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Dáil Éireann debate -
Thursday, 10 Feb 2022

Vol. 1017 No. 7

Planning and Development (Amendment) (Breach of Building Regulations) Bill 2022: First Stage

I move:

That leave be granted to introduce a Bill entitled an Act to amend the Planning and Development Act 2000 and to provide for related matters.

As Members of the House will be aware, tens of thousands of families across the country are affected by Celtic tiger-era latent defects and by defective building materials. As we speak, there are thousands of families with properties crumbling around them in counties Donegal, Mayo, Sligo, Limerick and Clare. Families in Clare still do not have certainty as to whether they will be included in the current defective block redress scheme, inadequate and all as the scheme is. Families in Mayo and Donegal have had to endure increasing frustration at the last minute introduction of a sliding scale to the so-called enhanced scheme last year and the particularly weak conditions included in the departmental memorandum published this week whereby the scheme may only cover remediation to 2007 building standards, despite the fact that, strictly speaking, that would be illegal. The scheme will also exclude other crucial remediation activities, such as works to the foundations. We do not even know when that legislation is going to be introduced, let alone whether a scheme will be available for the affected families to apply for this year. That situation is completely unacceptable and contrary to the promises of the Government.

Likewise, tens of thousands of families are living in houses, apartments and duplexes with significant building defects from the Celtic tiger era, including safety issues and water ingress. While a working group was set up, as committed to in the programme for Government, it has missed its deadline and may not report before the summer of this year. It is still not clear whether any effective redress for those homeowners will be in place in time for budget 2023.

The programme for Government also contains a clear commitment to review the building control regime, which is welcome. It includes a reference to a cross-party Oireachtas committee report, Safe as Houses, that I authored and that was approved by a committee in 2018. It recommended a wide range of further reforms that are needed. Those reforms are crucial because if we are to see an expansion of residential building activity, we need to ensure we learn from the mistakes of the past.

The Bill I am introducing makes one relatively small but significant change to the Planning and Development Acts. Currently, when a local authority or planning authority is assessing a planning application, it cannot take into account whether the applicant previously breached planning conditions or failed to complete a previous planning application. Those authorities are not allowed to take into account any previous breaches of building control regulations, which is something planning authorities speak to us about all the time. This Bill, which has been through the Office of Parliamentary Legal Advisers, would empower local authorities when assessing any new planning application to take into account previous breaches of building control regulations by developers.

Why is this important? In my constituency today, there is a development, which has been well reported on by the newspapers, where the developer refurbished an old gym into 48 apartments in complete breach not only of planning, because there was no planning either through the local authority or An Bord Pleanála, but also of the Building Control (Amendment) Regulations 2014. Not a single certificate was submitted and that case is currently subject to planning enforcement with South Dublin County Council. That developer should not get planning permission for any development ever again.

That developer has put the residents, some of whom have come from emergency accommodation and homelessness, in a situation where they are in a building that is not only technically illegal but potentially of significant risk to the adults and children who live there. If tomorrow that developer applies for planning permission for another development in South Dublin County Council, he or she is not permitted under law to take into account those very clear and unquestionable breaches of building control in the planning application.

This is very simple and sensible. I hope when we bring forward this Bill in Private Members' time that the Government will take its merit at face value, take into account the efforts both of my team and the Office of Parliamentary Legal Advisers in drafting this Bill and support it so that our planning authorities have every tool available to ensure rogue builders and developers with a history of defective building are not allowed to secure planning permission and continue to build defective buildings into the future. On that basis, I am introducing the Bill at First Stage today.

Is the Bill opposed?

Question put and agreed to.

Since this is a Private Members' Bill, Second Stage must, under Standing Orders, be taken in Private Members' time.

I move: "That the Bill be taken in Private Members' time."

Question put and agreed to.
Cuireadh an Dáil ar fionraí ag 1.11 p.m. go dtí 1.51 p.m.
Sitting suspended at 1.11 p.m. and resumed at 1.51 p.m.