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Joint Committee on Housing, Planning and Local Government debate -
Thursday, 5 Dec 2019

Planning and Development (Amendment) Regulations 2019: Discussion

At the request of the broadcasting and recording services, members and visitors in the Public Gallery are requested to ensure that for the duration of the meeting, their mobile phones are turned off completely or switched to airplane, safe or flight mode, depending on the device. It is not sufficient just to put phones on silent mode as this will maintain the level of interference with the broadcasting system.

No. 6 on the agenda today is consideration of the Planning and Development (Amendment) Regulations 2019. I welcome to today's meeting the Minister of State at the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government, Deputy English, and officials from the Department.

I draw the attention of the officials 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 do so, 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 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.

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. I invite the Minister of State, Deputy English, to make his opening statement.

I thank the committee for the opportunity to present to it the proposed Planning and Development (Amendment) Regulations 2019. The proposed regulations are aimed at amending provisions in the principal Planning and Development Regulations 2001 concerning development that is exempt from the requirement to obtain planning permission. Under the planning Acts, each House of the Oireachtas is required to approve draft planning regulations relating to exempted development by way of positive resolution before they can be made by me, as Minister. The consideration of the draft regulations by the committee here today is part of that approval process.

The draft regulations, the Planning and Development (Amendment) Regulations 2019, relate to the provision of a number of exemptions for development works undertaken by the Office of Public Works, OPW, for the provision of infrastructural facilities at ports. This involves the insertion of a dedicated new class of exempted development, namely, class 59, in Part 1 of Schedule 2 to the principal regulations. These proposed exemptions will permit the OPW to undertake works or have works undertaken on its behalf relating to the provision of necessary temporary or permanent port infrastructure. The proposed exemptions are broadly similar to those provided for airports. The exemptions proposed will essentially enable the OPW to undertake development, within a port, without the need to obtain planning permission, thereby helping to ensure the efficient delivery of essential services that may be required as a result of Brexit. Such developments include the extension of a port operational building, subject to conditions and limitations, including a spatial limit of 500 sq m to an existing building; the provision of visual navigation aids; the extension of loading or unloading areas, or vehicle queuing or parking areas, subject to conditions and limitations; the provision of security fencing and gates, security cameras and signage, subject to conditions and limitations; the provision of directional, locational or warning signs; the provision of roads and related signage and ancillary safety barriers used for the movement of vehicles and equipment.

In particular, I point out that these draft regulations do not propose to provide blanket exemptions for development works by the OPW at ports. The exemptions provided are subject to a number of conditions and limitations, including that the proposed development does not require an environmental impact assessment, EIA, or appropriate assessment, AA. Any works proposed by the OPW that are not specifically exempted by these exempted development regulations will still require planning permission in the normal course.

The regulations were proposed in the memorandum for Government on Brexit Requirements at Dublin and Rosslare Ports - Planning Related Legislative Issues, which was brought to the Government in February 2019. The regulations would enable any future port related works covered by the proposed exemption to be carried out without the need for further emergency orders. It is considered that the proposed exemptions for ports are reasonable and appropriate to the essential services that may be required as a result of Brexit.

I commend these draft regulations to the committee. They are very important and, if required, I believe they have the potential to have a real and positive impact on Ireland's response to Brexit. They will facilitate efficient delivery of customs, sanitary, phytosanitary and health checks and controls in Dublin and Rosslare ports arising from Brexit. I look forward to what I know will be an engaging discussion with committee members. I welcome Mr. Eamonn Kelly from the Department who is here to assist. If the draft regulations are approved by positive resolution of both Houses of the Oireachtas, they will come into force as soon as they are signed by me, as Minister. In that regard, it is my intention to sign the regulations into law at the earliest possible date.

I thank the Minister. As there are no members indicating, I will ask a few questions myself to clarify matters. Do the regulations relate to Dublin and Rosslare ports only? Who determines if an EIA or AA is required, and what is the process in that regard? Do the powers in the draft regulations relate only to the OPW? There are other ports around the country, some of which are controlled by local authorities. I am not too sure which ones. They also deal with imports and exports. Is it the case that the powers outlined in the draft regulations will not be given to them and are purely for the two ports mentioned here today and confined to the OPW?

Yes, it is purely for the OPW. The decision on an EIA or AA is for the usual planning authorities and the normal process would be followed in that regard. Naturally, we would encourage the OPW or whoever else to consult on these matters if queries arise. Yes, the draft regulations are only for the two ports mentioned because the measure is Brexit related.

Many changes have been made at both of those ports over the past year. They were ready in March but have been updated since. This is only to come into effect if additional parking bays are required. What will be needed will not become apparent until Brexit happens. I do not know if members have had a chance to visit the ports yet. I have visited myself and the works that have been carried out can be seen. There is additional space and capacity. The outcome of Brexit will affect the requirements for space or capacity. Changes may need to be made quickly.

No other ports have these same requirements.

It is only for Dublin and Rosslare.

Yes, because the issue is related to Brexit. Government decided that it was for these two ports.

That is all. I just wanted a bit of clarification on that.