I thank the officials for their attendance.
I raised planning on the Order of Business, both today and yesterday, with the Taoiseach in the Chamber. The witnesses state in their document that the granting of planning permission in rural areas is one of their roles or they are responsible for whether or not we can have it. At the outset, I have to say we in Kerry have a great local authority, a great planning section with good dedicated staff and a great group of county councillors. However, when we put together our county development plan, we are directed by the planning guidelines as to what we can and cannot have. Sadly, when those guidelines are implemented, they come down heavily on some people and deprive them of getting planning permission. That is why I raised it yesterday and today and I will continue to raise it.
In my local authority, there are three types of area. In areas of intense urban pressure, no one will get planning permission unless he or she is a family member of a resident. It is to stop people from coming out from town and building in such areas. This clause, in itself, is restricting the local person who was brought up in the place in his or her parent's house, who wishes to buy a site in the same townland but who is being deprived because of this clause on intense urban pressure. Such a person is being denied the opportunity to buy a site from his or her neighbour 300 yd. away. This is being replicated right around the town of Killarney and other towns where there is any mention of intense urban pressure. Not every family has more land in its holding and the obvious solution for those brought up in an area is to try to buy a site as near as possible. They are being denied that.
Then there are other so-called "stronger" areas. For example, there were 16 families living in one such area but because those 16 families left before the census of 2002 or 2006, they are not being regarded as suitable for letting people come in there. It is absolutely wrong.
The only place one will get permission is in an area that is known as a "weaker" area. In other words, for the stronger area, one must be from the area and have a need to live there. There is no attachment. They must have some attachment and they are not able to have an attachment because the people left it before that census. Those issues need to be addressed. These people are not asking for funding. They are asking for planning permission to put a roof over their heads. That needs to be addressed.
I make no apology to anyone anywhere for someone wanting to build a one-off house to accommodate himself or herself. That is what we should be all about. Whether it came from Europe, from national policy or howsoever it came to be, there seems to be a grudge against allowing people to build a house for themselves in rural areas. It is totally unsatisfactory. That needs to be addressed in the Department's spatial strategy or whatever.
Dublin is not able to cater for what is going on at present. Jobs are coming in here day after day. When one turns on the radio in the morning, one hears another 100 or 150 jobs being created. We cannot get jobs in Kerry because of the non-existent Macroom bypass and the non-existence of broadband in most of the county.
There is talk about a hub but a hub is not much good if we do not have a wheel and this is what has happened. People have left because there was no employment. I disagree with Mr. Hogan's statement that people choose where to live before they decide where they will work. If people do not have work they will follow the work and they will have to leave. This is what has been happening. Sneem and Caherdaniel had three teams between the two of them and now the most that can be mustered is one team between the two.
Zoning was mentioned. There is an idea that the less zoned land there is, the better. If only one developer in each town or village will be allowed to zone a piece of land with no competition on the other side of town, clearly the price of houses will be driven up and the poor young fellow and the young girl trying to start off will pay. I have held the view for a long time that zoning does not matter. The market will dictate how many houses are built and zoning does not matter. An awful lot of time is given by local authorities to developing plans and zoning. The planners should decide whether there is genuine need, particularly if we were speaking about towns.
We have an awful lot of vacant houses in rural Ireland but the question we must ask is how suitable are they for occupation. Some of the houses are grand but most of them are not inhabitable. When people have to leave them they are out of date and falling down but the shell is standing. Perhaps the walls and roof are there. That cannot be counted as a house because all that is really there are four walls and we all know they are the cheapest part of any house to build. The walls and a roof can be put up in a couple of weeks and it does not cost that much. We need to be more accurate when we state the number of vacant houses.
We wonder why villages are disintegrating. Villages and towns will disintegrate if the community around them disappears and this is what has happened. Many people had to leave the glens and valleys around the small villages because of the lack of employment. In the bigger towns, even in fairly vibrant towns, multinational shopping arcades or companies have been established. What happens then? The centre of the town disintegrates because there is a whole town in a new place. All of the shops are in one place. I was only in the council a short time when I raised this issue in 2004. They are having a devastating effect. The harm has been done in many cases.
What do we do with the villages we have? Perhaps some of the houses would be suitable for elderly people. They should be reconstructed to suit elderly people who need the comfort of having people beside them. They are not suitable for children in most instances because there is always a road going through a village and it is not safe for children.
Dublin is not able to cater for what is going on there, socially and in other ways. Someone is shot or killed there every day and there are drugs. It cannot be monitored. It has gone out of control. We need assistance in rural areas. There are three rural Deputies here and Senator Marie-Louise O'Donnell is representing Dublin. We have to fight our corner.
I have highlighted what is wrong with planning. The planning guidelines need to be addressed as do the problems they are creating for the planners. We were not able to cater for Kerry Group. It hurts me every time I pass that mighty operation when I go up to and down from Dublin. We should have had it in Farranfore. It was a designated hub but, sadly, because of infrastructure and accessibility issues we lost it. Up to 900 people are working there and I am told the smallest wage is €65,000.
There needs to be an emphasis on rural Ireland. In Kerry, 500 applications were made to local improvement schemes. The Department suggested they were private roads. They are not private roads. They are public roads that were never taken in charge by the local authority for one reason or another. There are ten, 11, 12 or 14 houses on some of these roads and there is no gate across them. The Department got its way. It did not get it in 2010 when my father was here, but in 2011 the Minister, Deputy Varadkar, suspended the scheme. This is hurting an awful lot of people. If some of the people in some estates in Dublin were told they could not have a road to their houses there would be uproar. The people on these roads have their own water. They have sunk their own wells. They have paid for their own septic tanks. They do not cost anyone a penny. They are entitled to a road to their door, the same as the people in Dublin 4.