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Dáil Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 11 Dec 1974

Vol. 276 No. 9

Private Members' Business. - Housing Act, 1969 (Continuance) Order, 1974: Motion.

I move:

That Dáil Éireann approves the following Order in draft:—

Housing Act, 1969 (Continuance) Order, 1974,

a copy of which order in draft was laid before Dáil Éireann on the 2nd December, 1974.

The object of the draft order is to continue in force the Housing Act, 1969, for three years ending on 31st December, 1977.

The Housing Act, 1969, is a temporary measure which will expire on the 31st December, 1974, unless continued by an order made by me after it has been approved by resolution by each House of the Oireachtas. The purpose of the Act is to reduce the loss of habitable houses by providing statutory controls over their demolition or change of use. This it does by requiring generally that the permission of the local authority must be obtained for the demolition or change of use of a habitable house. In dealing with an application for permission the local authority must have regard to the state of repair of the house and the adequacy of the supply of housing available in their area. The authority can refuse permission or they can give it subject to conditions, either requiring the provision of alternative accommodation or the making of contributions towards the cost of providing it. Where permission is refused, or granted subject to conditions, there is a right of appeal to the Minister against the decision of the authority.

The Act came into force in July, 1969, and returns received from local authorities since then indicate that it has been reasonably effective in reducing the loss of habitable houses to the housing stock. In my view, the the effectiveness of the Act cannot be judged by these returns alone because its very existence must provide a deterrent against indiscriminate housing losses.

Activity under the Act has, as one would expect, been almost entirely in the cities of Dublin and Cork. Since it became law in July, 1969, the number of applications for permissions made to Dublin Corporation up to 30th September, 1974, was 691. Of these 424 were granted and 267 were refused. Cork Corporation received 146 applications in the same period and of these 107 were granted and 39 were refused. Where permission is refused, or granted subject to conditions, there is a right of appeal to the Minister against the decision of the local authority. Up to the end of last month 313 appeals were received. Of these 12 were invalid because they were not received within the statutory period, 58 were withdrawn, 157 were determined and 86 were under consideration.

While satisfactory progress has been made in achieving the house building targets set by the Government, I consider that it is still essential to retain for a further period the controls provided by the 1969 Act.

Accordingly, I commend the motion to the House.

The motion is similar to one that came before the House in December, 1972. The Minister's words in introducing it are almost identical with the words I used myself on that occasion. It does not leave me very much room to find some ground on which I can differ from the Minister. I should be happy to see that he is continuing something, in the introduction of which I was involved on another occasion, as was my predecessor, who introduced the 1969 Housing Act.

The Minister points out that most of the activities taking place under this order are in Dublin and Cork, and those two authorities refused permission under the 1969 Act in 306 cases. This seems a very small number when one considers the total housing stock and the amount of building activity which took place until recent months. Perhaps the application of the 1969 Act is not as rigid as the House desired originally.

The Minister opened a conference at the Royal Marine Hotel this Tuesday under the title, "Our Architectural Heritage, The Case for Caring". I was a delegate to that conference from Galway County Council. I was in full agreement with many of the views expressed at one of the lectures I attended, where the subjects were streetscapes and the part that history has played in our heritage. Some of the speakers there very strongly made the point that many of the older houses in parts of towns throughout the country might be retained and reconstructed and possibly the Government and local authorities should be encouraged to do more of this work.

The lecturers demonstrated the points they were making through slides and photographs of works carried out in other countries, particularly in Scotland. One gentleman showed slides of what one might decide on casual observation of the photographs, were very derelict and old buildings but had some quaint character. They may not have had any great architectural value but the fact they added character to a town must also be taken into consideration when deciding if houses should be demolished. It could be said this is more expensive than building new houses, but in many cases it could be a cheaper form of providing houses than building new ones.

The 1969 Act was introduced to ensure that habitable houses were not demolished without permission and that those seeking demolition would be obliged either to make some compensation or to provide alternative accommodation. One could see the spirit of that Act being complied with where a developer, anxious to demolish an old house, promised to provide alternative accommodation. This, however, was probably destroying something of great character which formed part of our architectural heritage. This would have some meaning for the people.

I am afraid most modern architecture is very stereotyped. Most of the architects in this country must come in for some very heavy criticism. There seems to be very few architects responsible for housing and public building here who have contributed anything of architectural merit. They put up very functional buildings but they are lacking in the design and the ideas which the old architects had throughout the centuries. One has to look back to find good buildings worth viewing, buildings which have had great thought and design put into them and which are beautiful structures today. If one was to spend an afternoon in appreciation of good architectural works in this country—this is also common throughout the world—one would not look at modern buildings. Architects are becoming very functional in outlook and are allowing their clients' limited financial resources to determine the extent of the contribution they will make and the monuments they will leave behind them. We seem to be left with monuments of glasshouses in the office blocks and public buildings erected in our large towns and cities.

I should like the Minister to consider advising local authorities to take into consideration the character of towns. They should prohibit the demolition of old buildings which could be reconstructed. It is very easy for a health inspector to go in and say a building is inhabitable because of the dilapidated interior condition. However if a structural engineer looked at it he could decide, that with modern construction methods, it would be possible to retain that building. This would not interfere with the streetscape or change it in any way but add to it.

The Housing Act might perhaps be applied in this area. We have tended to use it merely as an instrument to block any reduction in the overall housing stock. It states that if alternative accommodation is provided by the developer in a particular case he can be deemed to be making a good case for demolition. That seems to emphasise that the sole purpose of the Act is to maintain the housing stock. I believe we should raise our sights a little above that and see if we could retain the structure of our existing towns, our streets and the individualism which different areas have. Many people find this very attractive. The people of Galway regard it as an old town, rather quaint, with beautiful old buildings, although much of its quaintness and attractiveness does not come from the beautiful buildings but from the character created by the old streets and old forms of construction. Some of these are not beautiful but when they are combined together they present a pleasant visual image to those who pass by. This Act is the instrument under which the local authorities can ensure that such buildings are not demolished in the future.

A fine of £100 or £10 a day can be imposed under this Act. The Minister should have a look at these fines we had in the Planning Act, 1963. He has seen some of the amendments I put down where I raised the figure to £1,000. In many cases such a fine might not prove a deterrent. These fines would apply only where a person has deliberately contravened the Act. A much heavier fine should be imposed on such people as it would act as a greater deterrent.

Many people who want to demolish houses may have in mind a development costing up to £6 million or more. The cost of the development outside the gates of Leinster House will probably run to £6 million. Many of those large developers are involved in huge financial outlay. They have their own pressures bearing down on them. They have to pay high interest rates and their bank managers are calling for their money. The mere threat of a fine of £500 is merely a joke, to use the Minister's words on the previous Bill we discussed tonight. I ask the Minister to give some thought to all of these fines. It would probably involve a small Bill to amend the 1969 Act and he may think that is too much bother. We would let such a Bill through very quickly. I certainly hope he will accept our amendment on the Planning Bill because these fines were unrealistic from the day they were decided on.

The Minister may say I had an opportunity, when bringing this Order before the House to mention this fact. I agreed with those who made the argument and have been of that mind since then. The judge who decides these cases has the discretion, since the Act allows him to go to £1,000 or even £50,000, to decide what level of fine he will impose. The maximum in the Act will not always be the maximum fine he imposes. A high maximum could be put in those Bills. It would probably require another Bill. We can only debate the matter now and oppose it if we do not agree with it. I will not go that far tonight. I accept the order but I ask the Minister to bear in mind the point I made about fines.

People who do not agree with the decision of local authorities in relation to their application for demolition orders under the Housing Act, 1969, can appeal that decision to the Minister. We have had agreement in the House with regard to an independent board deciding planning appeals under the 1963 Act. The Minister knows we have been in agreement on this for a number of years now that he has studied the files in the Department.

I am very shy about these things. Nothing was done about it until I took over.

The Minister is so glib that nobody believes him anymore.

It was not produced when Fianna Fáil were there.

The Minister knows the Bill was with the draftsmen when the election was called.

What Bill?

The amendment to the 1963 Act. The Minister might as well know I took a copy of it with me out of the Department and I can produce it in five minutes.

I should like to see it.

If the Dáil is adjourned for five minutes I will get it, if I have not left it in Galway. All the Minister has to do is to ask the Department officials who are sitting beside him if decisions were made on that matter. The principle agreed by the former Government that planning appeals should be decided by a board completely independent of the Minister and the Department of Local Government should also apply in the case of appeals against local authority decisions under the 1969 Housing Act. There is a question of development involved. Permission to demolish may influence the value of a site to the extent of many thousands of pounds. If we agree with the principle of having an independent group removed from politics making such decisions in relation to planning, then it must also apply in relation to decisions made under the Housing Act. I am surprised that the Minister did not say today that he would also ensure that appeals under the Housing Act would be decided by an independent group of people. If he suggests a planning board, we will consider it. It should certainly be removed from the head of the Department of Local Government.

Perhaps we could extend the operation of this order to cover the retention of the character of our towns and cities and to encourage our local authorities by word and financial aid. The Minister should try to make provision in his Estimate for assistance to local authorities who undertake the reconstruction of old houses. It is easy to express the sentiment that one is in favour of reconstructing centre city areas with dwellings, bringing back the hearts of cities, but if there is not positive action to back up the words people can become very cynical of statements made by politicians. The cost of land sites, as the Minister has mentioned in relation to the Dublin area, forms the most inhibitive factor to housing development in the heart of cities. A very valuable contribution could be made in this area by the reconstruction of old residences which have fallen into decay and where people have their eye on them for commercial development. The local authorities should be more strict in applying the Housing Act. In many cases they could undertake the work and lease those dwellings, whether they be houses or low level flat dwellings, to local authorities for accommodation.

The Deputy would seem to be getting somewhat away from the order.

Not really. It has to do with whether you demolish houses. If I am not allowed to refer to the type of people who will live in them you are being far too restrictive. This could be a major contribution in the housing drive. One must conserve what one has and build additions to it. If we set our targets on building new houses and ignore the existing housing stock much of what we do will be dissipated through the erosion of existing houses. There is a responsibility to ensure the conservation of existing houses in city centres and other areas. The power under the 1969 Act would prove of great help in this very valuable work.

I have great pleasure in supporting the motion for continuance of this order. A very wise move was made originally, but it came rather late in the day, particularly in regard to Dublin, because prior to its introduction unauthorised demolitions were the order of the day. Relatively good houses were demolished without any permission being necessary under the old Housing Act. Today this city is like a pock marked city, littered with derelict sites, because we had inadequate legislation to control such demolition.

Although this is a good measure I find a few defects in it. A number of houses in this city are allowed to deteriorate to such an extent that the corporation cannot refuse permission for their demolition. There is thus a tendency on the part of speculators to allow property to deteriorate so that they can get orders for demolition. Our legislation is inadequate to deal with such speculators. When the houses have deteriorated and they apply for permission to demolish them, the local authority cannot reasonably refuse permission. This is a glaring defect in the Act. I hope some other measure can be introduced which will deal with this.

A defect in this Act is that there is no necessity to publish in the papers notice of an application by a person to demolish a house. The public are not aware of the fact that there may be an application with a local authority for permission to demolish a house. This is an important weakness. It may be argued that permission to demolish will not be granted unless the application is accompanied by planning permission for a building. This can be argued, but I suggest that there should be a separate notice and it should be compulsory that a person contemplating demolition will publish in the papers the application he has made for such permission.

I know of a case in Chapelizod at the moment of a number of really good habitable houses, houses which are in sound condition—the architect has vouched, as has the local authority architect, that these houses are in sound condition—which are the subject of an appeal by the landlord in relation to their demolition. It can be said that it will go to the Department. However, the fear in these people's minds is that they are told the landlord may win the appeal and they are going to be removed because these houses can be removed, with the result that these people who have lived so many years in them may find themselves uprooted. This is a great danger. The onus is on them to put up their case, especially where houses are in a sound condition and this is the fear they have.

A further point is that it can be argued that compensation may be paid to them, but I remember in Inchicore Rowntree's factory decided to take over a whole avenue of houses, about 26 houses, and they demolished them. putting an end to that avenue for the people who lived there for 40 or 50 years. They offered a sum of £500 but some of these people were 68 years of age and the compensation was intended as a contribution towards the cost of a house. That sum might be all right as a deposit but a person of that age cannot get a loan, not being a good security at that age. I know one couple living there for 40 odd years and they ended up at night, he going to a hostel in York Street and his wife to another in Cork Street. They said goodbye each night and he went into one hostel and she went into another. We need to consider this compensation provision because the word does not mean an awful lot. We may say: "Give them money", but it should not be sufficient to talk in terms of doing that. We should see that they are adequately housed. The onus should not be left on the local authority in a case where a private landlord might decide to dispossess a person when he wants to demolish so say: "There is some money in compensation", because that money today may not provide alternative accommodation. This is something which should be borne in mind and if we are coming in with changes, we might seriously consider this matter.

I would ask the Minister to see how we might change the Act to provide that applications for demolition of houses will be published in the Press. It is available to public representatives on local authorities but it is not sufficient because the public should be kept informed.

We can see now the wisdom of the action of the then Government in bringing this Bill before the House five years ago. As a result of the experience since that time, we can in future legislation guard against some of the abuses which, despite the Act, are still operating. As Deputy O'Connell has pointed out, one need not publicise an application to have a house demolished, nor is there a register kept of these applications. There is not the same procedure as there is in relation to planning application where the applicant has to go through a certain ritual in order to be given permission or to be refused. Recently in Dublin City Council we took action on this matter and asked that each member be notified of any application for permission to demolish or to change the use of a house, and the City Manager is doing this now. He is notifying all 45 members of any such application and we therefore have a chance to oppose an application, if we think it right to do so.

The Minister mentioned that since the Act became law in 1969, the number of applications to Dublin Corporation was 691, of which 424 were granted. It is almost five years so it is almost 100 houses a year. As we know, there is very little private building of houses in Dublin city area and if the corporation build about 2,000 dwellings a year, one realises the serious loss that 100,000 houses a year is. Very often permission to demolish is given as a last desperate effort by the corporation because the owners have allowed the property to deteriorate and run down and one sees often how conveniently a camp of itinerants is to be found near a house for which an application to demolish has been made, with the result that after a while the residents say: "Do something with it; knock it down", because the neighbourhood is being affected first, because there is a rather ugly building and secondly, because all kinds of people are using it, and the local authority in its wisdom may well select the lesser of two evils and give permission to take the house down. This, of course, defeats the whole purpose of the Act.

There are various sections in the Act which enable a local authority to preserve houses either by carrying out repairs themselves and billing the landlord with the expense or forcing him to do them, but this procedure is very slow and I do not know if it is practical. If you start interfering with some private landlord's property, he may well claim that you have damaged it and a local authority does not wish to become involved in that kind of litigation. The House will agree with the extension of the Act as far as it goes. But in the light of the experience gained in the past five years the Minister might well think about how he can make it a better Act in the future, because we are spending millions of pounds on new dwellings every year and it is just as necessary to try to conserve the existing stock of houses. Apart from the living accommodation they provide, the whole character of the city might change by reason of wholesale demolition.

I have seen parts of suburbia knocked almost overnight. I saw houses in a road in Ballsbridge some time ago before the Act came in disappear at the weekend. These were houses which in my young days were very fine stately homes but in a weekend they were demolished. I know that cannot happen now as quickly and in fairness to the local authorities and the farmers of the Act, I must say that most local authorities will not give permission unless a planning permission has been given for the redevelopment of the site, but in between the two things happening, a house can deteriorate and apart from actual demolition there is this matter of the change of use.

The Dublin 4 area which I represent is probably the most sensitive area in the city because people move in there and claim that a house is exempt from the Act and carry on a war of attrition against the local authority and local residents and in some cases succeed. That is no reflection on the Act or on the local authority apart from the fact that the local authority has not the necessary staff to ensure that the law will be carried out. Often a whole terrace of houses goes. One person moves in. Packing cases appear on the front lawn. The people next door feel that it is time to get out. The house is vacant and obsolescence creeps along the terrace until eventually people say that it should be pulled down, that it is almost derelict. Some very fine houses are destroyed and the character of an area is changed.

I would ask the Minister to ensure as far as possible that the conditions laid down in the Act are stringently applied to all applications. If he is approached by a local authority for extra staff to carry out this work I hope it will be forthcoming. It is bad economics to spend millions of pounds providing new dwellings while at the same time dwelling houses are being taken over by developers and speculators or are allowed to become obsolete by neglect on the part of the owner. Where a preservation order is made in respect of a house because of some architectural merit we do not provide money for the owner to maintain it. Perhaps we are a bit hypocritical in this respect. We say to the owner that he must preserve the house, that it is Georgian or Edwardian, but we do not provide the necessary funds to him for that purpose.

The Minister may reply that grants are available. It would be impossible to preserve a house on Merrion Square as a family house with a small grant. In fact, we are encouraging wealthy speculators to acquire property from less well off people. A special fund is required for the preservation of these houses. This would pay dividents in many ways. It would ensure that the housing stock would not be reduced by the deliberate action of landlords or by neglect.

I welcome this motion. I was surprised that it was necessary to bring such a motion before the House. I thought that what is contained in the motion was written into the Act and that it would remain law until it was amended.

There is a very serious problem in the Dublin area. The number of applications was 691 and the number granted was 424. That is a very high figure and reflects a great weakness. The entire position must be examined. The houses in question are habitable. They have been allowed to run down. In some cases, because of the rent restriction Act the rent was too low to allow the landlords to spend the necessary money on them. In other cases speculators moved in and allowed the property to decay. In some cases there was deliberate vandalising as I and Deputy Moore know. In the area that we represent people were employed to strip lead off a roof and to remove slates and to reduce the house to a shambles. This happened over a period of time and then the corporation came in and eventually the breaking down process took place because the house was deemed to be beyond repair. The attitude is somewhat lax. Quicker action should be taken. The 1969 Act should be enforced rigorously. The persons concerned should be brought before the courts and they should be made to preserve the property.

It takes a considerable time to revamp houses and to make them reasonably habitable. The existing grants system is not adequate to meet major alterations required to put this type of house in order. A comprehensive grants scheme for this type of house would in the long run represent a saving of money.

Matters appertaining to grants would be appropriate to the Estimate.

Houses are being knocked down because people have not the necessary money to make them habitable. I am making the point that if houses are allowed to decay because of lack of money that represents a complete loss and defeats the purpose of the motion before the House. This type of property should be made habitable. The alternative is to build outside the city. Building is expensive. It also means that people are taken from the city centre area even though we have a commitment to the maintenance of the population in the centre of the city. If we are forced to knock down houses in the city progress cannot be made in the matter of populating the centre city area.

I attended an oral hearing in the Custom House recently. An order was made that a number of houses in my constituency were to be demolished. Evidence was given by engineers that the houses were old but were not obsolete. I know the Minister's mind on this, that he is very severe in respect of appeals and if he has to grant one that it is because there is no alternative.

The houses should not be allowed to get into such a state of decay. This motion extends the privilege to 1977. In the interim we should devise a system and introduce effective legislation. There is legislation but it is not effective. The legislation should ensure that persons who buy these houses will not be allowed to vandalise them or allow them to decay further with the result that after a period of time the Minister or the local authority has to make the inevitable decision.

I would ask the Minister to review this entire matter to ensure that it is tightened up and the necessary moneys made available to make the houses habitable. Even if that means a complete review of our rent system we should do this. We should bring the system up to date so that people who put money into these houses will get a fair return while ensuring that reasonable accommodation is available where people wish to live.

I welcome this continuing order. The Housing Act, 1969, was probably one of the more enlightened pieces of legislation but, as other speakers have pointed out, its operation needs to be considered again and certain amendments made in the light of the experience gained since the legislation was passed.

Deputy Molloy mentioned that under the Housing Act appeals are to the Minister for Local Government and he also referred to the new planning Bill which envisages the setting up of an appeals tribunal. Obviously this is an anomaly that must be rectified and I would ask the Minister to bring in an amendment to the present Act as soon as possible.

With reference to the question of appeals, in the Housing Act, 1969, there is no right of third party appeal. Surely that right is involved in matters such as the demolition of a house and the effect on a community. The need for an amendment in this case must be as obvious to the Minister as it is to my colleagues on this side of the House. If a developer applies for permission to demolish a number of houses or to change their use or any other planning or development proposal, surely the community have the right of third party appeal against the demolition of the houses, just as they have the right of third party appeal against the decision of the local authority with regard to the planning application.

I should like to comment on the replacement system as it operates at the moment. Recently a man who had been involved in negotiating a property came to see me. He was acquiring a house with the agreement of the people concerned and, in fact, he had made a business arrangement with them. What was involved was the demolition of the house; he was replacing the house but not in the same local authority area. It happened that the man had the house in the city but the other people involved in the transaction wanted to live in County Dublin. However he could not get permission from the corporation under the Housing Act, 1969, to demolish the house because the other house he was providing was not in the same local authority area. I am not sure if the interpretation of the Act by the officials of the corporation was at fault or if it is the Act itself that is at fault. Surely this is an anomaly that needs to be rectified. The fact that the house replacement was in another area should not have affected the application for demolition. It is obvious that the Minister will have to amend the Housing Act, 1969, and I would ask him to consider this aspect.

There are many fine, old houses throughout the country but they are let fall into a bad state of repair by the local authorities or the Land Commission when they purchase them. I would cite the example of Kenure House in Rush. This was a fine mansion surrounded by 300 or 400 acres of land which was acquired by the Land Commission to be allotted to local farmers and market gardeners. A certain amount of land was purchased by the county council for housing and other purposes. While these transactions were going on the house was left uninhabited and, consequently, it fell derelict. There is a responsibility on authorities such as the Land Commission or the council concerned to take proper care of old mansions when they come into their possession. I realise the main problem is money and there is also the question of the responsibility of the Land Commission. They are responsible only for the land, not the house.

Perhaps the Minister would consider encouraging large public companies to adopt—for the lack of a better word—these old houses immediately the land is acquired by the Land Commission or the council. The companies might be given tax relief and they might then revamp the houses and hand them over to the local community for use as a community centre. I do not think this could be done by way of grants. It is an ongoing matter, where the company concerned would look after the house during the years to see that it is kept in good order. The best encouragement would be a system of tax reliefs or tax incentives. Perhaps the Minister would think of this suggestion when he is considering the amendments which everyone agrees are necessary.

I thank the Deputies for the way they have received this Bill. I assure them that the interesting points made by them will be considered when we are dealing with the new Housing Bill, which must come pretty quickly. There have been a number of interesting points made with regard to the conservation of houses by Deputy Molloy. He knows my views on this matter, not alone with regard to Dublin, Cork and Galway but as it affects every town and village in the country. We have a situation where houses are being let go to rack and ruin perhaps because the person who owns them is unable for financial reasons to do the necessary repairs or, alternatively, because the owner is so rich that he does not worry about them. However, I am heartened by the good social principles of the Deputies who are prepared to support the idea that these houses should pass into public ownership and be used as useful housing units. As Deputy Molloy pointed out, even though a number of the houses are not of great architectural beauty they are still fine examples of buildings of past days and they are solid structures. This suggests the houses should be maintained.

That is my policy and I have informed local authorities accordingly on a number of occasions. Recently I have repeated by way of circular letter than I want a survey of all those houses carried out. An Foras Forbartha have been asked to prepare any documentation they can on the number of such houses, the type of houses and what they consider would be the best way to deal with them. Each local authority has been asked to find out if they can do something to ensure that proper action is taken with regard to the preservation of such houses.

I quite agree with the view that the building of houses is not the be all and end all unless we are able to preserve our housing stock. No matter how many houses we build the leak at the bottom of the barrel will drain away so many houses that year after year we will require extra ones.

"Leak" is an unfortunate word to use.

If the Deputy says so, I will accept his word. Deputy Molloy said that they should be conserved under this but I would point out that the 1969 Act provides that:

Permission to demolish can only be refused on grounds of housing shortage.

That may not be so easy in some cases.

To prove a housing shortage?

Yes, that the house could be used for this purpose and it must be a dwellinghouse used as such. It is a complication which might be difficult to get around in some cases but I agree that we should do something about it.

Deputy Molloy also referred to the question of the fine. In the debate in the Seanad on 19th December, 1972 the Parliamentary Secretary said:

Another important matter raised is the question of the £100 fine and the continuing fine of £10 per day, or the six months prison sentence. These are stated in the Act and continued by this motion in order that cases of this kind can be heard and dealt with in the District Court. If the fines were higher it would lead to litigation in higher courts which can be a lengthy business.

I would agree that this was, perhaps, at the time a valid reason.

In regard to the publication of notice and the right of a third party to appeal, the Parliamentary Secretary said on the same day:

the interested parties under this Act are local authorities and the Act applies to the conservation of the pool of habitable dwellings. Planning does not enter into this. In the case of the Planning Act anyone who is interested in planning and the safeguarding of the environment has a right to object. In this case all that is involved is the conservation of housing.

So, in fact, there is no appeal nor is there a notice to be published but I agree with the idea which Dublin Corporation members have introduced that notice should be given in good time to the members of the councils and corporations. I would go further and say that a lot of the senseless demolition which had occurred, and I do not want to blame anybody because, perhaps, we are all to blame, before this Act was introduced should not have been allowed. It is very wrong that there should have been demolition since this Act was introduced. I would be very much opposed to the action of any corporation or council approving of the demolition of houses which could be made habitable. Whether there is compensation offered or not is beside the point. They should not get permission and I would ask the members of local authorities to ensure that in the areas they represent this sort of thing is not allowed. We hope to consider it in the next Housing Bill and in the Planning Bill as far as possible we will attempt to tie this up. The only trouble is that under the 1969 Act a local authority gives permission to demolish and nothing can be done about it. They can demolish it if they apply for a change of use or if they apply to erect something on it after they demolish then the Planning Act comes in. We must ensure if we can in the new Planning Bill that something like this is written in. I do not know whether it will be possible to tie it in securely enough but pending the introduction of new housing legislation we should attempt to ensure that this sort of vandalism—it is vandalism whether it is carried out by a private individual, a firm, or a local authority —should be prevented. I would be very anxious to ensure that this is done.

The suggestion has been made by Deputy Molloy that appeals under the 1969 Act should be handled by An Bord Pleanála. There is a distinct difference between the two types of appeal. I do not think An Bord Pleanála is the correct way of dealing with it. However, it is another day's work and we will have another look at it.

There was a reference by Deputy Moore to local authorities who would be anxious to do the right thing but might not have enough staff. All I can say is that if any local authority applies to me for sanction for staff for this very necessary work I will be prepared to give it very favourable consideration. This is something which must be dealt with in the proper way and there is no point in telling a local authority they should do something and then saying they are not entitled to have the necessary staff to do it.

Who will pay the salaries?

Deputy Molloy knows who usually pays local authority salaries. In view of the fact that we have taken so much off the rates this year it should be a lot easier for them.

Deputy O'Connell talked about houses being allowed to deteriorate by intending developers. Section 5 of the 1969 Act allows a housing authority to require a house to be made fit for human habitation where they are of opinion that a person has, for the purpose of avoiding the provisions of the Act, caused or permitted the house to deteriorate to the extent that it ceases to be a habitable house. I understand that recently in Paris the Government made a decision which would not be too acceptable in Dublin at present. They decided that anybody who had a house on any of the main thoroughfares had to put it into a proper habitable condition. If they could not do so themselves they had no option but to sell it to somebody who could. It makes Paris look a lot better but it has been a great hardship for certain people who had to sell property which had been in their families for years. One can see the necessity for ensuring that property is properly looked after. While an individual or a family may own property all of us will die and our houses will be there after our time. Nobody has a right to allow his property to deteriorate to the extent that it has happened in this country and particularly in this city.

There is at present consideration being given to the question of a type of fine to be imposed on people who deliberately allow houses to deteriorate so that they can say they are uninhabitable. It is one way in which we could prevent the smart guy from buying up property in some parts of the city, allowing it to deteriorate and in some cases helping it to deteriorate and eventually being able to demolish it on the ground that it is not fit to be put into habitable condition. If such people had to pay dearly for their investment we would be getting somewhere near preventing this sort of thing.

The centre of this city and the centres of a number of other cities, towns and villages had been allowed to deteriorate before the whole concept of planning was properly approached. Even since then it appears there are attempts made in city and town centres to allow property to deteriorate. I am grateful to the members of Dublin Corporation and various other bodies who are co-operating with the Government to stop this. I made an appeal that they should attempt to acquire such property and build houses for the public on it. No matter what political party they belong to or whether they belong to a political party at all, people who do this are public-minded people. I am glad they have accepted it and are as interested in it as I am.

While this measure will continue the operation of the Act, we must at some time in the future amend the Act. It has been looked at and the points made in this debate will be taken into consideration when we are looking at it again and I hope that, when it comes before the House, it will receive the same kind of consideration that this measure has received so that what we all want done will be done.

Did the Minister say he thinks the fines are adequate?

No, I do not think they are; but the Parliamentary Secretary to Deputy Molloy, when he was Minister for Local Government, did say it and he gave a reasonable reason why.

That was two years ago.

The reason he gave was that higher fines would be outside the jurisdiction of the court.

Does the Minister think that is a good and sufficient argument for not increasing the fine?

No. I am merely using the argument Deputy Cunningham used. Why put in £1,000 if the minimum fine of £100 is all that is imposed? I will have a look at it but I feel there would be a certain amount of objection because it would mean going to a higher court.

Question put and agreed to.