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Joint Committee on Environment, Culture and the Gaeltacht debate -
Tuesday, 20 Jan 2015

General Scheme of Planning and Development (No. 1) Bill 2014: Discussion (Resumed)

We will consider the general scheme of the planning and development (No. 1) Bill 2014 with representatives from the Construction Industry Federation, CIF, the Housing Agency and the Irish Planning Institute. Is that agreed? Agreed.

I welcome the following to our meeting: Mr. Hubert Fitzpatrick, director of the CIF and a member of the Irish Home Builders' Association, IBHA; Mr. Stephen McCarthy, chairman of the IHBA; Mr. Hugh O'Neill, vice chairman of the IHBA; and Mr. Brian McKeon, a past chairman of the IBHA, who are attending on behalf of the CIF.

I also welcome Mr. Brendan Allen, vice president, Ms Deirdre Fallon, honorary secretary, and Mr. John Spain, who is a member of the institute's council and a past president, who are attending on behalf of the Planning Institute. I welcome Mr. Conor Skehan, chairperson, Mr. John O'Connor, chief executive, and Mr. David Silke, director of services, who are attending on behalf of the Housing Agency. I also welcome Mr. Tom Parlon, a former Minister. I thank all of the witnesses for their attendance here this afternoon. I propose that we hear the witnesses in the order that I introduced them.

I draw the attention of witnesses to the fact that by virtue of section 17(2)(l) of the Defamation Act 2009, witnesses are protected by absolute privilege in respect of their evidence to the committee. However, if they are directed by the committee to cease giving evidence on a particular matter and they continue to so do, they are entitled thereafter only to a qualified privilege in respect of their evidence. They are directed that only evidence connected with the subject matter of these proceedings is to be given and they are asked to respect the parliamentary practice to the effect that, where possible, they should not criticise or make charges against any person, persons or entity by name or in such a way as to make him, her or it identifiable. The opening statements and any other documents they have submitted to the committee may be published on the committee's website once this meeting has concluded.

Members are reminded of the long-standing parliamentary practice to the effect that they should not comment on, criticise or make charges against a person outside the House or an official either by name or in such a way as to make him or her identifiable.

Before I call the witnesses I wish to make some comments. As everyone will be aware, the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Deputy Alan Kelly, has asked the committee to scrutinise the heads of the general scheme of the planning and development (No. 1) Bill 2014 and to report to him prior to the Bill being published. We have met officials from the Department to consider the issue and we will have one further meeting with witnesses this day next week to discuss the issue further. We have invited a number of organisations to address us at these meetings. We have also received a number of written submissions from a number of organisations and individuals on the issues.

I call the Construction Industry Federation to deliver its opening statement.

Mr. Hubert Fitzpatrick

The general scheme of the planning and development (No. 1) Bill addresses the following key issues: a review of Part V of the Planning and Development Act 2000; the proposed vacant site levy; reduced development contributions for planning permission yet to be activated; and modification of the duration of planning permission in certain circumstances.

I will outline CIF's views on each issue. The first key issue is a review of Part V. The general scheme provides that there is no longer justification for providing 10% of affordable housing under Part V of the Planning and Development Act. However, the requirement for 10% social housing is being retained. On-site provision of social housing is to be the predominant default option for developers and local authorities under the new Part V arrangements. The general scheme of the Bill provides that the alternative off-site option should only be possible in specific exceptional circumstances, for example, where there is insufficient social housing demand at the location of the proposed development and where there is greater demand in another location.

The definition of an existing use value is being modified to reflect the value prior to date of commencement of development and disregards the value of any buildings on the land that are to be demolished. In the past, planning authorities had the option of accepting a monetary payment as an alternative to land or social housing units from developers. It is now proposed that the monetary payments shall no longer be an alternative option for completed units or land.

CIF has long called for the review of Part V as it is not sustainable in its current format. It has previously advocated for the abolition of Part V in its current format, and its replacement with a 1% contribution by the seller in respect of every residential unit sold, both new and existing. In the case of new homes, this will be paid by the developer and in the case of existing homes, this will be paid by the seller. If a 1% contribution had applied in 2013, the measure would have yielded €61 million for the Exchequer. The revenue could have been used as seed capital to fund social housing programmes and could have been leveraged by the voluntary housing sector. For 2014, a levy of this nature would have yielded €81 million.

While the reduction in the new per cent rule to 10% is to be welcomed, the removal of the additional options for compliance with Part V, including monetary payment, is unreasonable and will ultimately be difficult to implement.

In the case of high-density residential developments where management charges apply, will local authorities be prepared to pay the management charges that will apply for these new developments to management companies? These charges could be in the region of €2,000 for each housing unit required under Part V. There will be many instances in which high-density schemes developed in the private sector may be unsuited to the requirements of local authorities. In this regard, the industry strongly advocates the retention of all the options for compliance with Part V, including delivery of units off-site and the payment of monetary compensation in lieu, which could then be used at local authorities' discretion in meeting social housing requirements.

With regard to the definition of "existing use value", the proposal to disregard the value of any buildings on the land that are to be demolished is unreasonable. The owner, in complying with the Part V requirement on lands, which includes existing buildings, should be compensated for the proportionate value of such buildings that must be demolished in order to meet the Part V requirement.

I will now deal with the vacant site levy. The proposed vacant site levy may be activated in respect of vacant or under-utilised sites where there is a failure to commence development authorised by a planning permission for a vacant or under-utilised site within three years of the granting of permission or to lodge a planning application in respect of the site within three years of the making of the development plan or scheme. While the logic of legislating for a vacant site levy is well understood, there are many genuine reasons a development may not commence within the stated timeframe of three years from the granting of planning permission, including economic and financial reasons. Where it can be proven that sustainable demand for the scheme granted planning permission does not exist or where it can be proven that the market value of the completed asset will be less than the all-in construction cost, there should be an exemption available in respect of the imposition of the levy.

I will now deal with the reduced development contributions for planning permissions yet to be activated. The proposed provisions with regard to the provision of reduced development contributions for planning permissions yet to activated are welcomed by the industry. This has the effect of reducing the bureaucracy associated with making new planning applications in order to get the benefit of reduced development contributions which have been adopted by local authorities. Notwithstanding this, the rates of development contribution applicable are still too high. The rates have not decreased in line with movements in the market valuation of completed developments. Local authorities must be urged to review further the development contribution rates currently applicable. There must also be flexibility to facilitate the payment of development contributions as revenue streams become available from the transactions of new development works.

The proposal to modify the duration of planning permissions in certain circumstances, involving the use of a use-it-or-lose-it approach for future planning permissions for housing projects for a period not exceeding two years, will result in difficulties in the industry. Generally speaking, planning permission is attached to land rather than an individual planning applicant. If planning permission of a particular nature is appropriate for a specific development, it should be appropriate for that development no matter who the ultimate developer of the lands will be. Introducing a provision of this nature may also prove problematic for some funders in that a new risk is being introduced from a funding perspective whereby the planning permission may have a reduced lifetime.

There are a number of other issues we would like to see dealt with in the context of the awaited planning Bill. We want a simplified process for changing planning approvals for house types approved in previous planning permissions; a simplified process, including a timeframe, for approval of planning compliance documentation submitted to planning authorities - this should involve a default process; a simplified taking-in-charge process, to include a default process; the enabling of planning permission where there is a deficit in environmental or wastewater services, subject to the availability of a connection agreement with Irish Water; provision for economic viability testing to form part of a planning process to facilitate the granting of planning permission where, for example, reduced densities or alternative house types are required; and a simplified planning processes for making amendments to strategic development zones. These are some of the issues we would ultimately like to see addressed in the context of new planning legislation.

I thank Mr. Fitzpatrick. I invite Mr. Skehan to contribute.

Mr. Conor Skehan

I thank the Chairman for giving the Housing Agency an opportunity to contribute. I will give a brief summary of the paper we have submitted. The Housing Agency, the sustainable communities agency, was established in 2012.

Approaches to Part V need to be more efficient, and its practical implementation and delivery must be linked to statutory timeframes, thereby binding the local authority and the applicant to agreements, schedules and timelines. The general scheme of the Bill does not advance this. Furthermore, housing authorities need to be able to advise on specific housing needs in specific parts of their area and address them with targeted and pre-identifed housing types. There is a fear that local authorities will not have the staff or expertise to deliver this, or to ensure adequate social housing is provided in a given area. Given the rapidly improving market in Dublin in particular, the provision of an element of affordable housing could be considered, particularly in larger cities and the greater Dublin area. This matter needs to be given regional consideration and we need to ensure enough measures on the supply side to ensure affordability.

Our members have highlighted significant difficulties with the vacant site levy as drafted in the heads of the Bill. There is no doubt that preventing land hoarding is laudable, but what is proposed in the heads of the Bill is considered problematic. There are many reasons a site might not be brought forward for development, and proving land withholding purely for commercial gain would be fraught with difficulty. Head 5B of the general scheme states the levy is aimed at enabling local authorities to incentivise the development of big sites. The incentive to develop through an unspecified reduction in capital contributions payable comes attached to a penalty for failure to develop. In other words, the penalty is quantified but the incentive is not.

The complexity of the proposed process and the opportunities to avoid the levy seem to undermine seriously the objective of the legislation. There are concerns about whether local authorities will have the resources and expertise to carry out this work. Overall, the institute is of the opinion that if a levy is to be apportioned to vacant property, consideration should be given to a broad site or land value tax as an alternative to the vacant site levy. We suggest this to avoid a patchwork of piecemeal fiscal incentives. Furthermore, any tax levy introduced should have a mechanism to ensure land in public ownership is subject to it. All of these difficulties are bolstered by the fact that "vacant" and "underutilised" are not defined in the general scheme. Defining these will be difficult.

With regard to reduced development contributions, the institute supports the key aim that future development contribution schemes must promote sustainable development patterns, secure investment in capital infrastructure and encourage economic activity. More emphasis needs to be placed on time periods and providing more consistency in general for development contribution schemes. There is concern that uncertainty about development contributions could hold up development due to fears that schemes which are currently viable may become unviable. There is also a requirement for a mechanism to assist funding local infrastructure upfront to speed up the delivery of housing and commercial projects. In the UK, revolving infrastructure funds are being introduced as a funding mechanism prior to infrastructure developments being completed. Consideration should be given to such a proactive fund here.

The use it or lose it proposal, whereby planning permission may be revoked if development does not proceed within a certain timeframe, risks reducing supply by increasing uncertainty for developers and investors. We are unclear as to what will be achieved through this amendment. In a normally functioning market this provision would have an impact, but we seriously question the introduction of this provision in the extremely volatile and unstable market we have at present. Furthermore, the principle proposed under the heads conflicts with the basic structure of the planning system, creating uncertainty and a lack of confidence in the system.

We raised a number of miscellaneous issues in our submission to the committee. The existing planning legislation has a number of deficiencies and no proposal in the general scheme addresses these. We will flesh out these deficiencies with the Department.

We acknowledge the publication of the heads of the planning and development (No. 2) Bill and will comment on them in future. Regarding another issue that we brought to the committee's attention, we are seeking for the term "planner" to be defined in legislation to ensure continuing transparency and credibility within the planning system.

I thank Ms Hughes. I will begin with Deputy Cowen, who will have ten minutes. I will ask whoever is in possession to cease speaking after ten minutes.

I thank the bodies for making these submissions. They should not take it as read that what they hear today is the general consensus of the committee. We will digest and investigate all that has been recommended before making recommendations of our own.

It should be taken as read that any new planning and development Bill should take cognisance of the recommendations of the recent tribunals, given the Government's commitment in response to same. I hope that the Government will show the colour of its money in that regard and let it be the foundation of any new Bill.

I will address the main issues raised by the witnesses. I am interested in expanding further on the Construction Industry Federation's submission on Part V and its claim that the affordability element has gone out the door. That may well be the case. The CIF believes that 10% of each development should be retained for the provision of social housing. It supported this contention by claiming that, had a 1% levy been applied last year, €61 million would have been generated. This year, it would generate more than €80 million. Will the witnesses compare this with the level of funding that was available to local authorities for the provision of social housing, be it done directly or alongside housing agencies? We need a breakdown on a county-by-county basis if representatives are to see whether what the witnesses are proposing has the potential to be of greater benefit to local authorities and counties than the current scheme does or the Bill's provisions would.

I will turn to the issues of changes to planning approvals and the State agencies being immediately informed of planning applications as they arise in local authorities. Many agencies have national policies that may be more applicable to certain regions than to the nation as a whole. When informed by local authorities of certain applications, they feel the need to impose an inappropriate national policy on a region. This approach prolongs the process for many applications and does not allow the requisite throughput.

Most local authorities adopt a haphazard approach to taking estates in charge. It is like our haphazard approach to the social dividend that the State was to derive from NAMA properties. It is incumbent on the authorities, the Government and the Department to consider putting in place in local authorities dedicated NAMA units as well as dedicated and properly resourced planning enforcement offices. In my county and elsewhere, the staff in planning departments is minimal and the expectation under existing legislation warrants more work being done than is actually the case, but resources are not available to local authorities to make these departments effective.

An obligation must be placed on Government that forthcoming legislation will be supported with the necessary funding and resources in order for local authorities to do their job effectively and properly.

In terms of the policing of bonds, I have seen the efforts and associated costs made by local authorities to enforce insurance agencies, insurance companies and banks to meet their side of the bargain when it comes to cashing in a bond. Many of the so-called pillar banks have been found most wanting in their application of reinstatement works. That is not good enough and the issue must be addressed. This situation only heightens the case for a proper, efficient and well-resourced enforcement office in the planning sections of local authorities. It would mean local authorities could do their job effectively and easily, thus benefiting the communities that they represent.

The National Association of Building Co-Operatives, NABCO, has stated that amendments must be revenue neutral in terms of any developer who was in the business of making social housing available in the locality. The idea has some merit. We do not expect developers to make money on the back of social housing but we expect a social dividend, as I said about NAMA in the same fashion, and because lands must be zoned appropriately to meet the needs not only of the general market but also of the social market. I acknowledge what the delegations have said but the proposal needs to be beefed up.

There was a question on the use it or lose it concept and the hoarding of land. The practicalities of that and the message that is being given to the public is a very good one when one considers what happened in the past ten, 12 or 15 years during the property boom. The CIF mentioned an economic viability test which is a notion that needs to be further explored. It is something that could sell. A proper template would allow local authorities to measure economic viability but it would have to be regionalised and conscious that markets differ from one area to another. For example, there has been a boom in the east coast market and in Dublin, but that is not the case down the country. An economic viability test would differ from region to region. I would like the matter explored. It could be considered but there must be proper regional balance for it to make sense and to fly, as it were.

Is the Deputy addressing one particular group?

Both speakers have touched on these issues. From my perspective and that of my party, for a new planning and development Act to work effectively, we must learn from the lessons of the past and present in terms of how permission is enforced. That is the big issue. Even if a local authority in my county, for example, has the best will in the world and the best intentions, only one person works in the enforcement office. I know they do not have the labour resources, let alone the financial resources, to allow them to work effectively and properly on behalf of the public, especially considering all we have supposedly learned. We must do all that we can more effectively and more properly, thus getting a greater dividend. This business and aspect of the economy are proving to be essential and important. Therefore, benefits will accrue to all sectors of the economy. This will only happen when local authorities are given the proper tools and resources to manage the situation effectively and properly into the future. It would mean that the local economy would derive a greater benefit from a social perspective and a public benefit perspective. There must be a firm and honest commitment given to resource local authorities adequately, thus allowing them to do their job effectively.

Various submissions had merit. My initial reaction and that of any other member, however, cannot be taken as read. Much more in-depth analysis must take place before we can support amending the existing Planning and Development Act which does not meet the requirements of business currently.

We have been very slow to amend it properly and effectively to meet current demand and allow the sector to be sustained and grow, and also to have a social element we can stand over such that we can say people from all walks of society, rather than just one, are benefiting.

I thank Deputy Cowen. That was more of a statement than a question.

Yes. If the delegates wish to respond, they are more than welcome.

Almost ten minutes are gone in the slot. I will allow the delegates to respond to any point raised by Deputy Cowen when they are replying. I call Deputy Robert Dowds.

I want to make two points, the first of which is on Part V. I noted that the speaker from the Construction Industry Federation regarded the provisions in Part V as unreasonable. I draw the federation's attention to a practice that has occurred in the past. When the wealthiest areas of Dublin - Dalkey and Ballsbridge being two good examples - were built, houses were built for the wealthy. Behind them, houses were built for less-wealthy people who in many cases actually worked for the well off. One reason it is important we do not take on board the federation's suggestion is that travelling is so difficult, particularly in the greater Dublin area and also in Cork and Galway. The more people who have short distances to travel to work, the better. If we continue with trying to build a socially divided city, we will be left with even greater problems than we have at present. I hope we will not take on board the suggestions made in this regard. I really do not understand the rationale for the delegates' argument, other than that it may suit certain developers.

The other issue I would like to raise concerns the question of vacant sites. Many towns and cities have many vacant sites that are an eyesore. It does not really matter whether the locations are big, such as Dublin, or small towns around the country. Could Ms Hughes, or anyone who feels able to comment on this, go back over how she envisages the provisions in this area could be strengthened? I did not get the impression that she is against doing something about vacant sites but that she wants the job to be done as effectively as possible. That is my view also.

I thank Deputy Dowds. I ask Mr. Fitzpatrick of the CIF to respond, and he is to be followed by Ms Hughes.

Mr. Hubert Fitzpatrick

The key problem with Part V is that it is basically not affordable at present. House prices today are still approximately 40% to 50% lower than they were some six or seven years ago, yet the input costs have not adjusted to reflect that. There are still many parts of the country where it is not viable to build. That is why we do not have a recovery of house-building activity at present. We all know there is a sustainability requirement of upwards of 18,000 or 19,000 houses per annum, yet the output is closer to 11,000 units. It will take time for housing output to recover. This will happen only if we address input costs, through adjustment, or the sale price must increase. The only input costs that can be reduced are costs such as those associated with Part V, development levies or the VAT added to the sale price of a house. If we want an increase in housing output to meet sustainably the demand and help prevent unnecessary rises in the number on social housing waiting lists, we must bring housing output to a level that meets demand in a sustainable manner.

When the proposal was put forward for a levy on the sale of all homes, both new and second hand, we made our calculations based on the sale price of units from the property price register.

If one considers the total value of transactions in each of the last two years, one can see that it would have produced in excess of €60 million in 2013 and in excess of €80 million in 2014. We are of the view that those funds could be used by the voluntary housing agencies to produce much more social housing than will actually be delivered under the current Part V proposals.

Mr. Fitzpatrick needs to quantify that. It is a great statement. We need to see some hard and fast examples and comparisons. What funding was directed towards those providers last year? Massive funds are supposedly being directed towards them in the coming years. I say that on the basis of the Minister's announcement before Christmas of the housing policy that is to be pursued in the years to come. If Mr. Fitzpatrick thinks his proposal in this area has the potential to provide a better yield, he needs to quantify that, rather than just throwing it out there. Does he know what I mean? He needs to do a bit more work to prove to me that this is possible.

Mr. Hubert Fitzpatrick

We can certainly prove where the €60 million and €80 million figures come from. I do not have to hand the figures for what the local authorities were allocated last year.

That is why Mr. Fitzpatrick cannot say there will be a better accrual to the State. It cannot be done without quantifying the figures. That is all I am saying.

Mr. Hubert Fitzpatrick

Our view is that the current Part V proposals will not produce as many houses.

I know that, but they were for a different day at a different time.

Mr. Fitzpatrick might finish up.

Mr. Hubert Fitzpatrick

The other point I want to make about Part V is that it is an unreasonable tax on the purchasers of new homes.

I would like to respond to a couple of other points that were raised, one of which related to the concept of bonds. The industry has an ongoing problem with bonds. By and large, many local authorities require open-ended bonds. There is a serious reluctance on the part of local authorities to adequately deal with the taking-in-charge process in a timely manner. This needs to happen so that these bonds, particularly those relating to developments that are well completed, are released on a timely basis. That is why we would support a revised taking-in-charge process after taking-in-charge applications are made to local authorities. Local authorities should have to respond within a fixed period of time, as they have to do in cases of planning applications, outlining the snags on a development that have to be addressed. If local authorities do not respond to taking-in-charge applications within a fixed timeframe, there should be a process for default in the same way that one can get planning permission by default if a local authority does not address these issues.

It is not the case that everyone has the same view on this.

I am going to move on. The interruptions are adding to the time burden.

Ms Mary Hughes

Deputy Dowds is correct when he suggests that we support the principle of the proactive management and stimulation of the development of vacant sites, particularly in town and city centres. As an institute, we have serious concerns about how effective a levy will be. We should consider the effectiveness of the vacant site levy in the context of the derelict site legislation. We should look at how effective or ineffective the 3% levy that is apportioned to derelict sites has been in terms of stimulating the development of derelict sites. We also need to look at the reasons these sites are not being developed. In many instances, although not all, there are issues of funding, of course, but also issues of land assembly and title. In that regard, the institute supports more proactive measures, such as the strengthening of the compulsory purchase powers of local authorities in terms of site assembly. Perhaps those powers could be broadened to facilitate things like residential developments, for which they have traditionally not been used simply because cases have not been made for their use. The compulsory purchase powers of local authorities need to be streamlined so that they become more effective. Consideration could be given to establishing a revolving fund that would be used to stimulate and incentivise the development of these sites, as opposed to proposing a levy which could hinder their potential development in the future.

Mr. John Spain

To add to that, the reforming of our CPO legislation has been talked about for many decades but has not happened. This is yet another example of something that should be looked at urgently and brought forward to enable local authorities, perhaps together with an agency established by the Government, to tackle derelict sites in a proactive way by acquiring sites through a rolling fund and making them available for building. They have to be built and delivered as part of the arrangement to sell them on and using the funding from that to buy the next one. This would bring about the regeneration of urban areas which have considerable capacity to deliver on housing in very sustainable locations. That could also be used to help regenerate our town centres through promoting in a proactive way town centre retail development. Site assembly is one of the key issues and a rolling fund and streamlined CPO powers would greatly assist in that area. Proactive measures will achieve much more than simply imposing fiscal penalties on site owners.

I welcome the three delegations and the opportunity to discuss this issue. I will start with Mr. Hubert Fitzpatrick's contribution in respect of putting timelines on local authorities. The rules of engagement prevent me from saying what I want to say but I am gobsmacked. There may be some local authorities where that is the case but my experience has been that his members, developers, have been chased by local authorities and public representatives for years to try to get them to finish off basic infrastructure within estates, such as footpaths, put in place manhole covers and fix sewerage that is not working. I can take him to some of these estates, including one which is very close to me that I have been chasing for the past 12 or 13 years. Others which have been successful took five, eight and ten years to complete. Bonds have been allowed to lapse by developers, by his members, yet the representative has come before the committee to say that timelines need to be put on local authorities. I do not necessarily have a problem with that but the timelines need to be put on developers. The country is full of estates which are quarter and half finished; I can take the representative on a tour of them. The Construction Industry Federation has a duty to ensure its members are putting the infrastructure in place for the people who bought the houses for which they paid boom time prices and are living in shambolic conditions. That is the first point.

In regard to the federation's position on Part V, how will its proposed 1% levy help social integration? Deputy Robert Dowds referred to the example in part of Dublin where different types of houses were built in different areas, including Victorian type houses, resulting in social segregation. How does the federation intend to counter that Victorian type of housing practice?

That was actually better.

Yes, it was in some ways but I will come to that in a moment. How does the federation see a 1% levy helping social integration as opposed to Part V? While Part V was not perfect - I would be critical of some aspects of it including some aspects which may have held up the industry, which I do not want to do, as we want to ensure that new houses are coming on stream - overall, if we take it in the mix and if worked properly, it was beneficial. Why is it that the members of the federation insisted on not having Part V? The idea behind Part V was the delivery of social housing but also social integration. I would happily take the members of the delegations present or Members on a tour of some of the estates to show what has happened in some of them. I could show them a couple of examples of where their members got away with putting all the social housing into one corner. I remember reading about Liverpool in Victorian times and streets where the sun never shone on houses on each side of the street because they were too close together. I can take the representatives to an example of where that happened in County Laois, where a developer bullied planning officials who should not have caved in, to grant planning permission for such houses.

The irony of it is that there are cattle grazing in the field beside it. These are built on the edge of an estate. Mr. Parlon might be aware of them, being a former public representative for the constituency. There are cattle grazing on green grass and beside them are houses shoved face to face, front door to front door, with less than 3 m between them. I can show the witnesses that. The set on Coronation Street has more space. It is an absolutely scandalous situation.

I wish to hear from the delegates on how they propose ensuring that social housing units are peppered properly throughout an estate. The estate I live in has social housing. My next door neighbour on one side is in a social housing unit. I have no problem with this. The units are peppered reasonably well throughout the estate. I can show the delegates examples of where that was done and where it was not done. Is the CIF in favour of doing this? Is the Irish Planning Institute in favour of continuing with that type of social integration because it is, to my mind, important that we have that type of social integration.

On the delivery of the Government's programme over the next six years, how do the delegates view the provision on some of these units being provided by social leasing?

The vacant site levy has become a problem. This is an issue on which the delegates can help. Some people have not registered their ownership of sites to avoid the existing derelict sites levy. This levy is very weak and I brought forward a Bill to strengthen it.

Six minutes' time.

Some owners of sites and developers are not registering to avoid the levy, as are financial institutions, including pillar banks, which we have certainly had to chase on it. The delegates might give me some indication of how they see that being rectified. There needs to be some kind of incentive, in the interest of jobs and housing, to try to move on some of these sites. We have this great need on the one hand and on the other hand we have people sitting on these assets, letting them go derelict and not doing anything with them except waiting for the price to go up.

On the reduced development contributions, perhaps the Irish Planning Institute delegates would stay here to comment on this issue. To my mind, something else was pushing up the cost more than development contributions. Development contributions were €4,000 to €6,000, €7,000 or €8,000 but the little plot of land - very small plots of land in many cases - that the house was popped down on was costing up to €60,000. For a very small plot, a person was getting in 18 or 19 units to the acre.

A question please.

That was what was driving up the costs. I ask the delegates for their view on that.

Another question, while the delegates are here, concerns ghost estates. Around the country, there is a large number of units that are 50%, 70% or 75% finished. These are units, where there is a shell, that need some work done on them. This is not of benefit to the delegates' members and it is certainly not of benefit to society or the poor unfortunate people who are living in some of these estates. In one estate of which I am aware, five houses are occupied and over 40 are empty, yet we have people all over the place looking for housing. How do the delegates see these houses being brought into use, because it is very hard to get developers in some cases to buy into site resolution plans?

It is very difficult to get site resolution plans in place. The delegates' members are key to this. Receivers, where receivers exist, local residents and the local authorities are the pillars of site resolution plans. We need to get site resolution plans in place. There are jobs to be created in finishing these units. There are people who need them. There is a sale value in them. The value of them is not increasing. There are fellows going around in white vans pulling the copper cylinders and the fittings out of these units. Local residents are trying to watch them and the gardaí are being called out to try to protect them.

We cannot sit back and allow these estates to remain one quarter occupied or 10% occupied, in some cases. We must get these estates into use. It would help to create jobs and would get people into, I hope, good quality housing. I would specifically like the witnesses to come back on this issue of the Part 5. How do they see the 1% contribution delivering on-----

Deputy, that is nine and half minutes.

I will finish on this. I will be as quick as everybody else. How do the witnesses see the 1%-----

You will not. You will be longer than everybody else.

You told me I had ten minutes and I will stick to that.

It is ten minutes of questions and answers.

How do the witnesses see-----

It is ten minutes for questions and answers. Some nine minutes and 40 seconds are gone.

How do the witnesses see the 1% delivering social integration?

You took nine minutes and 40 seconds. As a courtesy to you, I will get the Construction Industry Federation to reply, but it will be very terse because I have to move on.

Mr. Hubert Fitzpatrick

On the issue of social integration, that can be achieved at the planning application stage if the local authority requires 10% of the units in any development. Those units could actually be acquired at market value, that is, if the 1% levy is to apply across the board in respect of all properties sold. That can deal with the social integration issue.

In regard to Deputy Stanley's point about our members failing to complete basic infrastructure, the economic collapse resulted in a number of developments not being completed, which the federation does not support. The federation has many quality experienced developer-housebuilder members who have built terrific schemes over the years. The standard of them has been second to none in those cases. It is unfortunate we have had some instances of developments not being completed. We have been more than anxious to work with the banks in those particular cases and in association with Housing Agency, where we were able to offer some input into how site resolution plans could be brought forward and some those developments addressed. We fully support a situation where adequate security is lodged with the local authorities to ensure that developments are completed to standard but we must ensure the process works from everybody's perspective. Suffice it to say, we have had very many quality developments built over the years, of which the whole country has to be proud. It is regrettable that we have had those other instances where that has not happened. It was not intended by our members but I would have to say the experience is there to ensure quality schemes can be completed.

On the issue of developers bullying planning officials in regard to the planning, I would say that the planning process was quite open and transparent. It is quite difficult from a developer's perspective in that one will frequently get requests for further information and for amended drawings and amended layouts to meet planning purposes. We have a planning process in place that is designed to ensure we end up with proper planning and sustainable development in respect of all projects going forward.

On the concept of the vacant site levy and ownerships not being registered, there is provision in Construction 2020 for a registration of options. We fully support that in that one should know where title is in respect of various lands.

I have touched on those issues and I appreciate the timeframe. Maybe some of my colleagues might like to comment on some of the points raised.

We will move on. If the witnesses wish to come back in afterwards, I would be more than happy to accommodate that.

Obviously, this is pre-legislative scrutiny and we are looking at legislation which will be useful in practice, so I just want to pick out a number of things from the submissions. I echo the point Deputy Stanley made in that my experience has been that the local authority is run ragged by the construction industry and not just because of the recent crash. From the time I was elected to a local authority in the early 1990s, it was usual to chase up on the completion of estates. There were some excellent developers and some who had to be cajoled. There was some absolute rubbish. The amount of time, energy and effort that goes into this does no service to the construction sector.

We need to find mechanisms in legislation that actually reward good behaviour and penalise bad behaviour.

The ability to refuse planning permission to people who do not comply with the basic requirements of completing estates and being fair to the people purchasing is essential. I would like to hear from the construction industry because it is in its interest. What measures could the witnesses recommend that will get us to a point where good behaviour will be rewarded and bad behaviour penalised in this legislation and in the No. 2 Bill as well? That is in all of our interests.

Regarding the Derelict Sites Act and the vacant sites levy, the Derelict Sites Act did not work. The amount of money brought in has been minimal and there are very few examples of it being successful. Passage West or perhaps another west Cork town was one of them where there was a focus of attention and it delivered a very good streetscape as a consequence of the kind of-----

Ms Mary Hughes


Was it Clonakilty? It delivered a very good outcome but it required a huge amount of administrative time, and it requires money. The witness was quite right about the rolling fund. It would be useful to identify the deficiencies in the Derelict Sites Act, which was cumbersome in that a derelict site notice could not be served on, say, somebody living outside the country. There were disputes within families and all of that became problematic. Even the definition was problematic. If such measures could be put into this legislation, they would be useful to us in terms of making this useful and practical legislation. Too often we see legislation brought forward that has aspirations but when we attempt to implement it in practice, it is not workable. It is important to state that.

I would like to hear from the Planning Institute regarding its statement that given the rapidly improving market in Dublin in particular, it believes that the provision of some affordable element for the greater Dublin area should be considered. Will one of the witnesses expand on that? The institute's presentation goes on to refer to European Investment Bank funding with regard to addressing this particular difficulty where we have all the houses built first and the infrastructure following that.

Regarding Part V in terms of the Housing Agency, have the witnesses done a piece of work on the amount of housing that can be delivered in the various sectors? What has the agency factored in regarding Part V in terms of what can be delivered on this? It is clear there is an ability to raise money from the European Investment Bank, for example, with regard to a rental option that may well be funded through bonds from that source. Will the Part V mechanism deliver sufficiently in all parts of the country? It may well be the case that where it does not deliver in some parts, direct social housing provision or something from that other funding source may be another route. One size will not fit all. I would like to hear what the witnesses have to say on that aspect.

The big issue is that a change in behaviour required in the construction industry. The issue of bonds has been touched on. The only ones that were issued in perpetuity were those that were issued by Anglo Irish Bank and we know there are unsecured creditors in regard to IBRC. Bonds have not worked to the benefit of people who purchased houses. They are the ones whom we have an obligation to consider given that they are not here.

I suggest, for example, in regard to planning permissions that the legislation seems to be quite short-term in its focus and there should be a sunset clause in order that the operation of Part V would be examined, because in five years' time we may well be back in a situation where there is a much bigger delivery of housing stock in all sectors and the provision might require to be revisited. I believe a sunset clause is the way to deal with the issue.

I thank Deputy Murphy. Does she wish to direct the questions to anyone in particular?

I will leave it at that and await the response.

Who does the Deputy wish to respond primarily?

Let us start with the Planning Institute.

We have approximately three minutes remaining.

Ms Mary Hughes

I wish to deal with some of the issues raised, in particular about vacant sites. We completely agree with the Deputy. There are lessons to be learnt from the derelict sites register. However, I suggest that the vacant sites levy, as drafted in the heads of the Bill, will result in the same difficulties being encountered as with the derelict sites provision, in particular in terms of identifying ownership. One of the big issues is the huge amount of resources required to manage the vacant sites levy in terms of establishing a register and to pursue issues actively and ensure results are achieved. Deputy Murphy is correct that there is much to learn from the derelict sites legislation.

Deputy Murphy spoke about the definition of a derelict site. There is no proposed definition currently in terms of what constitutes a vacant site. Are we talking about undeveloped land, a brownfield site or vacant buildings? In the opinion of the institute, a vacant levy should apply to buildings in as much as it does land if the whole purpose is to regenerate and stimulate growth in town and urban centres. In that regard, what the institute would suggest is that rather than tackle the issue on a piecemeal basis, why not simply seek a land tax levy on land that is zoned for development purposes and which has been enhanced in value because it is zoned for a purpose? We believe that would perhaps be a more straightforward approach if it is felt that a levy is the way to go to stimulate growth. Overall, our mantra in relation to it is that we need to look more proactively at it. Reference was aptly made to the Clonakilty model which was only achieved because of a dedicated county architect living in the town.

In terms of the affordable housing element, perhaps it might be more appropriate to defer it to the Housing Agency to respond to that. We have come from a situation where we had social and affordable housing. The affordable element is now dropped and the institute's position is to consider whether we are certain that it should be dropped, in particular in urban centres that are experiencing a bit of pressure currently in terms of affordability. Again, that could be dealt with through the supply side. Perhaps the Housing Agency will address the matter further.

We will refer the matter to the Housing Agency.

Mr. Conor Skehan

Very briefly, on the last point, it is important to remind people that provision is made for affordable housing in the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009 and that it can be commenced if and when it is deemed appropriate by the Minister.

In terms of Deputy Murphy's question about the contribution, we have done two pieces of work on that. The first is in the report that we prepared on the Part V issue. We looked back at what was delivered in the 2002 to 2011 period and reported back that 15,100 units were delivered by Part V in that period, of which 62% were affordable and 37% were social. It is important to realise that we have fairly firm evidence from the past about what is possible.

Our chief executive has done a very quick calculation to answer the question, looking into the future, and without the benefit of the detailed evidence here, which is that the delivery will depend on housing delivery. If 20,000 homes per annum were delivered, assuming that Part V applied to 10,000, that would yield 1,000 social homes per annum of the 6,000 needed.

This does not exist in isolation. There is a mix of other delivery forms in addition to Part V: a mix of direct build, acquisition and different types of funding to some of the approved housing bodies mentioned earlier. It appears that we can continue the past success when towards the end of that period a substantial stream of housing was coming on board. There is every reason to believe we can be successful in the future.

Mr. Tom Parlon

Deputy Catherine Murphy raised the importance of legislation being useful and practical. She said the derelict sites legislation did not work. I contend that Part V has not worked, despite Mr. Skehan’s assertion, because there is a major national crisis in respect of social housing with almost 100,000 people on a housing list and a long-term commitment from the Government to provide €3.5 billion for social housing. It has been aspirational and as a funding model it did not work. Regardless of its aspirational side and the positive side of social integration, which we in the CIF support, it was not supported because the funding was not there. Our model is an alternative. In light of the Government’s commitment to a substantial budget for social housing - unfortunately we will need more social housing unless private housing is built - Part V is a deterrent to private building because the costs are holding back development. Previously in the industry, and the planners would agree with me, approximately 40% of the sale price of a house went directly to the Exchequer. One of our members lately contended the figure is now 50%. That makes it difficult. Even the Part V contribution is enough. The last straw, they say, breaks the camel’s back and as Mr. Fitzpatrick said, if it is not the Part V contribution, the financial contributions or VAT, the rest is fixed and, if anything, going up. Labour prices will be under pressure and the other inputs are going up. Land is different and I agree with the Deputies’ assertion that previously the cost of land was a major factor.

Deputy Cowen talked about using it or losing it. Deputy Stanley has just left but if there is a vacant site in Portlaoise, Tullamore, Birr or Portarlington it is because it is not viable to move it. If the unfortunate owner, developer or builder, has to pay a levy, that will delay any chance of building and creating much-needed infrastructure, and jobs. However the vacant site levy is introduced, it must take note of the very serious considerations that we and the Planning Institute have raised. The costs are the major issue.

Mr. Hubert Fitzpatrick

In response to Deputy Murphy some players in the industry did the industry no good. They damaged the reputation of the industry. We support the view that bad behaviour should be penalised. We worked with the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government to bring forward a new registration scheme for builders and contractors where we have established on a voluntary basis the Construction Industry Register Ireland, and it is the Government’s objective to put that scheme on a statutory footing in 2015. That is a credible registration process whereby experienced builders can be registered. Only those who meet their obligations in full, complete developments, comply with building regulations and are tax compliant will be able to build in the future. We fully support that. We want an industry that is regulated because the good players who comply with regulations should be able to build.

The Building Control (Amendment) Regulations 2014 require owners to appoint competent builders, for appropriate design to be undertaken and for developments to be certified at completion stage by assigned certifiers. We fully supported the introduction of that legislation and we are happy to work with that regulation. We want to restore the good name and reputation of the industry so that only compliant builders can operate within the industry.

This is interesting and I hope the Bill will reactivate construction and get more houses built. In doing that we must ensure there is social integration in development. In the past where buy-outs were possible, social integration was not done as well as it should have been. We should keep that in mind. Mr. Skehan said there is still a facility for affordable housing. I would not like to see it go away, particularly in light of the new regulation on the 20% deposit. Although that decision has not been made, it is imminent and will affect first-time buyers. That must all be taken into consideration. The facility for affordable housing should remain.

I was on South Dublin County Council for 20 years and saw how Part V led to problems. I hope that this will activate building. While the recommendation to keep all the options and the 1% sounds attractive, I do not think it would work to provide social housing.

On the issue of the land valuation tax versus the vacant site levy, too many taxes could halt construction. In an ideal situation where there are enough houses or builders have money to build the houses which we do not have, we could say we would not start from here but we are here. I can understand the theory behind the land value tax instead of the site levy but we are not in the right place for that.

I agree that the housing strategies may need to be amended to be more responsive to change because that is a shortcoming of the housing strategy. They are static and react to change rather than being proactive. Building is expensive. Developers are in the business for the good of society but also to make a profit. I can see why nine houses were specified. I would enter a caveat that in order to progress development, for example, a site for 36 houses should not be done piecemeal in groups of eight and a few. If a developer who owns such a site wants to build only nine houses on it, the local authority should have the foresight and insight to question that. The construction industry welcomed the reduced development levies which removed some of the inconsistencies in them but the levy is a matter for the local authority. It asked too that the payment be made as the development progresses rather than as one tranche. It depends on whether the local authority can afford that.

The exceptional circumstances must be defined because exceptional to the witnesses may not be exceptional to me. There are many ways to skin a cat. That is wide open.

Deputy Dowds dwelt on the difference between urban and rural areas so I will not go into that.

While I am interested in many things, I am particularly interested in the revolving infrastructure fund in the UK that the witnesses mentioned might lead to promotion. I believe Deputy Catherine Murphy mentioned the bonds. It is there and it is an interesting aspect to consider - anything that will promote it on the ground. Perhaps we could promote that and the committee could investigate it further.

I thank the representatives of the various bodies for their contributions. We have had an interesting discussion and the Chairman will be delighted to hear that I will not repeat any of the questions already raised by the people to my left. I know that will satisfy him given that Clonakilty was mentioned.

We already had an esteemed representative from south Dublin before the Deputy.

If a discussion like this is to have any benefit, given that we are in a post-building boom period, we must recognise that many mistakes were made in the past by legislators, the construction industry and local authorities. I was a local authority member for 12 years. People must be frank about these things.

The two words the ordinary people on the streets do not want to hear are "building boom" because we all know the stories of what it did to families and individuals. Never again do we want to see a building boom in this jurisdiction. When talking to people about the construction industry, the need for housing etc., and thinking about the legacy, I find the language used interesting. When one talks about that period, people will mention pyrite, ghost estates and difficulties with the HomeBond insurance for people who bought houses nine or ten years ago. This is part of the fallout that frustrates and angers people. That is the legacy.

As I said at the beginning, we all share responsibility for these things, including some bodies not represented here. We will not mention the banks or we will all end up in jail and I do not want to be responsible for that. On a serious level, we have to move towards a regenerated building and construction sector because it cannot go any lower than it is at present. There is a modest revival and whether it is in first gear or second gear it will move in particular directions, but never again, particularly for those of us who are legislators, should we allow a repeat of what happened in recent past.

For the record, as I have said, I was a member of a local authority. I strongly support Part V and strongly support a new affordable housing scheme. I am reluctant to praise the previous Government for anything. However, I credit it with Part V and the affordable housing scheme because, as a local authority member, I saw what it did for people with modest incomes and I saw what it did for people who had no chance of a home - people who were on housing lists. It is the greatest gift in terms of the common good that there would be social housing and that families would have an opportunity to get into a home.

I have only one question because I promised not to go back on what has been said. This has not been mentioned so I will raise it as it was on my list; the rest I will delete. With the expected upturn in the construction industry, given that all the electricians, plumbers, bricklayers, etc., are now in Australia and Canada, what will the industry do about apprenticeships into the future?

I will now return to our guests starting with the representatives of CIF, followed by the Irish Planning Institute and the Housing Agency. I ask them to address those points and make their closing comments.

Mr. Hubert Fitzpatrick

The industry is working with the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation to see how the apprenticeship scheme can be reviewed because there is a major problem at the moment with the apprenticeship intake. It is recognised as a major difficulty. We need to see a much-increased intake in apprenticeships to ensure the industry can grow to a sustainable level that an economy of this nature warrants.

I wish to make some general comments. We believe there is an urgent requirement that the Part V process be modified. It is clearly not affordable at present, having regard to where house prices are today and the total input costs. We want the industry to be able to respond with an increased level of housing output that can meet the sustainable demand for future housing.

We have addressed the issue about the mistakes made in the past. We in the industry want to address the mistakes that were made in the past which is why we have supported the introduction of the new Construction Industry Register Ireland and the registration process for builders - a credible registration scheme which will ensure that only experienced compliant builders are building for the future. We need to address the issue of taking estates into charge. We need to address the issue of bonds so that it works for the industry and for the local authorities. There needs to be a process with a reasonable timeframe in place for taking schemes into charge.

We have difficulties with the vacant site levy. If it is not sustainable to build on a vacant site and if clearly there is no market for the completed product or one cannot fund it, it seems unreasonable that the site should be subject to an owner's levy.

I have covered some points. Perhaps my colleagues have other points they wish to raise.

Mr. Brian McKeon

Regarding Part V, having delivered units to several local authorities over the years as well as having paid levies in lieu of it, as agreed with local authorities, I found myself on more than one occasion going to my local representatives to ask why the local authorities were not using the units I delivered. Why are they locked up? Why do they have security? Why do they have maintenance? In some cases for 18 months houses have been lying there completely locked up and unused. This was in the height when they could have been sold in a heartbeat.

When it is not one's own money, one is not inclined to worry about it. That was plain to see for me and several of my colleagues in the industry. That was the reality. When paying for something that comes from one's own pocket, one will put it to use. However, if one is a representative and it is in one's charge, and one has too much work on, then it is in the workload and one gets to it when one gets to it.

Regarding Part V, I think the levy is a no-brainer, but there needs to be a body there. I am not sure that the local authorities are capable of looking at it. I have experience of Dublin local authorities and a local authority down the country. They failed dismally when I gave them units to use as social housing and to sell affordable units to people on the open market. There was no excuse for it and it was frustrating for a taxpayer. I got paid for it as a developer. It was my taxpayer's money that was there and was paid to me through the local authority. However, as I have said, the same local authority was paying security companies to go in. They were having their own people come down to collect the post, clean the windows and cut the grass. It is farcical and this story is replicated around the country. That needs to change.

It did not happen in South Dublin.

Mr. Brian McKeon

It happened in two other local authorities in Dublin.


We have two former members of the local authority and they are slightly biased.

We were looking for the keys.

Let Mr. McKeon finish.

Mr. Brian McKeon

We did the deal with the people in the local authority and they stood up to the deal. They were relatively easy to deal with. We kept our part and they kept their part. However, when it was handed over it became infuriating - infuriating at times to get the deal over the line, but even more so, particularly as an Irish taxpayer, to say, "Well, that's grand. Why are they sitting there?"

They would phone me asking what was the story with those houses to which the response would be that they are owned by the council, but 18 months later they were still owned by the council. If we do nothing else, that is a fundamental change that must be made to benefit the taxpayer. That is what everyone in this room wants and is looking for to make it work. An agency needs to come in that is completely focused, that will do its homework, spend the money and is accountable because I do not believe there is accountability when it comes to the local authorities.

I thank Mr. McKeon: Mr. Parlon.

Mr. Tom Parlon

In response to Deputy Maloney, I agree that we should learn from our mistakes. He mentioned some of the legacy issues from the building boom but we have a legacy now from not building anything at all in terms of rising rents, rising house prices and homelessness with which we have to deal.

In terms of the upturn, the Deputy asked what were we doing about apprentices. I wish to inform him, and he might be able to inform himself, that we are having detailed discussions with the Tánaiste and the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation. Proposals are being worked out practically to have a pilot scheme in particular. The Deputy mentioned electricians. Thankfully, our electrician apprenticeships are very positive because we have a big mechanical and electrical, M and E, sector and many of the electricians are working in the likes of Intel, the pharmaceutical companies and the foreign direct investment, FDI, companies here but the wet trades, which traditionally would be plastering, block laying and tiling, have suffered because house building has practically stalled. We have a very detailed proposition that is being worked out with the Departments of Social Protection and Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation which would involve extending JobsPlus in a few more areas. We are waiting for that to happen but the industry is fully supportive, and the industry sees it as a major positive. There is no question that if the €3.5 billion the Government is promising to spend comes about and if the general economic turnaround begins to happen, and house building starts coming back up to a sustainable level of 20,000 or 25,000, we will have a skills shortage. Traditionally, 90% of all apprentices were in the construction sector and we are committed to being involved to that level again but as I said, we have worked closely and very well with both Departments and I would hope there would be an announcement on that soon.

I thank Mr. Parlon. I call the representative of the Planning Institute.

Ms Mary Hughes

Perhaps it is not only the block layers and electricians that need to be looked at in terms of incentivising them back to Ireland, but also the planners. If the proposed heads of Bill are enacted into legislation, the workload of the many local authorities throughout the country will significantly increase. It is important that the planning system is properly resourced and perhaps then we will have a planning system that will function effectively and address some of the issues Mr. McKeon highlighted.

As an institute we welcome legislation that will promote and advance development in the countries and particularly focus on the regeneration of towns and villages, but it is critically important that the legislation and the planning system remains transparent, credible and consistent to ensure there is confidence in the market and in the planning system to advance projects. There are many errors in the existing legislation and the proposed heads of Bill would not appear to address those errors and inaccuracies. In terms of ensuring a consistent and credible planning system in the future, it is important that the shortfalls in existing legislation are addressed. Overall, however, we would welcome the direction in which the legislation is heading.

I thank Ms Hughes. I call Mr. Skehan.

Mr. Conor Skehan

As the last of the speakers I want to thank the committee, on behalf of everybody, for the opportunity. This new process of using the already wonderful committee system to explore ideas is a great enhancement of the system. I wish the members well with their work.

I will leave the members with a parting thought. This is a system that we tried, and everybody in the room has agreed that there are merits and problems with it. It is not an unusual system. It has been used in many other European countries and beyond Europe, and there are advantages and disadvantages everywhere. If the agency were to give the members one piece of advice, as well as wishing them good luck, it would be that some of the comments the CIF has made are true but they are true for reasons about which it itself is not entirely clear, which is that the current system produces uncertainty, doubt and risk. Markets must always price in risk so if the members do only one thing they should do everything they can to remove the ambiguity and uncertainty from the existing situation, which has been commented unfavourably upon by at least two High Court judges. Our document to the committee has summarised those findings so if there is any guiding light for the work the members do, it is where there is an opportunity to increase certainty and remove doubt they should do it.

However much they hate a system, if the market knows that is the system and that everybody will be treated the same way, that is at least an advantage. Nobody gets away with it. That is the big issue to leave members with.

I remind the members also that for all its prickliness the Part V measure exists in the context of an increasingly comprehensive and well-thought-out interlocked system of other measures to produce housing that is both affordable, available and integrated. It is part of a bigger complex. The members should not allow themselves be scared by certain aspects of it because it exists in a much bigger and better thought out system than it did previously. We are finishing where we began by recommending that it continue as it is at the level proposed and with the focus on the social aspect. It is well thought out but they should watch the details and avoid any ambiguity. That reflects well in what Senator Keane said, namely, that this is where many of the issues, particularly about exceptional circumstances, need to be thought through. One size will not fit all and there will always be a case for examining issues on a case-by-case, site-by-site and county-by-county basis. Good luck to the members in their work.

I thank Mr. Skehan. That concludes our consideration of the topic for this session. We will resume our consideration of this issue on 27 January. I thank the three organisations and the individual witnesses who spoke and those who did not. They are excused.

The joint committee adjourned at 4.30 p.m. until 2.15 p.m. on Tuesday, 27 January 2015.