearly that in future the planning authorities themselves would be required to insert such public notice in chosen newspapers circulating in the area and that they would put in these advertisementsen bloc week after week, and that any development taking place in that area for which permission is required could be easily found on a certain page where they would all be published together. To cover the planning authority's cost of inserting such an advertisement the person lodging the application should be required to pay a fee of £2 or whatever the advertisements are costing. There should be no penalty involved, as is suggested in the section, whereby fees are charged to persons making application for planning permission. We do not like this section and we will probably oppose it when it comes before this House on Committee Stage. We hope the Minister will reconsider this because we feel our ideas are better than those contained in the section.
I should now like to deal with section 32 (a). In my view this change would mean that a person's entitlement to compensation following a planning refusal could be substantially diminished, particularly if the usual long time lag takes place between the time of the decision and the arbitration award. Such things as a change in zoning between the time he receives the decision and the time when the arbitration award issues could largely affect an applicant's entitlement to compensation. We have the classical case, especially in the Dublin area, with the Dublin Corporation, in par ticular, where there has been much dithering and doddering about the routing of proposed roads in the future. This has seriously interfered with planning in this city, has contributed to inflation of property values in Dublin and has frustrated the development plans of quite a number of com mercial enterprises, and private citizens in and around the city. I am referring to those involved in commercial business in a big and small way. I have practical experience of what has been happening.
I know of cases where under Part 5 of the 1963 Act claims for compensation have been made and awards have been issued of up to £40,000 as a result of the planning authority's refusal to grant permission because they were reserving the area of land for some particular purpose. The person who made the appeal for compensation is successful but two or three years later the planning authority write back and inform the applicant that they do not now intend to proceed with the use which was the reason for refusing permission originally. The applicant is told that he can now proceed even though in the meantime he has been paid compensation on the basis that the local authority had informed him he could not proceed. Most of this difficulty is being created by the indecision of the planning authorities in Dublin in relation to the location and routing of the future road systems for the city. Much of the planning that has gone on and the decisions made on it have been largely impracticable.
I suggest the Minister take an interest in this matter. In laying down routes for roads and plans for future road widening the authorities should as far as practicable pay some heed to the practicalities of the proposals which they are adopting. The experience has been that decisions made one week might be changed two years later and that a decision to hold land now because it is designed as an area through which a road will go at sometime in the future may be changed in two years' time. That area is then open again for development. That is of significant importance under section 32 (a). It is a matter which will not involve the Minister that much because he does not involve himself in the actual arbitration awards but we should be anxious to see justice done for all. It can affect large businesses and small business concerns.
I know of cases where the corporation have zoned an area as a route for a road and the business houses in that area have run down as a result but claims for compensation have not been accepted by the corporation on the basis that it was long-term planning. The corporation do not place a CPO on property because they do not require it for some time. The corporation are killing certain areas in the city and putting small businesses to the wall because of the decisions of the planning authority. In some of these cases after two years have elapsed the problem disappears, the corporation change their mind and decide against putting the road there. During that time the business has been cripped.
Would the Minister consider making it obligatory for persons who have received planning permission to post a copy of the planning permission on the site? It could be called a building permit and would facilitate inspections, especially of unauthorised development. I have seen such a system in operation in other countries. A building inspector or planning officer visits all building sites and the building permit must be posted by the developer in a prominent position where it can be inspected. The building inspector or planning officer determines whether the conditions of the permit are being complied with. Of course, in the first instance he ascertains whether there is permission to build. Although we impose a number of restrictions on the granting of permission we do not seem to have much provision in our planning Acts for the inspection of developments after planning permission has been granted. This is an area in which there is a need for some tightening up. I am not anxious that an army of inspectors be sent out to survey the whole countryside but there is a need for provision in the Act for the control and inspection of development. At present we are relying mainly on interested local residents to bring forward complaints regarding non-compliance with conditions attached to permission to develop. Apparently there is no real machinery for inspection by the planning authorities.
Under the Public Health Acts a person is obliged to obtain a certificate of satisfactory completion before a dwelling can be occupied. Since that is deemed necessary under the Health Acts why should it not be necessary also in relation to planning Acts? Many of the complaints arising from planning development and building generally may not all be related to the Planning Act but to standards of construction. This stems from the fact that we do not have a building code in this country. Sections 86, 87 and 88 of the Principal Act were never adopted. This is an aspect of building that the Minister might refer to when he is replying. The Act of 1963 provided that national building regulations and established by-laws would apply uniformly throughout the country but that provision has not been put into operation. Many of the complaints that are made result from the different standards that are applied. There are building bye-laws in Dublin, Cork, Dún Laoghaire and Galway only. Therefore in all other places local authorities are entitled to decide on the standards to be applied. This area, too, needs reviewing.
Section 9 of the 1963 Act does not impose any real obligation on the owner of a development to answer a notice issued under that section. I am referring to a notice asking him to state his interest in the premises concerned. There should be a clause enabling the local authority to assume that the person on whom the notice is served is the owner until he proves otherwise. There have been cases where prosecutions under the Planning Act have been lost on technicalities because of the failure to show ownership, although section 9 provides for the issuing of a notice demanding that a person shall state his interest and so on and that he must reply by a certain date or otherwise is liable to a fine in the region of £20. A local authority are faced with a weak case in court if they have not been able to show that they know who is the owner of the property.
There is provision in this Bill for the appointment to the board that is proposed by the Minister of a chairman and a minimum of two members. We suggest there should be a minimum of four members. So far as I am aware there is no provision for the appointment of a vice-chairman or somebody to act in the absence of the chairman. Will the board be enabled to split up so that there could be two sub-committees in operation, each performing the functions of the board? This is a matter for Committee Stage, but perhaps, in his reply the Minister should throw some light on this aspect. Regarding the personnel of the board, the Minister should appoint only those with recognised qualifications and who have had some years experience in their own line of work. For instance, a qualified planner with at least ten years' experience would be a suitable person to appoint to the board as also would a qualified engineer with the same length of experience or an architect or a civil servant who had gained experience in the Department. That would be the type of board we would like to see instituted, with a chairman who would be a person of great repute. The remuneration of these people would need to be substantial so as to ensure that they were acting independently and that they would not be tempted to give up the job after a while. The position should be as attractive as possible so as to avoid frequent changing of personnel.
As the Minister is aware, while we were in office we were working on a Bill that was on lines similar to the proposals now before us. We intended providing for the establishment of a board and for removing from the Minister for Local Government the responsibility of having to decide on planning appeals. We intended—in fact it was provided in a Bill introduced by a former Minister, Mr. Kevin Boland—that the Irish language and the Gaeltacht areas would be given special consideration. We intended including that section again in whatever Bill we would have brought before the House. I am surprised that the Minister has chosen to drop that section. I hope he has good reasons for doing so. Much of what we hear from Government Ministers in relation to the Irish language, to the Gaeltacht and to Irish culture in general is very depressing. If the dropping of the section I have referred to is a further indication of the downgrading of the importance of the Gaeltacht areas and of the Irish language this step is to be regretted and I would ask the Minister to reconsider his decision. We intended providing that, notwithstanding sections 26, 27, 30, 31, 32, 33, 35, 36 and 37 of the 1963 Act, regard could be had to the special interest of the Gaeltacht and of the Irish language.