Under the Urban Renewal Act, 1998, and the Town Renewal Act, 2000, it is a matter for the relevant local authorities to propose sub-areas for designation for tax incentives within the area covered by integrated area-town renewal plans. This system has operated effectively since being introduced for the 1999 urban renewal scheme and it is appropriate that local authorities which are in the best position to engage in the type of cross-sectoral consultation with relevant local interests which is required under the scheme carry out this role.
In doing so they are assisted by the detailed guidelines issued to them; these set out the purposes and aims of the schemes, the criteria to be used in selecting towns for which plans are to be prepared, and advice on the approach to be followed in preparing their plans, including selecting sub-areas for designation. Local authorities were advised that the extent of designation must necessarily be limited and well targeted and that only sites that clearly fulfilled the objectives of the plans should be designated. The award of incentives can only be justified where it can be shown that they will assist in overcoming identifiable barriers to development.
The role of the expert panels set up by me was to assess the local authorities' proposals and recommend sub-areas-sites for designation on the basis of the plans submitted by the local authorities; the panels were confined to examining the sites recommended by the local authorities by reference to the criteria contained in the guidelines. The panels comprised individuals with a broad range of relevant expertise in urban planning, architecture, conservation etc.
In the course of their examination of the plans, the panels sought clarification from local authorities in relation to various issues where this was considered necessary. The expert advisory panels exercised an independent role in assessing the plans submitted and making recommendations on the sites to be designated. The recommendations made by the panels were accepted in full and that is the basis on which designations are now being implemented.
The sites selected for designation by the local authorities, examined by the expert panels and subsequently approved for designation followed a very detailed, structured and well thought out process. Therefore, I do not consider that an appeals system is necessary, feasible or practicable; my priority now is to ensure these schemes are implemented effectively in order to ensure the desired objectives are achieved.
The incentives are aimed at encouraging investment in the sites targeted, not least those for which development proposals do not exist. The urban renewal and town renewal schemes run until 31 December 2002 and 23 July 2003 respectively.