Planning and Development (Amendment) Bill [Seanad] 2009: Report and Final Stages

Before we commence discussion on the amendments, I draw the attention of Members to some typographical errors in the amendment list.

In amendment No. 114 on page 27 of the list, the inserted subsection (9)(c) makes reference to itself whereas it should make reference to subsection (9)(b). In amendment No. 120 in page 30 of the list, in the fifth line from the bottom, it should read “Local Government (Planning and Development) Act 1963”. The word “Act” is currently missing. In the same amendment on page 38, in the seventh line from the bottom, the first few words should read “quarry under Part 3 of this Act”. The word “this” currently appears in the wrong place. The typographical errors will be corrected in the next print of the Bill.

I move amendment No. 1:

In page 6, between lines 1 and 2, to insert the following:

"3.—The Minister shall, within 3 months of this Act being passed by both Houses of the Oireachtas, report to the Dáil on the outcome of any cases involving Ireland in the European Court of Justice rulings, any EU Directives or any other matter which affects Irish planning law.".

Following recent decisions of the European court, which struck down various matters related to compliance with European law, this amendment would ensure that we are alerted to these matters at an earlier stage of proceedings so that when action is to be taken, we do not delay as long as we have on this occasion. Within three months of the Act being passed, there should be a report to a committee of the House or to the Dáil on the outcome of European Court of Justice rules, the implications for the implementation of EU directives, and the implications for Irish law. I hope it is not controversial to suggest we should have information sent to the Houses of the Oireachtas in line with the Lisbon treaty and provisions for the role of national parliaments in the implementation of EU directives and European Court of Justice rulings, and that we have a timescale of three months for that.

I am conscious that Deputy Hogan's telephone was ringing. If he wants to take it, I would hate to stand in the way of an important call.

It would be inappropriate to take it at this time.

The Minister of State does not need to worry about this side of the House.

Amendment No. 1 proposes that the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government reports to the Dáil on any European court cases or directives that would affect Irish planning law. Such an amendment, however, is not suitable for primary legislation. Deputies interested in the outcome of such cases, or any EU directives affecting Irish planning legislation, may use the parliamentary privilege or may correspond directly with the Minister through the representation system, which was a device I certainly used when sitting on the other side of the House. The proposed amendment is not acceptable.

Arising from the Minister's reply, I seek to give certainty to the information flow between the European Court of Justice and the European Parliament and the Houses of the Oireachtas. People in the Houses of the Oireachtas are often very busy and certain matters may not come to their attention. When they are brought to their attention they can have them investigated through parliamentary questions or through a mechanism such as the Minister of State suggested.

I seek to give certainty to the information flow, so that the Minister shall within three months of the Act being passed report to the Dáil. I am putting the onus on the State and the responsible Minister to tell the House, rather than the House having to find out in another way. The House may never find out information that may be important to deliberations or on a subject matter in which it has an interest. The amendment seeks to give certainty to the fact that the Minister is ultimately responsible for reporting to the House in an accountable parliamentary way.

The point is well made. Ideally, I would like to see all of this information on the Department's website as it arises but we should not use primary legislation to achieve that.

Will the Minister of State consider introducing regulations to that effect or another process or procedure?

We can certainly consider it. The more information we get into the public domain as early as possible the better it is for all parties. I will certainly consider it, and perhaps in the absence of regulation a regular update might be no harm. It is certainly something we do internally.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendments Nos. 2, 25, 31, 33 to 35, inclusive, 123 and 127 are related and may be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 2:

In page 6, line 8, to delete "or where appropriate" and substitute "or, where appropriate,".

These are technical drafting amendments. Amendment No. 2 is a technical amendment, amendment No. 25 is consequential and proposes to substitute "the case of a plan" for "the case of a development plan or variation of a development plan" in order to be consistent with the same reference in section 31. Amendment No. 31 is purely technical as are amendments Nos. 33 and 35.

What are the implications of these? More than one amendment is being discussed.

They are grouped in so far as they relate to particular sections. Amendment No. 123 is a technical amendment to substitute the plural word "paragraphs" where that word first occurs given the references to more than one paragraph being inserted. They will make technical drafting corrections. I understand they do not affect the thrust or detail of the Bill other than to technically correct it.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendments Nos. 3, 8, 11, 12, and 15 to 18, inclusive, are related. Amendment No. 9 is related and is alternative to amendment No. 8. Amendments Nos. 13 and 14 are related and alternative to amendment No. 12. Amendments Nos. 3, 8, 9 and 11 to 18, inclusive, may be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 3:

In page 8, to delete lines 38 to 40.

I will ask the Minister of State to comment on this as perhaps he will agree to it.

Amendment No. 3 proposes the deletion of the definition of the "core strategy" and all references thereafter. However, the evidence-based core strategy is a cornerstone of the Bill as it ensures a sound development plan, which is the key to ensuring good planning at local level, and it is a central plank to zoning reform. Decisions taken at the development plan stage affect all other planning decisions. Therefore, the further amendment is not accepted.

I am disappointed the Minister of State has found it difficult to understand my difficulties with the core strategy that will compel plans for every region. That is at the heart of the Bill. Every region, county, city, town and village will be compelled to demonstrate it conforms with targets set by the national spatial strategy. We know the national spatial strategy process is flawed. It has no democratic legitimacy as it was never discussed in the House. The Minister of State speaks about refreshing the national spatial strategy when in fact it is being reviewed.

What the Minister of State is doing is illegal; a strategic assessment of this legislation, which is required under European law, was not carried out. The targets the Minister of State is seeking to implement, from the top down through the core strategy to all local area plans and development plans, are being set by unelected unaccountable people without reference to the economic, environmental or demographic reality. This is a lot of power to give a Minister of a Department. It removes the local say and the accountable and democratic opportunity people have had at local level. Notwithstanding that guidelines must be adhered to I believe the national spatial strategy in its current format has failed. I do not see any conformity in Government policy to the national spatial strategy introduced in 2002; we know this from decentralisation and other policies implemented at the time.

The environmental reality of the effects of the implementation of a national spatial strategy are unknown. Therefore, we need to have an assessment carried out. After eight years of the implementation of the flawed national spatial strategy, what is its outcome? What implications has it had? What has it done for the country? What are the implications for the regional planning guidelines? Basing our entire planning system on a national spatial strategy based on environmental imponderables is not just illegal but wrong.

I have a fundamental issue about the definition of "core strategy" as outlined in the Bill and I will oppose it for that reason.

I have a similar problem to Deputy Hogan. In amendment No. 12, I propose that section 8 be deleted. I have a particular problem with the subsection which states that submissions to a council shall not refer to a submission relating to requests or proposals for the zoning of particular land for any purpose. The section also states that a manager is restricted to providing a report on submissions providing they do not relate to the issue of zoning and the development plan. The Minister has justified this provision by arguing that at this stage submissions should be of a strategic nature and should relate to overall strategy.

I have a problem with this because I do not see a straightforward separation between strategy and proposals on rezonings. A member of the public might want to make a submission that no land should be rezoned in a development plan. He or she might argue that enough land is zoned under a development plan to last a number of years. Such a submission might relate to zoning. Someone might propose that a particular area of land should be a green belt because there should be a particular number of green belts in a county. Another person might suggest an area should be classed as high amenity or residential in keeping with the consolidation of residential development.

From what I can see the Minister of State is ruling out such submissions. He is making a judgment on what type of submissions members of the public might make if they were to make submissions regarding zonings and he is wrong to do so. Either one believes in public participation and consultation or one does not. The Minister of State should open submissions to allow for whatever the public wants to say about a review of a development plan. I do not agree with the separation between the strategy and zoning.

The fundamental part of a development plan, in terms of democratic input, concerns whether one keeps, changes or subtlety adjusts zoning. By excluding submissions on zonings at this stage lobbying for zonings could be put into a less transparent and publicly accountable channel. We all know that developers speak to planners, council officials, councillors and so on. It is the nature of the process. If that type of thing goes on it should be open and transparent. These people should put their views on the table.

Similarly, members of the public have a view on zoning. They might have no ownership of or vested interest in the land throughout a county but they may have a view on whether land should be zoned for industrial use to provide jobs in an area and to attract employment. That is an issue which is strategic in nature and does not just concern zoning. LAMA has objected to this provision. It believes that no restrictions should be placed on members of the public in making submissions in the preparation of the draft development plan. It said it believes the proposals contained in the Bill are undemocratic in seeking to restrict the type of submissions which can be made regarding the development plan.

The most important thing for the public is zoning. That is what development plans are all about, not vague aspirations and what we would like the county to be. The fundamental element of the development plan is zoning decisions. The public should be allowed at all stages to say what they think. Managers should have to read it and provide a report on all the submissions they receive. A manager can, behind closed doors, make judgments on submissions and decide to exclude some and not others. There could be a thin line on why he or she made a particular decisions or he or she could be prejudiced. He or she will not even have to provide a report as to why he or she excluded particular submissions.

It is not open and transparent. It is an undermining of democracy because councillors will never get to see some the submissions people made. The public will not get to have their say in the way it normally does. I urge the Minister to reconsider the wording of this section and that it why I propose it be deleted.

On what Deputy Hogan said on the national spatial strategy, while I do not agree with the amendment the Minister should take on board the issue of whether it needs to be reviewed. It has been in place for a considerable length of time. The anecdotal evidence suggests that the problem was not with the strategy but that it was not being implemented properly because of inappropriate decisions made at local authority level over the years. If the strategy was adhered to properly then we might not have the problems we have today. I agree with the call for a review, but not in the amended way Deputy Hogan suggested.

I am sympathetic towards the views expressed by Deputy Tuffy and acknowledge the point she is making in terms of the public being able to have an input. Local experience of the consultation processes which have taken place with councils so far, be they development plans, draft development plans, part 8 plans or strategic development zones shows that there tends to be a great arrogance in the way the system — I do not refer to individuals because they are all hardworking people — allows officials to disregard that which they do not see as in line with their way of thinking.

The Bill will not make that any worse because directly elected councillors can be, have been and always will be contacted directly by members of the public. We need to inform members of the public of their rights regarding legislation on the zoning of land, which is what is at stake. A member of the public is not prescribed from making a submission under the terms of this Bill. He or she can call for something not to be zoned or to be zoned in a perfect way. It may be disregarded by the officials. In many cases it is already disregarded by them and will not make much of a difference.

The elected members of local authorities are the ones that have the power to change the zoning if they so wish. We have seen many situations where land has, at the last minute, been turned into residential land. Deputy Tuffy shares a constituency with me. The Adamstown site was rezoned as residential within a very short period of time by the then councillors without any consultation with members of the public. The danger is not in the prescription of the legislation but, rather, the manner in which the officials and elected representatives used the powers given to them.

In terms of the new directly elected Dublin mayor, it is also the case that the unelected officials in Dublin will now be overseen, from a strategic viewpoint, by someone who will be directly answerable. It is the intention of this Government and the Green Party that other directly elected mayors and regional assemblies would be appointed in due course, all of which will be available to Opposition Deputies and members of the public when the draft White Paper on local government is produced. I urge the Minister of State not to go too far in changing what is in place because it is more about the functions of the officials and councillors rather than what is written down on paper.

For the purposes of getting an understanding on how a debate on Report Stage functions, each Member can speak twice and the mover of a motion can speak three times. When one speaks for the second time, it is for a two minute period.

There are some good provisions in this Bill and it is clearly a reaction to problems we have had in our planning legislation in the past.

I thank the Deputy.

The Green Party is not the first to do this. The previous Government, to be fair, passed the Planning and Development Act 2000 which introduced important initiatives, such as that on strategic development zones. Fianna Fáil has the second highest number of councillors in local democracy, yet it seems to be sleepwalking into an undermining of it because it seems to be cowed by the Green Party. Its tail is down between its legs and the Green Party tail is wagging the dog regarding planning and wildlife legislation.

This Bill, for all its good elements, contains provisions which are subtlety undermining democracy. The Green Party says it wants more public participation and is in favour of the Aarhus convention but in this Bill it does not trust the public and is trying to restrict what it can do regarding making submissions. It wants to stop what it sees as the bad public from making submissions and keep what it considers is good from the public. It is making a judgment about the type of submissions people might make. It is also in favour of local democracy and has a local government White Paper.

Yet, in this Bill the Green Party is subtlety undermining democracy. Deputy Gogarty gave an example where something was introduced in a development plan. When the public kicks up about zonings very often they are dropped. If one allows the public to take an interest in zonings it can in turn influence their elected representatives on the council. Many bad zoning decisions have been dropped. We have to allow democracy to work.

If bad decisions are made there are other ways of dealing with it, rather than undermining local democracy. In this Bill the Government is handing over the power to a county manager. It is presuming the county manager will always be right and that councillors and the public cannot be trusted.

Deputy Hogan made quite a serious charge in his initial submission. He suggested that the refreshing of the national spatial strategy is illegal and that what I am doing is illegal. I do not know if the Deputy can make such a charge under Standing Orders.

In light of the gravity of the charge he made, perhaps he might consider withdrawing it.

I will explain it to the Minister of State.

Perhaps the Deputy wishes to rephrase his remark.

He may do so because it is the first time in this House that such a charge was made against me.

I have heard worse.

I have heard much worse.

My comment was very mild compared to how I feel about the matter.

Perhaps we should step outside for a chat about it. I am concerned about such a charge being made in the House and do not know whether I am protected under Standing Orders.

This Bill is about reform and greater regulatory oversight of the planning system. Everyone in this Chamber would agree that the planning system failed us dramatically in regard to oversight and over development. This is the reason for NAMA and ghost estates. We need to ask what went wrong and how we can avoid such dramatically bad planning in the future. That is one of the fundamental reasons for this Bill.

All future zoning decisions will be required to be plan led and evidence based and should assist in working towards the national interest and efficient use of taxpayer investment in infrastructure. It is a simple choice between a developer-led planning system or a plan-based one. Either we take alaissez faire approach in which developers call the shots, which happened on far too many occasions in the past, or we co-ordinate our policies and ensure the views of the public matter. This Bill takes the latter approach.

It does the opposite.

It is wrong for councillors to be wined and dined by developers who want to rezone land.

Is that illegal?

I do not believe it is illegal but if we allow the bulk of the initial submissions on development plans to concentrate on zoning, we will not be able to have the strategic discussion which is crucial to creating a decent plan.

To respond to Deputy Tuffy's claims, we are not banning submissions on rezoning. We are providing that the strategic issues shall be addressed at an early stage of the development process. It is not about Mary Mac's 1.5 acres on the edge of the town. It is about the future of the town. I do not want planners to face piles of papers dealing with rezoning decisions in the early stages when they should be deciding where the jobs, sewers, roads, schools and health clinics should go. I want these strategic issues to be addressed at an early stage of the planning process rather than having the local authority be swamped with detailed submissions on rezoning from the get-go.

To clarify the issue for the Minister of State, the core strategy process which he is inserting into plans involves dictation from top to bottom in regard to what can happen in local areas. His Department is seeking to take unto itself the power to approve all local area development plans, regional authority guidelines and national policy. The Department does not issue many circulars on job creation or rural enterprise but we hear a lot about settlement targets. The Minister of State now intends to prescribe how many people will live in our towns of village.

That is the core strategy. The Bill is illegal because it seeks to create a framework for planning decisions on the basis of a national spatial strategy that has not been subject to a strategic environmental assessment or an appropriate evaluation, as required under two EU directives.

The irony is that the Department and the Minister of State will strenuously insist on every plan based on the NSS complying with these directives. This is grossly illegal.

The Bill seeks to enforce settlement targets under this core strategy. It treats personal decisions about where people want to live, work and rear their families as if they are boxes on a shelf that can be rearranged at the whim of the Department. I think that is wrong because we live in a democracy. It flies in the face of the devolution of powers to local government and everything the Green Party and Fianna Fáil have argued in terms of giving more power to locally elected representatives to order their areas' affairs, subject to the NSS. The provisions of the Bill requires this core strategy to demonstrate compliance with a national spatial strategy that has been democratically unaccountable, demonstrably wrong and, in my view, totally illegal. For this reason, I will be pressing the amendment.

I oppose the amendment and ask Deputy Hogan if the lessons have been learned. When the Minister, Deputy Gormley, had to intervene in County Mayo a letter of protest was sent by Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil councillors.

I will deal with that issue.

The local decision was to rezone for housing outside a town.

The Deputy should not go off on a tangent.

The point I am making is that the Minister needs the power to intervene where a locally made decision is not in line with the best wishes of the people of this country. We cannot allow little cabals to make their own rules in their respective areas. This is why we have basic laws for human, civil and animal rights. Planning is no different. We must have a basic level of good planning and we cannot allow a mullah mentality to interfere just because a couple of people are in cahoots with a landowner or developer. This is why I believe it is essential that the Minister gets these powers.

Deputy Tuffy has spoken twice on the amendment and we will have to make a decision on it.

As I will be moving amendment No. 12, should I not get an opportunity to speak again? Is amendment No. 12 in this grouping?

Unfortunately, I have forgotten what I want to say. I was waiting too long. In regard to the Minister of State's comment that one cannot make a submission about zoning when the strategy is being considered, I do not accept that zoning and strategic considerations are separate in the way he claims. He referred to jobs as a strategic issue but the question of zoning land for industrial use is relevant in this regard. Similarly, schools are built to cater for residential communities, which need to be zoned. Green belts form part of both the strategy and the zoning aspects of a plan. He is wrong, therefore, to assert that zoning should not be included in submissions made under section 8.

Most of the issues to which Deputy Tuffy referred are strategic in nature and would be considered as valid amendments in that context.

In regard to Deputy Hogan's comments, the national spatial strategy was prepared from the end of 2000 and published in November 2002, thus predating the coming into operation of the directive and the regulations. Consequently, the NSS does not fall within the time remit of the directive. The Deputy is, therefore, incorrect to state that what I am doing is illegal. Our proposals in the Bill are, in fact, entirely legal and progressive.

He used the word "dictation" but the Bill does the opposite by allowing local people to make local decisions. I believe it will result in less intervention from central government because it will allow more robust and sustainable decisions to be made at a local level. To give an example, I had a meeting earlier with a group concerned about the western rail link. In light of the reinstatement of the rail link between Limerick and Galway, it is seeking a further extension of the western rail corridor, on which there has been a fantastic grassroots campaign for many years. We discussed the connection between land use and transportation as well as the need for local authorities to prioritise where they want development to take place to maximise the significant Government investment in the railways in the coming years. It is not of any use if there is no connection between decisions on transport, education, health and where people are and will be in future. For this reason, it is important to refresh the national spatial strategy and establish a connection between regional planning guidelines drawn up by democratically elected councillors and local authorities. Coherence is needed from the national stage all the way down to the community hall and this is what the Bill achieves. It will also save money for the taxpayer and result in better decision making.

Question put: "That the words proposed to be deleted stand."
The Dáil divided: Tá, 70; Níl, 49.

  • Ahern, Bertie.
  • Ahern, Dermot.
  • Ahern, Michael.
  • Ahern, Noel.
  • Andrews, Barry.
  • Andrews, Chris.
  • Aylward, Bobby.
  • Behan, Joe.
  • Blaney, Niall.
  • Brady, Áine.
  • Brady, Cyprian.
  • Brady, Johnny.
  • Browne, John.
  • Byrne, Thomas.
  • Calleary, Dara.
  • Carey, Pat.
  • Collins, Niall.
  • Conlon, Margaret.
  • Connick, Seán.
  • Coughlan, Mary.
  • Cregan, John.
  • Cuffe, Ciarán.
  • Curran, John.
  • Devins, Jimmy.
  • Dooley, Timmy.
  • Fahey, Frank.
  • Finneran, Michael.
  • Fitzpatrick, Michael.
  • Fleming, Seán.
  • Flynn, Beverley.
  • Gogarty, Paul.
  • Gormley, John.
  • Grealish, Noel.
  • Hanafin, Mary.
  • Haughey, Seán.
  • Hoctor, Máire.
  • Kelleher, Billy.
  • Kelly, Peter.
  • Kenneally, Brendan.
  • Kennedy, Michael.
  • Killeen, Tony.
  • Kitt, Michael P.
  • Kitt, Tom.
  • Lenihan, Conor.
  • McEllistrim, Thomas.
  • McGrath, Finian.
  • McGrath, Mattie.
  • McGrath, Michael.
  • McGuinness, John.
  • Mansergh, Martin.
  • Moloney, John.
  • Mulcahy, Michael.
  • Nolan, M.J.
  • Ó Cuív, Éamon.
  • Ó Fearghaíl, Seán.
  • O’Brien, Darragh.
  • O’Connor, Charlie.
  • O’Dea, Willie.
  • O’Flynn, Noel.
  • O’Keeffe, Edward.
  • O’Rourke, Mary.
  • O’Sullivan, Maureen.
  • Power, Seán.
  • Roche, Dick.
  • Sargent, Trevor.
  • Scanlon, Eamon.
  • Smith, Brendan.
  • Wallace, Mary.
  • White, Mary Alexandra.
  • Woods, Michael.

Níl

  • Allen, Bernard.
  • Bannon, James.
  • Broughan, Thomas P.
  • Burke, Ulick.
  • Burton, Joan.
  • Connaughton, Paul.
  • Coonan, Noel J.
  • Costello, Joe.
  • Crawford, Seymour.
  • Creed, Michael.
  • Creighton, Lucinda.
  • D’Arcy, Michael.
  • Deenihan, Jimmy.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • English, Damien.
  • Enright, Olwyn.
  • Feighan, Frank.
  • Gilmore, Eamon.
  • Hayes, Brian.
  • Hayes, Tom.
  • Higgins, Michael D.
  • Howlin, Brendan.
  • Kehoe, Paul.
  • Lynch, Ciarán.
  • Lynch, Kathleen.
  • McCormack, Pádraic.
  • McGinley, Dinny.
  • McHugh, Joe.
  • McManus, Liz.
  • Mitchell, Olivia.
  • Naughten, Denis.
  • Neville, Dan.
  • Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.
  • Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
  • O’Dowd, Fergus.
  • O’Keeffe, Jim.
  • O’Shea, Brian.
  • O’Sullivan, Jan.
  • Penrose, Willie.
  • Quinn, Ruairí.
  • Rabbitte, Pat.
  • Reilly, James.
  • Ring, Michael.
  • Sherlock, Seán.
  • Stagg, Emmet.
  • Stanton, David.
  • Tuffy, Joanna.
  • Upton, Mary.
  • Wall, Jack.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies John Cregan and John Curran; Níl, Deputies David Stanton and Emmet Stagg.
Question declared carried.
Amendment declared lost.

Amendments Nos. 4 to 6, inclusive, are related and may be discussed together by agreement.

I move amendment No. 4:

In page 9, to delete lines 40 to 43 and in page 10, to delete lines 1 to 15 and substitute the following:

"5.—Section 4 of the Principal Act is amended—

(a) in subsection (1)—

(i) by the substitution of the following paragraph for paragraph (i):

"(i) development consisting of the thinning, felling or replanting of trees, forests or woodlands or works ancillary to that development, but not including the replacement of broadleaf high forest by conifer species;”,

(ii) by the insertion of the following paragraph after paragraph (i):

"(ia) development (other than where the development consists of provision of access to a public road) consisting of the construction, maintenance or improvement of a road (other than a public road) or works ancillary to such road development, where the road serves forests and woodlands;”,

(iii) in paragraph (l), by the insertion of “or works consisting of land reclamation or reclamation of estuarine marsh land and of callows, referred to in section 2 of that Act” after “the works are commenced”,

and

(b) by the substitution of the following for subsection (4):

"(4) (a) Notwithstanding subsections (1)(a), (i) or (l) and any regulations made under subsection (2), development commenced on or after the coming into operation of this section shall not be exempted development if an environmental impact assessment of the development is required.

(b) The Minister may, for the purposes of giving further effect to the Habitats Directive and requirements of efficiency and effectiveness in the control of proper planning and sustainable development, prescribe development or classes of development (whether or not by reference to an area or a class of areas in which the development is carried out) which, notwithstanding subsections (1)(a), and (h) to (j), and any regulations made under subsection (2), shall not be exempted development.”.”.

This amendment relates to the habitats directive. Does the Minister of State realise that he is closing down rural areas?

Do we take it——

Let us consider what is happening with turf cutting. In my area across the midlands a number of bogs have been closed down.

People cannot cut turf for domestic use which is a shame and disgrace. It is something that has happened for many years in rural areas. Since time began people were allowed to cut their own turf for domestic use. It is part of our heritage and culture. It is a shame that the Minister would see fit to remove this right from people in rural areas. I understand approximately 34 bogs were closed down after the Minister introduced a directive earlier this year. I understand a further 130 bogs will come under the directive next year. This is grossly wrong and I would like the Minister of State to comment on it. There is also his proposal on once-off housing.

I am not sure to which amendment the Deputy is speaking.

I am speaking to amendment No. 4. If the Minister of State became a little more informed in his portfolio, he might understand how his party has destroyed Ireland and particularly rural areas since it came into office.

Let us not become personal about it.

This amendment relates to forestry roads and not the closing down of rural areas.

I am very much aware of that.

He is entitled to speak if he wants to.

We have an amendment that deals with the broader issue to which the Deputy refers.

Yes, on the issue of forestry roads. For many roads, forestry roads in particular, cul-de-sac roads and roads that heretofore were tended to under local improvement schemes, there are insufficient funds to repair those roads after the spell of bad weather around Christmas.

I do not believe that is relevant to primary legislation.

It is a matter that needs to be looked at seriously. I know people in rural areas who cannot access their land and property. Many farmers went into afforestation over the past number of years but now cannot get into those routes to thin plantations. There is an urgent need to consider the area and provide sufficient funding for those involved in afforestation. I hope the Minister will take note of this when going to Cabinet in order to fight for those people and additional funding to repair and carry out the necessary maintenance on those routes.

It seems the Minister and his officials have attempted to deal with the issue in my amendment No. 6 in his amendment No. 4. I spoke on this on Committee Stage and mentioned that Ms Karin Dubsky of Coastwatch Ireland raised the issue with us. I may have asked if the Government was in discussion with Coastwatch Ireland to deal with the issues she raised and which we raised through our amendment. Will the Minister of State clarify the matter as the Government's amendment seems to address the concerns in my amendment? Is Coastwatch Ireland happy with that?

I know Ms Dubsky of Coastwatch Ireland and I have the height of respect for her views. We have considered the matter again and spoken to colleagues in the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. I am pleased to say that we have taken on board the views expressed through the Labour Party amendment. It is good for wetlands and conservation, and I hope the Deputy is pleased with the amendment introduced on Report Stage today.

Amendment agreed to.
Amendment No. 5 not moved.

I move amendment No. 6:

In page 10, between lines 15 and 16, to insert the following:

"and

(c) the substitution of the following paragraph for paragraph (i):

"(i) development consisting of the carrying out of any of the works referred to in the Land Reclamation Act, 1949, not being either works comprised in the fencing or enclosure of land which has been open to or used by the public within the ten years preceding the date on which the works are commenced or works of land reclamation or of reclamation of estuarine marsh or of callows within the meaning of that Act.”.”.

Does this amendment fall as a result of amendment No. 4 being accepted?

An amendment was proposed that addressed the concerns of the Deputy.

I thank the Minister of State for taking on board the Labour Party amendment and dealing with the issue through his own amendment.

To clarify, it provides that land reclamation or reclamation of estuarine marsh or of callows would no longer be exempt.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 7:

In page 11, between lines 2 and 3, to insert the following:

"7.—Section 9 of the Principal Act is amended—

(a) in subsection (4) by the deletion of “have regard to” and the substitution therefor of “take into account”, and

(b) in subsection (5) by the deletion of “substantial” and the substitution therefor of “material”.”.

We are dealing with section 9 of the principal Act and how it refers to "have regard to" in one subsection and in another section it has the term "substantial". With "have regard to" we propose to substitute "take into account" and with "substantial" we propose to substitute "material". I am moving the amendment on foot of representations made by one of the Minister of State's former colleagues, the former Deputy Roger Garland. He brought to my attention a court case, McEvoyv. Meath County Council, where the wording “shall have regard to” was considered.

He advises me that the High Court spent approximately two weeks deciding what the phrase meant and in finding for the defendant it stated the council, having considered the guidelines, was entitled to ignore most suggestions. Effectively, the phrase as it stands has very little meaning.

I am not hung up on our amendment but it does raise the issue. The original section 9 in the principal Act uses different phrases in different subsections. In section 9 of the 2000 principal Act phrases used include "shall have regard to" in subsection (4), "shall take into account" in subsection (5) and "shall, in so far as is practicable, be consistent with" in subsection (6). It is a valid issue as to how much weight "shall have regard to" carries. We cannot stop people from voting the way they want and we cannot legislate for people making their own mind up in a democracy, yet bad decisions have been made and we should address the issue.

The Labour Party agrees in principle that the issue should be considered but we want to protect local democracy. Any action should not interfere with local democracy and there may be other ways to proceed. We have had a construction bubble, bad planning decisions, excessive zonings, etc., so there should have been a Green Paper and White Paper in the planning area. We must ensure local democracy brings about the best planning.

The Government and the Green Party in particular is trying to fix these problems but their actions may not work and may interfere with local democracy. If the Labour Party was in Government, we would consider the possibility of appeal for rezoning decisions to An Bord Pleanála. That may be a solution to bad planning decisions. For example, a strategic development zone planning scheme could be appealed, with either developers or the public making the appeal.

There is a need to address the problem of councils making the wrong decisions but, at the same time, we either have democracy or we do not. We must allow the people to make up their own minds. There is an idea that a magic phrase can be used to make councillors think in a particular way but that is a nonsense. Democracy means a person can think one way or another and make a choice of "Yes" or "No". We cannot get into people's brains and make them decide in a particular way.

I am raising the point but I do not necessarily think there is a set of words that will do the trick. On planning in general we should consider the issues more deeply than is evident in this Bill.

I can empathise with the concerns of Deputy Tuffy. With regard to the Smithv. Meath County Council, the issue was the regional planning guidelines and the county development plan. To my recollection it did not involve the co-ordination between adjoining development plans. I made a similar mistake this morning in discussion with officials on the use of these words and phrases. This amendment concerns itself with how two adjoining development plans take each other into account. The phrase we are using is “take into account” instead of “have regard to”. There has been consultation with the Attorney General on the best form of words in this case.

The Deputy alluded to the second issue. What if the wrong decision is made by a local authority? The last position a Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government wants to be in is to say a local authority's decision is wrong. I like the suggestion of the issue going to a higher authority that is not the Minister but there is a problem. If, for example, An Bord Pleanála were to be given a responsibility of oversight of development plans, as the board would have to adjudicate on individual planning decisions there would always be a conflict in such cases. It would not be as easy as giving the board oversight in this regard.

The Bill in broad terms will ensure there is much less toing and froing between the Minister and relevant local authorities. That is good because the last thing the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government wants is to consider individual development plans from the 88 planning authorities around the country. Amendment No. 7 proposes the substitution of "have regard to" with "take into account". The provision whereby planning authorities must have regard to the development plans of adjoining planning authorities is appropriate. I hope I did not muddy the waters earlier. I do not propose to accept the amendment.

I would like to respond to a number of the points made by the Minister of State. My proposal in respect of An Bord Pleanála is not a fixed idea. I am merely suggesting that is possible. I believe there is a need to look more fundamentally at planning issues. As I understand it, some countries do not allow the type of zoning we allow. One can have too much or too little zoning. As I have stated previously, zoning allowed land to become valuable and not zoning resulted in other land becoming valuable. There is a need to look at planning in a more fundamental way and this could perhaps be done from now on. NAMA has been established and there is much happening in respect of construction. Many councils are currently not zoning, which is something I would have pushed for on my local council. Managers believe enough land has been zoned to keep us going for some years.

There is a crisis in the planning area to which councils are responding. I believe this legislation is doing likewise. I agree with the legislation in principle and accept that the Green Party's intentions are good in terms of trying to address problems in current planning legislation. However, the Bill only tinkers with the issue and could cause problems. I also believe some of its provisions are undemocratic, which is the reason for my tabling certain amendments.

There is a need for legislation in this area to be consolidated, which is, perhaps, a matter for another day. In terms of the issue dealt with in the amendment, there is a need to examine the phrasing used in planning legislation to ensure it is consistent throughout. We should pick one phrase and then stick with it, which I again accept is another day's work.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment No. 8 has been already discussed with amendment No. 3. Is the amendment being pressed?

I move amendment No. 8:

In page 11, to delete lines 4 to 29.

The most disserving aspect of this Bill is the undermining of local democracy. Too many powers are being transferred to regional authorities. The Bill transfers powers from locally elected representatives who are the people at the coalface. We are all aware of the functions of local government in any democratic state. It is the machinery by which important services are delivered.

Perhaps the Deputy will tell us the purpose of this amendment.

The amendment seeks the deletion of lines 4 to 29 in page 11.

Is the amendment being withdrawn?

I would like first to hear the Minister of State's response.

I will allow a brief reply as this amendment has been already discussed with amendment No. 3.

We have discussed it. I reiterate my belief that local democracy is enshrined in law and that only the big picture, strategic issues, is addressed in national and regional policy. Local decisions will continue to be made by local people. The Bill strikes a better balance between national, regional and local interests. There is greater emphasis within the Bill on energy security, climate change and flood risk management. One needs only to recall the pictures on our television screens within the last year of flooding of developments built only a couple of years ago to realise we need a more robust planning system, one that takes into account the wider national strategies, that examines river basin management, climate change and the connection between transportation and zonings. I believe this to be democracy. Involving regional authorities in their oversight makes sense. The last thing we want is for the Minister to have to intervene in this area, which is the purpose of this Bill.

The Minister is through this Bill proposing to transfer powers from locally elected representatives to regional authorities. We all know the reason regional authorities were set up by the former Progressive Democrats when in government with Fianna Fáil was to draw down funding from Europe. One cannot be directly elected to a regional authority but must be appointed by one's respective local authority. I served on a regional authority for a number of years. They are only talking shops. Real power lies with the local authorities. I believe we should be enhancing local authorities' powers. I have never heard of representations being made to a regional authority member. People make their representations to their locally elected representatives. We have many plans, including local area plans, county development plans, regional plans and so on, but no action by Government.

We are all aware of the flooding that occurred throughout the country last year. In this regard reference was made to Cork, the midlands, including Longford-Westmeath and Roscommon. Following the flooding, the Government promised the construction of flood defences but no action has been taken.

The Deputy should take up with the matter with his local council.

There is much talk of what needs to be done but people need action. There was serious flooding last night under the railway bridge on the Strokestown Road in Longford.

The Deputy is drifting away from the content of the amendment.

A number of new homes, for which planning permission was granted during the past ten years, were flooded. Action must be taken to ensure what happened last November, December and January does not recur.

That is what the Minister is trying to do.

The Government, Fianna Fáil in particular, is wonderful at keeping statistical information on people. They almost know where everyone slept last night or ate this morning. The Government should have foreseen these problems some years ago. The Central Statistics Office has information on the number of new homes built, many of which are now part of ghost estates in which serious problems have occurred. I want promises made by the Minister of State, Deputy Mansergh, to be delivered on. The Minister of State visited the midlands on four or five occasions and promised the people the sun, moon and stars.

The Deputy is straying from the amendment.

The Minister of State has not to date delivered on the promises and commitments he gave to people in the midlands. I know of farmers and householders whose water supply remains contaminated because of serious flooding. I do not blame the Minister of State for the rainfall that occurred in November, December and January. It was an act of God. However, he promised support would be provided for the unfortunate individuals concerned but has not to date delivered. I would appreciate if the Minister of State, Deputy Cuffe, would take my plea on behalf of those people to the Minister of State, Deputy Mansergh, to ensure the promises and commitments made are delivered on.

If one goes out the Strokestown Road and finds a cottage up on a rise, and if one speaks to the fellow who has lived in that cottage all his life, I am sure he will tell one, and could have told one ten years ago, that there was always flooding under the railway bridge on the Strokestown Road. I want this Bill to make sure the planner and the county manager know there is always flooding under the railway bridge on the Strokestown Road. We should not give planning permission for houses under the railway bridge on the Strokestown Road, even if there is pressure from councillors to rezone land there.

The regional planning guidelines, the flooding guidelines and the national spatial strategy concentrate on putting the right kind of development in the right places. I am making it clear that regional authorities should participate in the public consultation process and in the development of planning, given that they adopt the regional planning guidelines. It is a question of co-ordination and oversight. We need to make sure that new houses, beside the railway bridge on the Strokestown Road or elsewhere, are not flooded.

The Minister of State is at odds with most planners throughout the length and breadth of Ireland.

I ask the Deputy to conclude the debate on this amendment.

There is a serious problem throughout the length and breadth of this country. I know people who have prime sites in rural and urban Ireland. They are not allowed to construct a house if the site is on a hill, or any sort of a rise in the ground. In recent times, people have been forced to locate their houses in a hollow, or at the bottom of a hill. They are told to move from scenic areas down into the valleys. I live in a house that was built on a prime site almost 300 years ago, in 1728. It is not a blight on the countryside. I am proud of my home, as are many other people whose homes were built at that time. This is a serious problem throughout the length and breadth of this country. Planners are forcing people to construct their homes in hollows. I would like this matter to be addressed in the guidelines the Minister issues to planners. People are being forced to build their houses in valleys, hollows and flood plains. This is a serious situation. A neighbour of mine who applied for planning permission was told last week to locate his new home down from the hill and into the hollow. This does not make sense. The decisions of planners will create problems in the not too distant future and in years to come.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 9:

In page 11, line 11, after "guidelines" to insert the following:

"and have due regard to development plan guidelines".

The purpose of this amendment is to ensure development plan guidelines are of almost equal importance to the national spatial strategy and the regional planning guidelines. It has been proposed on foot of a suggestion made by a former Member of this House, Mr. Roger Garland. If the Minister of State can make a quick comment on it, I would appreciate it.

I am still reeling from Deputy Bannon's assault on planners. He suggested that planners do not want people to build on the tops of mountains and that they are forcing everyone to live in the lowlands. I suggest that proper planning would pay greater attention to building halfway up the hill — not at the top of the hill where one's roof would be blown off and——

Not in the valleys

——not at the bottom of the hill, where one's house would be flooded. If one takes all the relevant factors into account, one can find the perfect combination. In fairness, Deputy Bannon should withdraw his insult to the planning profession.

Amendment No. 9 proposes that the phrase "and have due regard to development plan guidelines" be included in the core strategy provision that will be set out in the new section 10(1A) of the Planning and Development Act 2000. The core strategy has a specific function within the development plan, namely, to provide relevant information on how the plan and the housing strategy are consistent with the regional planning guidelines and the national spatial strategy. The development plan guidelines are published under section 28 of the 2000 Act, which is also being amended by this Bill. Therefore, planning authorities are required to have regard to them when they are preparing and implementing their development plans. The amendment is not necessary for that reason and I do not propose to accept it.

Amendment, by leave withdrawn.

As amendments Nos. 10 and 122 are related, they may be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 10:

In page 12, to delete lines 18 to 23 and substitute the following:

"(n) the promotion of sustainable settlement and transportation strategies in urban and rural areas including the promotion of measures to—

(i) reduce energy demand in response to the likelihood of increases in energy and other costs due to long-term decline in non-renewable resources,

(ii) reduce anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions, and

(iii) address the necessity of adaptation to climate change; in particular, having regard to location, layout and design of new development;".

I am happy to propose this amendment, which proposes the incorporation of measures to reduce energy demand in response to the likelihood of increases in energy and other costs due to the long-term decline in non-renewable resources, as part of the new development plan mandatory objective for the promotion of sustainable settlement and transportation strategies in urban and rural areas and while having regard to the location, layout and design of new developments. As Deputies are aware, the function of the planning system is to support the sustainable development of land in the interests of the common good. Development plans are intended to provide the strategic framework and policy contexts for all local planning decisions. They are frameworks for initiating and influencing the process of change in our surroundings, in order to support the wider economic, social and environmental objectives of the community.

The Minister of State has a duty to apologise to the decent people of this country, who have been let down since the Green Party went into government with Fianna Fáil. People are crying out for change. The Minister of State can act honourably in this Chamber this afternoon——

If the Deputy would relate his remarks to the amendment, it would help matters no end.

——by withdrawing his support for the Government and going to the country. There needs to be a test scheme here, and the sooner the better.

Does the Deputy agree with the amendments before the House?

That is necessary for the betterment of our society and our people.

The Deputy should speak about amendment No. 10.

Amendments Nos. 10 and 122 will give increased powers to the regional authorities. I strongly object to that.

Amendment No. 10 refers to the need to "address the necessity of adaptation to climate change". During a flooding incident a couple of year ago, the Minister made a big announcement that was publicised by a newspaper. He said he intended to introduce the national adaptation strategy earlier than intended, but it is late at this stage, in fact. When will we see the strategy? If the Minister wants county councils to produce local adaptation strategies, the national strategy needs to be available.

This specific and technical amendment proposes the inclusion of three additional points in an existing section of the Bill. It is part of a section that deals with new ways of looking at things, and not before time. Better construction standards have been voluntarily adopted by local authorities in places like Dún Laoghaire. Contrary to what Deputy Bannon has suggested, we are statutorily requiring local authorities to ensure that when planning permission is awarded for houses, that will not lead to increased guzzling of gas and oil. As we do not have such resources, we have to import them. The price of oil will increase as we approach peak oil. One of the elements of the Government strategy is an attempt to create more self-sufficient forms of energy. That will involve reducing our energy usage, where possible. If local authorities do not take on board the need to reduce energy demand in response to the likely increases in energy costs, a further unwarranted expense will be placed on people as they move into new homes. BER standards are significantly higher in areas with newer buildings than they are in more settled areas. Therefore, the energy costs of residents in such areas are lower. As we move down the line, there will be two types of residents. There will be those who are being crucified by high energy costs and those who have managed, through the insulation schemes or proper planning, to reduce their bills.

I particularly welcome the second and third additions relating to greenhouse gas emissions and adaptation to climate change. They are directly in line with what Deputy Bannon said, and I praise him for bringing this up. Floods have always happened and, as the Minister of State has said, certain areas are prone to flooding. Met Éireann has predicted that because of climate change we will have more rainfall in Ireland and, therefore, more floods. Local authorities must consider the effect of climate change over a period of time. Climate does not refer to the weather this year or next year but to conditions over a period of time. In my constituency, for example, Lucan village was flooded in 1993 and 2000. The local authority said this was a one in 100 year flood. If this sort of legislation is enacted the council might say it was more like a one in 30 or 40 year flood. Therefore, we must strengthen river defences. We must also make sure that planning permission is not granted to build on flood plains.

This measure copperfastens the protection of both rural and urban communities by making sure planners take local issues and topography on board, as well as the changing national climate. This will ensure that we properly plan and develop low cost energy efficient homes that will not need expensive flood insurance. This is very welcome.

One of my best friends has a house on top of a hill beside her former home. It fits in quite well. Her son wanted to build half way down the hill but was not allowed. Planners insisted that he build right at the bottom of the hill. His builder checked the foundations and found that piling would be necessary to build there. Planners do not get everything right. That was an example of absolute stupidity.

I completely support efforts to minimise the use of oil and other non-renewable forms of energy. Everything that can be done should be done to build and insulate our houses in a way that minimises energy use. I did that as far back as 1971. I put in double glazing, insulation and a wood burning stove. There was no word then of green issues but that is how our house was built in 1971. I am totally in favour of making sure that houses are built to the highest possible standard. This is much more important than building massive houses that people do not want and on which they must paying high mortgages. In that context, I support this type of measure.

However, we must have some local democracy. In County Monaghan, we have suffered as a result of ultimatums to stop people building homes on their own farms. That is not good enough.

I do not want to get bogged down in a topversus bottom of the hill argument. Where there are existing buildings is often a good place to consider construction. Those who built 50, 100 or 200 years ago had to think long, hard and carefully about where to build because they did not have JCBs or oil. Deferring to our ancestors makes a lot of sense.

Deputy Tuffy spoke about the adaptation strategy. I want to see that strategy published as soon as possible. We have already published the guidelines for planning authorities on the planning system and flood risk management. These are a key step towards adaptation to climate change, certainly in the area of flooding. We must respond to many other aspects of climate change. The question of cheap and abundant oil feeds into that. Reducing energy demand has an influence over the type of settlement pattern we choose. I am glad we have published guidelines on flood risk management. They are a key step towards not repeating the mistakes of the past.

We need an enhanced grant scheme for home insulation. Funding for the greener home scheme is not sufficient to encourage people to insulate their homes. This needs to be looked at seriously. When Deputy John Gormley became Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government he introduced two grant schemes. I understand one of those schemes has been discontinued in recent months. The Minister's spin on this was to say the schemes were being amalgamated. This matter needs to be addressed.

With regard to serious flooding of homes, I ask the Minister of State to carry out a national survey of the number of people who have requested local authorities to provide channels in front of their homes to prevent water from public roadways entering their properties. I know of huge numbers of people in counties Longford and Westmeath who have asked that channels be provided in front of their homes to prevent flooding. This problem was created by planners' decisions to locate properties in low-lying areas. The result of such a survey would be very interesting and I am sure the Minister of State will embark on such a survey.

Subparagraph 7(b)(ii)(o) deals with public rights of way. I understand the Minister of State has had conversations with Roger Garland about this provision. He raised concerns on behalf of the hill walking group with which he is associated. In Dún Laoghaire public rights of way were removed from a list but no procedure existed for extinguishing them. Does the amendment address the concerns Mr. Garland raised? Can the Minister of State comment on this matter?

I would like to go further in the publication of rights of way and their incorporation in the plan. I am conscious of the debate between land owners and worthy NGOs, such as that with which Mr. Garland is associated. In fairness, I must speak to the amendments in front of me, which deal with sustainable development. They are important and are a step in the right direction.

I would be willing to look at the flooding issue and the relevant planners' reports to see how many of them were granted on the recommendation of the county manager and how many came through the Section 4 process or, more recently the section 140 process, which I think has given cause for concern.

Flooding is a real issue. I recently had a communication from a colleague saying his annual insurance premium went up by €150 this year. When he queried it he was told the increase was because of flooding. Proper planning will lead to benefits in the longer term and to increases in insurance premiums becoming less likely. We must have this joined-up thinking. We cannot act in isolation from river basin strategies, strategic planning and local planning. We must join the dots between local, regional, national planning and other strategies on energy use and flood risk management.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment No. 11, in the name of Deputy Hogan, arises out of committee proceedings and was discussed with amendment No. 3.

I move amendment No. 11:

In page 12, to delete lines 45 to 53, to delete page 13 and in page 14, to delete lines 1 to 25.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment No. 12, in the name of Deputy Tuffy, arises out of committee proceedings and was discussed with amendment No. 3.

I move amendment No. 12:

In page 15, to delete lines 19 to 47 and in page 16, to delete lines 1 to 29.

Question, "That the words proposed to be deleted stand", put and declared carried.
Amendment declared lost.

Amendment No. 13, in the name of the Minister, arises out of committee proceedings and was discussed with amendment No. 3.

I move amendment No. 13:

In page 15, to delete lines 44 to 47 and in page 16, to delete lines 1 to 3 and substitute the following:

"(bb) indicate that children, or groups or associations representing the interests of children, are entitled to make submissions or observations under paragraph (b),

(bc) state that the planning authority intends to review the zoning of the area of the development plan for the purposes referred to in subsection (1A)(a) and (b) and indicate that requests or proposals for zoning of particular land for any purpose shall not be considered at this stage.”,”.

Amendment No. 13 proposes to ensure that the notification issued by a planning authority regarding the preparation of a draft development plan will indicate that children, or groups or associations representing the interests of children, are entitled to make submissions or observations. I have held the view for a long time that because those aged under 18 do not have the franchise we often tend to overlook their needs which are often different from those of older people. In the kinds of discussions one has in council chambers, as I did in the 12 years I was a councillor, we tended to see young adults or older children as a problem to get rid off rather than as a social challenge for whom to provide. Whether in the type of parks we create or in the provision of safe routes to school, we need to look long and hard within the development plan process at how we can best incorporate the needs of children.

I mentioned this matter shortly after my appointment and I am glad to incorporate this in the Bill.

Amendment agreed to.
Amendment No. 14 not moved.

Amendment No. 15, in the name of the Minister, again arises from committee proceedings and has been discussed.

I move amendment No. 15:

In page 24, between lines 34 and 35, to insert the following:

"(ii) in paragraph (b), by the insertion of the following subparagraph after subparagraph (iii):

"(iv) that children, or groups or associations representing the interests of children, are entitled to make submissions or observations under subparagraph (iii).",".

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment No. 16, in the name of Deputy Hogan, arises from committee proceedings and was discussed with amendment No. 3.

I move amendment No. 16:

In page 27, between lines 43 and 44, to insert the following:

"(a) The National Spatial Strategy shall be approved by the Houses of the Oireachtas.”.

Amendment put and declared lost.

Amendment No. 17, in the name of Deputy Hogan, again arises from committee proceedings and was discussed with amendment No. 3.

I move amendment No. 17:

In page 27, to delete lines 44 to 47 and in page 28, to delete lines 1 to 3.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment No. 18, in the name of Deputy Hogan, again arises from committee proceedings and was discussed with amendment No. 3.

I move amendment No. 18:

In page 28, to delete lines 5 to 12.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment No. 19 is out of order.

Amendment No. 19 not moved.

Amendment No. 20, in the name of Deputy Hogan, arises from committee proceedings. Amendments Nos. 21 and 22 are related and, therefore, amendments Nos. 20 to 22, inclusive, may be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 20:

In page 30, to delete lines 10 to 50 and in page 31, to delete lines 1 to 10.

This amendment relates to the national spatial strategy and I strongly believe it should be approved by both Houses of the Oireachtas. The national spatial strategy was never voted upon but was brought about by Government. Bad decisions were made, especially in the midlands. There was a great deal of ministerial influence at the time and city status was given to three towns in the region, Athlone, Tullamore and Mullingar. Towns such as Portlaoise and Longford were ignored and were not given even hub status. At the time, I was of the view that one town, probably Athlone or Mullingar, should have been given gateway status and all the other towns in the region should have been given hub status. This should be reviewed again.

The national spatial strategy was intended to cover the development of Ireland over a 20 year period but a bad decision was made regarding the midlands. There was too much political influence and although the document should have been voted upon, this did not happen. Any proposal that is as important as the national spatial strategy should be brought before the Houses of the Oireachtas and decided upon there. I was not a Member of either House at the time but I understand there was very little debate on the national spatial strategy document. In other words, a dog's dinner was made of it in regard to the midlands.

We now see the situation of our hospitals and other infrastructure where there is one bit here and another bit there, taken from another place. Communities have been divided and everybody is fighting for their own powers and dominance. This does not benefit the midlands. There is a considerable absence of infrastructure in the region with the continuing downgrading of the Midlands Regional Hospital in Mullingar which is in a prime location on the M4 motorway, the only large hospital on the route between Dublin and Sligo.

There is no rail link between any of the towns in the midlands. When the country was under British rule there was a link between Athlone and Mullingar. Deputy O' Rourke, who is still a Member of this House, proposed to renew that link when she held the portfolio of Minister for Transport. For a long time I have advocated the opening of a rail link——

The Deputy is straying not only beyond the terms of the amendment, but beyond those of the Bill.

——around the midlands. We also need an airport.

Now he has strayed well beyond the terms of the Bill.

I have called for this for years. In addition, we need upgrading of the M4 motorway to continue it from Mullingar to Longford, linking up with the route from Sligo which has come back as far as Rooskey. That area of the midlands has been neglected as has the tourism potential of the region. There should be a greater focus on the development of the midlands in the national spatial strategy but this is not taking place at present.

We do not often get a chance to discuss the town of Rooskey on the national stage but I am always delighted to discuss the needs of and challenges for smaller towns throughout the country and to point out the seminal importance of the national spatial strategy in providing a hierarchy and a framework that will allow larger towns such as Mullingar and smaller ones such as Rooskey to thrive. It is crucial that we get the big picture material right because from that will flow the right kind of decisions that will impact on even the smallest communities.

We spoke about the national spatial strategy several times at earlier stages. The national spatial strategy is Government planning policy and it has the democratic mandate of the Oireachtas. There was extensive consultation and research undertaken prior to the publication of the strategy in 2002. There were over 60 consultation sessions with all kinds of stakeholders throughout the country. The key implementation elements of the strategy, such as the regional planning guidelines, the city and county development plans and the local area plans were all devised and approved by elected members in the regions and in the counties. It is within these planning documents that effect is given to translating the strategy into real actions and policies. Therefore, I would argue that there already is strong democratic accountability on the shaping of planning policy at a regional and local level, within the broad parameters set down in the strategy.

We are not trying to re-invent the wheel here. We have a 20 year timeline for a strategy and we want to make sure it is delivered. The first indications are that a lack of co-ordination is diminishing the impact, the importance and the efficacy of the national spatial strategy.

The Green Party was not in Government at the time with Fianna Fáil, but many decisions on the national spatial strategy were taken in the famous Galway tent. There was very little debate in this House on the strategy. There is a view among the public that we got it wrong on the strategy. For example, I served on the Midland Health Board and there was never a whimper of a new hospital for Tullamore at the time. An upgrading of the Midland Regional Hospital in Mullingar was agreed as the hub for the midlands when the hospital in Longford was closed. When he was Minister for Health and Children and Minister for Finance, Deputy Cowen waved the magic wand and decided that he wanted that facility in Tullamore. The north midland area has suffered since then because services are constantly being withdrawn from the hospital in Mullingar.

Last year in this Chamber I highlighted the fact that there was a phantom consultant dermatologist in place, and people were being conned——

We are going well beyond the confines of this Bill.

——for a number of months. False appointments were being sent out to them and then those appointments were cancelled when they were due to turn up at the hospital. This was highlighted and an apology was issued by the HSE at that juncture.

This is not related to planning.

I agree with the Deputy's suggestion that planning permission is required for the Galway tent, if not a strategic environmental assessment.

I will call on the Minister of State in a moment.

The structure is no longer in place. That was then and this is now. Time has moved on and this Bill is cleaning up the kind of decisions that may have been made in the past.

The Minister of State might show the House some courtesy and wait to be called.

Deputy Bannon, I am afraid your time is up on this interjection, but you may be called again. I now call on Deputy Crawford.

I would like to speak about the national spatial strategy.

The Deputy should speak to the amendment.

While it is very important to have structures in place, we must not forget that there are situations where it is very useful to provide planning that might not always fit into the box. Only for the planning that was given in Monaghan to small industries on people's own farms, we would have very little industry today. There has been much talk about the hub towns and other things, but no industry has ever been provided in them to facilitate the houses that have been built on them. We need to be much more positive in how we deal with things as they happen.

One example of this is Moffatt engineering at Clontibret, which is a firm known worldwide and was set up in a farmer's back yard. The company is still there today and there is another company outside Monaghan as well. A bit of common sense allowed that to develop and if we went by today's plans, that would not happen. We need to be very careful that we do not throw out the baby with the bath water.

There seems to be a general thrust from the Fine Gael benches that anything proposed as a guideline from the Minister or anything that has a planned strategy is somehow lacking. Deputy Crawford mentioned the issue of job creation in Monaghan. The idea of having a strategy is to make sure that the jobs are located where the people live. In the past, the houses have too often been zoned in the wrong areas and people now have to commute many miles to work. The whole idea of having a strategy is to ensure that planners and the elected local authority members have recourse to take these things into consideration. Anything that attempts to delete that overarching guidelines is quite dangerous.

How stands amendment No. 20?

I am talking about the creation of the national spatial strategy without a vote and without this Parliament making a decision. We have been let down far too often, because there has been political interference and nod and wink politics. The Green Party is aware of that and was critical of Fianna Fáil behaviour when it was in Opposition for many of the decisions the Government took when the national spatial strategy document was approved. It would make sound common sense to have a vote and have the national spatial strategy document approved by the Houses of the Oireachtas. There should not be interference from outside bodies and the Minister of State got a little hot under the collar when I mentioned the Galway tent. He was fairly critical of the cronies of Fianna Fáil who were in the Galway tent over the years. I know that the Taoiseach abolished the idea of the Galway tent, but it would not be in existence anyway in today's climate. It went because there was no money in the country and there was nobody there to support it any longer.

There was no vote on the national spatial strategy and I would like to see that happen in these Houses. After all, people expect us to take real decisions and this is a 20 year plan for the development of our country.

Question, "That the words proposed to be deleted stand", put and declared carried.
Amendment declared lost.

I move amendment No. 21:

In page 31, to delete lines 11 to 41.

Question, "That the words proposed to be deleted stand", put and declared carried.
Amendment declared lost.
Amendment No. 22 not moved.

Amendment No. 24 is related to amendment No. 23 and is an alternative. Therefore, amendments Nos. 23 and 24 may be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 23:

In page 32, to delete lines 22 to 52 and in page 33, to delete lines 1 and 2.

Does Deputy Tuffy wish to speak to her amendment No. 24?

I have more or less covered what is proposed in it.

Amendment No. 23 proposes the deletion of the proposed amendments to section 28 of the principal Act in regard to strengthening the requirements for planning authorities to adhere to rather than merely have regard to key statutory guidance issued by the Minister under this section, whereas amendment No. 24 proposes to substitute the words "take into account" for the word "consider" in regard to policies and objectives of the Minister contained in section 28 and development plan guidelines. It seems that one half of the Opposition is trying to water down the proposals and the other half is trying to strengthen the requirements. It is a challenge for the Opposition to speak with one voice when it comes to their thoughts and concerns on this Bill.

The strengthening of the Bill is important, as planning authorities will now have to demonstrate, by way of statement, when preparing and making a draft development plan how it has implemented the policies and objectives of the Minister contained in ministerial guidelines.

The Labour Party's amendment proposes the substitution of the words "take into account" for the word "consider" in regard to policies. We believe that the word "consider" is wholly appropriate as this consideration is in the context of the statement that the planning authority has been obliged to append to the draft development plan or the development plan as the case may be, which must demonstrate how the planning authority has implemented the policies and objectives of the Minister contained in ministerial guidelines issued under section 28.

The amendment is not being accepted. The substantial point to be made is that there is disagreement, if not disarray, on the Opposition benches as to whether we need to tighten up or loosen the planning process.

The Minister of State is the last person who should be talking about disarray. We witnessed disarray between Fianna Fáil and the Green Party on the Wildlife (Amendment) Bill and we will witness further disarray tomorrow evening on the Dog Breeding Establishments Bill. Many of their Members are talking out of both sides of their mouths.

In this amendment we are saying "No" to the undermining of local democracy. We do not want the powers of those people who were elected to local authorities to be undermined. I do not want any increased powers given to regional authorities above those held by local authorities. The Minister of State should understand that.

I do not have anything further to add because we have covered the points already in the previous amendments. I reiterate that a problem with the legislation is the inconsistency in phrasing throughout it. There needs to be a determination as to what is the right phase and to stick with it.

Unlike my colleague, the Minister of State, Deputy Cuffe, I would not get too hung up about disarray between Opposition parties because it is clear, for example, that the Labour Party and Fine Gael will have to negotiate a programme for Government. If the Labour Party were to go into government with the Green Party, we would have many more similarities than with Fine Gael but, as I have said in previous statements, it is all about numbers.

I am intrigued that Deputy Bannon is holding the fort for the Fine Gael Bench on environmental issues. That is quite apt because the proposal to delete this section — it was not tabled by Deputy Bannon but by Deputy Hogan — is absolutely bonkers. There would be sense in deleting this section if the Fine Gael Deputies had succeeded in having their previous amendments passed, but given that they were not accepted, the proposal to delete this section is illogical. I refer in particular to section 20(1B)(b), which states: "if applicable, that the planning authority has formed the opinion that it is not possible, because of the nature and characteristics of the area or part of the area of the development plan, to implement certain policies and objectives of the Minister contained in the guidelines when considering the application of those policies in the area or part of the area of the draft development plan or the development plan and shall give reasons for the forming of the opinion and why the policies and objectives of the Minister have not been so implemented."

Deleting the section would go against everything Deputy Crawford has been saying in terms of specific local instances where exceptions may need to be made and where people on the ground may have that specialist knowledge. Retaining this section means that the local authority members and the planners can plead a special case to the Minister. I have made previous arguments as to why the Minister should have those overarching powers. Pleading a special cases means that in some circumstances there may be some wiggle room for manoeuvre to meet those local circumstances.

Deputy Bannon on the other hand suggests that the deletion of this section would strengthen local democracy. If anything, it would lead to more conflict between the Minister of the day and the local authorities. Given that the guidelines are in place to strengthen local democracy and for local authority members to have recourse to them, deleting this section would make the link between the developer and business donations to politicians a live issue at least until the point at which we would get rid of this in the programme for Government.

We will all be looking forward to the Minister, Deputy Gormley's Green Paper on local government. He said prior to being appointed Minister — I have followed the statements he has made — that he does not believe in all the various bodies, namely, local authorities and regional authorities; he believes there is too much representation at regional level. I await with interest to see if he will contradict himself when he publishes the Green paper on local government.

It is wrong to remove powers from local public representatives who are elected by the people in their different wards and areas. The regional authorities, as we all know, are a talking shop. I served on the Midland Regional Authority and it was nothing but a talking shop. It had no real powers and it delivered nothing. It was a facility for some members to attend and to be a member of another committee but they had no powers or clout. The public look to the locally elected members to deliver on services. I do not want there to be any increase in powers given to regional authorities in this regard or any powers taken from locally elected representatives.

I support Deputy Bannon on this point. I raised this issue on Committee Stage. I refer to the idea that councils must have regard to regional planning guidelines, the new provisions in this Bill in that regard and the drawing up of regional planning guidelines and the national spatial strategy. I am referring to the essential point made by Deputy Bannon. Regional authorities are not directly accountable to the electorate. I also served on a regional authority and it was a talking shop; we had very little input into the matters dealt with. I was on the subcommittee that drew up the regional planning guidelines for greater Dublin area and I had very little say. The way I was slotted into the procedure was very much to rubber stamp the guidelines while the officials had the edge.

Decisions about planning should rest with elected representatives because they are accountable to the electorate. If they make bad decisions, then the electorate can do something about it. The Green Party may find it a problem that people are sometimes elected again and again and it might not agree with their particular policies. However, that is democracy. That is politics and that is what it is about. The Green Party has a philosophical problem with democracy and that is not a good thing.

My party has a philosophical problem with democracy only in so far as there is not enough of it.

The Deputy's party does not trust democracy.

Democracy should represent the wishes of the people rather than the wishes of banks, developers and trade unions. These provisions mean that the Minister of the day, who is elected by the people and by Dáil Éireann, can make a strategic decision in the best interests of all the people and not just a select few in a particular area. Councillors in different areas will generally make the correct decisions, but it does not make sense strategically, for example, to build a large number of houses in Leitrim. Deputy Bannon referred to ghost towns in Longford. There is no point in councillors being allowedcarte blanche to rezone land in Leitrim and Longford when there is neither the population nor the employment opportunities to support that.

If a poor decision is made by a local authority — often in the past such decisions were influenced by developers with, in some cases, legitimate donations being given — the Minister must have the power to call a halt and to amend the development plan. That is what the Minister, Deputy Gormley, has done on several occasions in recent years in respect of decisions by some Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael councillors in particular. This provision strengthens that capability of the Minister but also affords local authorities the facility to appeal such decisions and to plead special circumstances. That will protect local input and address specific local issues of concern.

To clarify, Deputy Gogarty referred to ghost towns, but I was speaking about ghost estates.

Who rezoned the land in question?

Last night in Longford a factory employing more than 100 people was closed down. If it is left to the Green Party and Fianna Fáil, towns in the midlands and throughout the country will become ghost towns. For now, however, we are dealing with ghost estates.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment No. 24 not moved.

I move amendment No. 25:

In page 33, lines 44 and 45, to delete all words from and including "the" in line 44 down to and including "plan" in line 45 and substitute "the case of a plan".

Amendment agreed to.

Amendments Nos. 26 and 28 are related and may be discussed together by agreement.

I move amendment No. 26:

In page 34, line 32, to delete "2 weeks" and substitute "4 weeks".

I take this opportunity to congratulate Deputy Hogan on his reappointment as Fine Gael spokesperson on the environment, heritage and local government. The Deputy's amendment proposes to extend the period for which a draft direction is available for inspection by the public from two to four weeks. As regards the timeframe available to the public to make submissions on draft ministerial directions to amend a development plan or local area plan, it must be borne in mind that such directions are specific in terms of which aspect of the plan is proposed to be amended. There is no question of members of the public having to familiarise themselves with the details of the total plan. Rather, they need only deal with the specific issue or issues set out in the draft direction. The two-week period is sufficient to allow the public to consider the Minister's specific concerns on particular issues and to make any submissions accordingly. I do not propose to accept the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendments Nos. 27 and 29 are related and may be discussed together by agreement.

I move amendment No. 27:

In page 36, to delete lines 35 to 38.

This amendment proposes the deletion of subsection (17) of the new section 31 of the Planning and Development Act 2000, as inserted by section 21 of the Bill. The original section 31 allowed the Minister to intervene where he or she has concerns about a particular development plan, allowing him or her to direct the planning authority to amend the plan in order to comply with requirements under the section. The Minister, Deputy Gormley, has used this provision, and there was a similar provision in older planning legislation which the Leas-Cheann Comhairle would have used when he was Minister in order to ensure development took place in accordance with proper planning standards. I have no difficulty with the original section of the principal Act, which functioned as a safety net, or with how the Minister has used it.

However, I have a fundamental difficulty with the new section 31 to be inserted in the Act by way of section 21 of this Bill. In particular, I have a difficulty with the new subsection (17) which I am proposing should be deleted. The Minister should not have interfered with the original section 31, which has worked effectively for him. An issue emerged recently arising from an intervention by the Minister in regard to the Mayo County Council development plan. This issue was examined by the Joint Committee on the Environment, Heritage and Local Government which issued a recommendation that there should be a facility for the Minister to consult with councillors and officials regarding his or her directions. Subsection (17) is in contravention of that.

Fianna Fáil in government seems to have been absolutely blinded by one particular provision. Deputy Fleming welcomed some of the new measures the other day, but he seems to be unaware of what the rest of the section does which is greatly to complicate the original section 31 by introducing an extremely elaborate process that will be time consuming for both the Department and the planning authority. Planning authority officials are reduced to passive participants in regard to the Minister's intervention. Subsection (17) states: "The direction issued by the Minister under subsection (16) is deemed to have immediate effect and its terms are considered to be incorporated into the plan, or, if appropriate, to constitute the plan". In other words, by means of the direction he or she can issue under the new section 31, the Minister can effectively make the development plan while the planning authority is left powerless other than making submissions in regard to the Minister's direction. That is fundamentally undemocratic.

Is the Minister's partner in government, the Fianna Fáil Party, asleep? Although it suffered substantial losses in the last local elections, that party still has hundreds of councillors, while the Green Party has only three.

We have no vested interests.

The Green Party no longer has any interest in democracy. That is the bottom line; the Green Party does not care about local democracy. I do not know why the Minister is bothering to introduce a White Paper when, if this is a sign of what is to come, it looks like he plans to erode local democracy gradually. It is essentially a matter of centralising power in the hands of the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. The Green Party has developed a narrative where it places all the blame for past planning mistakes on the councillors from the various parties including my own party, even though it was our representatives — people such as Eithne FitzGerald and Frank Buckley — who were fighting poor rezoning decisions and taking brave stands long before the Green Party had any local authority members.

I was on the council with Deputy Gogarty and we had a lot in common. I accept he made good decisions on planning and we were often on the same side. No matter what I think about other people's decisions, however, it is a fundamental tenet of democracy that I allow people to make a decision. They are elected by the public and they make decisions, ideally under a framework that allows for the best decisions, but if they make bad decisions, that is democracy and that electorate can deal with that at election time.

I was directly elected to this House, as was every other Deputy and it is democratic that we make our own decisions. We are then held accountable and we can explain the decisions we made. The Bill allows a Minister to make a development plan when that is a fundamental aspect of the role of councillors.

The story that all bad planning decisions were thanks to councillors exercising their democratic mandate is not true, often the decisions that were questionable were thanks to ministerial guidelines. The ministerial guidelines for higher residential density led to apartment complexes being built in small villages in Leitrim. The then Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Deputy Dempsey, introduced those guidelines, leaving councils with no choice but to implement them. The idea the Minister will be always pure, protecting people from the councillors they elected, is rubbish and I have a fundamental problem with that. I cannot see how any elected representative can stand over it. The Minister is not elected by the people, he is part of the Cabinet and there is too much power resting with the executive as it is. It is a common agreement that power is now vested in the Cabinet and it now rides roughshod over Government backbenchers like Deputy Mattie McGrath.

On Committee Stage, the amendments formed a bigger document than the Bill and there are even more amendments today. That has muddied the waters, allowing elements to go through that will erode democracy. The principle is fine that planning must be reformed, and safety nets must be provided to ensure councillors and planning officials take into account the right things, but this removes the power of local authorities to make their own development plans and that is wrong.

Far from muddying the waters, this will make it easier to provide clean water. The plan ensures consistency between national, regional and local land use policy to maximise the State investment being made in infrastructure and services. It provides much enhanced provision for public participation at each stage of the development plan process. Instead of last minute rezonings, it will provide for better participation and access to justice. It will greatly reduce the need for ministerial intervention. This amendment would apply to a section that deals with comprehensive consultation arrangements before a ministerial direction is finalised; I would have thought that would be welcome. This is about joining up transport and land use, exactly what we need.

Midleton in Cork is a good example. Before the brand new commuter train service was put in place there was a discussion and improvements in land use provisions to make sure——

Is the Minister of State aware of the situation with the Midleton train at present? If he wants to speak authoritatively, he should check his facts.

This is about joined-up thinking in transportation and land use, the kind of big picture decisions that must be made. In my county an €80 million sewage plant is under discussion. That must have an impact on the land use and transport decisions that are made, such as if a Luas line should cross a particular piece of land. We cannot put blinkers on and divorce land use, transportation, sewerage and water infrastructure issues. When it comes to big picture planning, not only do we need consistency, we also need co-ordination, which is what this is all about.

I take on board the Minister of State's remarks about allowing for consultation with the Minister for local elected representatives. In some ways, this increases democracy because often it is the unelected manager who rules the roost. Now, the Minister will be able to set out guidelines and intervene. The Minister will have the power to look at special cases and ensure local issues are taken on board.

There is a fundamental disagreement in this debate about what constitutes democracy and what constitutes the lowest effective level. As a member of the Green Party, I have always pushed for decision making at the lowest effective level but, unfortunately, decision making at that level in the past did not prove to be that effective.

This planning Bill must be taken in the context of the White Paper on local government and the plans for the Dublin mayor, where new regional assemblies are being planned with much more influence and clout that will in most cases take over from the Minister so he has less direct influence, with the guidelines ensuring it is barely necessary to contact him. As long as elected members stick within the framework, there will not be a problem. It is fundamentally undemocratic to allow a small number of elected representatives to make decisions that have far reaching implications beyond their local area without a framework.

They are elected by the people.

They are elected by the people but they are disenfranchising other people just down the road, that is the problem. The rezoning of Adamstown has had major influence on people in Kildare and Lucan. I was involved in the Deliver It Right campaign and Deputy Tuffy made many submissions to An Bord Pleanála on this issue. Local authorities cover specific local areas and the impact of these decisions goes far beyond them, affecting water supply in neighbouring counties, water quality, traffic issues, public transport and the sharing of scarce resources.

Sometimes the power of a Minister appointed by a democratically elected Dáil is necessary to ensure the framework is adhered to. The Minister of the day may have different views from a Green Party Minister, and may not make decisions the Green Party would like but, fundamentally, the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few and in that context there must be an over-arching framework. That is what it is doing. It is not taking away micro-management or the democratic input of elected local authority members, it is making sure they stick to the framework. It is like a GAA match, players can score as many points as they want within the confines of the pitch but if they stray off it, they are playing illegally. This is what the Minister is trying to do here.

The guidelines that are published are only guidelines. When Deputy Batt O'Keeffe was Minister of State in the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, he published guidelines on the relaxation of rules for one-off houses in rural areas. The guidelines that were issued stated councillors must have regard to development plans as they existed in local authority areas.

However, the local development plan itself had very stringent rules and regulations on green belt areas, and certain types of designations for particular areas which superseded the guidelines themselves. It did not make any change whatsoever to the number of one-off houses built as a result of the publication of those guidelines.

Similarly, the Minister, Deputy Gormley, published guidelines last week — or gave notice of his intention to publish guidelines — on houses on national secondary routes. I am aware of three cases of people who have a genuine housing need who wish to build on family owned land on a national secondary route. I have regard to the guidelines published by the Minister but I am told by the local authority that the development plan, which was adopted by the members elected by the people will supersede those guidelines. There is a precedent whereby a local authority granted planning on a national secondary route and it was appealed by the NRA to An Bord Pleanála in any case.

The issuance of guidelines is a bit of a sham to be honest. Sometimes, they are deliberately put out there by Ministers to give voice to the idea that they are somehow dealing with an issue. In reality, I have never seen them have an effect in how they are transposed. The local development plan as passed under a reserve function always seems to take precedent.

In essence, the point I am trying to make is that if we further diminish the power of local public representatives to intervene in planning cases or in the planning laws, too much power will be ceded to the Minister who may not have regard to local factors and the grey area that exists which might push a case one way or the other. If too much power is prescribed in a centralised way it will have a negative impact on the ability of a local authority to function as it relates to planning, and good planning at that.

I fail to understand the Green Party's position on this. I state respectfully and without any malice that what Deputy Gogarty is saying in effect is that the gentlemen and ladies on local authorities have received their democratic mandates from the people but the Green Party does not trust them to exercise that mandate as it relates to the planning process and therefore it will instigate a set of rules and regulations that will supersede their powers. By implication, what is stated is that the people are wrong. The people put in the councillors and therefore there is an implication in the legislation that the councillors made mistakes and the Green Party will come along and rectify those mistakes in a condescending and patronising fashion.

It is no way to legislate.

The people are right for the Government.

It is not the way to legislate. It absolutely and utterly patronises the people on this side of the House who try to give voice to those trying to build houses who have genuine housing needs and who want to retain the right to live in their local communities.

You gave voice to developers and not people.

They will not be here for too much longer and thank God for it. Then we can get to a situation where the House will start legislating on the basis of common sense and not on the basis of——

Not on developers. Is that what you are saying?

——the nanny state, where a small rump in the Parliament can control how the vast majority of the people can think.

That is an insult.

We need to move away from that line of legislation.

Is that an additional spokesperson?

Members will not be shouted down in this democratic assembly.

Deputy Sherlock is making a spurious allegation.

Like every Member, Deputy Gogarty has ample opportunity to speak but nobody will be shouted down.

I am tired of the Member to my right coming to the House and day in day out using language that debases this House.

"Corruption". "Developers".

He may disagree with my point of view and I may disagree with the Deputy's point of view and we will spar but it is never personal. However, with privilege I stand before the people here as a Member for Cork East and I will not allow other Members to debase the House's legislative programme by imposing legislation that is undemocratic and will have serious permutations for how local authorities will be able to operate because it gives too much power to the Minister. I say that without use of bad language, without debasing the House and without bringing the debate down into the morass to which others would like to bring it.

Is the Minister of State aware of the contents of the statement made last week by the Minister, Deputy Gormley, on the circular he sent to selected local authorities throughout the country? The statement implies that there is a suspicion in his mind and that he queries the planning practices of those local authorities and their transparency. Is the Minister aware of how those local authorities were selected? If so, will he tell the House? From what I tried to extract from the Department and other sources, it was on a numerical basis. Is the Minister familiar with Galway County Council and the volume of applications received and referred to An Bord Pleanála? He selectively and pointedly used the figures for how many applications were reversed and refused by An Bord Pleanála. He based a judgment on this that was totally unfair. He never gave a comparable figure for those that were refused by Galway County Council, appealed to An Bord Pleanála and subsequently granted.

The circular states that the planning system provides that all planning files must be available for public inspection. Every member of the public is invited by the public notice accompanying an application to pay a minimal fee for a duplicate of that application. The Minister is trying to bring all the planning decisions to himself. Is the Minister familiar at all with the processes? Is this a stalling tactic? This is an attempted indictment of something wrong in those areas based solely on numerical information that is totally wrong.

We are discussing the amendment.

For whatever reason, best known to the Minister, he has wrongfully selected and targeted local authorities.

Earlier, the Minister of State referred to planning decisions taken in other areas. He is not familiar with the fact that birds directives, habitats directives, special areas of conservation and natural heritage areas cover approximately 60% of County Galway. The local authorities in Galway have gone through them meticulously as the record will show. As a former member of Galway County Council for 20 years I cannot but state today that the authorities, management and planners and everybody associated with it are people of the highest calibre and made decisions under all the criteria which had to be adhered to, which has always been the case. The Minister made a spurious decision and selectively said a certain number of applications were submitted from Galway County Council and because of the volume and size of county they were refused. I would appreciate if the Minister of State, Deputy Cuffe, or the Minister, Deputy Gormley, who is responsible for this Bill, would come in and explain why that happened.

We will not resolve that matter now.

It is of the utmost importance.

I understand Deputy Sherlock and his colleagues' frustrations over individual planning decisions. All of us in the Chamber meet people time and again who have genuine housing needs and wish to be accommodated. In so far as we can, we do our best for people. Proper planning is about taking into account all genuine considerations in order that when the floods come the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government is in a position to say we had——

They come down at night to visit them.

——decent guidelines in place. When we have an increase in traffic on roads dues to one-off houses being built to the point where we had to build a new road in Kerry because there was so much traffic on the first road that one cannot allow it to be upgraded, we can say we had guidelines in place that prioritised allowing people to build where they can build with due regard to road safety.

The green agenda.

The water supply for houses in counties around Ireland is so contaminated that we have to put hundreds of millions into upgrading water investment because of contamination from septic tanks. We can say we put the investment and the proper planning guidelines in place; I and my colleagues can genuinely say we did the right thing and had a proper planning process. When we get to a situation where a child can no longer walk from his or her home to school because there is so much traffic on the road we can say we improved the planning system in order that we would not see a repeat of that.

What about the bicycles?

We have addressed flooding, water contamination, roads, traffics and bicycles. Every child in this country should have the opportunity when he or she is of a certain age in primary school to walk or cycle to school, rather than be driven off the side of the road because the roads are no longer safe for children. That is part of——

You will not let them cut down the briars on the side of the roads because the birds are nesting until September.

——what proper planning is about. That is what a decent planning system is about. It is about a plan-led system rather than letting the developers call the shots.

Deputy Sherlock, who is not here now, referred to this House being debased. What has debased this House are cute hoor politicians, well-funded by their developer paymasters, who make decisions at national level and who have rezoned land left, right and centre.

On a point of order, is the Deputy pointing at somebody?

We have 300,000 empty——

On a point of order, is the Deputy addressing that to an individual?

That is not a point of order.

I could use choice words in this Chamber.

We have heard them before.

I have tempered my temper on many occasions.

Allow Deputy Gogarty to speak.

There seems to be a mullah mentality among some fraternities in this House that somehow when the British were overthrown and Dublin was made the administrative centre of this Republic that something which emanates from Dáil Éireann is the British establishment telling the peasants what to do again. That is nothing to do with it.

Where is Fianna Fáil?

This is about proper planning for the entire country. There are currently 300,000 empty houses in the country. There is retail infrastructure to cater for 14 million people because every county council was trying to beggar its neighbour and say it could do it better. They were getting a few quid left, right and centre to help that process. The Deputies know those people because they are their sort of people.

(Interruptions).

I also referred to legitimate donations. As long as they exist — thankfully they will not exist for long — politicians can hide behind saying things like we need more housing and jobs, but they put them in the wrong place. That is what is wrong. Deputies Tuffy and Sherlock spoke about trust. The trust that the people invested in local representatives was broken because councillors put their faith in developers and vested interests.

The Green Party councillors were wiped out.

They did not represent their people, they represented their paymasters. We need a little bit of regulation and that is what the Minister will do. Deputy Hogan could be Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. I am sure with the new clean politics Fine Gael has developed he will be keeping an eye on bad and dodgy planning decisions when he becomes Minister. He needs guidelines to ensure that democratic principles are adhered to and the people are represented by councillors and not their developer paymasters. That is what has gone wrong. It is a disgrace and that is why this House has been debased over the years.

When did you look in the mirror last?

Allow Deputy Tuffy to speak.

There is a need for balance in this debate. We want proper planning, but not at the expense of democracy which is a fundamental thing. It is what we fought for in 1916 and 1922. One does not erode democracy. We, as politicians, should not be taking away local democracy and the mandate that councillor have. Reforms have been made over the years to try to address the issue to which Deputy Gogarty referred and improvements can always be made. One has to disclose donations and the amount spent on local elections. The Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government introduced limits on how much could be spent on local elections last year, which the Labour Party supported.

Many different things have been done. The vast majority of politicians operate in what they consider to be the best interests of the public but very often ideology comes in. Housing was left to the free market and allowed to run rampant. A huge part of the problem was ideology and Deputy Gogarty is in government with the very people who had such an ideology.

Under the old section 31 provisions the Minister could intervene, make directions and tell the local authorities to amend or vary their county development plans. At the end of the day the decision on the county development plan rested with the local councillors elected by the people. It was quite a strict provision which the Minister used as a last resort. It allowed an intervention by the Minister but the fundamentals of local democracy remained. What is proposed is very much a dictatorship on the part of the Minister. He can make the plan.

The idea that the Minister will always make a pure decision is not correct. I refer to South Dublin County Council. The Taoiseach of the day, Deputy Bertie Ahern, wanted to build a stadium in his constituency. It was a huge project which the Tánaiste at the time, Michael McDowell, said was a Ceaucescu project. It never went ahead; God knows what it would have been like if it had. Our council wanted an alternative proposal, the Eircom stadium.

A conference centre for Jim Mansfield.

No, we wanted the Eircom stadium which the Football Association of Ireland wanted. Everything was done at Government level to try to stop us making a democratic decision about the stadium because it wanted to promote Deputy Ahern's great big project, a huge potential white elephant. The Government had the wrong point of view and the local councillors had the right idea and wanted to do something in the interests of the local community.

Local councillors often have a good relationship with the local county manager and can sometimes do more than the average back bencher and the Government in terms of making decisions which are good for the local community. I accept that bad decisions are sometimes taken but that is democracy and people are accountable through the electoral system and the many different reforms and legislation that makes them accountable, such as the Ethics in Public Office Act and so on.

Deputy Gogarty betrayed something because the gist of what he said was that the lower levels, meaning councillors, cannot be trusted. He also said something which indicated that he did not think the manager could be trusted, therefore the power should be given to the Minister. I have set out an example which shows that Ministers do not always do the right thing. What about the separation of national and local democracy? By allowing Ministers to make local development plans, the Bill erodes local democracy. The terrible thing is that Fianna Fáil Members are letting this happen because they are cowed by their party's own planning record.

They are being bullied.

Councillors should be held accountable for their bad decisions but this should not be at the expense of local democracy. The people who elect councillors have a fundamental say in local democracy and it would be a terrible irony if the outcome of the economic downturn and the collapse of Anglo Irish Bank is the loss of the people's right to give a mandate to their local representatives.

I will be pressing the amendment as I fear the Minister will do a Colm McCarthy and abolish councils because local democracies does not matter when it is all about money at the end of the day.

Money from developers.

Question put: "That the words proposed to be deleted stand."
The Dáil divided: Tá, 73; Níl, 56.

  • Ahern, Bertie.
  • Ahern, Dermot.
  • Ahern, Michael.
  • Ahern, Noel.
  • Andrews, Barry.
  • Andrews, Chris.
  • Aylward, Bobby.
  • Behan, Joe.
  • Blaney, Niall.
  • Brady, Áine.
  • Brady, Cyprian.
  • Brady, Johnny.
  • Browne, John.
  • Byrne, Thomas.
  • Calleary, Dara.
  • Carey, Pat.
  • Collins, Niall.
  • Conlon, Margaret.
  • Connick, Seán.
  • Coughlan, Mary.
  • Cregan, John.
  • Cuffe, Ciarán.
  • Curran, John.
  • Dempsey, Noel.
  • Devins, Jimmy.
  • Dooley, Timmy.
  • Fahey, Frank.
  • Finneran, Michael.
  • Fitzpatrick, Michael.
  • Fleming, Seán.
  • Flynn, Beverley.
  • Gogarty, Paul.
  • Gormley, John.
  • Grealish, Noel.
  • Hanafin, Mary.
  • Haughey, Seán.
  • Hoctor, Máire.
  • Kelleher, Billy.
  • Kelly, Peter.
  • Kenneally, Brendan.
  • Kennedy, Michael.
  • Killeen, Tony.
  • Kitt, Michael P.
  • Kitt, Tom.
  • Lenihan, Conor.
  • Lowry, Michael.
  • McEllistrim, Thomas.
  • McGrath, Finian.
  • McGrath, Mattie.
  • McGrath, Michael.
  • McGuinness, John.
  • Moloney, John.
  • Mulcahy, Michael.
  • Nolan, M.J.
  • Ó Cuív, Éamon.
  • Ó Fearghaíl, Seán.
  • O’Brien, Darragh.
  • O’Connor, Charlie.
  • O’Dea, Willie.
  • O’Flynn, Noel.
  • O’Keeffe, Batt.
  • O’Keeffe, Edward.
  • O’Rourke, Mary.
  • O’Sullivan, Maureen.
  • Power, Seán.
  • Roche, Dick.
  • Ryan, Eamon.
  • Sargent, Trevor.
  • Scanlon, Eamon.
  • Smith, Brendan.
  • Wallace, Mary.
  • White, Mary Alexandra.
  • Woods, Michael.

Níl

  • Allen, Bernard.
  • Bannon, James.
  • Barrett, Seán.
  • Broughan, Thomas P.
  • Bruton, Richard.
  • Burke, Ulick.
  • Burton, Joan.
  • Byrne, Catherine.
  • Carey, Joe.
  • Connaughton, Paul.
  • Costello, Joe.
  • Coveney, Simon.
  • Crawford, Seymour.
  • D’Arcy, Michael.
  • Deenihan, Jimmy.
  • Doyle, Andrew.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • English, Damien.
  • Enright, Olwyn.
  • Feighan, Frank.
  • Ferris, Martin.
  • Flanagan, Charles.
  • Flanagan, Terence.
  • Gilmore, Eamon.
  • Higgins, Michael D.
  • Hogan, Phil.
  • Howlin, Brendan.
  • Kehoe, Paul.
  • Lynch, Ciarán.
  • Lynch, Kathleen.
  • McCormack, Pádraic.
  • McHugh, Joe.
  • McManus, Liz.
  • Mitchell, Olivia.
  • Naughten, Denis.
  • Neville, Dan.
  • Noonan, Michael.
  • Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.
  • Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
  • O’Donnell, Kieran.
  • O’Dowd, Fergus.
  • O’Keeffe, Jim.
  • O’Shea, Brian.
  • O’Sullivan, Jan.
  • Penrose, Willie.
  • Perry, John.
  • Quinn, Ruairí.
  • Rabbitte, Pat.
  • Ring, Michael.
  • Sheahan, Tom.
  • Sherlock, Seán.
  • Stagg, Emmet.
  • Stanton, David.
  • Tuffy, Joanna.
  • Upton, Mary.
  • Wall, Jack.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies John Cregan and John Curran; Níl, Deputies Emmet Stagg and Paul Kehoe.
Question declared carried.
Amendmend declared lost.
Amendment No. 28 not moved.

I move amendment No. 29:

In page 40, to delete lines 41 to 44.

Question, "That the words proposed to be deleted stand", put and declared carried.
Amendment declared lost.

I move amendment No. 30:

In page 41, between lines 10 and 11, to insert the following:

"23.—Section 33(2) of the Principal Act is amended by the insertion of the following new paragraph after paragraph (a):

"(aa) a standard process to be drawn up for pre-application discussions on planning permission to facilitate a more efficient planning process and to promote planning transparency.”.”.

The amendment is to provide a standardised process for drawing up whatever regulations are required in respect of pre-planning applications and pre-application discussions. When this matter was raised on Committee Stage the Minister of State indicated he would express a view on Report Stage. There is an inconsistency in the interpretation by county and city managers of what constitutes pre-application discussions. If planning and development is to mean anything, we should ensure discussions take place on what constitutes proper planning and development. Equally, when someone is prepared to invest a substantial amount of money, he or she should be able to have discussions before the formal process commences. This can be done in a transparent manner, as the Minister of State indicated on Committee Stage.

I move the amendment to provide for a more standardised system for pre-application discussions and ensure there is no equivocation or misunderstanding on the part of county and city managers about what is the appropriate way to deal with applications, investors and public representatives.

If it is possible to insert the proposed provision in the Bill, I will support the amendment. I await the Minister of State's comments in that regard. For too long, the process of discussions between prospective applicants and unelected officials behind closed doors has cast an unwanted veil of suspicion. Despite the heated debates and discussions we have, I acknowledge that the vast majority of local councillors from all parties try to represent their communities as best they can and seek to promote their view of what constitutes good planning. Guidelines are required to ensure the impact of a local planning decision does not extend to a regional or national level.

Having said that, if it is possible for a standard process to be drawn up, it would get rid of the suspicion of smoke-filled rooms, discussions behind the scenes and developers having the ear of the manager but the ordinary person not being able to come in. While I will be guided by the Minister of State, if it is possible to insert this into the legislation it would be a very good idea. If not, it is still a good idea to have some mechanism to allow a standard process to be drawn up.

The effect of the proposed amendment, as I understand it, is to give the Minister a specific power to make regulations on a standard process for pre-application consultations. In this regard, section 33 of the Act already provides that the Minster may "by regulations provide for such matters of procedure and administration as appear to the Minister to be necessary or expedient in respect of applications for permission for the development of land." Accordingly, I do not consider that the proposed amendment is necessary.

Under section 247 of the Planning and Development Act 2000, a person who has an interest in land and who intends to make a planning application to the planning authority may, with the agreement of the planning authority concerned, which shall not be unreasonably withheld, enter into pre-application consultations on the proposed development. Section 247 also provides that a planning authority is required to keep a written record of such pre-consultation meetings.

My Department's development management guidelines for planning authorities, issued in June 2007, are a step by step guide to all stages of the planning application process, beginning with pre-application consultations. They give extensive recommendations to planning authorities on the matter of pre-application consultations and state that requests for consultations should be facilitated speedily — ideally within two to three weeks. I do not see any difficulty in today's climate of that not happening. These are statutory guidelines issued under section 28 of the Planning and Development Act 2000 and planning authorities are obliged to have regard to them in carrying out their planning functions. I will consider whether it is necessary to issue further recommendations to planning authorities on this matter. In doing so I believe that takes into account the spirit if not the letter of the Deputy's intention.

I welcome that response. Every public representative, whether local authority members of Oireachtas Members, will be very glad if there are clear guidelines giving consistency of treatment in the role of the public representative in accompanying applicants, if necessary, in pre-planning discussion, or the investor, whether small or large. Everybody should understand how the system works and the Department should set down a model with which every local authority should comply. I would welcome that correspondence would be sent to local authorities in that regard. It is essential and urgent. The anecdotal evidence the Minister of State will pick up from his colleagues around the House will suggest it is urgent.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 31:

In page 42, to delete lines 1 and 2 and substitute the following:

"(b) in subsection (8)—

(i) by the substitution of the following for paragraphs (b) and (c):”.

Amendment agreed to.

Recommittal is required in respect of amendment No. 32 as it does not arise out of committee proceedings.

Bill recommitted in respect of amendment No. 32.

I move amendment No. 32:

In page 42, line 46, to delete "authority."," and substitute the following:

"authority,",

and

(ii) by the substitution of the following for paragraph (f):

"(f) (i) Where a planning authority has failed to make a decision in relation to an application within the period specified in paragraph (a), (b), (c), (d) or (e) as appropriate (referred to in this paragraph as the ‘first period’) and becomes aware, whether through notification by the applicant or otherwise, that it has so failed, the authority shall proceed to make the decision notwithstanding that the first period has expired.

(ii) Where a planning authority fails to make a decision within the first period, it shall pay the appropriate sum to the applicant.

(iii) Where a planning authority fails to make a decision within a period of 12 weeks after the expiry of the first period a decision (referred to in this paragraph as the ‘deemed decision') of the planning authority to grant the permission shall be regarded as having been given on the last day of that period of 12 weeks.

(iv) Any person, who has made submissions or observations in writing in relation to the planning application to the planning authority, may at any time within the period of 4 weeks after the expiry of the period of 12 weeks referred to in subparagraph (iii), appeal the deemed decision.

(v) Subparagraphs (i) to (iv) shall not apply where there is a requirement under Part X or Part XAB to carry out an environmental impact assessment, a determination whether an environmental impact assessment is required, or an appropriate assessment, in respect of the development relating to which the authority has failed to make a decision.

(vi) Where the planning authority has failed to make a decision in relation to development where an environmental impact assessment, a determination whether an environmental impact assessment is required, or an appropriate assessment is required within the first period and becomes aware, whether through notification by the applicant or otherwise, that it has so failed—

(I) the authority shall proceed to make the decision notwithstanding that the first period has expired,

(II) where a planning authority fails to make a decision within the first period, it shall pay the appropriate sum to the applicant,

(III) provided that no notice under paragraph (b) or (c) was served on the applicant prior to the expiry of the first period, where a planning authority proceeds to make a decision under clause (I) in relation to an application, it may serve notice on the applicant, requiring the applicant to give to the authority further information or to produce evidence in respect of the application under paragraph (b) or (c), and paragraph (b) or (c) shall apply to such notice subject to any necessary modifications,

(IV) subject to service of a notice under paragraph (b) or (c) in accordance with clause (III), where a planning authority fails to make a decision before the expiry of the period of 12 weeks beginning on the day immediately after the day on which the first period expires, the authority shall, subject to clause (V), pay the appropriate sum to the applicant, and shall pay a further such sum to the applicant where it fails to make a decision before the expiry of each subsequent period of 12 weeks beginning immediately after the preceding 12 week period,

(V) not more than 5 payments of the appropriate sum shall be made by a planning authority to an applicant in respect of the failure by the authority to make a decision in relation to an application,

(VI) where a planning authority makes a decision in relation to an application more than one year after the expiration of the first period the authority, before making the decision—

(A) notwithstanding that notice has been previously published in relation to the application, shall require the applicant to publish additional such notice concerning the planning application in accordance with the permission regulations (and the planning authority shall refund the costs of so publishing to the applicant),

(B) notwithstanding that notice of the application has previously been given to prescribed bodies, shall give additional such notice in accordance with the permission regulations, and

(C) notwithstanding anything contained in paragraph (b) or (c), or that the authority has previously been given further information or evidence under those paragraphs may require the applicant to give to the authority further information or to produce evidence in respect of the application as the authority requires and paragraph (b) or (c), as appropriate, shall apply to such additional request subject to any necessary modifications, and the planning authority shall consider any submissions made in accordance with the Regulations following on such additional notices, or additional further information or evidence produced under this clause.

(vii) Any payment or refund due to be paid under this paragraph shall be paid as soon as may be and in any event not later than 4 weeks after it becomes due.

(viii) In this paragraph, ‘appropriate sum' means a sum which is equal to the lesser amount of 3 times the prescribed fee paid by the applicant to the planning authority in respect of his or her application for permission or €10,000.".".

Currently, section 34(8)(f) provides that where a planning authority fails to make a decision on a planning application within the prescribed period, normally eight weeks from the date of lodgment, a decision to grant permission shall be regarded as having been given on the last day of the period, in other words a default permission. This provision is now considered undesirable and has been criticised by the High Court and by the Supreme Court. It means that if through administrative error a decision is not made on time, a wholly unsuitable form of development could be permitted, or even where the proposed development is acceptable in principle, no planning conditions may be attached.

Under the amended provision a default decision to grant permission will only be deemed to be given 12 weeks after the expiration of the time for deciding the application. It is considered most unlikely that a planning authority could continue to overlook an application for a further 12 weeks, as inquiries would be made by people who had made submissions, so in practice it is not expected that there will be default decisions to grant permission. In addition if it fails to decide the planning application within the statutory period, the planning authority must pay to the applicant a sum of three times the application fee, subject to a maximum of €10,000.

It is being provided that the default decision to grant permission will not apply to applications for development which require environmental impact assessment or appropriate assessment under the habitats directive. In such cases the following provisions will apply. Where the planning authority fails to meet its statutory deadline, it must still proceed to decide the application and, as well as the initial fine, the planning authority will be required to pay a further fine of three times the application fee, subject to a maximum of €10,000, for each further 12-week period in which the planning authority fails to decide the application, subject to an overall maximum of €50,000.

In the highly unlikely event of a year having passed without the planning authority making a decision on the planning application, the application will require to be advertised again at the expense of the planning authority and submissions invited from the public and prescribed bodies. The planning authority will also be permitted to seek further information in such a case.

It is self evident that this will concentrate the mind of the planning authority in question to decide on the application. The very few examples we have seen over the years of a decision failing to be made in time will disappear. This will ensure that decent decisions are made in proper time.

This debate will soon conclude. We are now on amendment No. 32 out of 127 amendments, which means that we will not get to reach more than 90 amendments. New amendments were made on Committee Stage of which we got very short notice and there are 127 amendments on Report Stage today. At 5 o'clock the Minister's amendments will all become part of the Bill. We will have no say on them and will never get to discuss them or consider their implications properly.

It is like a pre-planning meeting in a smoke-filled room.

While were discussing the last amendment, I received another new amendment. It just arrived in front of me. It was the first time I saw it. It was not even pointed out to me. It was on my desk.

The manner in which this legislation is being dealt with is inappropriate. Planning is a fundamental issue that relates to the issue of local democracy. I have a fundamental problem with the issue I already raised in amendments Nos. 27 to 29. I had other issues I wanted to raise. I have concerns about proposals on strategic developments, which I raised on Committee Stage. I still do not understand what the Minister of State is doing with that amendment and I am concerned that it might water down the provisions. I could be wrong, but I wanted to find out. I would have asked questions if we had reached that amendment.

The Labour Party cannot support this. I support in principle what the Minister of State is trying to do on planning, but I fundamentally oppose the principle of undermining local democracy and the way in which this Bill is being dealt with. The Bill could have been taken next week. We did not need to guillotine this discussion. We will fail to discuss more than 90 amendments today and that is wrong.

I empathise with the Deputy on the concerns regarding the time limits today. We have had many hours of robust debate on Committee Stage, which was very useful.

I rebut the assertion that this legislation diminishes local democracy; I believe it reinforces it. It puts people ahead of developers in the making of the development plan.

How does it do that?

It is not about people or developers; it is about good planning.

It brings a balance back into the system where for far too long the loudest voices won the argument when it came to making development plans at local level.

The only voice being heard is that of the Minister of State.Uno duce, una voce.

The Minister of State knows best.

This will reinforce local communities, lead to better decisions and lead to a sense of good value for the taxpayer as much as anything else. To that extent I recommend the Bill to the House.

As it is now 5 o'clock and in accordance with an order of the Dáil today, I am required to put the following question: "That the amendments set down by the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government and not disposed of, including those in respect of which recommittal would, in the normal course, be required are hereby made to the Bill; Fourth Stage is hereby completed; and the Bill is hereby passed."

Question put.
The Dáil divided: Tá, 72; Níl, 59.

  • Ahern, Bertie.
  • Ahern, Dermot.
  • Ahern, Michael.
  • Ahern, Noel.
  • Andrews, Barry.
  • Andrews, Chris.
  • Aylward, Bobby.
  • Behan, Joe.
  • Blaney, Niall.
  • Brady, Áine.
  • Brady, Cyprian.
  • Brady, Johnny.
  • Browne, John.
  • Byrne, Thomas.
  • Calleary, Dara.
  • Carey, Pat.
  • Collins, Niall.
  • Conlon, Margaret.
  • Connick, Seán.
  • Coughlan, Mary.
  • Cregan, John.
  • Cuffe, Ciarán.
  • Curran, John.
  • Dempsey, Noel.
  • Devins, Jimmy.
  • Dooley, Timmy.
  • Fahey, Frank.
  • Finneran, Michael.
  • Fitzpatrick, Michael.
  • Fleming, Seán.
  • Flynn, Beverley.
  • Gogarty, Paul.
  • Gormley, John.
  • Grealish, Noel.
  • Hanafin, Mary.
  • Haughey, Seán.
  • Hoctor, Máire.
  • Kelleher, Billy.
  • Kelly, Peter.
  • Kenneally, Brendan.
  • Kennedy, Michael.
  • Killeen, Tony.
  • Kitt, Michael P.
  • Kitt, Tom.
  • Lenihan, Conor.
  • Lowry, Michael.
  • McEllistrim, Thomas.
  • McGrath, Finian.
  • McGrath, Michael.
  • McGuinness, John.
  • Moloney, John.
  • Mulcahy, Michael.
  • Nolan, M.J.
  • Ó Cuív, Éamon.
  • Ó Fearghaíl, Seán.
  • O’Brien, Darragh.
  • O’Connor, Charlie.
  • O’Dea, Willie.
  • O’Flynn, Noel.
  • O’Keeffe, Batt.
  • O’Keeffe, Edward.
  • O’Rourke, Mary.
  • O’Sullivan, Maureen.
  • Power, Seán.
  • Roche, Dick.
  • Ryan, Eamon.
  • Sargent, Trevor.
  • Scanlon, Eamon.
  • Smith, Brendan.
  • Wallace, Mary.
  • White, Mary Alexandra.
  • Woods, Michael.

Níl

  • Allen, Bernard.
  • Bannon, James.
  • Barrett, Seán.
  • Breen, Pat.
  • Broughan, Thomas P.
  • Bruton, Richard.
  • Burke, Ulick.
  • Byrne, Catherine.
  • Carey, Joe.
  • Clune, Deirdre.
  • Connaughton, Paul.
  • Coveney, Simon.
  • Crawford, Seymour.
  • D’Arcy, Michael.
  • Deenihan, Jimmy.
  • Doyle, Andrew.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • English, Damien.
  • Enright, Olwyn.
  • Feighan, Frank.
  • Ferris, Martin.
  • Flanagan, Charles.
  • Flanagan, Terence.
  • Gilmore, Eamon.
  • Hayes, Tom.
  • Higgins, Michael D.
  • Hogan, Phil.
  • Howlin, Brendan.
  • Kehoe, Paul.
  • Lynch, Ciarán.
  • Lynch, Kathleen.
  • McCormack, Pádraic.
  • McGrath, Mattie.
  • McHugh, Joe.
  • McManus, Liz.
  • Mitchell, Olivia.
  • Naughten, Denis.
  • Neville, Dan.
  • Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.
  • Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
  • O’Donnell, Kieran.
  • O’Dowd, Fergus.
  • O’Keeffe, Jim.
  • O’Shea, Brian.
  • O’Sullivan, Jan.
  • Penrose, Willie.
  • Perry, John.
  • Quinn, Ruairí.
  • Rabbitte, Pat.
  • Ring, Michael.
  • Shatter, Alan.
  • Sheahan, Tom.
  • Sherlock, Seán.
  • Stagg, Emmet.
  • Stanton, David.
  • Tuffy, Joanna.
  • Upton, Mary.
  • Varadkar, Leo.
  • Wall, Jack.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies John Cregan and John Curran; Níl, Deputies Emmet Stagg and Paul Kehoe.
Question declared carried.

The Bill, which is considered by virtue of Article 20.2.2 of the Constitution as a Bill initiated in Dáil Éireann, will now be sent to the Seanad.