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Dáil Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 14 Jul 1982

Vol. 337 No. 10

Local Government (Planning and Development) Bill, 1982: Second Stage.

I move: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

The Local Government (Planning and Development) Bill 1982 is limited in scope and is designed, in the main, to deal with matters in relation to which urgent action is needed. The provisions of the Bill can be grouped under five main headings, as follows: (1) duration of planning permissions, (2) validity of certain permissions, (3) general policy directives, (4) penalties for planning offences, and (5) fees for applications and appeals. The Explanatory Memorandum which has already been circulated with the Bill deals in some detail with the individuals sections. I propose, therefore, at this stage to order my remarks on the basis of the general headings I have just mentioned.

Sections 2, 3, 4, 11 and 14 of the Bill are concerned with the duration of permissions and are designed to replace section 29 of the Local Government (Planning and Development) Act, 1976. Under that section all permissions granted before 1 November 1976 ceased to have effect on 31 October 1981 unless they were extended by the planning authority and all other permissions similarly cease to have effect five years after the date of the granting of the permission unless so extended. In the latter half of 1981 numerous representations were made to the then Minister for the Environment from individuals and from legal and professional interests regarding the effect of section 29 and the difficulties which were being experienced in its operation. In addition, certain defects in the section came to light and it was considered desirable that these should be put right. In these circumstances, the previous Minister announced on 16 December 1981 that he intended to introduce legislation at an early date to repeal and replace section 29. His proposal was that permissions which expired under existing law on 31 October 1981 would be extended for a period of one year from that date and that all other permissions would have a life of six years. The statement indicated that the changes proposed were considered to be justified because of the lack of awareness on the part of many people of the limit on the life of their permissions and because the five year period allowed under existing law was too short in the case of some major developments. The development of legislation to implement the proposals announced in December 1981 had not been completed when the Coalition Government left office in March 1982.

Having reviewed the position in some detail, this Government decided to implement the undertaking in regard to the extension of existing permission and, in addition, to introduce a new procedure to eliminate difficulties caused for both developers and planning authorities in dealing with applications under section 29 for the extension of permissions. It would obviously be of little benefit to many people to provide at this stage for an additional year's life for permission which expired last October. Accordingly, to allow for the lapse of time since the previous Minister's announcement in December 1981, section 2 of the Bill provides that permissions granted before 1 November 1976 will expire on 31 October 1983. On the other hand, the Government are satisfied that the life of permissions granted in the future should not, in general, exceed five years and section 2 of the Bill provides accordingly. The previous Government had intended to extend the life of all future permissions to six years but I do not consider it to be necessary or desirable to provide for a general relaxation of this kind. On the contrary, I believe that a five-year duration for future permissions, coupled with the new provisions of sections 3 and 4, which I shall explain later, is a better solution. It will encourage speedier development and will be less conducive to delayed commencements and to undesirable consequences as regards dereliction and urban blight.

It is however necessary to make some form of tapering arrangement in respect of permissions granted between November 1976 and November 1982. Section 2 provides for this. Permissions granted during that period will last until 31 October 1987 or seven years after the granting of the permission, whichever is the shorter period.

I consider that the new provisions of section 2 will achieve a reasonable balance between the objective of encouraging early development and redevelopment and the practical problems encountered by developers of all kinds in commencing and completing their developments.

I should, perhaps, mention that where, under section 29 (9) of the 1976 Act a planning authority have already extended the duration of a planning permission by a period which is longer than that which is being provided for by section 2 of the Bill, that extension will continue to have effect. There is little option on this point: if such extensions were to be invalidated now serious hardship and adverse financial consequences could ensure for persons who entered contracts and made commitments in good faith on the basis of the law as it stood at the time. On the other hand, the fact that an extension has been refused under existing law will not limit in any way the application to a particular permission of the extended periods of duration provided for in the section.

Section 2 contains provisions which are necessarily complex about the scope and effect of the new provision regarding the duration of permissions. Detailed discussion of these will be more appropriate on Committee Stage.

Section 3 provides for a degree of flexibility in regard to the duration of permissions which is lacking in the existing section. It will allow planning authorities, as part of a grant of permission, to specify a period of duration longer than five years in cases where they consider that the nature and extent of the development or any other material consideration would warrant this. I envisage that this provision could be used in the case of continuing developments, such as quarries or in relation to large, complex developments which could take a long time to get under way. Refusal by a planning authority to exercise their power under section 3, or a decision by a planning authority to specify a particular period, may be appealed to An Bord Pleanála.

One of the difficulties created by section 29 of the 1976 Act was that it did not specify any procedure in relation to extension applications and, indeed, did not even require a formal application to be made, Moreover, no time limit was specified for dealing with applications and no criteria for deciding applications were laid down. Section 4, and the regulations to be made under section 11, should eliminate these difficulties.

Under section 4, criteria are set out for the granting of extensions and the section is drafted so as to require planning authorities to grant an appropriate extension where an application complying with these requirements is made. The requirements are—

(i) that a proper application is made in accordance with the regulations;

(ii) that any other requirements of the regulations are complied with — for example that any necessary supporting documents or information is submitted — and;

(iii) that the planning authority are satisfied that the development has commenced, that substantial works have been carried out and that the development will be completed within a reasonable time.

The term "substantial works" is not defined, leaving it to be given an ordinary commonsense meaning in the particular circumstances of each case. Having regard to the wide range of developments for which permission can be granted, any attempt to define "substantial works" could lead to serious difficulties and it seems best, therefore, not to attempt such a definition.

Under section 4, one extension only can be granted by a planning authority except where the relevant development has not been completed due to circumstances beyond the control of the person carrying out the development.

As I have mentioned already, section 11 will enable regulations to be made regulating procedure in relation to applications for extensions. It will also permit regulations to be made to deal with any consequential or other matter necessary to give full effect to sections 2, 3 and 4 of the Bill. The section is based generally on section 25 of the 1963 Act under which the regulations dealing with planning applications are made.

Section 14 provides for savers which are necessary as a result of the replacement of section 29 of the 1976 Act. These can best be dealt with on Committee Stage, as can the repeals of certain subsections of section 29 which are included in section 15.

I turn now to section 6 of the Bill, the purpose of which is to remove doubts about the validity of certain permissions and approvals granted on appeal before 15 March 1977 when An Bord Pleanála took over appeals functions. The need to do this arises from the decision of the Supreme Court in The State (Pine Valley Developments Ltd.) v. Dublin County Council (judgments delivered 5 February 1982). In that case, the court held that the Minister for Local Government had no power, in determining a planning appeal, to grant permission for a development which contravened materially the relevant development plan. I should emphasise that the Minister was not a party to the case and had no notice that the important point of law involved was to be raised or decided in the Supreme Court in the case.

The Pine Valley decision has to be seen against the background that, in determining planning appeals, successive Ministers for Local Government had always been advised that they had power to grant a permission even in material contravention of a development plan. A significant number of such decisions were made between 1964 and 1977, when the function of determining appeals passed to An Bord Pleanála, but it would not be possible to attempt to identify all of the cases which might conceivably be involved. However, cases are known, the facts of which appear to be similar on this issue to those of the Pine Valley case; these include cases involving very substantial housing and industrial developments.

The Supreme Court decision has given rise to unease and uncertainty in the construction industry, among the financial institutions and in the legal profession. It is particularly undesirable that purchases of land, dwellings and other buildings have been made, and that contracts and commitments have been entered into, in good faith, on foot of permissions which are now open to challenge in the courts. Serious problems are arising not only for builders who have developments in progress but also for owners of completed buildings. Problems are also arising in closing sales of new houses and other property. The Incorporated Law Society have been in touch with me to express their concern about the effect of the Pine Valley decision. The society feel that many innocent parties would be involved in considerable hardship unless the situation is latered. As the society see it, this hardship would affect people changing house or buying a new house, who could be on bridging finance and unable to complete a mortgage or sale because of the doubt now cast on the planning permission for the property. For this reason, the society have urged the introduction of legislation to remedy the situation.

Before deciding to introduce legislation to deal with the matter, an effort was made to have the relevant point of law reviewed in the course of another case which is before the Supreme Court, but that case will not now be taken until the term commencing in October 1982 and I cannot, of course, be certain as to the outcome of the case even then. In these circumstances, and having regard to the disruption and hardship which have arisen, the only sensible course at this stage is to enact a provision which will put the matter beyond doubt. Section 6, accordingly, makes it clear that a permission or approval granted on appeal prior to 15 March 1977 (when An Bord Pleanála took over appeals functions) shall not be invalid by reason only of the fact that the development concerned would materially contravene the development plan.

Section 7 provides that the Minister shall, from time to time, issue such general directives as to policy in relation to planning and development as he considers necessary. Subsection (3) makes it clear that the power conferred by the section may not be used in relation to particular cases. Essentially, section 7 is a re-enactment of section 6 of the 1976 Act extended to apply to planning authorities as well as to An Bord Pleanála. The terms of section 6 are otherwise unchanged. In 1981, planning authorities received approximately 54,200 planning applications while An Bord Pleanála received over 4,500 planning appeals. It is anomalous in these circumstances that planning authorities are not required to have regard to ministerial policy directives as to planning and development which apply to the board. Clearly, the same criteria should be applied at local level and at appeals level, and the new section will enable this to be achieved. Section 6 of the 1976 Act will be repealed by section 15 of the Bill.

Only one directive has been issued under section 6 of the 1976 Act. This directive was given by me to An Bord Pleanála in May 1981, and related to policy on large retail establishments. When the Bill is enacted, I intend that the May 1981 Directive will be re-issued to planning authorities and to the board. This will be consistent with the Government's commitment to the continuance of a policy of freedom of choice for consumers as between large-scale and independently owned retail outlets.

Sections 8, 9 and 13 of the Bill are concerned with the level of penalties for offences under the Planning Acts. The wider question of enforcement will be considered as part of the general review of planning law which I am carrying out at present, but the present Bill is being used to provide, as an interim measure, for higher penalties as a deterrent to those who contravene the requirements of the Acts.

The effect of section 8 is to increase the monetary penalties for all offences under the 1963 and 1976 Acts to take account of the fall in money values. For the less serious summary offences, a maximum penalty of £100 is provided for in place of the fines of £20, £10 and £5 which now apply. The more serious offences which now attract fines of £250 on summary conviction will carry a maximum fine of £800. The legal advice available is that this is the maximum penalty which can be prescribed at present while retaining the offences within the category of minor offences which can be dealt with in the District Court. The offences which will attract the new maximum fine of £800 include failure to comply with the conditions of permissions in regard, for example, to housing estates and other development. The penalties for further or continuing offences related to the basic offences are being increased pro-rata (that is from £2, £5 or £10 a day to £25 a day in the case of lesser offences and from £50 to £150 in the case of the more serious offences).

Section 8 (3) makes provision, for the first time, for indictable offences in the case of two basic offences under the Planning Acts. These are the offences under section 24 (3) of the 1963 Act of carrying out development, in respect of which permission is required, save under and in accordance with a permission, and the offence under section 26 (4) of the 1976 Act of failing to comply with a warning notice, or knowingly assisting or permitting development in contravention of a notice, or damaging or removing a tree to which such a notice relates. On conviction on indictment of either of these offences, a person will be liable to a fine of up to £10,000, or up to two years' imprisonment, or both. These penalties are intended to be a real deterrent in the case of flagrant breaches of the Planning Acts and are an indication of the seriousness with which the Government view such breaches. Clearly, however, every contravention of the relevant sections will not warrant such large penalties or, indeed, being dealt with as an indictable offence. It will be a matter for the Director of Public Prosecutions to decide when to press for a trial on indictment and when to consent to a summary trial in the District Court. Section 9, accordingly, permits a justice of the District Court to try summarily an indictable offence where the Justice is of opinion that the facts constitute a minor offence, the Director of Public Prosecutions consents, and the defendant does not object to a summary trial instead of a trial by jury.

Where an indictable offence is tried summarily under section 9, the section provides for maximum penalties of £800, or six months' imprisonment, or both, plus further fines and/or imprisonment for continuing offences.

Section 13 is consequential on the provision in section 8 for indictable offences. As it stands, section 80 of the 1963 Act provides that any planning offence may be prosecuted by the relevant planning authority. Since the Director of Public Prosecutions is responsible for the prosecution of indictable offences, it is necessary to confine the planning authority's power under section 80 (1) to summary offences, and section 13 provides accordingly.

Finally, I come to the provisions of the Bill in relation to fees for planning applications and appeals. The main provision is section 10 but sections 5 and 12 are related. Under section 10, the Minister for the Environment will have power to make regulations, with the consent of the Minister for Finance, providing for the payment of fees to planning authorities and to An Bord Pleanála in relation to the various categories of planning applications, appeals, and so on. Where fees are prescribed in relation to a planning application, the two-month period during which the planning authority must determine the application will not begin to run until the fee has been received by the planning authority. Similarly, where fees are prescribed in relation to appeals, provision is made under which the appeal will not be valid unless the fee is received by the board within the period specified for the making of the appeal. In addition to enabling fees to be prescribed for payment by the main parties to applications and appeals, the section makes provision for the payment of fees by other persons who wish to make submissions or observations either to the planning authority or to the board as regards an application, appeal and so on. Provision is also made under which an additional fee could be prescribed in respect of requests for oral hearings of appeals or references to the board.

The power to make regulations under section 10 is deliberately framed in a flexible manner. In particular, it is made clear that the regulations may provide for the payment of different fees in relation to cases of different classes or descriptions. This power could be used to require relatively small fees to be paid for single house applications or for other minor developments as compared, for example, with the fees for major commercial developments. The power to allow for complete exemption from the payment of fees in circumstances specified in the regulations, or for the waiver, remission or refund, in whole or in part, of fees in specified circumstances could be used to make special provision in relation to certain categories of applications at local level or to make special provision in relation to appeals by prescribed categories of persons or bodies.

The question of charging fees in relation to the processing of planning applications and appeals has been raised at intervals in the past 10 years and has been considered in detail in more recent years in the context of other changes in the system of local finance. In May 1980, for example, a paper on local government finance prepared by the County and City Managers' Association recommended that local authorities should be empowered to charge for the "investigation and determination of planning applications". Following consideration of proposals submitted by the former Minister for the Environment, the Coalition Government decided in December 1981 that legislation should be prepared to enable planning fees to be introduced. This intention was confirmed at the time of the January 1982 budget. The legislation now before the House is the same as that decided on by the former Government, and I trust that this will be borne in mind in the debate.

I might mention that the cost of planning control at local level in 1981 is estimated at £6.86 million. The total number of planning applications in that year was 54,200. The average cost of dealing with applications was about £280 in County Dublin and the four county boroughs, and £85 in the other counties. In areas outside of Dublin and other major growth areas, a high proportion of total applications relate to housing — either extensions of existing houses or proposals to erect new single houses or small groups of houses.

Section 15 of the Bill will enable the existing requirement as regards appeal deposits to be repealed when fees regulations are made. The deposit of £10 is no real deterrent to frivolous or vexatious appeals. In the past number of years, only a very small number of appeals have been declared by the board to be vexatious — 14 in 1979 and 13 in 1980. This does not mean that a much higher proportion of appeals may not have been without substance but is a consequence of the legal interpretation of "vexatious" as used in the 1976 Act. It appears that "vexatious" in that sense is held not to include, for example, causing unnecessary delay and is not synonymous with being frivolous or without foundation. The fact that only a small number of appeals is formally declared to be vexatious cannot be taken as an indication that all others are reasonable. In practice, the true nature of an appeal which is vexatious, or frivolous, or without merit, may not emerge until processing of the case is well advanced or almost completed. Each appeal is, of course, dealt with on its merits, and experience has shown that few can formally be declared to be vexatious, given the legal interpretation of that word.

Quite apart from the fact that the £10 deposit system does nothing, in present day circumstances, to deter vexatious or frivolous appeals, there is also the consideration that the deposit system creates unnecessary administrative cost for the board. The receipt of deposits, the preparation and issue of receipts, the maintenance of deposit ledgers, the refund of deposits and so on, all give rise to an expenditure of staff time which is entirely disproportionate to any benefits a deposit system may bring.

One illustration of the ineffectiveness of the deposit system is that there are now more than 1,000 appeals which have been effectively abandoned by those who lodged them, notwithstanding that £10 deposits have been paid in respect of the appeals. The appellants in these cases have only to notify the board of the withdrawal of their appeal or application to secure the refund of the £10 but they do not take the trouble to do so. The deposits in these cases have to continue to be held in suspense and accounted for yearly in the books and records of the board. It is this which provides the immediate need for section 5 of the Bill which will establish a mechanism to enable An Bord Pleanála to deal with these cases as part of a general power to dispose of cases which the board are of opinion have been abandoned.

References and appeals are regularly made to the board and not proceeded with. In some cases, there may be a request to hold an appeal in abeyance. If such requests are reasonable, they will be acceded to by the board. Section 5 is not designed to interfere with that system. However, where an appellant simply does not co-operate in processing the case, or, in effect, abandons it, the board have no way of dealing with that situation, except to determine the original application, involving a commitment of time and effort which should go to more pressing cases. What section 5 proposes is, in effect, to confer a power on the board to enable them to clear from their books cases where the appellant has clearly lost interest in pursuing his appeal. Before exercising their powers under section 5, the board will be required to serve appropriate notice on the parties and to invite submissions in relation to the matter. Any such submissions will have to be considered by the board before an appeal is formally declared to be withdrawn.

Section 12 of the Bill will allow the fee for a copy of an entry in the planning register to be increased by regulations. The fee fixed by section 8 of the 1963 Act is 10 shillings which, under the Decimal Currency Act, 1969, must now be construed as 50 pence. In fixing the new fee account will be taken of the fall in the value of money. The planning authority register is used for the purpose of recording all entries required under the Planning Acts in relation to all land within the area of a planning authority. Copies of entries are required mainly for conveyancing or other legal purposes and are sought primarily by solicitors, auctioneers, architects and estate agents. It is reasonable to increase the fee having regard to rising production costs.

I undertook in the House, on 6 July, to report in the course of this debate on the administration of the draft building regulations. Deputy Quinn raised the matter then. With the permission of the Chair, I shall endeavour to give the House as full a statement as is possible on the subject. I propose to go into some detail on the history of the matter, not to justify the length of time which the process has taken, but as a necessary background to an understanding of the present position and the complexity and importance of the subject.

The power to make building regulations, and I stress that it is a power and not a duty, was given in sections 86 to 88 of the Local Government (Planning and Development) Act, 1963. The intention was that these national building regulations would apply uniformly throughout the State and would replace local building by-laws which a small number of local authorities operate by virtue of powers under the Public Health Acts.

These by-laws are over and above the provisions of the Planning Acts and require, as a general rule, that a person proposing to erect or alter a building should not merely get planning permission where required but also get approval under the by-laws. There is no appeal against refusal of approval. The by-laws contain many useful provisions, but it is inevitable that with developments in building technology they would become out-of-date. A uniform approach throughout the country was desirable. The basis of administration of the by-laws, involving as it did waiting for approval with no right of appeal, could lead to delays and frustration.

Following the coming into operation of the 1963 Act, An Foras Forbartha were asked to prepare recommendations for the technical content of the proposed regulations. This they did with the help of a committee and sub-committees on which a wide range of specialists sat, including representatives of the professions. The committee reported in 1969. Consultation with the building industry ensued and resulted in technical changes.

It was then necessary to put the document into legal form to ensure that the requirements would be enforceable in law. This was an extremely complex task. Eventually the draft regulations issued in 1976 to the building industry and the professions with a request for any comments they had. In the meantime, I should say that it had become clear that certain amendments of the relevant provisions of the 1963 Act were desirable and these had been effected in the 1976 Act.

More than 500 different comments were received on the 1976 draft and these were considered and where appropriate accepted. However, a more fundamental issue had been raised by the building industry. They were concerned that the proposed method of implementation and control, involving the submission of plans and other documents for approval to the local authority, would create inhibitory and costly delays in getting construction projects under way and seriously affect efficiency and employment in the industry. It was also clear that the system proposed would involve the recruitment and training of a substantial number of staff in each local authority area, particularly those without by-law controls, and this would impose a substantial financial burden on local authorities at a time when, in common with other elements of the public service, they were having to face unavoidable limits on resources. And it would take a substantial amount of time to train and recruit the numbers involved. Alternative solutions had to be considered, and so emerged the idea of a certification system of control. Under it a designer would certify that the lodged plans for a building complied with the regulations and on completion the builder would similarly certify the building. The local authority would act as registrar for the certificates and oversee the system in their area, making spot-checks to ensure that certification was not being abused. In turn the Minister would receive reports from local authorities and oversee the system nationally. There would be close co-operation between the building control and the fire staffs of the local authority.

That was more or less the position as I remember it on taking up office late in 1980. The amendment of the draft regulations was being finalised, and a certification system of control was being drafted in consultation with the industry. Naturally, following the Stardust tragedy, everything was done to speed up this process. The draft regulations, with a list of approved amendments, were issued to local authorities with a request that they take them into account in dealing with planning applications, and likewise to the building industry and the professions. Shortly afterwards a comprehensive revised document issued. About the same time a document setting out a full control system based on certification issued to the building trade and the professions for comment, and work was completed on the preparation of heads of legislation which were then circulated to the many Departments concerned. The legislation is necessary because of the need to cover such items as energy conservation in the regulations, to provide for EEC requirements and to cover the certification system. Consultation with Departments has been completed, but we shall of course have to consider the Tribunal's recommendations before deciding on the terms of legislation.

Consultation with the industry and the professions has been ongoing. While this related chiefly to the control system, the professions raised some aspects of the regulations, as drafted, particularly those dealing with fire, and they have been specially considered in my Department. I shortly expect a considered report from the professions on the latest draft of the regulations and the proposed control system. Again the Tribunal's recommendations will have to be considered. To speed up that consideration, I have arranged for the immediate examination by a special group in my Department of the Tribunal's recommendations on the draft regulations.

We are also considering as a matter of urgency the Tribunal's recommendation that the fire aspects of the draft regulations should be taken separately and quickly brought into force. I may say that we had already considered this, but it appeared that the provisions of the draft regulations regarding structural matters are inextricably related to those regarding fire, since a building must be designed as a whole. However, we shall look at this again.

Furthermore, we are looking at the Tribunal's recommendation that a by-law approval type system should be used for fire aspects even if a certification system is used for others. Such a concept would certainly require careful examination and consultation with the industry and professions and the local authorities. It may come to a clear choice between certification on the one hand, or by-law type approval on the other, for all aspects, with all that that entails.

Perhaps I should make the point that building regulations are exclusively concerned with new building work or with changes in the use of a building. Other features of the Tribunal's recommendations, for example, those related to management regulations, seem to relate to fire legislation and do not come within the scope of building regulations, and I do not propose to deal with them here. They can be discussed in the debate on the Tribunal's report promised for the next session.

Before concluding, I should make it clear that the Bill now before the House is regarded by me as a short-term measure only and that I see a need for further legislation to bring about the improvements required in our planning system. A general review of that system is being carried out so as to enable us to decide what changes are necessary to improve the performance of the system and to speed up the decision-making process at local and at appeals level. Clearly, it will take some time to complete this exercise and to introduce and enact whatever legislative proposals may be decided upon. In the meantime I will be asking planning authorities to review their own approach to planning control so as to ensure that the system will not have the effect of causing delays in the commencement of worthwhile development and in the creation of jobs. Work on the preparation of a substantial memorandum containing advice and guidelines to assist planning authorities in reviewing their procedures is well advanced in my Department.

The present Bill, although it is an interim one, provides for some necessary and desirable modifications of existing law. In addition, some of its provisions are urgently required for reasons I have explained earlier. In these circumstances, I trust that the House will co-operate with me in giving the Bill a speedy passage through all Stages.

I commend the Bill to the House.

(Cavan-Monaghan): The idea of physical planning was first introduced in this country in the thirties, and, I think, modified in the early forties. The enactments which dealt with that attempt to regulate planning and development were the Town and Regional Planning Acts. I say “attempt” because I think the intervention of the Second World War and other complications meant that that attempt never got off the ground. At that time each local authority were obliged to prepare a draft town plan within a certain period. I think power was given to extend the time within which those draft plans were to have been prepared, but the whole thing ground to a halt and did not materialise. However, the idea was there and the necessity for planning was recognised at that time.

The basic legislation dealing with planning and development is the Planning and Development Act of 1963, quite a large Bill which was enacted by the Oireachtas after much consideration. The wisdom of controlling planning and development cannot be questioned. The necessity for it is obvious. Indeed it would be frightening to try to visualise this country now, even were there no planning laws, if planning were allowed to go ahead higgledy piggledy without let or hindrance. In the interests of our environment and of preserving our heritage for future generations there is an obvious need for controlling planning. However, it must be recognised also that there should be a balanced approach to planning. We must recognise that if, on the one hand, we had very strict planning and environmental control, we could have the purest environment one could imagine but we would have no industrial progress, no economic growth and we would have a small population. On the other hand, we could visualise allowing development, planning, building, the change of use of land all to go ahead without control when, for a short time, we might have quite an affluent country but one in which nobody would want to live.

The 1963 Act did not make any provision for putting a limit on the duration of planning permissions. Once they were given they lasted without limit. That was an undesirable state of affairs because people, having obtained planning permissions, could delay building on the land until the ground for which permission was given became more valuable. The 1976 Act amended that by putting a limit of five years on planning permissions. One would have thought that the holders of planning permissions granted under the 1976 Act would have borne in mind that such permissions would run out within a certain time and that they would have made a greater effort to build on the land. I do not know whether they thought they would automatically get new permissions or that the permissions granted would be extended but many of the permissions granted were not availed of.

Deputy Peter Barry when he was Minister for the Environment received representations in regard to many planning permissions that were out of date. He gave an undertaking that he would revive them, extending them for a specific period, one year. The Bill before the House proposes to extend permissions that have run out of date and were granted before 1976 by two years. It is our view that an extension of one year is sufficient and, consequently, I have tabled an amendment to that effect. Deputy Barry also indicated that in future planning permissions would last for six years but the Bill before the House proposes that they should be valid only for five years. I have no fixed views about that but I will avail of the opportunity on Committee Stage of discussing this matter with the Minister.

Planning permissions are very important to all builders, large, moderate and small. In fact, they are of greater value to the small or moderate builder than to the wealthy one because they give such people an opportunity to arrange finance. The granting of a planning permission alone will not build houses and builders must arrange for finance. The fact that permission is valid for a reasonable time enables people to arrange their finance. The fact that a builder has planning permission in respect of a property other than that on which he is building is accepted as security in the bank for advances. It is because of that that such permissions are important. Some of these are what I call conditional permissions and are subject to the performance of a condition precedent which is usually the provision of services or things of that nature. Very frequently a builder, or a person holding a planning permission, does not have control over this condition. The planning permission does not become operable until the condition has been fulfilled although a builder may not have control over that. It is only reasonable, therefore, that time should not run against the holder of a planning permission until the condition has been fulfilled. Very frequently this must be done by the local authority. I urge the Minister to accept the amendment I have tabled in regard to this because it represents a reasonable attitude on a matter that is of great importance to the building industry. It may take a number of years to provide the services with the result that a builder will only have a limited period in which to erect a building and that is unsatisfactory.

Section 2 provides for an extension of two years in the case of old planning permissions and provides that in future they will last for five years. I suggest that the extension to two years should be reduced to one year. Section 3 enables a planning authority to grant permission for a period longer than three years if there is a reason for doing so. That could be the extent of the development or some other peculiar circumstances. That is a reasonable section. It introduces some flexibility into the planning laws and I am in favour of it. Section 4 provides that a planning authority shall have power to extend existing planning permissions where the work had started and a substantial amount of the work has been done and where it is likely that the job will be finished. The Minister has said that only one extension may be given unless such work is held up due to circumstances beyond the control of the holder of the planning permission such as a strike or something like that. I see one flaw in that, in that there does not appear to be any right of appeal to the applicant or to an objector. There should be a right of appeal to An Bord Pleanála.

Section 5 gives power to declare references, appeals and applications withdrawn and I regard that as no more than a tidying up exercise. Section 6 deals with the Pine Valley case and appeals heard before 1977. People acted in good faith and spent a lot of money on building based on permissions given by various Ministers before that year, and it is only right that they should be validated. I am not sure about the position, whether it has been remedied or do we have to await the Supreme Court decision in another case which the Minister has brought? The present Minister was not a party to those proceedings; he did not have an opportunity to argue the case, but he might be able to tell us whether the board have a right to contravene planned programmes. I imagine that was made right by the 1966 Act.

Section 7 could be controversial. It gives the Minister power to issue directives to planning authorities and to the board. It could be argued that this provides the Minister with a way back into planning procedures. Without introducing politics, it was right and proper that planning decisions should be taken out of the pressure of politics and the pressures which politicians are subjected to. The Minister should tell us a lot more about his ideas in this section which enables him to give directives. I admit there is also provision for publishing such directives in Iris Oifigiúil and for giving notice, but at the same time I hope the Minister will be able to tell us the sort of directives he has in mind, because if he has in mind anything which could influence or limit categories of planning matters I will object to it.

Section 8 is the penalty clause. The penalties in the old Acts which we are amending were trivial and it is reasonable to increase them, but I think we are taking a chance when we increase from £250 to £800 the penalty on summary conviction. The Supreme Court held that a penalty of £500 was consistent with trivial offences, the type which the Constitution states may be tried in a court of summary jurisdiction, the District Court. It is now proposed to increase such penalties to £800, and because the Supreme Court, I feel sure, recognises inflation, I think these penalties will stand up.

Section 10 enables the Minister to introduce regulations to provide for the payment of fees. In this respect the Minister went on the defensive immediately and said it is not very far removed from what the Coalition Government had in mind. Before he became Minister, Deputy Burke in 1981 went to Kilkenny and made a long speech to a meeting of county managers. Deputy Kelly gets copies of all those speeches. This one spelled out in no uncertain terms how the managers and councils could find a substitute for rates. He told them they could get £1 million out of planning applications. We are not going back to 1981, but a bit further.

I accept that.

A new Statute of Kilkenny.

(Cavan-Monaghan): It is the job of a Government to introduce proposals, to introduce legislation, and it is the business of the Opposition to listen to representations to them and to bring them to the House. I submit there is danger in making these regulations now and the Minister would want to be careful not to go overboard when he has in mind ways and means to find money to replace rates. Without doubt, local authorities are starved of money. We could talk about that for longer than the time available to us this evening, but in a situation like this I think the Minister for Finance might advise the Minister now in the House to be realistic when he draws up these regulations.

Like the prevention of pollution, orderly planning and development are necessary in the national interest, in the interests of the entire community, and I would argue, as I have done for many years, that this should be the primary responsibility and the burden of the entire population who benefit from it. It is hard to argue against that reasonable approach. For instance, when we enforce anti-pollution laws we do it for the benefit of the entire country. When people are asked to restrict their planning and development activities in Mayo or Kerry very often they do it for the benefit of others, such as those living in Dublin suburbs.

I am sure every Deputy has got many representations in regard to the proposed fee whose size does not appear in the Bill. I have got dozens of representations, and to ask people to pay £30 for planning appeals — they are doing it in the national interest and in the interest of their respective areas — is going a bit far. The Minister has told us there have been few vexatious appeals. He went on to say that the term, "vexatious" needed definition. But I am sure that if there were unreasonable appeals we would have been told about it too and he would have told us. Therefore, I would be in favour of urging the Minister, if he has this figure of £30 in mind, to cut it down. There are a number of amendments standing in the name of Deputy De Rossa and I will have something to say when we reach those. It is a great pity that we have such a limited time for this Bill. I know we have agreed to it but it is another indication of the absurd way we are forced to do our business. We certainly cannot do justice to these Bills and it has been proved on numerous occasions that hasty legislation is bad legislation.

Delays are very frustrating and we very often have delays with the planning authorities. But at least there is some curb on the planning authorities in that they must deal with a planning application within two months. But we know that they find ways around that by asking for further information and the thing drags on and on for a long time. But an appeal to An Bord Pleanála can take much more than a year. That is quite unreasonable. It is an obstruction of people who want to get on with their business. I keep repeating that Departments of State, semi-State bodies and corporations of one sort or another seem to put the life of a man at about 500 years. They certainly think that a period of five years in a man's lifetime is nothing, but it is quite a sizeable bite and to hold up these planning matters from the time when the application first goes in for maybe three years is quite unreasonable. I have put down an amendment here to make it obligatory on An Bord Pleanála to hear, determine and give a decision on the appeal within six months from the date on which the appeal has been lodged. It was suggested to me that I should have put in three months instead of six months. Perhaps I should, but certainly there should be an obligation on An Bord Pleanála to deal with the matter finally within six months and if they have not enough staff or advisors or inspectors they should get them.

By and large An Bord Pleanála discharge their duty in a satisfactory manner and by and large their decisions are accepted. Therefore, when one comes across a decision that it seems nearly impossible to understand it sticks out like a sore thumb. I came across one of these decisions given by 12 or 18 months ago and I find it very difficult to understand the decision. There was an appeal from a local authority granting permission. The board allowed the appeal subject to a condition which meant agreement between the applicant and the local authority. The local authority refused to agree to the condition because they said that was the whole point in the objection; that was why they would not entertain it. Again, the appeal goes back to An Bord Pleanála and they grant the appeal again.

A short time after that there was another application made for a similar type of development but much less extensive within a very short distance, a matter of a couple of hundred yards of the previous one, and it was rejected again by the local authority in pursuance of their policy for this area. It goes back on appeal and it is turned down and it was a very strenuous job to get an oral hearing. But certain things happened and an oral hearing was eventually given. The general opinion is that the reason for refusing the first application was much stronger than that for refusing the second. I do not want to go into details but great care needs to be taken even at the highest level in An Bord Pleanála to see that things like that do not slip through. I must say that I would need a lot of convincing that this one did not slip through because it is something that sticks out like a sore thumb. I do not want to identify places or people but An Bord Pleanála must maintain the high reputation and the high standard for integrity that it has.

I do not think I took too long. There are other party spokesmen to come along and we must conclude this by 7 p.m. So I will retain my other remarks until Committee Stage.

In reminding the House that the order is that business must be completed at 7 p.m., I know I can appeal to the better qualities of Deputies present in the matter of showing consideration for others who might want to make a short contribution.

I am not sure whether that is an invitation to be sharp or brief but presumably it is a combination of both. In this instance I propose to be exceptionally brief.

The Labour Party gave a clear undertaking to representatives of the building industry and to the Government that we would co-operate in getting this legislation passed during this session in a constructive manner because of the context in which the request was made and because of the climate in the building industry which is something just short of disastrous. In so doing we are not waiving our democratic rights to have enabling legislation brought through this House under proper scrutiny. Nor are we waiving the rights to improve the existing legislation. I take it from what the Minister said in his speech that he will be bringing in legislation to cover regulations arising out of the administration of the national building regulations scheme — presumably it will be another Local Government Planning Bill — and that will give us an opportunity to amend those sections of the existing body of legislation that we see fit to amend.

In that context I propose to confine my remarks as sharply and as distinctly as I can to what I consider to be the three main issues contained in this legislation. The first is that we should recognise that it is simply enabling legislation and contains little or nothing of policy per se. Within that context the first item that it proposes to deal with administratively is the withering clause, as it is referred to, in the building industry generally. The point should be made that if it had not been for the collective incompetence of all of us this amendment would not be necessary. I would put the blame on the Department who were not prepared to move two or three years ago and face the inevitable reality of 31 October 1981. We should not waste time on this aspect but we should recognise why we have to deal with this problem and draw some lessons from it for the future.

The Bill also addresses itself to the rectification of the Pine Valley decision. I accept totally the argument put forward by the Minister in relation to the judgment of the Supreme Court. I have been critical at other times of decisions made by the Supreme Court but I will be more orderly on this occasion and make no comment, except to say that I support the judgment of the Department and the Minister. We support the section unreservedly. I always understood that the Minister of the day had the power materially to contravene the development plan of an authority and the 1976 Act specifically conferred that power on the board. I failed to understand the decision in relation to Pine Valley but it is essential to tidy up this matter.

Section 10 empowers the Minister by regulation to fix charges and fees in relation to applications for planning permission. This is potentially the most contentious of the components of this Bill because we are being asked to give the Minister the power to make regulations which will not have to be laid before the House before becoming law. These regulations simply require the consent of the Minister for Finance. I am somewhat wary of giving an open cheque to a Minister for the Environment who may be hard pressed for cash at local authority level.

There are many amendments which could be made to the body of planning and development legislation but at the request of the building industry, which is now experiencing a major economic crisis, we have agreed in principle to let this legislation go through and to make our points during this debate. When legislation is introduced before Christmas to administer national building regulations——

(Cavan-Monaghan): The Deputy is optimistic.

I have had this trait for a long time, particularly in relation to time-tables. I do not presume to abandon my optimism but I want other people to hurry up.

The life of a planning permission is critical from a point of view of operatives working on a building site, people working in the architect's office or the solicitor's office or people serving AnCO apprenticeships. Perhaps the Minister would indicate whether section 3 will enable a local authority to extend or to determine the life expectancy of a planning permission beyond five years, having regard to any conditions that the local authority may set in that planning permission. The Minister will be familiar with the very fair argument that planning permissions should come into effect only when the operable conditions attached to the permission are capable of being implemented. Frequently members of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael make outrageous rezoning proposals in County Dublin and elsewhere so that planning permission must be granted, although in reality it cannot be implemented because of the lack of services. Planning permissions are sometimes obtained from a local authority which are not capable of being implemented because some of the conditions which must be complied with are totally outside the control of the recipient of the permission and totally within the control of the local authority. It seems contradictory to grant a planning permission with a legal life span of five years when one of the conditions of the permission is outside the control of the recipient and vested exclusively in the local authority.

I have come across a kind of fifth column rearguard action by officials in local authorities rejecting, rightly or wrongly, the section 4 mandate imposed on them by local councillors and effectively undermining the decision to grant permission by imposing constraints and conditions by way of sewerage and water supplies which effectively negative the planning permission. It is my contention that the amendments proposed by Deputy Fitzpatrick can be more effectively embodied in the interpretation of section 3. I do not like the idea of issuing directives to local authorities or of reducing in any way the powers of local authorities. Perhaps the Minister would clarify that point on Committee Stage.

The Pine Valley decision poses no problem for us and it is correct that this legal doubt should be cleared up. It has undermined the sale of a number of sites and has brought about the collapse in the building industry of a number of jobs, to the detriment of the entire industry. It is no coincidence that we were talking at the end of Question Time about industrial relations in the building industry because it is now in major crisis. Fortunately it is beginning to dawn on many people in the building industry that a Fianna Fáil Government are not synonymous with good times. The cyclical nature of our market economy is taking a savage toll on the building industry. It is essential to get some kind of rational planned input of capital to even out the troughs and booms which have affected the industry for so long. Lawyers and lending institutions have gone through planning permission with a fine tooth comb with the purpose of minimising the risk to their shareholders or clients. I am glad that this legislation removes some legal doubts.

I thank the Minister for taking up my suggestion of 6 July by referring to the Stardust Tribunal. It is the most concise and up-to-date report the House has had on what is happening in regard to the national building regulations.

The Labour Party support in principle the idea of self-certification. There has been considerable consultation on this. The industry needs to have this matter clarified. It is not unreasonable or unoptimistic to aim towards having the legislation debated in the House before Christmas. If the House wants co-operation from the Labour Party in relation to this and the question of fire safety, it will have it. I support the view that the fire regulations should not be made separate from the national building regulations. They are an integral part of the building design process and could not be separated in any system of administration.

The Fire Services Act, 1981, is the correct one to utilise for the management of premises, particularly in places of public resort after they are completed in terms of construction and design, to ensure ongoing safety and standards. However, that is appropriate for another day. I acknowledge the fact that the Minister has taken up the invitation put by me on 6 July and has given a clear, concise and up to date statement about what has been happening in relation to the national building regulations.

There are a number of other Members who wish to speak. We have from now until 7 o'clock to try to do as good a job as possible on Committee Stage and tease out some of the ambiguities which are still in various sections. In the interests of co-operation I conclude my remarks.

It is my intention to be pithy but sharp in relation to my views. I relate them to section 7 of the Bill, which concerns the Minister's entitlement to make the requisite social policy. It is on that section I intend hanging my remarks. My purpose in intervening is to expose an ongoing scandal in the constituency which I have the honour and privilege to represent over the last number of years, that is, Dun Laoghaire. I refer to the Foxrock Park area on one hand and Cabinteely Avenue and Longmeadow area on the other.

Section 7 of the Bill states that the purpose of the section is to enable the Minister to issue general policy directives on planning and development to planning authorities as well as to An Bord Pleanála. Section 6 of the 1976 Act, under which such directives may be issued to the board, is being repealed by section 15 of the Bill. Under subsection (1) the Minister issues a general directive and a planning authority and the board must have regard to this in performing their functions. Subsection (3) makes it clear that the Minister may not by virtue of the section exercise any power or control in relation to any particular case with which a planning authority or the board is or may be concerned. Subsection (4) deals with the publication of the directive. Like Deputy Fitzpatrick, spokesman for Fine Gael, I assume they will be published in Iris Oifigiuil or some such publication which will be available generally.

The scandal which has been ongoing for five months in the Foxrock Park area is one which should have been remedied almost as soon as it happened. Foxrock Park was invaded by traders of one description or another in February of this year. The matter is of deep concern to me as a Deputy in that it appears to the people I represent in that area that the political system is immobilised. Deputies can do nothing about the situation. The central authority seems to be powerless. The local authority's role in the whole matter is open to question and query. The problem relates to a piece of ground in the ownership of a developer. The developer could come in and remove those traders overnight. It is his property and it appears to me that he has plans for that ground. Until such time as that individual receives the type of planning permission he requires he will allow these individuals to remain on that patch of ground to the hardship of residents who have been living in the area for a number of years.

Environmental blackmail.

That appears to be the situation. It is not good enough. The people living in Foxrock Park and members of the Longmeadow Residents' Association paid good money for their houses. As citizens of the nation living in County Dublin they are entitled to the peace and quiet they assumed they would be getting when they bought their residences. Now their health is threatened by the continuing presence of these individuals. There is lack of toilet facilities, lack of water, young foals are born on the property and faeces are not removed. That is the kind of health hazard which not only the residents have to suffer but also the individuals on the site. A number of the traders are itinerants. There are some legitimate itinerants among them who are being rehoused slowly by the local authority. In the meantime the problem is ongoing.

It is a serious problem and I ask the Minister to deal with it in his reply and outline what power he on the one hand, and, on the other, the local authorities, have to abate this particular nuisance. I received a letter from the chairman of the Foxrock Park Residents' Association arising out of a number of meetings Deputies representing the constituency had with him. With the permission of the Chair I shall quote the letter briefly. It states:

I am taking this opportunity to formalise the Actions to be taken following the two meetings held at Setanta House on 30th June, 1982 and 6th July, 1982 between Members of our Association and TD's from all parties representing our constituency.

You have agreed to exert your utmost influence in conjunction with the other TD's on an all party basis to have an amendment made to the Local Government (Planning and Development) Bill 1982.

The next sentence is, I believe, the most important sentence in this letter.

This is to ensure that landlords will be obliged by Law to prevent their land being used in any way which needlessly causes hardships for local residents.

In the particular circumstances of our Estate, such an amendment would allow both the Local Authority and Central Government to force the Landlord to evict the itinerants whose presence has caused such unwarranted physical dangers, risks to health and loss of property values to the residents.

Your help was also sought in relation to bringing pressure to bear on the various Public Bodies which appear to have remained inactive, instead of taking the direct action which they are empowered to take.

That reference underlines the first observation I made about the apparent immobility of the political system. I am part of the democratic process. In this instance it does not seem to be working and I feel somewhat embarrassed on that account. I want to see democracy work. I want to see residents get their just entitlements in the enjoyment of their homes and lands, together with the right to come and go unopposed to their properties. I want to see legitimate itinerants properly housed and properly relocated. I want to make it very clear that in this instance these traders are conducting an ongoing business in the middle of a housing estate. The penultimate paragraph of the letter reads:

Examples of these are the Dublin Medical Officer of Health and the Departments of Environment and Justice. Although each of these was asked for help, they either have done nothing beyond acknowledging our letters or have evaded the issue. Copies of letters to and from these Bodies are enclosed.

Your assistance is appreciated and I look forward to your success in resolving our problem and in showing yourself to be a political representative worthy of our support.

In their letter to the Minister for Justice they outline eight or nine particular problems.

(1) The 50 persons referred to use the lands and boundaries of neighbouring houses as toilets and it not unusual to see half-naked children urinate in public alongside the public roadway.

(2) Bonfires are lighted around 11 p.m. — and adults gather around and swill cider. Invariably fights break out, shouting and screaming follow, and the residents are unable to get to sleep.

(3) Animals foul up the public roadway and broken prams, old tyres, old clothes, etc. are abandoned on the path and roadway.

(4) Animals are tied to pegs on the "long acre" and constitute a danger to passing traffic.

(5) Our children are jeered at, and harassed as they pass along the roadway and adults are told to "open your purse".

(6) Residents who protest personally to these people are abused in the most foul language and sometimes threatened.

(7) The public water supply has been tapped to provide services for the trespassers.

They do not seem to be trespassing as far as certain people are concerned.

(8) Groups of men parade their horses and visiting itinerants make bids to purchase. The persons referred to gained access to the area by breaking down fences with a truck late in the evening of the 16th March, 1982

The date is 16 March, not 16 February. I want to see this situation in the constituency, particularly in the Foxrock area, remedied immediately and I would very much appreciate it if the Minister could specifically deal with this cri de coeur on behalf of the residents of Foxrock Park and others who live in these areas and have been subjected to this type of treatment, treatment which should not be allowed to continue. It appears to be a situation where the local authority on the one hand and central government on the other are inert. What happens as a result of that inertia is that politicians and central democracy are brought into disrepute. I do not want to see that happen and I will do all I can to ensure it does not happen. The associations have made representations to every party, to the Minister for Education, Deputy O'Donoghue, to Deputy Barry Desmond and to Deputy Liam Cosgrave, which agree I hope, with the purport of my remarks.

I shall conclude by referring briefly to a letter from the Longmeadow Residents' Association. Here again you have a situation in which decent people in the heart of suburbia are trying to live in peace and harmony under very difficult conditions. They are subjected to traders actually trading at the entrance to their estate. No man or woman dare make any observation to these hard men as to why they should or should not sell their wares at the entrance to their estate. To do so would result in their going in fear of life and limb. I received this letter from the Longmeadow Residents' Association. It is dated 9 July 1982:

It is with heavy heart and a deep sense of frustration that I write to you as our Representative to seek your help in finding a satisfactory solution to the problems facing this Association.

The development of the Longmeadow Estate was commenced by Messrs. Wates & Company in 1969 and to date approximately 220 houses have been completed out of an envisaged 250. In 1977, Wates & Co. sold out the remaining portion of the development to Cormeen Construction Limited. Since 1977 Cormeen Construction Ltd. have built a number of houses and actually sold some of the remaining sites to various builders. Cormeen Construction Ltd. however remain the developers with overall responsibility for the completion of the estate at the Johnstown Road end, prior to same being taken in charge by the Local Authority.

This section comprises the major open spaces for the estate and involves the culverting of a stream and general landscaping of an area of approximately 5 acres. Despite meetings, letters, chance meetings with public representatives and eventually a High Court Action against the developer Cormeen Construction Ltd. to date, i.e. thirteen years after the commencement of the development the open spaces have not been completed and roads footpaths and services have not been taken in charge by the Local Authority. In fact two months ago the developer applied to Dublin County Council for Planning Permission for the erection of 15 houses on the area referred to in the initial Planning Permission which was granted by Ministerial Order in 1973 as being open space. This application was turned down by Dublin County Council as Planning Authority for the area.

At present the "open space" is used as an unauthorised camp site by traders. It is in a deplorable condition. Toilet facilities needless to say are non-existent. I am sure I need not spell out the problems that this leads to.

Thirteen years is a long time to wait for an open space to be completed. We feel it is totally unreasonable bearing in mind that the open space forms part of linear parkway stretching from Deansgrange in the north to Wyatville, Ballybrack in the south, which is already practically completed.

As stated above your comments and help in reaching a satisfactory solution to our problem would indeed at this stage be gratefully appreciated.

I would ask the Deputy to be as brief as possible because there are a number of other speakers.

I appreciate that. I may have been unduly prolix but this is a matter of fundamental importance. This is an ongoing tragedy as well as a scandal. I think I have illustrated the problems confronting these associations. Associated with these problems is the continuing lack of the taking in charge of housing estates in the constituency of Dún Laoghaire. Here I refer specifically to the development at Newtownpark Avenue. I want now to ask the Minister to give the House some assurance that these situations will not be allowed to occur in the future and I would ask him specifically to abate with what existing legislation there is the particular problems experienced by these residents' associations and move this unwilling developer who appears to be engaged in environmental blackmail. These are matters of fundamental importance and, while they relate specifically to the constituency I represent, I have no doubt they apply thoughout the length and breadth of the country.

I would like to pay tribute to the planning board which consists of members of the highest integrity. I welcome the Bill and the very helpful explanatory memorandum which is attached to it. I would like to make one appeal—to use a pun—to the planning board to speed up their planning decisions. It is right and proper that there is a planning board in existence which has taken the unjustified stigma of wrongdoing off successive Ministers for the Environment and, before that, Ministers for Local Government, in relation to planning appeals. In doing that the board have been good for democracy. I do not think there has ever been a case, as suggested, of interference by any Deputy with the planning board and that is how it should be.

While I recognise that the Bill before us is short and is not intended to be a comprehensive amendment to the main existing planning laws, it is necessary that we should include some amendments which we have put down to the Bill.

We are concerned with fees, planning permissions, compensation to those who are refused planning permission and facilities for the access of the disabled and elderly to public buildings. However, in view of the short time available to us, I do not think any of these amendments will be dealt with very extensively. For that reason, I will deal briefly with a number of points which we had in mind. As the Minister stated, there is a need for a general review of the planning laws in which there are many anomalies. It appears, from experiences which I have had, that developers who are ruthless enough can achieve what they set out to do. I know of one instance where a planning application was granted by default because the local authority failed to respond in the specified time. The result is that a developer is now building an amusement arcade in a residential area and is breaking all the planning laws in relation to the draft development plan and so on. This has happened despite the fact that there were numerous court cases in relation to it and that an injunction was served on the developer concerned to stop this work. The man is blithely carrying on building the arcade and he seems to be able to do as he pleases. The question of developers getting planning permission by default should be looked at and, if a local authority fails to respond in the specified period, the application should fail and a re-application should have to be made.

With regard to the area of compensation, Dublin County Council were complaining yesterday in relation to a park they are trying to develop. Deputy Gallagher told me about a case in Waterford where the owner of land which was under water sought planning permission to develop it. Because he was refused permission, he received compensation of £¼ million although 11 of the 15 acres which he sought to develop were under the sea. It is an extraordinary state of affairs that when a local authority refuses planning permission, because it is inappropriate for the area, the taxpayers have to pay compensation to the person who has been refused planning permission.

Concern has been expressed by many people with regard to rezoning which has taken place in the Dublin County Council area. The air needs to be cleared in regard to what is going on in this area. I am reluctant, as other Deputies are, to restrict in any way the already well restricted powers of county councils and corporations but something needs to be done in relation to rezoning. It does not seem correct that a local authority should set down a development plan and that county councillors can make a complete hash of it.

Applications by householders in regard to their sole dwelling should not be subject to a fee. Commercial applications for the development of large numbers of houses, office blocks, industrial development and so on should be charged the full economic fee. The cost of the application to the local authority should be charged to those who are attempting to carry out development.

I am very concerned about the problems which the disabled and the elderly have in relation to access to public buildings. For that reason, I put down an amendment seeking to have a section of the draft building regulations inserted into the Bill and to ask the Minister to make it obligatory on those developing buildings open to the public to make them accessible to the disabled. It is generally accepted that where a building is accessible to the disabled, especially those in wheelchairs, it automatically makes them more accessible to the elderly, to those with young children in prams and to those who are on crutches. When I come in here it often strikes me that it is a pity that we do not have a TD who is in a wheelchair because then we would realise that it would be next to impossible for him or her to gain access to the House.

I am strongly of the opinion that five years is enough for implementation of a planning permission. After five years the grounds on which that permission was granted will have changed, the area will have changed, and the various conditions which existed at the time the permission was granted will have changed. For that reason when a planning permission runs out before any development has started a fresh application should be made in view of new conditions that exist.

I will not delay the House any further, but in view of the fact that it is unlikely that we will be able to discuss many of the amendments put down, the Minister should consider accepting them or incorporating them in the Bill in some way or at least he should give an assurance that he will consider them seriously in the not too distant future.

At the outset I welcome the Minister's decision to produce this Bill prior to the summer recess. It is a most appropriate Bill and is long overdue. Serious anomalies exist in the present planning laws and these anomalies should be deleted now. As we all know, when planning was introduced here it was new to this country but we were fortunate in that we could learn from the mistakes of other countries.

However, it has been brought to my notice that elected representatives of public bodies, such as county councillors who are responsible for establishing the planning law within their counties, are debarred from access to the files while an application is being processed. This is a shocking state of affairs. It is an indictment of a public representative who has the backing of the people, who has been elected by them democratically to see after their rights within that council, that he can be told by an employee of that council that he cannot see the file and, therefore, cannot see how that application is being processed. This is a serious infringement of the rights of a public representative. I would like the Minister to change that and make it possible for every public representative to have access to the files while the application is being processed.

It is well known that small building contractors in rural Ireland depend on a flow of permissions to keep their staffs in operation and many of them are depending on the individual planning applications that are being refused by planning authorities throughout Ireland. I can quote that one-eleventh of the 54,200 applications received in 1981 in the whole country were processed in Cork County Council. Quite a number of refusals were meted out in that authority when permission should have been given to the people who had applied for it. It is shocking to think that perhaps a son, daughter, brother or sister who gets a plot of ground from his or her relatives, and perhaps is living in a far distant land, is refused permission on the grounds that no services are available in that area, even though in his application the applicant has proved to the planning authority that there is ample preparation in the area for a septic tank and ample room for a bored well. Such applications are turned down by councils throughout the country.

The five-year period which the Minister is now introducing is not sufficient for individual applications such as I have quoted. Sons and daughters emigrate to England, America, even Australia, where they will be for the next ten years. They have received a plot of ground from their parents and they apply for planning permission and then they find that after five years that planning permission is null and void just because some speculator comes in and buys other sites near their plot, making the permission for that site completely irrelevant. This should be rectified by the Minister and I have no doubt that he will take it into consideration.

It is well known that most refusals in rural Ireland are meted out on the grounds that "It could be seen from scenic route No. 51, 72 or 83". As long as it has a number it does not make any difference, the development will be premature for the area where public services are not provided. As I have stated septic tanks can prove that wrong. The word "premature" should be erased from planning decisions. There should not be any such thing as "premature" where planning applications are concerned. We in rural Ireland cannot live on fresh air and cold water. I come from a constituency which depends chiefly on its emigrants to come back to build retirement homes and so on and special consideration should be given to those areas. The attitude is "Forget about him, he is gone, he is a bird of passage" but much dissension exists in rural Ireland today because of that. Also the building industry is the only little industry we have left in south-west Cork, which I represent, and objections have been the curse of development in that area. We would have a refinery in Whiddy Island today were it not for third party objections and that refinery would be capable of meeting the requirements of EEC regulations and would not produce a high level of lead pollution. Another part of my constituency, Court-macsherry, has been completely devoid of industry and the one and only fishery industry mooted for it was turned down because of a third party objection six months ago.

The Minister should take all this into consideration. A number of things must be upgraded in planning in order to ensure that people get justice. I would like the Minister to delete a clause imposed by planning authorities throughout the country to the effect that the applicant must reside in the house for five years. I have known building societies to refuse loans to applicants on account of that imposition. Surely you cannot compel a person to reside for five years in a house if he has to change his job and go elsewhere. This should be taken into consideration. Also if the person decides to sell the house for financial reasons he cannot legally do it because this imposition is placed on him. This is serious and the imposition should be erased from the planning laws.

There are other things I would like to say, but I will not delay the House much longer. However, public representatives should be given the opportunity of access to the files while the planning application is in progress. Give an extra two years. The planning permission in respect of private development should be extended to at least seven years and perhaps to ten years. It could be left at five years or even shorter in respect of industrial development.

I should like the Minister to clarify the position in respect of applications submitted in respect of extensions of planning permission after 31 October 1981. These applications were in respect of approvals that had been granted previously but when the applications for extensions were made they were refused. When the people concerned appealed to An Bord Pleanála they were refused also. Are these applications now null and void or will they stand until 31 October 1983? Having regard to the serious depression in the building trade generally, but particularly in my constituency, I appeal to the Minister to extend the period in respect of these applications to 31 October, 1985, if possible. The small builder in rural Ireland depends on individual planning permissions.

Deputy Sherlock rose.

The Chair has a slight problem. He should not have any problem. Ordinarily the debate would move now to the Government side of the House. On Second Stage debate there is no time limit to the contribution that any speaker may make but, on the other hand, previous speakers, mindful of the time limit order on this debate, have endeavoured to employ certain brevity. I notice that many other Deputies are anxious to make contributions but unless they agree to some understanding, the Chair cannot do anything about accommodating them before 7 p.m.

I require only two minutes.

In accordance with precedent I am moving to the Government side and am calling Deputy Bellew.

(Cavan-Monaghan): On a point of order, it is agreed usually in these confined debates to facilitate the Government in putting business through. There is a gentleman's agreement that the Government put in as few speakers as possible. I suggest that that implies also that Government speakers be short in their contributions. Certainly, the Government side should not hog the time available for debate.

Deputies will appreciate the position of the Chair. The Chair is conscious of agreements made but must act in accordance with what Standing Orders require and with what tradition requires. I said earlier that I thought I could rely on the better qualities of Deputies in their consideration for other Members of the House and in that hope I am calling on Deputy Bellew. I would ask him to bear in mind what other Deputies have indicated.

I shall endeavour to accommodate the sentiments you have expressed but as a backbencher on this side of the House I, too, have comments to make in regard to the Bill.

I accept that of necessity the Bill is short and that it deals only with a certain situation but I suggest to the Minister that at the first available opportunity steps be taken to encompass a complete overhaul of the Principal Act of 1963 which shortly will be 20 years in operation and which has shown up a number of defects in that time. It has undergone only one substantial amendment and that was by way of the 1976 Act, which provided for the setting up of An Bord Pleanála and which contained the withering clause. I suppose that clause is the one that is responsible for our being here today discussing this Bill.

In relation to section 3 which provides power whereby the local planning authority may extend the period for a time longer than five years, I would not be in total agreement with such proposal. I say this because I consider five years to be an adequate period within which most developments should be capable of being accomplished. Section 4 deals adequately with that situation in that it proposes to grant the power to a planning authority to extend the period provided the application is in order and that substantial works on the project have commenced. It is understandable that there will be delays in any development.

I support what Deputy Quinn said regarding the meaning given to the words "planning authority" in the Principal Act. Section 2 (2) of the Principal Act specifies the planning authority to be the elected body in the areas so specified whether that body be a county council or an urban council; but, as Deputy Quinn has pointed out, there has been a fifth-column activity here in relation to the operation of the spirit of the Act by certain officials of the various councils. I submit that in very many cases the county managers and city managers have hijacked the role of the elected representatives and that the views of elected members are being disregarded constantly by appointed officials in county council and city council establishments.

I do not accept that the monopoly of good sense rests with the professional planners or with the professional people in the relevant planning authorities. By "planning authority" I mean the establishment personnel. There have been some bad decisions in relation to the rezoning of lands but there have been appalling decisions by professional planners in relation to local situations and these decisions have led to a certain amount of antagonism and local agitation. I wish to impress on the Minister the need to strengthen the power of the elected local representatives in this entire sphere and I support totally what Deputy Quinn has had to say in respect of the operation of section 4 of the City and County Management (Amendment) Act. That section is there to be used democratically by the elected representatives and it contains inbuilt safeguards. However, I have witnessed instances in which, though the section was invoked to grant planning permissions which did not breach the development plan, the permission was subsequently appealed by an appointed official of a local authority. It is totally wrong that this should happen. These officials should not be allowed to engage in this type of activity.

I should like to stress also that it should be brought to the attention of An Bord Pleanála that the majority opinions of elected representatives are valid and should be taken into consideration in adjudicating appeals which come before them. In many instances these appeals relate to matters already touched on such as the development or lack of development of many of our housing schemes. We are all aware of this whether we represent constituencies in the capital city or any of the provincial centres such as Dundalk, Drogheda, Waterford, Cork or anywhere else. It is a problem that is endemic throughout the country — the non-compliance with planning permission — particularly in relation to a matter raised by Deputy Andrews, that of the completion of open spaces. I believe that An Bord Pleanála should be directed to take into account discussions and decisions of elected representatives in adjudicating on any of these matters.

I accept the provisions of section 5 as a tidying up of the situation in relation to appeals. I accept fully what the Minister has said, that An Bord Pleanála at any one time have on hand a lot of appeals from people who do not intend pursuing them. Therefore it is only right that some mechanism be devised to have this situation tidied up so that people would know exactly where they stand. Allied to that is section 10 dealing with planning fees. I may be in the minority here but I feel it only right that there be some charge in relation to planning applications. Under the existing legislation, which I do not think is amended by this Bill, far too many applications are lodged on a speculative basis. There is the attitude prevalent that if we can lodge this application now and get planning permission for this little piece of land, it will be worth a lot more money and therefore will constitute an investment. I believe that attitude is wrong and that the community at large have no obligation to people who own little portions of land. If it is the case that they are entitled to seek planning permission, thereby increasing the value of that land, then equally the community at large are justified in seeking a reasonable fee in respect of the work that must be undertaken in the processing of such applications. It must be remembered that in regard to the application process there is the architectural opinion, the engineering opinion, the medical health reports and the ordinary administrative work. Though no fee has been mentioned, probably one of approximately £20 would be acceptable in respect of such applications.

Deputy Fitzpatrick referred to the appeals fee and felt that perhaps it should remain at £10. In this respect I would not agree in as much as any bona fide appeal will entail the reimbursement of the fee in any event. Without necessarily winning their appeals, once applicants' arguments are substantially upheld, their fees will be reimbursed. Therefore I do not believe it constitutes a great imposition. Many of the appeals about which we are speaking are not individual third party appeals but rather those organised by residents' associations and various other groupings, of which, I must say, I approve. I would uphold their right to appeal but would not support those who contend that they are in any way frustrating the building industry unnecessarily. I believe that individuals' rights must be protected. Therefore I uphold the right of such organisations to lodge bona fide appeals. I would not object to the increased fee mentioned in this section.

Section 7 has been referred to extensively, which is the section in regard to general policy directives. Volumes have already been spoken about the subject of the rights of itinerants but very little time has been devoted to the rights of other people involved in this situation. I want to make it perfectly clear that I support the concept of providing halting sites and fully serviced transitional sites for these unfortunate people. Having said that, it is only right that local authorities who have expended moneys on the provision of these facilities be granted the necessary protection by the Minister for the remainder of the population. The constituency I represent, Louth, particularly the town of Dundalk, has since 1968 provided a fully serviced site, with chalets and space for itinerants to carry on their normal occupation, whether it be tinsmith, scrap dealer or whatever. It was the first such site established in the country and has proved to be very successful. The integration of these people into the settled community has been very successful in that period.

Unfortunately, having taken all of those desirable policy decisions, having implemented various Ministers' recommendations with regard to the travelling people and the recommendations of the Bewley Commission, that area has been afforded no protection whatever from the hoards of traders and transient travelling people who descend on it at different times. I know it is not a problem peculiar to this locality. Nonetheless I would ask the Minister to provide some protection where all the other necessary steps have been taken. I can understand circumstances arising where steps have not been taken and when these people will insist upon remaining in certain locations. But where such steps have been taken I would ask the Minister, as a matter of policy, to direct that some protection be afforded public property in a lot of these areas. Over the last weekend I witnessed the descent on an open space which had been cultivated with flower beds, seating and various other amenities through public moneys, when that area was mutilated by a hoard of these people who arrived in their BMWs, Volvos and Mercedes to carry on street trading, when absolutely no protection was afforded either to the residents of the locality or to public property which was destroyed. I regret to say that the Garda ignored the situation completely and under present law the local authority were powerless to do anything about it. A tremendous amount of goodwill for the corrective steps which should be taken in these situations is being lost through lack of protection being afforded in areas where what justice demands has been done. I would direct the Minister's attention, in section 7, to this problem.

I might remind Deputy Bellew that he has been speaking now for about 17 minutes. Might I invite you to demonstrate your undoubted unselfishness by concluding in a couple of minutes' time?

I shall indeed curtail what I have to say in deference to your wishes and the desire of others to contribute.

And regard it as a planning permission.

On section 7, dealing with general policy directives, I should draw the Minister's attention to lack of policy in relation to planning permissions granted along our arterial roads. From one county to another there is to be seen vast confusion and differences of operation. It is undesirable in open country, in areas beyond the speed limit zones, to allow unrestricted building along arterial roads. A directive to planning authorities would be appropriate in these cases.

I should like to refer to section 6, the soul of the Bill. It seeks to make valid certain appeals which were granted particularly in cases where they infringe development plans. I should like to draw to the attention of the Minister a requirement in a section of the Principal Act that local authorities should prepare development plans. However, a practice is now growing in cases where local authorities refuse planning permissions that do not conform with their development plan. Applicants are now applying to An Bord Pleanála for compensation and their request is being acceded to. Unless this matter is looked at it will have serious implications for local authority finances. Local authorities, in compliance with the Act, prepare development plans incorporating desirable and valid objectives. Those objectives are not appealed against within the specified period while the plan has been on display but subsequently applicants are awarded substantial and excessive compensation. That will prove detrimental to the finances of local authorities ultimately and the Minister should direct his attention to this matter.

I should like to thank Deputy Bellew for his co-operation. In calling on Deputy Taylor I should like to ask him to appreciate that Deputies Barrett and Kemmy are anxious to make a contribution.

My remarks will be confined to one or two points although I could speak on the subject of planning generally for some time. It seems to me that the Bill before us will not make any substantial improvement in the planning problems that are facing us, in particular the planning problems facing the county where the issue of planning is most critical, County Dublin. The exercise we have seen in County Dublin in recent years involving the rezoning of land by the council is something which goes very close to bringing the entire operations of that council into disrepute. We have had the spectacle recently of 150 acres of land zoned for high amenity purposes being rezoned by the council for housing in the Dublin hills in the teeth of very reasoned opposition and explanations as to why it should be done by the skilled professional planning staff in the employment of that council. That is just one example of what has been going on in County Dublin in recent years.

I shall give details of another case which highlights the problem. A proposal was made to rezone an acreage of agricultural land for housing purposes and that land, as far as the eye could see, was zoned for agricultural purposes north, south, east and west; but for some reason a councillor was motivated to propose that the land should be separated from the vast expanse of surrounding land and rezoned for housing purposes. There was no drainage on the land or any logically or earthly reason why that land should be extracted from the large area of agricultural land. Yet, that was done. The skilled professional staff of the council advised against it, explaining that there was no drainage or other facilities available to develop it. Notwithstanding that the council rezoned that land.

They are problems the Minister should be introducing legislation to deal with. This Bill makes little or no contribution towards them. Part of the reason for that situation arises because in some local authority areas, Dublin county in particular, the council are no longer capable of acting as a local authority. The population of the county has expanded to such an extent, and the interests of the north, south and west of the county, each with huge populations, diverge to such an extent that the time has come when the county should be divided into smaller administrative units. The elected representatives for those areas would more readily represent the views of the people living in those areas. I have no doubt that those rezoning applications would be contrary in the entire to the wishes of the people living in those areas. There is an urgent need, for example, that the new town of Tallaght be granted urban status and that it be in control of its own development and that of the land surrounding it. The town has now upwards of 75,000 people and it should have its own urban council. We are now faced with the situation where councillors from areas that are very far away, such as Balbriggan in the north, are making planning decisions affecting the western and southern parts of the county. Understandably, those people have little knowledge of the requirements and needs of that end of the county.

The whole process of the making of a county development plan and the rezoning situation is in need of an overhaul. The approved local residents' associations and tenants' organisations must be involved in some way in the planning process and the determination of what land within their areas should be utilised for housing, what land should be preserved for amenity purposes and for industrial purposes. There should be some arrangement for compulsory consultation with approved local associations operating within the area. Their views should be sought before decisions are arrived at.

In the present situation there should be a procedure established under which decisions of the local authorities making county development plans involving the rezoning of land contrary to the views of professional planning staff can be the subject of an appeal. We do not have an appeals procedure arising from the rezoning of land. Once the rezoning decision has been made by the council that is the end of the matter. Clearly, An Bord Pleanála have a function where an individual planning decision is concerned but they do not have any function where rezoning of land takes place under a county development plan. I urge the Minister to look at this procedure and set up an appeals system so that local associations or individuals who are aggrieved as so many are, particularly in the Tallaght area, at some of the appalling rezoning decisions made can go before an objective and independent authority, possibly An Bord Pleanála or a different forum. The Minister should deal with this with all possible urgency.

(Dún Laoghaire): It is unfortunate that we have so little time to debate an important piece of legislation such as this. The fact that so many Deputies wish to speak on the Bill highlights the need for a proper review of the Planning Acts. I hope the Minister in the near future will give us an opportunity to debate the Planning Acts in a constructive, comprehensive way.

Planning laws should apply to everybody equally. Deputy Andrews, my fellow constituency Deputy, went comprehensively through the problems facing Deputies in Dún Laoghaire, particularly the illegal parking by traders on privately owned property. I do not intend to go into the letters which Deputy Andrews has put on record, but I wish to express support for a number of his points. When I say that planning laws should apply equally to all I mean that if you are to bring people to court for failing to comply with planning conditions or for unauthorised developments by people who happen to own those developments or were responsible for bringing them about, the same laws should apply to them as to people who these days are inviting people on to their property, so-called traders and in some cases a number of itinerants, to cause disturbance, annoyance and abuse to residents in built-up areas. As long as the law permits that kind of thing to continue we will have problems.

I should like to draw attention again to two cases referred to by Deputy Andrews. The first is Foxrock Park. By coincidence or otherwise, after a planning application had been lodged with Dublin County Council we had an influx of traders to the site. In another instance, we had a planning application lodged for a shopping centre and there was another influx of traders. We had difficulties with the developer: we had to bring him to court to develop a piece of land in Cabinteely as an open space because originally it had been the condition of the planning permission. After 13 years of development on that site we had to bring him to court. What has happened? We have an influx of traders and some itinerant families to the site.

These are not coincidences. They are allowed to happen because we are not applying the planning laws equally. I assume the Minister's colleague, Deputy O'Donoghue, has spoken to him about this because the Minister for Education attended the same meeting as Deputy Andrews and I, and I suggest that he includes an amendment to this Bill prohibiting any structure of any description on land zoned for residential or other purposes without planning permission. That would eliminate this abuse that is occurring constantly in both Dublin city and county. It is the only way to deal with this problem. We must amend the Planning Act so that structures of any description will not be allowed on land without prior planning permission. It is wrong to expect a developer to comply with planning law, for which we could bring him to the High Court, and at the same time allow people to go into private property and trade there, and we cannot touch them because there are constitutional and other threats against us so that we cannot deal with the problem.

I recently got in touch with the planning development department and asked them to take action under existing law in regard to land usage, when land is not being used for the purpose for which it is originally zoned. Today I received a telephone call from a chairman of one of the local residents' associations to tell me he had been in touch with the planning department who had told him that they were deciding not to take action under the planning laws despite a commitment given to me when I was chairman of Dublin County Council that action would be taken. I got on to the planning authority officials to insist that they carry out the functions they are employed for. As Deputy Andrews said, this sort of thing more and more is bringing public representatives into disrepute because it is causing doubts in the public mind whether we are doing our job at all.

This kind of thing should not be allowed to continue. If the Minister is to use his powers under section 7 he should direct the officials to implement the law as it exists. I ask the Minister to give me a commitment that he will amend this Bill to make certain that use of any land will not be permitted unless prior planning permission has been granted. That law should apply to everybody — to the itinerants, to the traders, to developers and to ordinary private individuals. It is the law of the land and it should be applied equally to all.

We must deal with the itinerant problem in a different way. We must provide sites for them and we must offer them proper housing conditions. We cannot get away from our responsibilities in that respect. I admit all that, but the provisions of the Planning Acts should be upheld irrespective of whom they apply to. That is what I am looking for here today.

Deputy Andrews very ably dealt with other points in this respect, matters which we discussed with resident association representatives whom we met. I fully support his contribution because we are at one about this situation. As elected representatives we are here to see that the law will be applied equally across the board. We want to show to the people who elected us that we will carry out our duties without favouring one group more than another.

In the Foxrock Park problem we had a typical example of abuse of the planning laws. It is a scandal that such abuse is being allowed. In Dublin County Council we offered housing accommodation to a number of families on this site. Anybody who applies to Dublin County Council for rehousing must be offered accommodation in accordance with the priority scheme of the local authority, without discrimination of any kind. Every applicant entitled to be included in the scheme must be offered accommodation. We have an obligation under the Housing Act to offer accommodation to those who need housing who are not capable to provide houses themselves. I want the Minister to give us a commitment that the Bill will be amended so that this type of scandal will be eliminated today, or tomorrow at the latest.

Many Deputies have referred to development plans and I have listened to some of the contributions carefully. Having been chairman of Dublin County Council in the last 12 months I can say it is utter hell because people cannot make up their minds what the functions of elected representatives should be. We heard Deputy Taylor regarding some of the actions of local elected representatives. I disagree with some of the decisions of Dublin County Council in regard to development land but not all of the decisions were wrong. However, the law obliges elected representatives to draw up a development plan, put it on public display and eventually adopt it. Therefore, it is a reserved function of elected representatives to carry out the review. But the criticism levelled at Dublin County Council is that we have ignored the views and the wishes of the officials of Dublin County Council. I agree with that because on numerous occasions good advice was given and was ignored.

However, the point I want to make in the context of the planning laws is whether it is the wish of this House that the reserved functions should be taken away from the local elected representatives. If that is so, so be it; but there is no point in criticising decisions of elected representatives if by law they are obliged to make them. What is happening in Dublin County Council is that a plan was presented by the officials of the council and the elected members asked for a review. Every decision taken by the council was contrary to official advice and therefore it was no longer a reserved function of the elected members but an executive function. If we are talking about planning and planning law we must decide whether we will continue to have this aspect of planning law regarded as a reserve function or an accepted function. That is where all of this problem arises. Having gone through this review I would like to see the whole process of drawing up a development plan being scrapped because one cannot plan with a fear in the background that everything one does is going to raise land prices or cause compensation claims to be lodged against the local authority.

If we want to plan we should be able to plan and be able to change that plan if we feel it needs to be changed and we should not be obliged by law to carry that plan right through. In other words, if we rezone an area for housing or industry or any other purpose the local authority should be able to come along in 12 months' time or in two or three years' time and scrap that plan and say "we have looked at the progress over the last 12 months and we do not like what is happening so we are going to scrap that plan and start afresh." But we cannot do that because we are told that if we do that we are going to leave ourselves open to compensation claims.

That is not planning. That is planning against the fear of being blackmailed into providing some sort of compensation to the landowner. We should have a plan, a review that will allow the local authorities to plan for the future with no statutory obligation to provide services or anything else. We should be able to scrap that plan and not allow monstrosities to continue simply because we might be obliged by law to pay compensation. Does the Minister mean to tell me that if we decide to develop a new town in a certain way and find that half way through it the place is a total disaster we have to keep going simply because if we do not we are going to be faced with massive compensation claims? That is not planning for people; that is planning for money, for compensation. We are talking about Planning Acts.

I would like to correct one point with regard to the development plan. Unfortunately, it was referred to by Deputy Quinn. It has been consistently said that Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael have rezoned half of County Dublin. Elected members of Dublin County Council are in there as elected members and I, as chairman, did not vote, but I want to put the record straight on this in this House. It was not a question of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael making decisions. There were many occasions when Labour, who now wish to run away from their responsibility, were involved in motions for rezoning of land in County Dublin, and I can quote those cases. So let us not destroy ourselves by turning this whole issue into party politics. It is worthwhile mentioning that.

The last point I want to make is in regard to the Casual Trading Act which refers to licences being issued to people who are now touring the county, stopping here, there and everywhere with their chip vans; the latest Chinese takeaways and every other conceivable piece of food that one can think of is now being sold at the side of the road. I would like to draw the Minister's attention to one thing. If I want to apply for planning permission to open a shop or a takeaway food shop I have to comply with strict planning controls. I have to lodge my planning application. I have to be inspected, I have to comply with the Health Acts. Everything has to be looked at. It now appears that people can stop these vans here, there and everywhere, outside people's homes at 12 o'clock and 12.30 at night causing obnoxious smells to flow through people's bedroom windows, and lo and behold, the following morning the place is strewn with litter, the person having gone away after selling his goods.

Where is the Planning Act in that? How can these people be allowed to stop with vans and everything else, sell food at the side of the road and disappear and come back the next night and do the same thing? They can stop on the side of a public road causing a traffic hazard. They are not obliged under any Planning Act to comply with the conditions of the planning authority and they are trading away merrily and nobody seems to be able to stop them. This is what Deputy Andrews and myself have been talking about. The planning law should apply to everybody. If there is a law for one person the same law should apply to every other person.

I would urge the Minister to give a commitment to this House that he will stop this sort of abuse that we are having to face day in, day out. When the problem of Foxrock Park disappears, with the help of God in the near future, Deputy Andrews and my three other colleagues in Dún Laoghaire constituency will be touring off somewhere else to deal with precisely the same thing and when we have dealt with it there we will be back over to some other place to deal with the same thing. Therefore we must insist that the law be enforced, that the law be strong enough to enable a local authority to move in immediately and stop this, to enable them to move people on immediately, to take action immediately and not have these long drawn out court proceedings taking weeks and months where, if one happens to miss the term in the High Court, one has to wait another couple of months before it is dealt with and people are still abusing the law and nothing is done about it. There should be strict powers given to the planning authorities to enable them to move in and stop unauthorised developments. That is what I call having proper, strong planning laws for everyone.

A number of fundamental questions arise from this Bill. Will the Bill improve planning standards? Will it speed up the development of derelict areas in our cities and towns? Will it stimulate the building industry? It is only by answering these questions that one can judge whether it is a good or bad Bill. The Bill's powers are very much the same as those already held by county councils and corporations. Nevertheless, a number of points arise on the Bill. The Minister has made no provision for the inclusion of public representatives on his proposed commission, local councillors in various areas throughout the country who might have the necessary expertise to enable them to contribute to the work of the commission. There are good points in the Bill as well. It enables the Minister to invite a body such as Shannon Free Airport Development Company, who have a considerable amount of experience in building factories and other structures, to play a part in the commission. This company could contribute a lot to urban renewal in that part of the country in which it operates. So perhaps there is something useful to be gained from that experience.

In so far as the Minister has taken this initiative himself he should be congratulated and applauded because anybody travelling through our cities and towns, particularly tourists and outsiders, gets his impressions from the centre city area and those impressions are often lasting ones. Any traveller coming to this country and travelling through our cities and towns could not help but be shocked by the ugly ruins and derelict areas which disfigure our cities and towns. If the Minister could do something about that it would be a step forward. It is, of course, envisaged that there will be a provision in the Bill to provide finance to help in the development of these derelict areas and for general building development in our country, if there is any money there.

It is all right putting down a provision in a Bill which will enable money to be spent on this necessary work but if the money is not there, there is not much point in doing that. It is like far away cows having long horns. We could have the finest Bill in the world before the House but unless we have the will and determination to carry it out and, above all, the money, nothing good can come from it. If the money could be found it would be a good development not only for the Bill itself but for the country generally. Above all, the Minister has done very little in the Bill to tackle the problem of the delays in carrying out compulsory purchase orders not only in Dublin but in the main cities and towns throughout the country. Anybody who has any experience of the long frustrating delays in processing a CPO will know that our system is outdated and outmoded and should be reformed. But the Minister, unfortunately, has shied away from the problem of tackling the process of CPOs. As far as I am concerned this is one great handicap and frustration in tackling the problem of derelict areas in our cities. It is a great pity that the Minister has lost this opportunity. He could have given himself more powers to acquire land and property in the areas I have referred to.

We could learn much from the manner in which other countries have tackled this problem of derelict areas. A war was fought some 40 years ago on the mainland of Europe and many cities were devastated. They have all been rebuilt and I marvel at the efficient and direct way in which other people can tackle the problem of urban renewal, while we make such heavy weather of it. We could learn much about conservation and restoration from the historic cities and towns of Europe.

The Minister might look to the city of Edinburgh in Scotland which has a very civilised way of encouraging people who own business premises and houses in historic areas by giving them financial assistance to keep their properties in a good state of repair and in attractive condition. We could learn from their example by helping people who own brick and stone buildings in historic areas to enable them to keep the buildings in good repair and in harmony with their surroundings.

The Minister should also attempt to get a mixed development in city areas, which should encompass not only housing but also cluster industries. The Shannon Free Airport Development Company have provided small cluster industries and houses in Limerick and other parts of the mid-west. There is need for an efficient, intelligent and sensible approach by the Minister but whether he is up to the job I do not know. We will not know until the Bill has been in operation for some time whether it will improve physical planning.

There is provision for commissions to over-rule local authorities. The Bill stipulates that these commissions are not obliged to prepare plans for an area, although they may do so. That may be a bad thing because it may give undemocratic powers to the commissions. If there is exclusion of elected representatives from membership of the commissions, this could be undemocratic.

I agree with the Minister's emphasis on the need for uniform national planning procedures. This is a good point, especially in relation to the Stardust tragedy from which there are many lessons to be learned. I hope the Minister will learn them as soon as possible.

The Minister and these commissions cannot ignore local authorities and their experience and expertise. If there is to be a proper planning system there must be greater co-operation and co-ordination between An Bord Pleanála, the local authorities and the commissions. It is difficult to understand some of the planning permissions and the criteria on which they were based, as well as some of the appeals allowed by An Bord Pleanála. I hope the Minister's new awareness of the need for a uniform national approach to planning will find expression in better planning decisions.

The Minister might also extend his activities to the school curriculum. There is a need for better visual appreciation of buildings. Those who carry out acts of vandalism show little awareness or understanding of the benefit of fine buildings to the community. If we had not buildings of character in our cities and towns we could almost be living in "Concreteville" in America or a new town in Britain. Unless we have buildings which give a city or a town its own identity, there is no point in talking about our heritage. "Heritage" is a debased word which has been thrown around rather loosely during the past decade but unless we give positive expression to our interest in buildings of character which have a meaning for people in local communities, this is just lip-service and hypocrisy.

I regret that the Minister has not tackled the problem of compulsory purchase orders in cleaning up derelict areas. He has lost a great opportunity but I will not entirely damn him, even with faint praise. I applaud the step he has taken and the appreciation he and the Minister of State, Deputy Brady, have shown of the need to tackle the problem of urban renewal. They have not gone any further than showing interest in this matter but I hope they will not abandon this new found interest. When it comes to the division of the spoils and the making available of money for these projects, I hope they will show the same determination and initiative in getting this money and using it for the purposes of this Bill.

I now call Deputy Sherlock. I remind the House that all Stages must be passed by 7 o'clock and we should like to give the Minister an opportunity to speak.

(Cavan-Monaghan): On a point of order, this Bill was supposed to be taken from 3.30 p.m. to 7 p.m. but debate did not commence until 4 p.m.

Acting Chairman

The agreement is that debate should conclude at 7 o'clock.

I concur with Deputy Kemmy regarding the cumbersome procedures adopted by local authorities in acquiring property under the CPO system. We have all experienced this in our local areas and because the procedures are so difficult there are many undeveloped areas which should have been developed long ago at much less cost.

I wish to refer to the case of the individual who makes an application to the planning authority for permission to build his house. The Explanatory Memorandum states that this Bill is to enable the Minister for the Environment to issue general policy directives to the planning and development authorities as well as to An Bord Pleanála. Planning assistants are far too clinical in their appraisal of planning applications. Engineers will also have an influence on the matter and very often there is not sufficient liaison between planning assistants and engineers. The lack of discussion between them can result in planning permission being refused, although a little flexibility could sort out the matter. I am talking about the individual who may have a bit of ground on which he wishes to build a home but who is refused permission because of a technicality.

The question of exemptions from planning was very contentious in my area some time ago. I refer to farm buildings, some of which are exempt from planning. There should be no such exemption. The effluent from this type of development is very often far enough way away from a building, but it can be a source of great nuisance to the people residing in that area. For that reason a very good look should be taken at such developments.

I do not know how the three Whips are getting on, but I would like to thank all who contributed to the debate. I share the regret of all concerned that more time is not available for consideration of this important measure. In view of the time constraints, I will confine my response to the points with most bearing on the question. I do this against the background of commitments already made to bring forward further planning legislation as soon as the current review of the existing statutory system and its operation has been completed.

Quite a number of points have been made today which are outside the scope of this Bill, but they will now be given consideration in the course of that wider review. I assure the House that they will be considered. In the time available to me I shall try to reply as rapidly as possible.

Deputy Fitzpatrick suggested that a one year extension proposed by Fine Gael should be enough. If one year is accepted, 31 October 1982 will cause the same problem as 31 October 1981. For that reason, 31 October 1983 is the suggested date, which would appear to be reasonable. By the time this legislation goes through the Seanad it would be the end of July, leaving only three months, which would not be sufficient.

Deputy Fitzpatrick also referred to permission conditional on various services being provided or on agreement being reached between the local authority and the applicant. If it were merely a continuation of services, that would be one thing; but other items come into play here such as the question of agreements with regard to charges and so forth. I would like to clarify for Deputies Quinn and Fitzpatrick that section 3 of the Bill empowers planning authorities to vary the life of planning permission having regard to the nature, extent and relevant development of any other material considerations. The terms of the section will enable a planning authority to take into account factors referred to in determining the duration of a planning permission at application stage. In addition, section 4 of the Bill provides that the duration of a planning permission shall be extended where a planning authority is satisfied that development has commenced within the appropriate period and that the appropriate extension work has been carried out and the development will be completed within a reasonable time.

As a further contribution towards the removal of difficulties of the type covered by the amendment planning authorities will shortly be advised by me as to the use of conditions of this kind in a memorandum being prepared by my Department for issue as soon as possible. In these circumstances, and since there can be delays by developers as well as by planning authorities in reaching agreement on matters specified in the conditions, it is neither necessary nor desirable to accept the amendment as put down. In practice were the amendment adopted, there would be endless debate and argument as to whether particular conditions were covered by it and there could be no certainty as to when a permission commenced to run against the developer.

(Cavan-Monaghan): I do not wish to interrupt the Minister, but I regard this amendment as very important. Section 3 does not help existing permission, notwithstanding my amendment. I will be arguing that section 3 will only assist in regard to future amendments.

I accept that.

(Cavan-Monaghan): The Minister could now bring in an amendment in the Seanad and have it back here by Friday, if he wishes.

I am not allowed to have all Stages in the Seanad this week. I have to take Committee Stage the following week.

(Cavan-Monaghan): If the Minister agrees to this amendment, I might try to arrange that they would.

I accept the principle of what Deputy Fitzpatrick is getting at and have had discussions with the CIF on this question. We will not be dealing just with the question of when water or sewerage is available. We will be discussing the other sections which may relate to charges and other items.

(Cavan-Monaghan): I would be dealing with conditions over which the developer would not have control.

Who is to say what the developer has control over and what he has not? However, I will return to that subject later. I do not know how the talks upstairs are getting on.

Deputy Fitzpatrick sought confirmation that An Bord Pleanála can give permission even in cases of material contravention of a development plan. I confirm that the board have this power. It is expressly conferred by section 14 (8) of the 1976 Act. The Pine Valley case does not cast any doubts whatsoever on that situation.

As far as the general directive is concerned, I can assure the Deputy that there is no question of attempting to use this section to bring myself or any future Ministers back into planning in the way suggested. Section 7 is only a restatement of a section which already exists since 1977 in relation to the Appeals Board. It has not been abused there and there is no question of its being abused in this form.

The maximum penalty of £800 was mentioned by Deputy Fitzpatrick. He feared that it might be unconstitutional but I can assure him that it is not. Deputy Quinn referred to withering and the Pine Valley case, and also to the charges and fees. I can confirm for Deputy Quinn that the fees will be settled by regulation and they can by annulled by this House in the normal fashion. I have already referred to the withering section.

Deputy Andrews referred to section 7 which, as I have said already, is a general directive and these directives will be published. Deputies Andrews, Bellew and Barrett referred to the situation with regard to traders and itinerants occupying properties, both private and public, around the country and the nuisance being caused thereby. It is a major problem in the Dublin area and there are over 400 families involved. I appeal to the local authority to use the power already available to them. Deputies Andrew and Barrett asked me to bring in an amendment. I refer Deputy Andrews to the 1963 Act, section 3 (1) (2) and (3), but, in particular, to subsection (2). This refers to the position where land becomes used for any of the following purposes: the placing or keeping of any vans, tents or any other objects, whether moveable or collapsible, for the purpose of caravanning or camping; for the sale of goods; the storage of caravans; the deposit of bodies or other parts of vehicles; old metal mining or industrial waste; builders' waste; rubble or debris. All these things need planning permission. That is the law and I would ask the local authority involved to enforce that law. Not only have they that law, but they are backed up by further legislation.

By agreement of the House, I understand that this debate can continue until 7.15 p.m.

That means that the Minister can slow down sufficiently to enable us to hear him.

I have been trying to cover as many points as I could in the time available, but it is a little easier now.

I can assure Deputies Andrews, Barrett and Bellew that the powers are there within the Planning Act and should be enforced by the local authorities. The powers with regard to traders are also there in the Casual Trading Bill. Deputy Barrett referred to the fact that traders are getting permits to trade in the area. It is up to the local authority to decide on the designation of specific areas for trading. I would ask the local authority involved to designate such areas. It is a disgrace in our city and country of Dublin and around the country that local authorities have not been using the powers available to them. Also, the Litter Bill will be coming into force this month, which will give local authorities specific power to remove dumped cars and other refuse from sites and will impose a responsibility on landowners to keep their property in a proper manner.

I take this opportunity to restate my appeal to Dublin County Council, Dublin City Council and Dún Laoghaire Corporation. I wrote individually to every member of those three local authorities asking them to use their powers with regard to a settlement policy for the itinerants right around the city and county of Dublin and Dún Laoghaire. The present situation is a disgrace to the local authorities involved and I am asking them to use their powers. I am glad to have the opportunity to do that this evening. They have been sitting on this. I have written to them and given them commitments regarding finance and so on. Decisions have not been taken despite that. I do not like the approach taken by Dublin Corporation who settle their problems about itinerants out in the area of the Dublin County Council. Every local authority should look after the problem. It should be looked after in small numbers of two and three families per district rather than lumping 20 or 30 families together in one area continuing on the policy of segregation. The families should be brought into areas in twos and threes rather in the way proposed by Dublin County Council.

The word "inertia" was used and I could not agree with it more. The main Dublin-Belfast road is a disgrace to Dublin County Council. It is not just in Foxrock that the council have not acted. They have the powers and the commitment with regard to finance to enable them to act. The law is there and does not need to be amended. They should use the law.

Can I take it that the 1963 Planning Act, section 3 (1), (2) and (3) contain the solution to the problem?

It is there if it was operated.

Can I say that Dublin County Council have not been discharging their functions?

The Deputy can say that the enforcement procedure already exists under the Act. I asked them to use that. Nobody is outside the rule of the law whether they are traders or temporary residents. The law is there and should be used.

Is it true to say that the developer in this instance constitutes the owner of the property in question since he has allowed or enabled these people to carry on this environmental nuisance?

I suggest to the local authority that if that is the situation enforcement proceedings should be taken against him. It needs action and the will for action by the local authority.

Deputy De Rossa mentioned a general review of the planning legislation. I agree with him. As I said when moving the Bill, that is under way at present. He also mentioned the question of compensation. As soon as this item has been concluded we will move an expediency motion to set up a joint committee of both Houses of the Oireachtas to deal with the question of land, the supply and cost of building land including land adjacent to urban areas. The question of compensation is one which is more relevant to that. The review of the operation of the Local Government Planning and Development Act is more relevant to that than to this Bill.

As regards the duration of planning permissions we have opted for a five-year period rather than the six-year period suggested. The only change is an extension until 1983 for permissions which were caught in the net of 31 October last. With the exceptions in the Bill the remainder will be in a five-year period. As far as access by the disabled is concerned, it is covered in amendment No. 7. The section, as drafted, provides the general power to issue policy directives on matters relating to planning and development by both planning authorities and An Bord Pleanála. Regarding Deputy De Rossa's amendment, it is more appropriate that all provisions regarding building standards, including those to cater for the special needs of the disabled, should be dealt with in the context of the building regulations. This is in line with the recommendations of the Stardust Tribunal that matters relating to building structures should not be dealt with in the context of land use planning but should be dealt with separately. I assure the Deputy he has my full sympathy on this. I have already given this commitment to the handicap association. It will be brought in in the context of the building regulations in the autumn session.

(Cavan-Monaghan): At the end of the century.

Deputy Sheehan mentioned anomalies in existing law and access to files in local authorities. This is a matter specific to the Cork area. I understand that legal opinion has been sought on it. I have no power to intervene nor have I been asked to.

Deputy Sherlock mentioned the question of building single houses in rural areas. This is something I have come across in my own constituency and feel strongly about. That is one of the reasons why guidelines for local authorities are being prepared: to have a more liberal and uniform interpretation of planning. Not everybody wants to live in a town. Some people want to live on sites provided by their families.

They want all the benefits of a town.

I shall not mention the difference between Sandymount and the Naul. Deputy Bellew mentioned a general overhaul of the 1963 Act. That is already under way. Deputy Taylor mentioned many items most of which relate to local government reform in the Dublin area. I refer him to a speech I made in Balbriggan in April last year where I asked that local authorities in the Dublin area together with other interested parties should make suggestions with regard to an overall review of local government operations in the Dublin region. I would be interested in getting a submission from the Deputy on this and regarding new town status, whether there should be town commissioners, urban status for Tallaght and so on.

The Deputy also mentioned that there was no appeals procedure for development plans. After the plan has been completed by the local authority it goes on public display and the public, either residents associations or individuals, have the right to object to the plan. There is an appeal procedure to that extent in the development plan process.

There is no appeal from the decision of the council.

Of course there is.

To whom?

When it goes on display there is a right of appeal back to the local authority. They can object to it.

To the local authority which made it?

That is only one part of it. After that one has to go for planning permission. As far as Deputy Kemmy's points were concerned, I am glad he mentioned the urban aspect of the Bill. I thank him for his kind remarks and will take note of the points raised. Deputy Sherlock mentioned the CPO procedure. I agree there is considerable room for improvement in speeding up CPO procedures. It takes far too long for a CPO to be put on land whether it is for roads, housing, or whatever. I assure the Deputy there is a review going on at present. Other points were made by Deputies but time is against me in answering them.

Am I correct in assuming that the Minister has, through section 4 and access to memoranda, the power to request local authorities to extend the life of existing planning permissions because some of the conditions cannot be complied with as they are outside the powers of the applicant?

(Cavan-Monaghan): I thought the Minister was going to give me a moment or two.

Question put and agreed to.