Planning and Development (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill 2017: Second Stage

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

Obtaining planning permission is one of the key steps in enabling housing providers to produce the homes we all need. The process of obtaining planning permission takes time, reflecting the importance of getting the location and design of new development right. Once permission is granted, it normally lasts for five years to enable the relevant development to be built out. However, due to the economic recession of recent years and the resulting downturn in construction activity and slow pace of sales, many approved housing developments could not be built out within the timeframes attaching to their original permissions. This is the case even where some of these benefited from an initial five-year extension of duration, which is already facilitated under the Planning Acts. Recognising these extraordinary economic and market conditions, and to avoid time-consuming and pointless repeat applications for planning permission at a time of unprecedented housing need, pillar 3 of Rebuilding Ireland committed the Government to amending planning legislation to temporarily allow for a second extension of duration of planning permissions over the period of the action plan to 2021.

Section 28 of the Planning and Development (Housing) and Residential Tenancies Act 2016 was originally drafted to amend section 42 of the principal Act and address the extension of duration provisions.

Specifically, section 28 of the 2016 Act provides: under section 28(1), a permanent change to section 42 of the 2000 Act, providing that extensions of duration would no longer apply where environmental impact assessment, EIA, or appropriate assessment, AA, was required in respect of the original planning permission. That is to bring the planning code fully into line with EU law requirements.

Under section 28(2), a temporary change is being made to section 42 of the 2000 Act, providing that a second extension of duration of planning permission could be approved for a development of 20 or more homes in certain circumstances and where development had substantially commenced within the original permission period. It was always intended to commence these provisions separately, as the first was drafted in response to EU requirements, and as is the norm with such new legislative requirements, there needs to be a transitional period for practical arrangements to be made to meet them. Developers need time to consider and comply with the new EU law requirements, and, as the case may be, apply for an extension of duration or a new planning permission. That is the reason I am not commencing this provision immediately but expect to do so by the end of this year.

The second provision is more urgent. If a second extension of duration is required to deliver housing that is in short supply, I am anxious that this be acted upon as soon as possible. However, due to the legal construction of section 28 with these two separate provisions, as I have outlined, legal advice received indicates that it is not possible to specifically commence the second provision without also commencing the first. Accordingly, this Bill seeks to allow us to commence this second provision separately, and without delay.

Another reason to quickly enact this Bill before the House is to address a further issue that came to light during consideration of amendments to the 2016 Act during the debates on the Planning and Development (Amendment) Bill 2016 - currently on Report Stage here in the Dáil. Some housing providers are not able to avail of a second extension of duration in cases where the development had substantially commenced but had done so within the period of the extended planning permission, that is, after year five, as opposed to during the original five-year planning permission period.

During discussions on the Bill, the Government tabled amendments and signalled that it would consider other changes to the 2016 Bill, taking account of the constructive and helpful views from Opposition Members. We are eager to facilitate as broad a cohort of house builders as possible to be able to avail of this temporary flexibility to deliver as much new and permitted housing stock into the market as early as possible. However, recognising that the 2016 Bill will not be enacted until the autumn, I have moved to bring these changes into effect as soon as possible. That is to minimise any delays and provide certainty to developers, their financiers and planning authorities, as well as to citizens who need homes. The provisions before the House today are therefore not new, but are in fact simplified and allow for greater flexibility for already eligible permissions seeking a further extension.

I will briefly run through the provisions in this Bill. Section 1 proposes to delete section 28(2)(a) of the 2016 Act and substitute new text to address the issues outlined above and enable separate commencements to the different parts of section 28. Section 1 also extends the opportunity for second durations of permission to those developments whose permissions have expired, or are due to expire, regardless of whether the developments commenced during their initial period of permission, or during the first extension period.

Section 2 contains standard provisions of a general nature, dealing with such matters as Short Title, collective citation and construction. As the Bill contains no commencement provision, the enacted provisions will come into force upon the date of signature of the President.

While I appreciate that consideration of such a provision would normally make its way through the legislative process in the traditional manner, we do not have the luxury of waiting for the Planning and Development (Amendment) Bill 2016 in the autumn. We are aware that there is a substantial number of commenced housing projects, between 50 and 100, throughout the country that could be built without further delay, if the amending legislation and relevant commencement arrangements are expedited. If not, that building activity may be obliged to cease. As soon as it became clear from scheduling arrangements that the Oireachtas would not be able to conclude its deliberations on the 2016 Bill before the recess, I acted to seek to progress this key provision by means of this fast-track, stand-alone Bill.

I did not want to rush the wide range of issues in the 2016 Bill, including the important proposals around the establishment of the office of the planning regulator, which require the careful scrutiny of this House. This Bill ensures that the affected housing providers who had substantially commenced development in an extended planning permission period would be able to apply for a second extension of duration, without the need to cease work while they apply for a new permission. It also means that those whose projects had substantially commenced within the original planning permission period would be able to avail of a second extension. It is important to note that this provision will apply only to projects that have substantially commenced and will not apply to projects that have not commenced. That is to discourage the hoarding of planning permissions without going ahead and actually delivering the homes. As facilitated under the original provisions in the 2016 Act, any qualifying permitted development that has expired between the publication of Rebuilding Ireland on 19 July 2016 and the commencement date of this provision will still be eligible to apply for a second extension. I commend this Bill to the House. I thank Members on all sides for considering this important matter at such short notice.

I support the passage of this short Bill to rectify an unfortunate error. It was a grave mistake which might have been unintentional but, to say the least, was careless. During the passage of the Planning and Development (Housing) and Residential Tenancies Act last year, we were adamant that there would be provision in it, among other things, for second extensions to be provided where substantial works were completed, in order for progress to be made and not have a scenario whereby one could go back to seek retention of planning permission and possibly have to open up the entire planning process again to further objections, and to hold the scheme up for two to three years and place an encumbrance on development and units being made available. It is unfortunate to have such an issue arise at this late stage but if it has to be rectified it has to be rectified. We will not stand in the way in order that the legislation can pass quickly and deal with the 75 or so cases involving more than 20 units in order that the work can be done. That is important especially considering the space we are in and the emergency in housing provision. If the Bill can help and assist in the process then we must allow for it and ensure it does exactly what we want it to do.

I could be very political and talk about the different things that have not happened which we would like to have seen happen in terms of the procurement process, such as the provision of rapid-build homes that can have a real impact on the crisis. Local authorities tell us there are impediments to procurement happening at the pace we would like. I hope the Minister will speak with relevant local authorities and departmental officials to facilitate the provision of new procurement procedures following the identification of road blocks and ensure housing developments happen a lot more quickly.

I had hoped the Government would have provided a new affordable housing scheme. We do not have one at present. The last one we had was the Part V scheme, which provided for 10% affordable housing and 10% social housing. In the last days of the previous Government it did away with the affordable housing scheme and we have not had a replacement. Some local authorities and co-operative housing organisations have introduced schemes to meet the demand in that sector but not on the scale we would like to see. I urge the Minister to introduce a national scheme that would have the desired effect in that regard.

The criteria under which local authorities can lease properties over a long period require amendment to cater for the possibilities that exist in that sector. We have the national asset residential property services, NARPS, model that NAMA is pursuing. That works well and could be extended. A new financial vehicle could be put in place to allow finance to be provided for units to be built and leased back by local authorities over a longer period. As local authorities told us in a committee meeting today that there are impediments to them doing that, let us resolve the issue and implement the changes.

In light of recent tragedies across the water and closer to home in Kildare and other places, local authorities have said resources and manpower are an issue in terms of them being in a position to inspect properties that are let and subvented by the State by means of the housing assistance payment, HAP, and other schemes. The situation must be rectified forthwith. I know the Minister has undertaken an audit of the inspection process in respect of health and safety and fire regulations and the way the system is adhered to, implemented and policed. I implore the Minister to accept what local authorities are saying. In some cases up to half the properties have not yet been inspected and there is an eight-month policy thereafter when the requirement comes into force and properties must be inspected. According to the local authorities, that in itself is not being adhered to, through no fault of theirs, but if the issue relates to manpower or resources it should be at the top of the Government's agenda in light to the threat to life that could otherwise exist.

Other issues have arisen in the course of recent weeks and I have had an opportunity to assimilate, digest and consider them. An issue will arise at a later Stage in our discussion of the Bill regarding the amount of units specified in the Bill being restricted to a minimum of 20. We should allow for multiples of less than that. I am conscious that people might have the best intentions in that regard but it is not possible to please everyone in this scenario. We are all faced with people coming into our constituency offices seeking to know if we are empowering the sector, public and private, to provide houses and to meet the demand that exists in order that the supply can reach the demand and progress can be made.

Of course, that is our duty and what we continue to do and implore the Government to do.

We also meet with the sector itself including providers, developers and investors who want a return on their investment but could not avail of it in the heat and depth of the crash. Those who survived the crash could seek a first extension of the permission they might have had for units numbering less than 20. Now people say they should be given a second extension. There comes a point when we have to define what is hoarding and what is not. Should we penalise people who, in that instance, would have had ten years to develop less than 20 units? We might compare those cases with somebody who has 180 units and has a lot more difficulty but it would not be comparing like with like. Somebody with less than 20 units could have 15 years to provide units to the market and it would be said that I and people like me are aiding and abetting that. I say we have to draw the line somewhere. We cannot please everybody and get nowhere. I think this is sufficient in the way that it is done. We are dealing with second extensions of time here, not with first extensions.

Another case came to my attention in the last few weeks. A local authority refused an initial extension of time when four fifths of the development had been completed. We are talking about hundreds of units here. Apparently, the reason the first extension was not granted had to do with challenges that had been made to the owner in respect of his title. He won his case, proved his title was sound and was entitled to complete the development. However, as the local authority failed to give an extension of time, he was forced to seek retention for the remainder of the work, which was 180 units. The total cost was about €26 million. In seeking retention of permission, presto, he had objections. I would hazard a guess that many of them are professional, to be quite honest. That being the case, the whole future of the development is in jeopardy from a financial, logistical and time perspective. Units are not made available to the market although there was ample process and planning in respect of all impacts, environmental and otherwise, and all that was required. The project met the criteria as laid down and achieved permission.

The local authority in its wisdom felt that it was possible for this legislation to be amended in order to cater for its failure to deal with first extensions under existing law.. This is purely to do with second extensions. There is adequate provision within existing legislation to deal with initial extensions of permission. Without mentioning the authority, the developer or location, I spoke briefly to the Minister about this case prior to speaking here. I will speak to him again and provide him with the details. I ask that he personally intervene and ask the relevant authority and the building company to meet. It may be possible to withdraw the existing permission and reapply for an extension under the legislation governing the first extensions. I have no doubt that should be adjudicated by virtue of the fact that the title issue has been resolved, apart from everything else. Then there might be progress. It is disappointing for me as a legislator to hear that an authority would think we can rectify legislation that is not even before us in respect of the issue it has. The local authority is not using the legislation that is available to it to deal with first extensions. I wanted to make that point. The Minister will acquiesce to me, I am sure, in order to accommodate such a meeting to see if the likes of that issue can be resolved.

Rather than getting into a protracted debate about the whole housing crisis and emergency, the Minister has said he is intent on addressing a few measures in respect of the review that is ongoing. I would say the review should not take too long. The manner in which the Rebuilding Ireland document was put together was credible in its own right. There was consultation with stakeholders, all-party committees and special committees. However, we always said it was going to be about implementation. With the best will in the world, the implementation has not materialised in the way we would have wished. Many of the suggestions we have made which were not acted upon now need to be brought to the fore. The review gives us all an opportunity to rectify that. I would hope the Minister will take that on board. I urge him to act quickly and show the sort of urgency that is necessary to address this issue. He should not be afraid of recent failures but should work with the rest of us to ensure we can all take credit for resolving this issue eventually. We must seek to give some immediate hope to those who see none despite the best efforts of many in recent times.

I want to go back to when we were initially discussing this amending legislation in respect of the second period of extension. It did not matter what document we took up, regardless of whether it was the heads of the Bill, Library research or the pre-legislative scrutiny. When we were discussing the second period of extension, all that was mentioned was that it had to have been 20 houses and substantial completion of the site had to have been carried out. Deputy O'Rourke approached me in respect of a constituent of his who had been in contact with the Department. On 13 April the reply from the Department clearly set out as follows: The new provision will only apply to those housing developments which were granted their first extension for having substantially commenced development before the original planning permission ran out and will not apply to those developments that were granted an extension under section 42(1)(a)(ii) and will only commence work in the extended period of duration. Deputy Ó Broin was on the committee with me. I sat through all of this. It was never the intention for this Bill to stop the completion of developments that had substantially started. It was thanks to Deputy O'Rourke and my further engagement with the Department that we identified this flaw. I support and commend today's amending legislation, which addresses that issue. The sole purpose of the Bill was to deliver housing. There is no point stopping housing when it is almost completed by not allowing for the appropriate period of time permitted to a development which commenced in the first period of the extension. Those are my few words.

I welcome the opportunity to speak on this amending legislation. As my colleagues have said, it is crucially important that this is passed without further delay if we are serious about dealing with the housing crisis that exists at the moment. It makes absolutely no sense that someone coming out of his or her first extension of planning who had substantially completed the development would be prevented from finishing the development and would have to go back. In essence, the proposal coming from the Department was that they would have to reapply to the local authority for an extension of duration. If there was then a third party objection, that could mean a further 12 or 18-month delay. I know the Minister would not condone that.

When we brought the issue to the attention of his officials they saw the sense in the point we were making and the error of their ways. They looked positively at trying to address it. Developments would have been shut down. If they continued to work on the basis of good faith, unauthorised development fines would then be levied on them and then, obviously, everything would cease. As we all acknowledge, labour is currently extremely difficult to find in the construction industry to get work done. If sites were closed down for a long period, that labour, expertise, talent and support would be lost. Not to amend the Act would have been a grave mistake in my view and my colleagues' view. That is why we set about trying to get this amended as quickly as possible. In my constituency of Kildare North, quite a number of sites will be falling into this situation this month and next.

It would be a terrible shame if developments of 100 or 150 houses had to be closed down. We need to ensure developers can power on with the delivery of such houses, many of which will come back to the local authorities through the 10% rule to assist with the current difficulties.

This welcome amending legislation will deal with an oversight in last year's Act. I am delighted to have played a part in bringing this to the attention of the Department in conjunction with my colleagues, Deputies Cowen and Casey. It is good that this positive measure is being speedily addressed here today. As we have all said in this House on numerous occasions, the only way to deal with this crisis is to increase supply. The problem at the moment is that the level of supply is insufficient. When supply comes back into the marketplace, that will deal with all of the housing issues with which we are familiar, including the current homelessness crisis, and will help with rents and in many other ways. Local authorities are not building - this is a major absence, in my view - because they are not being resourced to do so. They benefit from private developments because they get a percentage of those houses back. There is a win in this for everyone. If we are serious about delivering houses and dealing with the housing crisis, we should bring forward appropriate positive measures to facilitate the proper delivery of houses and allow strategic development to take place. That is what this is aimed at.

We spend a lot of time in this House talking about delivering and building houses. It is as if we had never built a house before in this country. We need to look at the different options. We need to give local authorities the resources they need to deliver houses on their own landbanks. Numerous Deputies have said that local authorities can build houses. Anyone who thinks they can do this at present is living in fantasy land. Local authorities will acknowledge that they are not resourced to build houses and do not have the expertise to do so. If we are serious about getting local authorities to develop and deliver housing on their own lands, we should resource and empower them to get designs done and put such projects out to tender. This would enable contractors, working under the supervision of the local authority, to develop housing to the point where it can be returned to the authority in turnkey condition. We are talking about local authority contracts on local authority land. The role of the local authority is to oversee such projects, implement them and ensure they go to tender. Local authorities do not have blocklayers, plasterers or plumbers. Such services have to be contracted or subcontracted. This way of delivering houses should be considered if we are serious about dealing with the housing emergency that exists.

If the Department cannot give local authorities the resources they need to do this work, it should consider the option of small public private partnership schemes, which worked successfully in the primary care section of our health service and in road construction. That is another way of doing this work. We should also consider the role of the private sector in helping to deliver houses. It cannot be the sole provider of houses, but it can play a major role in delivering houses because it is resourced to do so. When planning permission is granted in accordance with proper planning guidelines, a percentage of the income can come back to the local authorities. There are ways of delivering houses and meeting the demand that exists. Housing must be supplied in a coherent, strategic, proper and practical way that involves taking action rather than continuing to talk in this House as if we do not know what to do. We are not reinventing the wheel. We need to get on with the job.

We have all worked on local area and county development plans. If we are serious about developing and delivering houses, we must do so in a strategic manner. Various local area plans are under review in my constituency. I will not go into them in detail because I do not want to compromise the process. There are question marks over the zoning of prime, shovel-ready land that has been identified by the local authority for the delivery of houses. We need to look at that strategically and practically. Planning applications that relate to strategically-located and well-serviced land should be looked on positively if it is a case of a natural build-out from previous existing developments. We should allow such land to be zoned, if it is in keeping with good planning guidelines, in order to allow construction to happen. We should not be allowing construction in areas where the infrastructure is not present and where houses cannot be built for another eight or ten years. We need to act in a collective, practical and sensible manner. If we are really genuine about dealing with this crisis, we need to take a joined-up and practical approach. We should not take an approach that keeps us talking about the issue without delivering on it.

I welcome this Bill. I am delighted it is being treated with the urgency it deserves. We need to ensure the contractors who fall into the category to which I refer keep building because that is what will ultimately help the people who are attending our clinics every week.

Here we are again. As we did in December 2016, we are rushing legislation that will have a significant impact on the planning system through the Dáil on the second last day of term. I had huge sympathy for the officials who were dealing with Planning and Development (Housing) and Residential Tenancies Bill 2016 late last year because they were expected to draft complex legislation under enormous political pressure in an unreasonable period. With the best will in the world, and with the very best efforts of the officials, mistakes were made. The Bill in question received some scrutiny on Committee Stage. Amendments with huge holes in them were submitted on the second last day of that term. Thankfully, Members from a range of Opposition parties identified those holes and we were eventually able to get them resolved. The general point that needs to be made is that this is a really bad way for us to introduce legislation, even if we support it in principle and want to see it introduced to address loopholes in the existing codes. Planning legislation is particularly prone to difficulties of this nature. We cannot afford to focus solely on the principle behind this Bill and the text in front of us. We need to bear in mind that what we are doing will interact with a complex web of planning legislation. All members of the housing committee take seriously our responsibility to legislate and to scrutinise legislative proposals. We spend lengthy periods examining these Bills in committee. It is deeply unreasonable to expect us to be able to get our heads around these complexities in such a short space of time.

We got this Bill last Thursday. I pay tribute to Deputy Casey and his colleagues because they noticed this gap in the previous legislation and put it on the agenda. They have to be commended on that. It shows again that if the legislative process is done properly, Members will have the time to notice the difficulties that exist and to respond to them. Since we got the Bill last week, most Members and officials have been exceptionally busy because of the extra items on the Dáil schedule. We have had even less time to scrutinise the content of this Bill in our offices that we would ordinarily have. All Stages of the Bill are being taken today so that the legislation can be passed next week. This is the second time this has happened. If we do not find a way to ensure it does not happen like this, we will create more problems for ourselves that will have to be addressed further down the line. I have no difficulty with the motivation behind this Bill. We need to fill the gap that has been identified. The critical comments I am making about the processing of the Bill should not reflect on what the Bill is trying to do. I am taking the Ministers' explanation of why the Bill has been brought forward in this manner at face value.

I have some concerns, however. When I received this legislation last week, I wrote to the Minister to ask whether he or his Department was aware of individual developments where house construction might potentially have to cease because of this legislative difficulty. On Monday of this week, after The Sunday Business Post had reported that approximately 75 developments could potentially be affected, I wrote to the Minister again to repeat my simple request. It would have been valuable to share this information with members of the committee. I understand that at least two social housing developments, one of which is being progressed by Tuath Housing, could be affected. If the Minister is asking us to take him at his word while working through the legislation in this way, I think it would have been fair for him to share the information held by the officials in his office. It would have given us a sense of the kinds of developments we are talking about. We should have been given details of the location and size of each development. How much time is needed in each case? Perhaps the Minister will be able to share some of that information with us when he replies. For future reference, when we are dealing with legislation of this nature, we are open to working with the Minister to address the issues in a sensible and constructive way. The Minister's officials know this. I think he will come to learn this as he spends more time in his current role. We will not play politics with sensible legislative amendments or sensible improvements to the planning system. The Minister needs to assist us by providing the kind of information to which I have alluded.

Before I talk about the Bill, I want to say that there is currently a problem with the process for the first extension of planning permissions. When extensions are sought in many local authority areas, there is a sense among elected representatives and third parties that it is a kind of rubber-stamping exercise.

Where substantial changes have happened in a development or in the environmental circumstances, it is very difficult for people to influence and engage in the first extension period, whether the developer is responsible for the delay or not or has a bad track record of completing existing parts of a development. One of my concerns with the drafting of the Bill, if not its intention, is that those things are built into the second extension in a way that could be open to abuse or to unintended consequences.

The intention is to ensure that if a developer is on site and only has a couple of months left but needs a year or two years, the development is not stopped but, as the Bill is currently drafted, someone could significantly commence a development and, for example, put in the foundations but pause it to sit on it, as it were, for a while. With house price inflation of 10%, it may be better to leave it for a period. There is a real possibility that a rogue or greedy developer, as opposed to the genuine developers whom this Bill is trying to help, could avail of this extension and meet the criteria to benefit from one year, or two or three years, of additional house price inflation. I have a real concern about that and some of my amendments are designed to strengthen the ability of the local authority to force the developer in question to demonstrate very clearly that he or she is unable to complete the development within a reasonable period.

In the way the legislation is drafted, the total extension is five years, but when being granted the first extension under existing legislation, one gets the full extension. I would have preferred the legislation to have been designed with a shorter extension of a year or two years while, if the developer made the case for more time and in an exceptional case, he or she could get it. Instead of this, the five-year extension is the default rule even though the local authority, under certain circumstances, grants a lesser period. I would like the Minister to respond to that concern.

I am also not clear if the second extension can be secured more than once. It cannot be extended past the five years to 31 December 2021, but I wonder if someone can get a year or two-year extension and then get another year or two years up to that date. It would be helpful if the Minister could clarify that. If an extension is granted and a development got original permission ten or 11 years ago, which sets of planning regulations and county development plan rules apply? Is it the ones when the first planning permission was granted, those in force in the first period of extension or the rules which apply today? In many circumstances they can be very different. I am not necessarily arguing for one or the other at this point but clarity is required.

The Minister said that those whose projects had substantially commenced within the original planning permission period will be able to avail of a second extension. Does that mean someone who had substantially commenced could apply for an extension, do nothing in the first extension period and still avail of the second extension? None of us wants to delay important legislation and no one in this House, irrespective of our view of the Bill as it stands, wants to see any development, private or social, stop because of weaknesses in existing legislation, but I urge the Minister and his officials to listen carefully to what Members are saying, regardless of whether he accepts their amendments. I assume this goes to the Seanad next week, and if there are ways to strengthen the Bill on Committee Stage to ensure it can only be used for the intended purposes as identified by Deputy Casey and his colleagues, they should be found. Someone could abuse legislation which was weak because of the time it took to produce it, so I urge the Minister to make it as robust as possible.

I do not want to enter into other areas of housing policy but this is the second time we have dealt with fast-tracking legislation which is primarily for the benefit of private housing developments. We have a desperate need for the Department to come back with a similar set of proposals to fast-track social housing developments. The 18 to 24 months approval and procurement process is slowing down the pace of social housing delivery to a level that is unacceptable. We are being told of the urgency of fixing this problem but there is a huge problem in the State's delivery of social housing in that it is taking far too long and the measures introduced by the former Minister are not having the desired impact on the ground or speeding up the four-stage process. I urge the Minister to come back to us after the recess with some policy proposals, regulations or legislation to move from an 18 to 24 month approval process to a six to nine month one-stage process, which is eminently deliverable without compromising on standards or the quality of accommodation.

We will also support this Bill on the basis that it is a necessary step. I commend Deputy Casey and colleagues on noticing it and it is a good thing they did so before the summer recess or there might have been real problems. I assume it will pass through both Houses of the Oireachtas before the summer break. I am concerned that we have to do this, and Deputy Ó Broin has reminded us all of the frenetic period before the Christmas recess, working intensively late into the night on complicated amendments to housing and planning legislation. This is a lot simpler and easier to understand but it is important we get it right. The interaction between planning and housing is important. I will not be party political but bad planning resulted in houses being built where they were not needed and others not being built where they were needed. It is important we have good planning and houses built in appropriate locations and not, for example, in places subject to flooding.

I hope the fact this piece of the original Bill is going through quickly today means there will be no delay on the substantial legislation. The implementation of the recommendations of the Mahon tribunal has been very slow, as has getting the necessary legislation into this House. In particular, we need to implement the establishment of the planning regulator.

I understand the need to provide for an extra five years' extension where there has been substantial commencement of construction. How does the local authority identify what is substantial? The local authority will be responsible for granting the extension and I share the concerns of others about the possibility of this being a hoarding mechanism to allow a developer to extend the lifespan of the construction of a development until house prices go up again. We all know the statistics on house prices and we have seen people queue up to buy houses only for them to go up again the following day and the day after that, or during different phases of a development.

I can see that as some rogue developers would sit on properties to spread out for as long as possible the construction period in order that they would get the maximum profit from the houses they are constructing, we need safeguards in this regard. If the local authority is to make the decision as to how substantial the work already done is, I think it will need guidance from the Department. There should be some way in which this can be judged in an objective way. In this time of shortage of houses, we do not want to see these developments being held up in any inappropriate way. I understand why there are developments that need this extra time and I am not trying to stop that in any way but I do not want to see this provision being abused either.

In this context, the other measure coming down the tracks is the vacant sites levy. Local authorities are now already developing their vacant sites registers to have ready for next year for the levy to come in retrospectively at the end of 2018 and in 2019. While I acknowledge that we are not talking about vacant sites here, I also want to ensure there is no opportunity for developers to develop one part of a site and leave another part of it vacant yet then have the site described as not vacant. I do not know whether I am making this clear but I am highly suspicious of how some developers might want to try to get around the vacant sites levy coming down the tracks and to sit on land for as long as possible to make the biggest possible profit. We therefore need to look around the corners of this to make sure there are no opportunities for profiteering on these sites.

I wish to develop some of the other points made already. The issue of the building of social housing and the need to speed up its delivery have been raised by a few of the previous speakers and I absolutely support what has been said in this regard. While one measure available is the possibility of having just one application process with the Department for developments with a value of between €2 million and €15 million, according to the most recent reply to a question I got, only two applications have been dealt with under this measure. The four-stage process is taking far too long, as has just been said by Deputy Ó Broin, and I do not understand why it takes so long. There is so much back and forth between the local authorities and the Department still. I do not think anyone wants to see these delays but they are happening. As we have been told the money is there, we really need to see a speedier process for local authorities.

The other issue, which we have all raised at Question Time and so on, is the 700 or so sites around the country that are owned either by local authorities or other public bodies. There are issues surrounding these sites. The local authorities need to be able to be in charge and speed up the processes. I support what Deputy Cowen said about the need for an affordable scheme - an affordable purchase scheme but also an affordable rental scheme. I know the previous Minister was not inclined to introduce a national scheme on these matters and suggested that local authorities would work out their own arrangements around the sites. However, I ask Deputy Eoghan Murphy, as a fresh, new Minister, to reconsider having a national affordable leasing scheme because it will greatly speed up, in my opinion, the development of these sites which are meant to have mixed tenure. There will not be mixed tenure if there are, on the one hand, social houses and, on the other, houses that are too expensive for the average family to buy. That is not mixed tenure; that is fairly well-off people and not well-off people but no one in the middle. We need these kinds of schemes in the public sphere and, again, I ask the Minister to consider this.

Apart from that, there are some sensible amendments from others that would ensure that the time is not unduly spread out and that reasons are given for the seeking of these extensions, and I am supportive of them. In the meantime, while no one wishes to delay unduly this legislation, at the same time we need time to properly scrutinise it.

Given that it is the second last day of term before the summer recess, People Before Profit and Solidarity will not stand in the way of legislation that might do anything to facilitate the continued provision of desperately needed housing to increase the famous supply we all know to be necessary to deal with the catastrophic - I do not think that is an exaggeration - housing and homelessness crisis in which we find ourselves. I do not think anyone of good conscience could do anything that might hamper the delivery of housing that would have any impact for families who desperately need a roofs over their heads, particularly if, as I understand it, two of those developments are social housing developments, as Deputy Ó Broin has said.

Having said that, there are concerns that this legislation might facilitate land hoarding and we need the Minister's absolute assurance that it will not. He should seriously take on board the amendments that have been tabled that are designed to ensure this does not happen because land hoarding is a central part of the crisis we now face and of the crisis that preceded it in 2008. We therefore need his assurances in this regard and need him to answer the questions that are put and provide justifications for refusing these amendments if that is his intention. I understand he is considering one of the amendments. Frankly, as I do not see any problem with any of them, we need an explanation as to why he will not accept amendments that are designed to safeguard against land hoarding. As an aside, I do not know how these developers who engage in land hoarding can sleep at night, given the situation we now face. It is obscene that people are deliberately manipulating and exploiting what is an enormous social crisis just so they can increase the value of their investments, property and developments while people sleep in cars and couch surf, families are split up and people rot on housing lists for a decade or more. That people perceive this dire situation as an opportunity to increase the value of their investments is shocking, but that is the immoral world of the market and of capitalism: conscience is thrown aside in the filthy pursuit of profit at all costs. Some assurance that allowing for these extensions of planning permission will not facilitate that is absolutely critical. That being said, we could not and will not do anything to block any delivery of housing that is urgently needed.

However, given we are debating Second Stage of the Bill, I must say that this week we have been subject to what I think it is fair to describe as an absolute avalanche of legislation, with stuff being thrown at us left, right and centre. Some of it may be useful, as in the case of the Bill before us; one's head would be dizzy trying to figure out the content of other stuff coming before the House. We have just had a motion passed, without any serious public debate, on another issue that could have very serious implications on another area of concern to the public.

I do not like this method of doing things, with an avalanche at the last minute to do some things that might be worthy and some things that might be very dubious and which people in this country might live to regret. I want to flag that fact.

If we are going to engage in a type of emergency legislation at the last minute, I would like to see legislation which deals with the most urgent issues rather than some of the legislation that went through this week. This Bill is attempting to do that at some level. There is no more urgent issue than the issue of housing and homelessness. I cannot see why we should not include an amendment to Part V. The decision of the Government to reduce social and affordable housing from 20% to 10% as a condition of any development could have gone into this Bill as well. I said last week that this is critical. We can look at what the Minister has just cited in terms of what is happening over the summer. Of the 75 developments he says could be blocked if this legislation does not get through, only two of them are social housing. That tells its own story. To my mind that means that 73 of those developments, or at least a very high proportion of the 73 other developments that are not specifically social housing, will be unaffordable to the people who need housing.

Surely one of the lessons of the previous crisis is that even if supply is massively increased, as happened in the years leading up to 2008 when there were 70,000 to 90,000 residential units per year being built, it does not in any way guarantee that the housing and homelessness crisis will be stemmed or the housing lists reduced or that ordinary people in this country who need a secure, affordable and permanent roof over their head will benefit. I wonder if there is any acknowledgement of that fact. Is there any recognition on the part of the Minister that the major expansion in the construction and delivery of housing that he hopes will happen does not in any sense guarantee that we will solve the housing crisis? We have the very recent experience of a massive increase and expansion in the supply of housing and that did not solve the crisis. It led to a massive economic crash, ghost estates and people taking on debts they simply could not afford, but it did nothing to deal with the housing crisis. The Deputies in this House who have been around for a few years know that the housing list continued to lengthen during the period 2005 to 2008. It did not get shorter when we had a record delivery and output of housing. The list got longer. It accelerated and got worse after 2008, to the disastrous level we are at now. It is simply not the case that if supply is increased, demand is met. These graphs, the equivalent of which can be found in leaving certificate textbooks, do not work in reality. That is not an ideological assertion but a simple statement of fact about what happened in the years between 2004 and 2008. The massive increase in supply did not meet demand.

There is no reason to believe it is going to meet demand this time. In fact, there is every reason to believe it will not when one looks at what is happening with house prices and with rents. Stuff will be delivered and it will be unaffordable. If it proceeds as it did before, particularly now when the real value of wages for huge numbers of people has fallen, I foresee another credit bubble. How else can it happen? I just cannot see another outcome. The real value of wages is now less than it was in 2006, 2007 and 2008. How are people going to afford this stuff? Either they will not be able to afford it or they will have to borrow money they cannot afford, risking a repeat of what happened previously. I would like to hear some response to that. I believe there is no response to it. The only way the expanded output the Minister is hoping for will deal with the catastrophic situation we are now facing is if price is controlled. That can only be done if the State provides the housing.

I hear some people say that we need an affordable scheme. We do, absolutely, but we must remember that the previous affordable scheme was a disaster. It did not work and did not deliver affordable housing. I would like to know how someone is going to do it now if it is not the local authorities deciding what is affordable. If it is in any way linked to the market and some sort of notional discount from the market, it is going to be unaffordable in all the places where the demand is most acute. I simply cannot see how it can be any other way. When I hear terms like affordable rental, a chill goes down my spine. What is affordable rental? It is something called the differential rent scheme. That is what council rents are. What is this other category of affordable rental that we think we are going to come up with? Council rents are affordable rental and are linked to ability to pay based on income. If the income goes up, the rent goes up. If it goes down, the rent goes down. The level of rent is set as a proportion of how much it is reasonable to expect someone to pay in rent given their income. That is affordable rental. Why would there be another category of affordable rental? It will be rent that is set by the developers and the market. We can debate if there should be a 5% or 10% discount on that, but it would be way in excess of what ordinary people can afford.

Even if the Minister will not do what we are asking, and I hope that he will, he has to realise that we have to double, if not treble, the planned output of council housing, delivered by the councils and ideally with a State construction company marshalling the workforce with the skills to deliver it on our terms. The plans should be dictated by this House rather than the vagaries of the market or what the vulture funds feel like doing. I hope we will do that. At the very minimum we should have a higher proportion of what is being given to the developers in the case of these 700 sites or in the case of the big developments that are beginning to take place. I have mentioned Cherrywood. There are 8,000 units in that development. If we got even 30% of Cherrywood, we could pretty much solve the housing crisis in Dún Laoghaire, but 10% of it is not going to go anywhere near to dealing with it and the prices would be worse at the end of it. Will the Minister not do that? When this was being debated before, there was talk of legal advice from the Attorney General. It was suggested that 10% is okay but if we go above 10% we are in danger of infringing private property rights. I would love to hear the argument around that and how 10% is not infringing property rights but 20% or 30% is. That does not make any sense to me.

The argument used against rent controls was that it could not be done, and then suddenly it became possible. If any kind of rent control is possible, it should be a more substantial rent control that brings rents to affordable levels. At a very minimum in this specific legislation, the 10% threshold could have been increased or an injunction placed on local authorities in order that they would have had to have gone for more than 10% of the private developments that are being built.

The Government could have changed NAMA's mandate, although that horse has more or less bolted. In so far as the agency has any assets left, the Government could have said "NAMA is not going to sell any more property to vulture funds because we know what a disaster that has been". Does the Government even acknowledge that what happened with NAMA was a big mistake? It could cover itself by saying that when NAMA was first set up it seemed reasonable to mandate it but that, in the face of a massive housing crisis, the idea that the State should unload large amounts of properties to vulture funds that sit on them, evict people and ratchet up rents, was not the greatest and that maybe the practice could be stopped.

We could have legislation that declares a housing emergency for the next three or four months and that all economic evictions will stop. The Government could say it will ensure that the position will not get worse. That could have been done in this Bill. It could have closed the loopholes that have been exposed in the Planning and Development (Housing) and Residential Tenancies Act 2016. We have discovered that it is possible to get around the 4% cap on annual rent increases in a series of ways, which is what vulture funds are doing at the expense of tenants. The Government could have adopted emergency measures such as the compulsory purchase of empty lands and properties. That matter needs to be dealt with as a matter of urgency.

I would like to hear what the Minister has to say about fire regulations in view of the horror of Grenfell Tower and the possibility that we could have similar situations here. I spoke to the Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Deputy Doyle, about this recently. Is the Minister engaging with the concerns flagged by people such as Noel Manning, a fire safety consultant, about the inadequacy of the fire regulations? I am not an expert but Mr. Manning has stated that the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government has known for years, and has received submissions to the effect, that the existing fire regulations will not deliver on the requirement to ensure that between units there is fire resistance to the degree of 60 minutes. We saw evidence of this in the Newbridge fire. The fire spread in houses that were signed off as compliant with fire regulations showing that those regulations failed. When will we get a clear response in respect of those very worrying allegations? When will the fire regulations be amended in order to ensure we do not see a repeat of the Grenfell Towers fire? This should happen as a matter of urgency.

I would have liked to see urgent legislation - this could have been done in a number of ways but it definitely could have been included in this Bill - to protect school playing fields that are being sold off by the religious congregations in order to pay off debts relating to the abuse that took place over many years. I have mentioned Clonkeen College in my area, the playing fields relating to which have been sold off, on several occasions. Approximately 80% of school playing fields that have been used for years by schools and that are owned by these religious congregations are zoned residential so, effectively, there is no planning protection against the Christian Brothers seeing these as a financial asset and flogging them off and degrading the facilities available to our schools. Those are some emergency measures I would like to have seen in addition to what is being done to deal with the urgent social crisis around housing. I would have liked issues such as fire safety and school playing fields to have been addressed also.

This is a short Bill to correct an error in a much larger legislative measure that was rushed through the Oireachtas before Christmas. We cannot leave it at that, however, and we have to start by saying it was inevitable that there were going to be errors because of the manner in which the previous legislation was pushed through. During the Report Stage debate on the previous legislation prior to Christmas, Deputy Ó Broin pointed out a number of technical drafting errors. Here we are again, on the eve of another recess, and history is repeating itself. That just is not good enough. This will inevitably lead to the same type of mistakes being replicated. We have to return to the original Bill that we are attempting to amend because that Bill was a repeat of the disastrous housing policies that have been pursued with the same results. We said at the time that the rent predictability measures brought in with the previous legislation Bill would not work and that has proven to be the case because rents have continued to rise. The Government's response to the evictions which followed that continuing massive hike in rents has been to convert warehouses. Its policy in that regard is ridiculous.

We have to get back to basics and examine housing policy in this State. If what has existed in recent years can be called a policy, then it can at best be described as a method of giving developers whatever they desire in the hope that, in return, we will get some houses back for local authorities. The consequence of doing that has been unregulated development. We are loosening some checks and balances that were important in the context of encouraging sustainable development in order to facilitate that process. It is the very process that was not sufficiently regulated in the first instance that has given rise to shoddily-built, overpriced houses in areas with no amenities, not to mention to the issues - such as those relating to fire safety, etc. - highlighted by Deputy Boyd Barrett. If we say that the legislation we are amending was an ill-thought-out developer's charter which has done nothing to address the housing crisis, we can also say that it did take a hatchet to some planning regulations. We have to spell that out. For the vested interests in the Irish property sector it was happy days, but for people trying to put a roof over their heads it made no difference. Houses have become less affordable to either rent or to buy.

It is an incredible irony that a housing co-operative in Dublin could recently manage to build an entire estate of houses and sell them for €140,000 per unit at the same time that developers in NAMA tell us they can only build houses at a cost of €330,000 per unit. Somebody is not telling the truth and I do not think it is the co-operative because it has delivered the goods at the price to which I refer.

The emphasis has been the wrong way around. Since the coming into place of the Urban Renewal Act 1986, the public has been asked to subsidise developers through a long series of tax incentive schemes for development. Where has that got us? We have poured billions into this situation, with incentives for hotels that cost us approximately €500 million between 2011 and 2014, nursing homes that cost over €100 million in incentives, student accommodation that cost over €123 million in the same period and section 23 tax relief that cost almost €1 billion. Despite all these reliefs and incentives, the current dysfunction continues and we still have a major crisis. That means we are doing everything wrong and that we have the whole thing the wrong way around.

The Bill is intended to correct errors in the legislation that was pushed through prior to Christmas. However, it also provides the possibility - specifically in terms of the amendment that Deputy Wallace and I have tabled for Committee Stage - of correcting one of the most irresponsible sections in the principal Act, namely, section 28, which provides for an extension of planning permission on projects containing 20 units or more.

The original Act provided for the establishment of, obviously, a fast-track planning permission system, in which decisions about certain large planning applications would be taken away from the planning officials in the local authorities who had all the local knowledge, and given to a handful of people in An Bord Pleanála to deal with. On top of that the appeals process was undermined and possibly in contravention of the Aarhus Convention due to the input of the consultation with communities being undermined.

The implications of the Bill before us are not very clear. It raises very serious questions in terms of the kinds of developments that would benefit from the proposed legislation. The question has been asked, but I shall ask it again. Where are the 75 developments and landholdings that have been mentioned by the Minister or spoken of in the public arena that are going to benefit from the change that is currently before the House? How many are sites with active planning permissions due to expire this year? How far back do the original planning permissions go that would be covered by this Bill? Are fast-track planning permissions from An Bord Pleanála, for example, now permitted to avail of the five year extension? If so, why would fast-track planning in 2017 need a five year extension to a five year permission? What is the urgency in providing it now?

The Minister's official is looking aghast but I think I have a fairly moderate level of intelligence, as do the staff who work in my office. If we are making the points that this legislation is unclear then it is spelling out that the legislation is unclear if we do not know the answers. Once again, it is a salutary lesson in the bad practice of pushing through planning with serious consequences in this way.

I ask the valid question, namely for how long is it possible to extend a permission under these new rulings. From looking at it, it would appear that a 2007 planning permission can be extended up to 2021. Is that the case? If it is can the Minister explain if this is not encouraging land hoarding and land speculation as well as, critically, ignoring the 2014 revisions to the environmental impact statements directives, which Ireland has yet to transpose into law? The due date for that, incidentally, expired on 16 May this year.

Putting aside for a moment the abomination of waiving the need for reassessment or the need for an environmental impact assessment in what could amount to a 14 year planning permission, we feel it is vital that an amendment is made to ensure that any planning permissions that qualify for this gift of an extension are completely compliant and in accordance with the planning and development Acts, its regulations and any other requirements, including up to date versions of the building regulations.

If a development was originally started it has to apply the standards of today. We need buildings that are up to the standards of best practice in Europe. We should not be letting developers off the hook on issues such as less stringent building regulations that may have been in place in the past or their obligations to reduce emissions and so on.

It is not clear what is in the Bill or how broad are its provisions. We are right to be worried because the promises that were made at Christmas were not delivered upon. In fact, the situation has become worse. Given the tactics and strategies the Minister is following he seems willing just to repeat it over and over again. It begs the question. The reality on the ground proves that the Minister's housing policy is captured by the big players in the industry such as Cairn Homes, Hines, Kennedy Wilson etc. Despite all the legislation that has been rushed through the House the situation is not changing.

It was absolutely galling to listen to Frank Daly of NAMA at the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure, Reform, and Taoiseach this morning. He told the committee that only in recent years has it become commercially viable to build houses again. Why did Frank Daly and NAMA give away assets belonging to the State at precisely the time it was not viable to build houses? The same gentleman spent the meeting telling Members of his concerns about land hoarding. This is when NAMA and its tactics have been the biggest contributors to land hoarding in the State, not to mention the facilitation of vulture funds in NAMA selling off the assets for a song. Yet, we do nothing to curtail their activity. We let them carry on regardless.

I would be grateful to the Minister if he could answer the questions we posed around the effects of this legislation, especially regarding the requirements for an environmental impact assessment. We believe this should be carried out in all developments to honour our environmental concerns and responsibilities in this era when the climate change catastrophe is coming down around us.

I thank the Deputy. Is she now giving way to Deputy Catherine Connolly?

Yes, if she wants.

In that case, our next contributor will be Deputy Catherine Murphy who will be sharing time with Deputy Eamon Ryan.

I shall be making some of the same points that other Deputies have made. Here we go again. It is the last week of term and we are presented with a piece of emergency legislation. If it is not planning, or should I say development, legislation it is Irish Water legislation. That has been the constant at the end of each Dáil term. At this point I believe it is being deliberately held off until the last minute. If the Bill had been brought to the House last week there would have been a bit more time but it is being rushed through now. This has happened too often.

The Bill is called the Planning and Development (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill 2017. It is, however, not a planning and development Bill - it is a development Bill. We should just call it what it is. It is a development Bill. I would certainly not want to see a site that is largely completed having to go back for planning permission if the completion of the development is imminent. I do not, however, see why an extension to planning in such cases would require five years. In fact, by giving it a five year extension the pressure is possibly being taken off to complete the work, given that we are trying to get houses finished and housing estates completed. It is not just about completion from the developers' perspective or those who wish to buy, it is also about having the development completed for those people who are already living in these estates. I know people who live in housing estates that were started in 2007 and the developers received the benefit of an extension of duration to the planning permission. The estates are still not completed now. It is a small number, but the idea of it going on for another five years would be the last thing people want. There are not just one or two parties associated with this, there are multiple parties associated with it.

When we get legislation in this manner we do not get the time really to consider the things that could go wrong. This is exactly what Members need to do with legislation - look at what could go wrong. An extension of duration means, essentially, that the original planning permission is unchanged but the duration of it is allowed to be extended. I spoke with a builder recently who has a site. He made a planning application around 2005 or 2006. He did not act on that planning permission. I asked him what he was going to do with the site, which happens to be in my constituency. He told me it was from a different time, the plan was too ambitious and it would not be the type of permission he would apply for now. We could find these very permissions falling into this category.

With extensions of duration the type of house or the type of apartment cannot be changed. Conditions will go along with these permissions and questions on whether or not they can be in compliance. Irish Water, for example, has been introduced since the Planning and Development (Amendment) Act 2010 that allowed for extension of duration. Obviously things must be referred to. The taking in charge process with Irish Water specifies the number of years after the planning permission has expired. Are there unintended consequences with this legislation? In theory this legislation probably provides for a 15 year permission and this could impact on the taking in charge process.

Who defines "substantially complete"? Very often this can be an issue in relation to the Multi-Unit Developments Act. This relates to owners' management companies as opposed to developers' management companies.

Has that been thought out? If it has, I would appreciate a response because there have been changes in legislation since the original planning permissions were granted for what is to be completed.

There are cases of planning permissions that were granted in, say, 2007, where the Part V obligation was included in them. In some local authorities a price was negotiated for the houses that would be completed in the context of the Part V obligation. It may not apply at all but some of the prices that were negotiated and had to be paid were on the high end. I do not know if it applies in this case. I am just questioning in the way one would normally question when going through something like this if one had the time to really think out the kind of things that could crop up.

Who decides what is "substantially complete"? There could be great variation throughout the country in its interpretation. I had an issue with the definition "substantially complete" in the past. It was in the context of a management company. In fact, the people in the housing estate largely managed the housing estate out of their own pockets for years until the developer came back, when it was viable to do so, in the past couple of years. They certainly paid a price over the inflated price that they paid for their houses. Therefore, I really do have a problem with the term.

The point relating to the Aarhus Convention that Deputy Clare Daly makes is a valid one. Planning requires consultation and, in the main, people do not object in the main for frivolous reasons. Most people have a lot more to be doing with their time. Often there is a reason to object, however, and this is part of the planning system but we are seeing an increasing movement away from that position. We saw it in the legislation before Christmas. The appeals mechanism is pretty much gone because there is now only one mechanism through An Bord Pleanála and the local input is substantially reduced by virtue of the non-involvement of the local authority in the decision at that stage.

Two years ago one of the first things the Social Democrats sought was a delivery agency. This would allow delivery on large sites that would be project managed and would include a mixture of tenure, size and house type, as well as socially-mixed communities. The former Minister, Deputy Coveney, spoke about that kind of social integration but what we are doing today will not and cannot achieve it. It is really disappointing that only a very small number of people in the Department of Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government are involved in the delivery side of housing, and I suspect they are involved in the local authority side, which is painfully slow. We suggested a delivery agency that would be connected with the Housing Agency and the Housing Finance Agency. It would be a project manager. If we want to take the risk out of the system and create certainty in terms of the development of very large sites, where planning permission is guaranteed, it having been sought and granted, the builder could come in and build components of it rather than be the developer of the whole site. This would have the benefit of driving down costs as there would be economies of scale.

We certainly would not want to see something that is largely complete remain incomplete. However, the five-year aspect to this is a big issue for me. I will see what attitude will be taken to that amendment and other similar ones.

There is no doubt that we need to have almost a war office-type approach to delivery of housing. If that did not fall into this kind of category, I would not be supporting it. There are too many imponderables here that could come back and bite us. I was elected first to a county council in 1991. I spent the next ten years picking up the bits and pieces after what was something of a housing crash in the 1980s. One gets some experience of the kind of things that might crop up by virtue of the issues that present following such an event. We are back around making the same mistakes again. There are aspects to this Bill that have not been thought out and which will come back and bite. This is not the way to treat what is a legal system. Our planning system is a legal system. Sometimes that is overlooked.

To follow on from Deputy Catherine Murphy's point, one of the issues that may come back to bite is the separate ways we are treating section 28(1) and section 28(2) of the 2016 Act. This is one of the real concerns the Green Party has in terms of the process we are engaging here. Why are we treating the original provision not to provide extensions for those developments that would require an environmental impact assessment, EIA, or other appropriate assessment differently to those for which that might not be required but have more than 20 homes? We do not understand it. I have a certain number of questions because many of our amendments relate to concerns on that issue.

To delve into it, the Minister has given some detail. We are all reacting here because the Bill is last-minute and complex and is amending recent legislation. However, the Minister said section 28(1) was being amended because we found out that it was not in compliance with EU requirements. When did we find that out? How did we realise it? We know that some of the other amendments under discussion today were on the back of Fianna Fáil Deputies realising some of the difficulties in the 2016 Act. When did we discover there was this issue in terms of the implementation of that amendment, namely, section 28(1)?

Even having found about it, what we cannot understand is why we do not commence that section of the Act straight away. The current situation is not in compliance with EU law. I think it was Deputy Boyd Barrett who said that the latest version of the EIA directive was meant to be in force by May this year. If we are not in compliance, surely the Minister would be saying we have to get in compliance with EU law straight away. Why do we not just fix it and proceed with the implementation of section 28(1)? Is there not real vulnerability that we might be back here again? That is, there will be certain decisions which will be allowed to go through, for instance, planning decisions that may be given extensions but then we may find ourselves retrospectively recognising that it was a mistake because they were not in compliance with EU law.

The Minister said there were perhaps 75 or so applications - it is somewhere between 50 and 100 - where we may want to get the housing built. Those applications might have more than 20 homes. Is the Minister able to tell us how many applications there are where that section 28(1) would apply? I refer to developments which would now require an EIA. In a sense, who is involved in this decision?

Which developments or how many developments require the Minister to take this dual approach in terms of not commencing that section until later this year? We do not understand the logic of that or of what he said in speech. He said:

Developers need time to consider and comply with the new EU law requirements, and, as the case may be, apply for an extension of duration or a new planning permission. That is the reason I am not commencing this provision immediately but expect to do so by the end of this year.

Surely the only approach one would recommend here is that any developer in this situation would do what has to be done, which is to apply the latest EIA requirements. Why are we not pursuing European law in this approach? I do not understand it. Every Member is anxious to get housing built, but I am concerned that in some ways it is our lack of rigour in planning that is causing some of the uncertainty and the problem of hoarding, which we heard about from Frank Daly at the Oireachtas committee meeting today.

This is one element of it, but I have been concerned for many years, given the amount of zoned land we have, about how we have bent over backwards for developers. In some instances, we did so for financial gain. The real winner in recent years has been Tom Parlon, as I have seen since returning to the Dáil. He has been probably the most powerful operator here. We have given everything we can to the construction industry in terms of tax breaks, lowering building standards and doing whatever we can to get housing built. However, the constant effort to do whatever the construction industry thinks it needs to get housing going is not working. As much as everyone wishes to see finished housing developments that have already commenced, there is a concern that we are constantly ceding planning control. In this instance we are effectively giving a second extension where there is a 15-year timeline. This is as well as all the zoned land, the changes we are making to standards, tax breaks and removing the charge on rezoned land. It appears that this approach to trying to coax the construction industry to build is not working. At some point one might say, "let us be clear and firm so that if we say the planning permission is for X period, it is for that period", rather than create the expectation, which we are in danger of doing, that even though we state the permission is for that period, the developer knows he or she will get the nod in the end so he or she does not necessarily have to go ahead. That is a valid and real concern.

Our primary worry is whether we are creating further legal difficulties for ourselves by not implementing section 28(1). I agree with some of the other questions relating to what substantial completion means and why it must be a five-year extension. Is there a risk that this allows for some hoarding? Are there some other developments that we should exclude? Are we going to include the fast-tracked developments that are going straight to An Bord Pleanála and why would we possibly include them? I assume we are not, and I see that the official is nodding. We are raising these questions to avoid us having to return to this again should certain developments occur and a legal challenge is made because someone says they are not in compliance with EU law. Why would we take that risk? That is what I do not understand with this legislation.

This is urgent legislation. It is unusual that such a Bill would go through all Stages so quickly, but there is a compelling reason for it. In the town of Drogheda where I reside, there are existing planning permissions. Many of them have not been acted on because the builders either commenced or would have intended to commence before the bust and now they wish to be in a position to start as soon as possible. I am particularly interested in social housing as it is very important. It is certainly badly needed in Drogheda. If this legislation will facilitate the construction of social housing under permissions that were properly given and are extended under serious and clear decision-making processes which are transparent and open in every respect, I do not have a problem with it. That is what is important now. If this legislation will put more of my constituents into social housing for which planning permission was given, I am happy with that and welcome it.

I wish to respond on a few issues I will not fight with my colleague, Deputy Clare Daly, but I wish to make a point about NAMA. I always make this point because it is true. Much of what the Deputy said is true in many respects but it is also true, and this is at the heart of the housing problem in this country, that NAMA offered 6,200 homes to local authorities throughout the country. Fewer than 2,500 of those 6,200 homes were taken up by local authorities, notwithstanding the fact that NAMA repeatedly gave commitments in writing that if the units needed to be refurbished or if they had been vandalised as a result of the recession and so forth, it would spend its budget of up to €200 million to ensure Deputy Daly's and my constituents who needed social housing would get it. I am very concerned that this did not happen. NAMA made a genuine offer. I went through it in detail. The local authorities seriously erred in their lack of commitment and in the lack of interest in the offers made to them. This is especially the case in major cities such as Dublin and Cork where they were not accepted. On the other hand, Galway took every home it was offered. The local authorities have serious questions to answer.

I am somewhat cynical or jaundiced in my view of their commitment to social housing. There was a hidden bias against increasing the proportion of social housing beyond 10% in some areas. In fact, I understand that all those houses are now occupied by people who are social housing applicants. Most of them are on the housing assistance payment, HAP. They are living in estates that the local authorities would not and did not take over, and now they are all on their housing lists. The landlords are making a supreme killing in all this.

The other issue I wish to address is serviced land. I welcome the commitment in the budget to allocate €200 million to facilitate the opening of lands for development. I wish to draw attention to the Army camp in Gormanstown, County Meath, which is beside my constituency. It is a massive 250 acre site that is owned by the State. There was a proposal some years ago to put housing on it, but that disappeared. According to replies to parliamentary questions, the Department of Defence appears to have great plans to develop it. However, I see no need for increased military occupation of the 250 acres of land, so perhaps we could see what we could get from it. The initial proposal was for 60 acres or even less. The land is owned by the State and can be serviced by the State. Builders or developers could be encouraged to build a suite of specifically designed houses there at a fixed price. I believe that is the way we must proceed. It will be possible to cut through the red tape because there are no issues with ownership or with access. There is a motorway right beside it and there is a railway station in the village. I accept that it would be a new community and would require supports, but places such as Stamullen are nearby. They were significantly developed during the boom.

There is an inventory of State-owned lands in the Department, and I believe quick wins can be achieved in this regard. One can get around the bureaucracy and fast-track the planning. It makes sense to use this and other planning legislation to the advantage of social and affordable housing.

This is the first time in many generations that young people aged in their 20s and 30s cannot buy a home on their income or joint income in the case of a couple. It is a disgrace that a fundamental need for family formation and rearing children for those lucky enough to have children, namely, to have a home of one's own, is no longer possible for the vast majority of people. The Government, in its future budgets, must pursue policies aimed at allowing people to fulfil this aspiration. In my generation, anyone who worked had an opportunity to buy a home. A more radical approach is needed to addressing this issue.

In terms of planning, we must focus on our city and town centres. I acknowledge the opportunities provided by the Living City initiative have not been grasped, particularly in the areas at which it is directed. I hope officials in the Department of Finance will fine tune the initiative to make it more attractive for developers to build in derelict parts of town and city centres, for example, dockside sites, abandoned areas near railway stations and the business districts of the 19th century and early 20th century where activity no longer takes place because communities have moved away. Moving into these parts of our towns and cities offers significant advantages because infrastructure such as roads, footpaths, lighting and water and sewerage systems is already in place. While I acknowledge that the Government is examining the cost of construction, it should be an advantage to builders to build where such services are already in place. People who wish to build or restore a property in these areas are currently at a disadvantage, however. It does not make sense from an environmental, community or climate change point of view that it is cheaper to build on a greenfield site than in derelict urban areas. New initiatives are needed.

Under one such initiative in County Louth, legislation is being used to take over abandoned and boarded up properties in housing estates and town centres. Approximately 50 derelict properties, which were taken over and refurbished, are about to be occupied. They are all being sold at less than €100,000 and families will gain significantly as a result of this initiative.

I welcome the Government's intention to introduce a property tax on dwellings that are not principal private residences and have been vacant for a considerable period. This measure presents a quick win. I and many others would not have a problem with a measure that imposes a significant property tax within a certain period of registering a property, provided it is not the principal private residence.

I welcome the legislation as it will benefit a limited number of developments - a figure of 70 developments was mentioned. It will make a significant difference in my home town if planning applications do not have to be resubmitted for developments that have already secured planning permission. I appreciate Deputy Eamon Ryan's point that the planning permission will have been granted at a different time when different conditions applied and more stringent conditions could apply if the process were to commence ab initio. However, this provision could result in an additional 3,000 or 4,000 houses being built in Drogheda in the next couple of years. I support the legislation for this reason.

I acknowledge the difficulties and concerns that always arise when legislation proceeds quickly at the end of a session. However, this occurs during all Administrations, including the Government of which Deputy Ryan was a member. I agree, however, that it is difficult to engage in maximum scrutiny in the minimum amount of time. Deputy Ryan's questions are, therefore, germane and appropriate. I support the Bill because it will lead to families in my constituency securing a home sooner rather than later.

I apologise for missing my slot and thank the Ceann Comhairle for allowing me to speak at this late stage.

It is right that we address this issue and I congratulate those who identified it. Some developers obviously raised it with Deputies and sought to have amending legislation introduced. We should proof all legislation passed in the House. Last night, I stated that all Bills should be rural proofed, especially when they have a significant impact on rural areas. It is obvious that a recent planning Act contained a flaw. Much of the legislation passed by the House is flawed and it should not be unwieldy or difficult to correct such flaws. All legislation should be re-examined after a maximum bedding in period of 12 months. We have had ludicrous examples of legislation having unintended consequences. In many cases, the common man is unable to use, work with or manage legislation. This applies in respect of An Garda Síochána and in other areas. The issue must be addressed to ensure we do not pass unworkable legislation that makes a bad situation worse.

I am a member of the Committee on Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government. I apologise for not attending many of its meetings but it is difficult to do so as I am a member of a number of other committees. Another reason for my frequent absences is that I am weary of all the talk about rebuilding Ireland and providing houses. The debate is going around in circles and getting nowhere.

I declare an interest to the extent that I am involved in the construction industry through my business, although I supply services rather than build houses. While I do not know what is wrong with the housing sector, I fully support the amendment proposed in the Bill to address one issue. I am glad that people who had the noble vision of building a home for themselves will benefit from the provision. They were not looking for the State to provide them with a house and went through all the hoops to secure planning permission. Some of them could not get a mortgage in the final hour because the banks went bust. They may be getting back on their feet again and wish to build a home. I am glad such people will have their planning permissions extended by five years.

I support the provision relating to developments of 20 houses or more but concerned that it does not make reference to developments of five or ten houses. I am also worried that it does not impose an upper limit on the number of homes in a development that will benefit from the provision. I made a submission on the Tipperary county development plan, which was not accepted, in which I argued that planning permission should not be granted for developments of 100 or 200 houses in small villages. During the boom times, developers sought planning permission to build 200 houses in small villages. In my village, we fought the developer tooth and nail but he secured planning permission for 99 houses. Thankfully, these homes were not built because they would have ended up as a derelict site. The developer in question ended up in the National Asset Management Agency and left the country but has since returned having bought all of his property back from NAMA. These large developments change the character of villages and communities.

We do not hear anything about community facilities. We fought the planners for a playground and a site to extend the community hall. Across the pond in the UK, community facilities are part and parcel of planning applications and will be thrown out if they do not include such facilities. This is necessary because the character of many villages, including a small number in County Tipperary, has been changed by large housing developments. The Ceann Comhairle will be more familiar with this problem than I am because housing need is greater in the commuter towns and villages of County Kildare. I am concerned that the Bill does not impose a cap or upper limit on the number of housing units in a development. I understand that a development may have 50 completed homes which have been sold and are occupied, with a further 40 under construction and 50 or 60 more not yet started. It is fair enough to have phased developments but some type of upper limit must apply.

As I stated, the Bill must be reviewed and a provision included to monitor how many homes are being built. The Minister and his colleague, the Minister for Finance, Deputy Donohoe, can do one basic thing.

People have been critical of Mr. Tom Parlon. I am no spokesperson for him, but we are not getting houses delivered privately, so we must consider the VAT rate. During the talks on forming the Government last year, we fought hard on this issue with the Minister, Deputy Donohoe's, predecessor, Deputy Noonan. He flatly told us that we could only have three rates of VAT. We could half the rate and insist that the city and county councils - not request, but insist, because we have power over them - cut their crazy development levies. As a councillor, I supported the levies in the boom time. In particular, I supported and defended the community charge. I was criticised for that but it proved beneficial for child care facilities, playgrounds and many other pieces of infrastructure that would not have existed otherwise. There is a full section in England, but we only added it in at the end. There was a roads charge and a water charge.

We could cut the charges and the rate of VAT by half, but we do not want to cut them for the builders. Cut them for the people who are buying the houses or, in particular, handling their own builds and pass the benefit on to them. We could get house building going. I have spoken with builders. The construction industry and others tell us that building for the current prices is not viable. House prices in Dublin are crazy, but not in the country.

The change of use situation is crazy. I spoke with a small businessman who had built a brand new premises and refurbished an old building beside the famed Hearns Hotel and Bianconi House in Clonmel. The business did not go well, though, and he told me one day that he was thinking of changing his modern building into five apartments. He had hired an engineer, done the design work and went to his accountant and his bank. The council told him that he could make the change, that it would be no big deal and that he would have to apply for a change of use but then he learned how much the fees would cost. Along with the VAT, they accounted for 48% of the project. His accountant told him that he had no hope of getting funding for that from the bank. When he went to the bank, it laughed at him. He was caught. That 48% of the cost is in the hands of the Minister, the Oireachtas and the council equally. We could sort it out for people with two strokes of a pen.

There are empty buildings in every town in the country. I talked to a poor person who owned a shop that had been closed for 20 years. He is a man of nearly 90 years who lives upstairs. He fell, so he wanted a disabled person's grant, DPG, to do something downstairs. It was a fine big shop at one time. It was beautifully preserved and its front, with bars, windows and all, was listed. It was lovely. He would not have touched any of that. He was only going to put a timber and slab partition and a downstairs toilet in a corner of a room. It was not to be because while he could get the grant, he would have to get planning permission for a change of use first, which is ridiculous.

I made a submission to our previous county development plan in Tipperary calling for rules relating to shops to be amended. People on every street in villages and towns in Ireland - not so much in the cities, but in some cities - abhor the dozens of empty clothes shops. If the owners of a shop that has been closed for perhaps ten years - I would think five -have no hope of ever getting it back in business, its use could be changed to a living unit or two. This would make a major dent in the housing lists without incurring savage change-of-use charges. Perhaps it could be done at a reasonable cost and VAT rate. The reduction could be passed on to families. If that is anathema to the Green Party and those on the hard left, who believe that nothing can be given to developers because they are pariahs who cannot be supported, then the families looking for loans to live in those units could be given a VAT reduction. We must get over these hang-ups. More and more people are becoming homeless, including those who are being made homeless by the banks we bailed out. The system is upside-down.

I have listed two simple measures that could be taken. They would allow people to move into units. This would reduce homelessness significantly. At present, 3,020 people have been approved for housing in Tipperary, never mind the 7,000 or 8,000 waiting on the lists. I received an email this evening from a man about his 70 year old mother who had been made homeless. She was told to get HAP, but she cannot get it. Every Deputy deals with situations like this one. My proposal would promote a living town centre and would provide housing. It would kill two birds with a single shot, not a double-barrelled shotgun.

It is not rocket science. I mean no disrespect to the public servants who are present, but I do not know why Departments cannot understand, deal with or finance this or why it must be so difficult that we cannot have this or that. Give the VAT back to the people who want to buy properties or do them up themselves as long-term or HAP leases or whatever and people would be living on those streets again. Only two families now live on Clonmel's main street, O'Connell Street. It is frightening at night time. For a long time, we had to deal with that planning situation because people wanted to move out to rural areas to live. That was okay, but then it was not okay and now the streets are desolate at night. They are also desolate during the day when all of the shops are closed.

It is not rocket science. We do not need gurus or people with degrees out their ears telling us what we need to do. They told us plenty before and we did much of what these experts said, but they were not to be found when the S-H-1-T hit the fan. They were not next nor near the place with their expert reports. They have gone elsewhere to consult on something else.

It depresses me to attend housing committee meetings - I mean no disrespect to any of the members, two of whom are present - and listen to all of that. This morning, officials from several county and city councils attended the committee. In fairness to Mr. Michael Walsh, who is chief executive of Waterford City and County Council and is a good country man with a good understanding of country life, he admitted that the capacity to build houses had disappeared from local authorities. It has. They had not built any themselves for 40 years, of course, but they had built thousands using good contractors whom they recognised. That stopped well before the crash, when the boom started. How can it take ten years for councils to kick into gear again? It beggars belief. No business would survive if it was out of operation for ten days, never mind ten years. Mr. Walsh said that councils now had the capacity again, thank God, albeit not to build houses themselves but to get builders, the land and everything else organised.

The Department must take a lot of the responsibility for this. It is too slow. Too many stages have to be passed and too many things are travelling up and down. People must first make a submission of interest. That goes up to the Department. That takes six months to come back down. That one is then sent back up after perhaps two months and it takes another six months to come back down. Then it goes to Sligo, Carlow or seven different places around the country.

It is the same for voluntary housing. I am a proud member of a voluntary housing association. It is small, but it built 14 houses, and then three further houses, in jig time. The local authority built in the same field and ended up with more steps than go up the floor in this Chamber. We did not have a step in the complex. We were a voluntary board of 12 lay people. The authority made a dog's dinner of the site. Its buildings are falling down. Anyone can go and see that. With all of its designers, consultants, engineers and architects, it made a dog's dinner of the site. Three builders were involved and five or six years were spent building. For three winters, the roofs were on timbers with no slates. Now, people are expected to live in those houses. The plaster slabs have fallen off the walls. Everything has happened. We are in the same field with the same terrain, same weather and same foundations, and we could do our work as voluntary lay people.

We started that in 1996. The rot and lethargy had set in then. I do not know what went wrong. There was no accountability or checks and balances. We were dealing with a voluntary group at the time. It short-circuited. There was one sub-department in the Department to deal with the voluntary sector but now it is back again with five or six groups, creating jobs for public officials. I do not know who they are serving, but they are not serving the public. It is not acceptable.

I welcomed Mr. Walsh's statement that local authorities had the capacity again, but when will they get the houses? There are many people waiting for houses in Waterford. I do not know why we cannot do this. It beggars belief in 2017. We built them when we did not have a crane or a JCB and had nothing except picks and shovels but we cannot build them now. We have builders. We cannot demonise them all. We have a lot of good, small and capable builders but they cannot get money from the banks either. The banks are a major problem. As quickly as we build houses, they and the vulture funds are dispossessing people and throwing them out.

The situation has gone badly askew from what was wanted by the people of 1916 whom we have commemorated. It has been pulled asunder by the system. The system has become too cumbersome. We must tackle it in Tipperary, Cork, Donegal and Dublin. The system is failing us. We can have all of the reports that we want. We could build houses with them, given their size and volume. We need to change the system.

I will not speak any longer. It is a Thursday evening and people have other business to discuss before we rise, but I know that I will be in the Chamber when we return in September talking about the same issue and we will not have many houses built. It saddens me that we do not have houses when all that people want is to buy a house or build their own. Some want to apply for social housing. There is nothing wrong with that either. None of that is happening. The Dáil should consider another system.

Any Bill that is examined goes through pre-legislative scrutiny.

We need scrutiny afterwards because with the best will in the world, the man who never made a mistake never made anything. All of us together, collectively, can make mistakes and we need some way of looking at the legislation within six months. It should definitely not be more than a year after it is passed.

I thank the Deputy for his contribution. The Minister, Deputy Eoghan Ryan, to respond. I mean Deputy Eoghan Murphy. Mea maxima culpa.

I will speak directly to the purpose of the Bill in front of us. I will not go into the wider issues people have raised because time is an issue and because we will have oral questions on a number of the issues during Question Time later this evening or early tomorrow morning, depending on how things go. The amendments process will give me a chance to speak in more detail on some particular issues. I will read from my notes.

Deputy Cowen spoke well about the balance we have to achieve with this legislation. I agree with his comments on that point. This legislation is primarily to do with a second extension. It is temporary and it will fall out of law. It will only be in the case of certain conditions that have to be met. It is about the completion of houses that are being built at the moment.

Deputies Clare Daly and O'Rourke talked about the work they have done to help identify the mistakes and to improve this amendment. Recognition must be given to the Deputies for the work they did to make sure this extension will apply to both periods - the original period and the first extension - in terms of who can apply for the second extension.

Deputy Ó Broin talked about this having a significant impact on planning. The significant impact will be on continuing to build the houses that are being built. As for this being a bad way to introduce legislation, I acknowledge it is not ideal but when what was potentially about to happen came to my attention, I had to make a call. A much more substantive planning and development Bill is on Report Stage, which the Minister of State, Deputy English, has been taking. It came to my attention it would not be completed this side of August because of amendments the Government wanted to table in the Seanad to recognise contributions made by the Opposition on the new office of the regulator and its role in transport and planning. I decided because of this particular provision that it was better to bring it forward in this way and that we needed to act because of the implications it might have for current builds. I apologise for that. I appreciate the need to get around the complexity of this. The committee has looked at this issue previously to a degree and it understands it. I know from the engagement I have had with the committee that it understands the issues very well.

I am open to sharing information. It has always been my way whether as a backbencher or Minister of State to work in co-operation with other Members of the House and nothing has changed in that regard. The letter the Deputy wrote to me only came back into my mind as he mentioned it. It is on my chair to be dealt with. I did not get around to dealing with it. If the Deputy was familiar with my filing arrangement in my office, he would know that being on my chair is the most important place something can be because I cannot sit down until I deal with it unless I find a second chair, which I did in this instance because it has been a particularly busy week. My intention is always to share as much information as possible, particularly when we have to work together to get something important like this done.

From the interaction the Department has regularly with different housing bodies and the Construction Industry Federation, we know there are somewhere between 50 and 100 developments currently under construction that need to avail of this extension in order that they can be completed efficiently. The figure is somewhere around 75; it is not an exact figure. They are mainly in the commuter belt and all have Part V provisions attached to them but we do not have a database of what is being built, what stage it is at or what number extension it is at. We do not have those hard data to drive this but we have enough of a concern to know this is essential legislation that needs to be passed as soon as possible.

Only one single period of extension can be secured, as it is drafted in the Bill. The original permission and what was in that permission will apply because it is purely a technical extension. The local authority will have the power to judge what is reasonable in terms of the timeline for the second extension and that it is substantially commenced regardless of whether it is an original permission or whether it was commenced in a second permission. If it was substantially commenced in the first original planning permission or in the extension, it can avail of the second extension. The timeline for how much it can avail will be decided by the judgment of the local authority based on its closer knowledge of what is happening.

Deputy Jan O'Sullivan asked if there will be a delay to the original Bill this was housed in. There absolutely will not be because it is important legislation. It is on Report Stage already. It would have concluded had there not been other resource or capacity constraints in the final week of Oireachtas business and because we wanted to table further amendments to that Bill in the Seanad. The national planning framework will be announced in November. The Planning and Development (Amendment) Bill 2016 needs to be enacted before that to put it on a proper basis. We need to move quickly with the new office of the regulator and we have to be cognisant of our responsibilities on foot of the Mahon report.

There is nothing in law to define a substantial development but there is a significant amount of case law to guide us on it. Generally we talk about something being past the point of no return in so far as development is concerned. Local authorities will have the discretion on the length of time to make sure no one is trying to take unfair advantage of the good faith in which we are acting in the House to make sure developments currently under construction can be completed.

I agree with Deputy Boyd Barrett's points on land hoarding. We are in a crisis in which land hoarding is absolutely unacceptable. We can deal with the amendments as we work through them. There is a big risk in many of the amendments, which I will make clear when we come to them, that unintended consequences would flow from them. We are fearful they would bring other developments - not only those related to housing - to a standstill, which was not the intention. This is essentially a technical amendment. On a wider point, any new house coming online, will help us in dealing with things such as affordable rent, affordable purchase and the homelessness crisis we face. Some of those families have found themselves homeless as a result of the demands in the rental market.

I did not bring other issues into this Bill even though Deputy Boyd Barrett might have liked to do that. I did not want to confuse the specific intentions of the Bill. I also recognise that what I am doing here is an exception. As it would be unfair to Deputies to ask them to consider a larger or omnibus Bill in this way, I have kept it tight. It is to meet the intentions of the House as per a previous Bill that was enacted. Had the original Act been drafted differently, from a technical construction point of view, we could have commenced this extension without the need for this Bill at all. It was always the House's intention to do what is in this Bill but a technical drafting point kept us from doing it.

I will address some of the issues and the fear of land hoarding in the amendments. If Deputy Clare Daly looks at the amendment that has been tabled by her and Deputy Wallace, she will see the provision to lower the threshold to five houses creates the risk of the possibility of land hoarding. There is potentially a contradiction in the Deputy's contribution on Second Stage in terms of what is in the amendment that has been tabled. On the Deputy's points on EIA, there is a technical contradiction in the amendment that has been tabled. If an EIA was not required at the time the original permission was granted, it will not be required now because it is a technical extension. The provisions in Section 28(1) and 28(2) are not related in that way.

Deputy Catherine Murphy talked about rushed legislation and that it is happening too often. The only point I would make is to ask what she would have me do. When it came to my attention that this particular provision would not be passed at this point in time and that it would mean that badly-needed houses would not be completed as a result, I had no choice but to bring it forward in this way. To be clear, it provides for a maximum of five years or to 2021. At the end of 2021, this will fall out of law and it will no longer be the case. There will be no extensions beyond that period. Nothing in this says the local authority must give a five-year extension. It will judge based on the application that is made. I will speak to it and how much time would be required to get the development completed when I speak on one of Deputy Ó Broin's amendments.

Deputy Eamon Ryan asked about the relationship between the two provisions in section 28(1) and 28(2). They were always meant to be treated differently. They are two separate things and there was always meant to be a staggered commencement. Section 28(2) was always meant to be commenced almost immediately and section 28(1) was meant to follow at a later date. Section 28(1) has very wide-ranging implications and time is needed for all the stakeholders with regard to infrastructural development to adapt to that, whereas section 28(2) is a simple technical extension to meet an original intention of another Bill that already made its way through the House. I will commence section 28(1) at the end of this year because it is a good section and it is necessary. We recognise that but it is a permanent change for those who required an EIA at the time to the effect that they would require another EIA when they sought a first extension. As it does not apply to second extensions, it does not apply to what we are trying to do here. While section 28(1) and 28(2) are warehoused in the same section, they do not impact upon each other in that regard. If one did not require an EIA at the point of the original permission, one will not require one now when one seeks the second extension. That is all we are doing with this. It applies to developments with a minimum of 20 units or houses requiring a second extension which did not require an EIA at the original point of permission. It will not cover the new fast-track planning scheme. People who get permissions under that new scheme, which only came into effect very recently, will be allowed to get a first extension but by the time they need to go for a second extension, this will have fallen out of law. The second extension will not apply to them. We became aware of the need to be in compliance or more in synch with EU law at the end of 2014 and the beginning of 2015.

It is no big concern on the EU side; the concern is more on our side that we would be in synch with EU laws. The normal period for implementation would be one year and that is why we are commencing it at the end of this year. I thank Deputies O'Dowd and Mattie McGrath for their support of the Bill.

I thank the Minister for dealing so expeditiously with the issues.

Question put and agreed to.