Local Government (Planning and Development) Bill, 1973: Second Stage (Resumed).

Question again proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

Last week when I was speaking on this Bill, I welcomed it for a number of reasons, the primary one being that the Minister for Local Government should be set free to deal with more urgent tasks than a backlog of planning appeals. I welcomed the establishment of the board which would free the Minister of the day to deal with such problems as might arise outside the planning sphere altogether. As an example of this I had suggested that the population explosion which would take place would require massive development of our infrastructure in terms of institutions, roads and houses. In considering this, that is, the Minister for Local Government of the day being free to deal with imaginative local government provisions for the future both of a social and physical kind, I had in mind the manner in which Britain had deliberately set its Minister free from the nitty gritty requirements of planning appeals in particular.

When we adjourned, I had made reference to the fact that dismissals from the board would have to be accounted for in both Houses and I felt this was an important principle of accountability and was one which we correctly emphasised. I had moved to consider the Bill itself, particularly section 29 which dealt with the withering away of planning applications after a period of five years. I said this section would do much to stop commercial speculative operations within cities, that is, where people seek outline permission and then do not carry out the development but at the same time are stifling any action by the local authority. The effect of section 29 would tend to make that kind of activity less easy to do.

On the whole notion of local government planning and development, there are a number of important features in the Bill. I had mentioned that the Bill could not be taken in isolation but should be taken along with the Wildlife Bill and the proposed Water Pollution Bill to be taken as forming thecorpus of legislation of a relatively recent kind which dealt with the environment, that these three Bills in their impact on environmental questions should more properly be considered together.

I reiterate what I said last week, that the Minister for Local Government should be free. I think it is Professor Fogarty in his bookUndergoverned and Overgoverned, describing Britain in recent times, has spoken about the manner in which members of the Cabinet and others have tended to become involved in far too much detail and this in turn has meant that the quality of legislation has suffered. An Bord Pleanála by their establishment will, as I have said, go a long way towards freeing the Minister.

There are a number of fascinating problems posed by the Bill. I have said I very much agree with section 29, that is, the one dealing with the withering away of permission. There are a number of sections for which I have some support. I do not want to go into detail as I feel the principles of the Bill are more important. The other House has made detailed comment from a local perspective.

Section 25 deals with the taking in charge of estates. Senator O'Higgins made reference to this. I should like the Minister to have another look at that section and to see if it would be possible to make broader provisions for the orderly taking over of estates, both in regard to the builder and the residents.

Section 26 is a narrow, legal section but it is a most important one. It deals with the position in law of objectors to development on a site for which development has not been authorised. The position in law was brought to my notice a few years ago when a development was being undertaken in Galway city by a builder without planning permission. He secured a High Court injunction prohibiting picketing outside the site on the grounds that the local residents were denying him reasonable access to his property. This section will tend to equalise in law the position of local objectors and the unauthorised developer. The way the law has operated up to now left the objectors at a disadvantage as regards the possibility of getting an injunction quickly. The law tended to be in favour of the unauthorised developer.

Section 27 deals with the ability to get an injunction from the High Court quickly. A number of sections have been commented upon already. Senator Horgan welcomed sections 32 and 33 which deal with declaration of interest, and I agree with him. These are important developments in the law and I am glad they are taking place.

I agree in principle with what has been said on section 39 on the provisions for environmental impact studies of proposed development, but I shall return to that in a moment. I feel this could be given more detailed expression within the Bill itself. There are important points embodied in the section. For example, subsection (c) deals with the power to impose conditions relating to noise in proposed development. But where that section is in difficulty is in the definition of "amenity". From studying the British definition of "amenity" I should like an assurance from the Minister that a second definition will be invoked, which I shall instance in a moment.

On section 42 (d), I am glad that in a Planning Bill we have recognised the particular difficulties of disabled people. This is an amendment of section 86 of the 1963 Act and it enables building regulations to make provision in relation to the special needs of disabled persons. I welcome this wholeheartedly.

When Senator Horgan mentioned section 43 (c) in regard to enabling the development plan to have objectives for the preservation of interiors of buildings, he might have made the point that whole areas should be preserved rather than just buildings and their insides. An entire area should be enabled to be regarded as worthy of preservation for amenity purposes. I have in mind the kind of provision that was made in the Private Members' Bill which was put forward in the British House of Commons by Mr. Duncan Sandys some years ago. The debate on that occasion showed that the suggestion was a sensible one and I should like to ask why this concession was not made here.

I should like to mention some of the things I think should have been included in the Bill. When one is discussing a Bill such as this one must say that the bedrock principles of legislation on planning are that community provision, community amenity, takes priority over the individual right to property. Where there have been disputes both in Britain and in this country about the implementation of planning provisions, what has been new about the disputes in law is that communal provision and requirement has been expanded and given a place in law. Very often where an individual has come into conflict with the planning authority, it is in the assertion of individual rights against established rights. It is a moot point whether the new board will operate on the assumption that they are making a decision in justice between equal parties to a dispute or will act as a Government agency committed to a particular concept of planning. My view is that the latter must hold. In the final analysis a planning Bill does not provide for the establishment of some kind of court in which individuals and developers can have their cases treated justly. The board must be seen as an aspect of administration of policy. For this reason I was glad of the suggestion in the section that the board would be in consultation with local interests and with central government. This was brought out clearly in the Minister's speech.

We are fortunate to be able to discuss a planning and development Bill at a time when the uses and development of much of our land have not yet been decided upon. To date it has been possible for us to avoid a major confrontation between the requirements of industry, agriculture, tourism and domestic amenity. Nevertheless, it is clear now that in the future the interests of these different requirements will not necessarily be the same. May I give an example of this? As we are on the threshold of a major development in oil and gas, it is interesting to read the reports published by An Foras Forbartha which locate potential sites around the coast. The same areas are shaded in the map for amenity development by Bord Fáilte for five years as An Foras Forbartha are considering for oil and gas development. Are we going to have a peculiar form of oil and gas development which will make it attractive to tourists? Is this what Bord Fáilte have in mind? I think it is simply a matter of one planning agency not having regard to what another agency are doing.

The broader issues of planning are ones which the Minister is rightly set aside from by the establishment of the board. Many of the provisions in the Bill are good, but I wonder about the possibility of implementing them. Ideally one would need a much more scientific approach towards the planning prospects. I get the impression from the Minister's speech that he is perfectly willing to expand the old notion of planning from a narrow physical base to a social base, to give it a social and human component. While this is meritorious it must be realised that local authorities are crippled by the lack of availability of skilled well-trained planners. Nor are there facilities for the training of young people in planning, the training that is required so that the person is aware of the sociological implications of a proposal, of its physical requirements and so on. It is a mixed bag of skills. I doubt if our universities have responded to the huge increase that took place in planning in the late 1950s and into the 1960s. The more qualified of our planners are generally trained outside Ireland.

I would like to think that, while we are responding now to a new era and to new requirements at the level of our legislation, at the level of our institutions, particularly our educational institutions, we will recognise this new possibility. I would like to see special degrees or diplomas in planning being made available within the university or third-level educational structure.

The first Town and Country Planning Act was introduced in 1909 by Mr. Burns. The present Minister for Local Government is not as ambitious. Mr. Burns suggested:

The object of the Bill is to provide a domestic condition for the people in which their physical health, their morals, their character and their whole social condition can be improved with what it is hoped to secure in this Bill. The Bill aims in broad outline at and hopes to secure the home healthy, the house beautiful, the town pleasant, the city dignified and the suburbs salubrious.

Thankfully the language of Minister introducing Town Planning Bills has improved since 1909 and the Minister used less florid prose.

There are a number of points upon which the Bill could be strengthened. While it is true that section 29 in enabling permissions to wither away if they are not availed of within five years may stop a certain kind of holding operation for speculative purposes in the city centres, at the same time I wonder whether in this Bill we have adverted sufficiently to the fact that refurbishing the centre of a town or city presents peculiarly difficult problems in planning. An adequate town or city plan will make provision for density of a particular kind. Where there are old buildings, a couple of hundred years old, it is unrealistic to expect that the norm of density which would apply to new development should be applied to old development. If we are serious about the refurbishing of our town centres we need to insert this provision about speculative use of outline permission, and it would be best if there was some reference to this particular allowance for refurbishing town centres in the Bill itself. A number of objections made by other people could be met if as well we made allowance for the inclusion of specific areas as well as buildings for improvement. Section 5 states:

The Board shall, so far as may in the opinion of the Board be necessary for the performance of its functions, keep itself informed of the policies and objectives for the time being of the Minister, planning authorities and any other body which is a public authority...

I suggest that trying to achieve a balance of local, regional and national aspirations is not as easy a task as it might seem. For example, on the definition of the word "regional" when one speaks about a regional dimension in planning as far as local authorities are concerned it is merely the aggregation of what they are hoping for. As far as the central authorities are concerned, it is the central aim broken down to regional level. There is no meeting point between the two. That section is being more optimistic than real. It is a good provision to some extent and I hope it comes to mean something.

Section 10 and 13, which allow for the hiring of professional help for planning decisions, are necessary, given the low availability of highly qualified people who might be in full time employment in local authorities or who might be within the civil service.

On section 16, in relation to oral hearings, is it the position that where the board refuses an oral hearing. It would be useful if the grounds for the refusal of the oral hearing were given by the board. There may be a good reason why this is not so. If there are it would be useful to hear them.

On section 39 in dealing with environmental impact I noted the Minister adverted to the fact that the Wildlife Bill has implications for planning. On the Wildlife Bill I asked the Minister for Lands if he would consider having a professional botanist and zoologist made available to advise local authorities when they were redesigning or re-establishing roads. I was advised on that occasion that it was a matter for the Minister for Local Government. I am now faced with the opportunity of conveying to the Minister for Local Government my feelings on this subject and I feel I should not let the opportunity pass.

If we are to give meaning to environmental impact studies as adverted to later in the Bill and if major new development is required, the expenses incurred in connection with environmental impact will have to be provided by the proposed developer. Where new roads and new buildings are interfering with the environment it would be useful if the Minister would indicate whether it is his intention to provide sufficient funds to have this expert advice made available, particularly in relation to road development.

Amenity is one of the chief concepts now within the language of planning itself. This was not always so. The history of town planning is such that the major impetus to town plans was originally health and housing requirements. Much later on the requirements of planning began to be considered in broader perspective. For example, in Britain after the war people were quibbling over who should build what or who was responsible for what. The man responsible for forward planning, the distinguished Lord Reith, confessed in his autobiography to be in danger of expulsion from his post because he felt he was responsible for all future reconstruction. Be that as it may, the problem that arose in those years is that the concept of amenity enters the regular exchange of planners.

What is amenity? Amenity was described on page 169 of J.B.Cullingworth'sTown and Country Planning in England and Wales who quotes Lord Holford's definition:

....amenity is not a single quality, it is a whole catalogue of values. It includes the beauty that an artist sees and an architect designs for; it is the pleasant and familiar scene that history has evolved; in certain circumstances it is even utility—the right thing in the right place—shelter, warmth, light, clean air, domestic service....and comfort stations.

If one defined amenity like that one could see therefore that amenity was everything that it was in the communal interest to provide. Our definition of amenity is a residual definition of the term. I mean to be very practical about this. If one takes, for example, a small wood viewed as I just described it now, the existence and sustenance of something which was valued by the public would become important in itself. An alternative notion of amenity is one which is offered residually, that is, that an amenity is something which it is possible to provide for the public good when the norms of economics or commerce have been met. Thus it is exactly the same case which arose in England in relation to a trees preservation order: one view held that a wood should remain intact, a second view of amenity was that it was after economic requirements are met one could apply to save individual trees. It was as absurd as that. So it is well to know when one is drafting legislation in what sense precisely one is using the term "amenity". I hope, for my own part, that the widest possible definition is being given to the term as it is incorporated in this Bill.

I just want to make a few minor points now. As regards section 43 (1), this provides that a development plan may include as an objective the preservation of internal fixtures or features of artistic, historic or architectural interest. I should like to know whether it is the intention eventually to list those systematically in different areas. As I read the Bill—and I read it rather carefully—I did not detect any suggestion that they might be listed, which, to my mind, is one of the prerequisites for adequate planning in this area.

In saying that I might make the point that in the Minister's Second Reading speech he seemed to say that he was happy with the existing situation whereby a number of different Departments were responsible for different aspects of the environment. He seemed to think that no single Department should be responsible for the environment as such. He seemed to be setting his face against a Department of the Environment. The systematic listing of what might be regarded as buildings of peculiar, historic or cultural interest would be one of the basic requirements of a Department of the Environment. I would like to think that if in the short term the Minister is setting his face against such a Department—I would be sorry to hear that he has—he would be making provision within the legislative instruments of his own Department for such systematic preparation which is one of the basic requirements of adequate planning.

It is appropriate that on the Second Reading I say this on section 42 particularly, and I want to emphasise this. Frequently when one speaks about making special provisions for old people in one's building outline, when, as in section 43, one speaks of the preservation of interiors of buildings, and when one speaks as in subsection (1) (1) of the preservation of internal fixture or features of artistic, historic or architectural interest, one encounters frequently in the public mind a most unfortunate—given our own circumstances—attitude. That is that these are matters about which we should not be concerned at present. In times of economic difficulty people suggest that jobs at any cost should be our aim.

I reiterate what I said earlier. We have not until now been forced to make the choice of environmentversus industry. We should celebrate the fact that we have not been put into this head-on collision as many of the industrial nations have, where there was industrial development unthinkingly, uncritically and at any cost. The result has been people from the industrial nations fleeing their own countries. That is a fascinating aspect of the private enterprise system I so frequently refer to. The alternative flow within the Common Market, the tired and weary factory owners who are going to the peripheral regions for sustenance a few times a year, their factories sucking the migrant workers on a regular basis for the same reasons. The alternative flow within the migratory stream of Europe. We have not been forced to make those kind of choices and we should be very glad that we have not had to do so.

This notion of jobs anywhere at any price is most narrowminded. I might ask Senators and the public to bear in mind that our responsibilities do not extend only to the narrow limits or consequences of our actions but extend into the next generation and the following generation as to the quality of life we have made possible in our society. I want to correct the notion that I am some kind of neo-luddite. For me, in fact, the machines of the industrial age bring no terror whatsoever. But I think it unfortunate that the industrial system itself became established at a time when there was very little acceptance of more general social priorities in regard to saving the environment and saving society generally, where its social and physical manifestations were not well expressed.

We should be very glad we do not have to repeat the mistakes of other countries and that we can have an industrialisation in this country, if we want to, which will enable a great number of the mistakes of previous industrialisation to be avoided. Similarly, our industrial structures could be democratic in the industrial sense. We do not have to have the hierarchial nature of industry as there was in the past, nor do we have to have it environmentally despoiling. The history of industrialism so far is a history of mistakes which could be avoided.

I want to ask the Minister a question in relation to the provision of expert evidence on planning appeals and decisions. To my mind the notion of the Institute for industrial Research and Standards providing opinions is neither fair to the institute nor to the citizenry in general. The institute exists to do a particular kind of work, but they are being overtaxed. Last week I had in front of me a list of the number of cases of industrial applications before the Industrial Development Authority which they had investigated in the last few years. I feel that is too much of a strain also. The fact that one Government agency is providing the expert evidence for the proposal impact of another Government agency does not make for a sense of fair play in the public mind.

It was pointed out that one of the places where planning was examined in some detail was the town of Coventry. Coventry involved itself in a major democratic exercise. Page 324 of Cullingworth makes reference to the Coventry experiment. A letter was sent by the Coventry city planning department to community organisations and head teachers in the city announcing that a new plan was being drafted, that opinions would be welcomed and that they wanted people's impressions. The lessons which the city learned in terms of its planning consultation with the public were as follows:

(i) There is a tendency for people to become aligned with protest organisations before they have considered the full implications of a proposal within the totality of the Plan, thus inhibiting rational assessment of policy.

(ii) Modifications to meet objections, or compromises, can create equally important and often greater objections from those subsequently affected by the modification....

(iii) The processes of consultation and participation inevitably result in a lengthening of the administrative processes....

(iv) The complexity of technical evidence ... presents problems of explanation and communication....

(v) It is essential that pressure groups ... are not assumed to be representative of public opinion....

(vi) Participation and consultation are essential but they do not and cannot result in everyone being satisfied, if only because some interests are mutually exclusive.

Where hearings are held the collisions one has seen so far have not been collisions in the legal sense as much as collisions between private interest and communal interest. That is an entirely new dimension to hearings as such. It would help immensely if the public and local authorities had in mind what were to be the general norms of planning at national level. I am not saying that these should be given very rigid and narrow specifications, but the general norms should be there. As I said, if I was forced to say whether tribunals or the workings of a board were to be seen as a judicial function or an administrative function, I would think in the last analysis they were an administrative function. But, given that that is so, it is most important that the thinking of the Minister of the day and of his Department should be clearly in the public mind.

In conclusion, I welcome the Bill. The points I have mentioned are points on which I would welcome more detail. May I say that there is a point not mentioned in the Minister's speech which might have been mentioned by him in the other House in reply to some of the later Stages in the debate? It is the matter of the changed character of planning in an urban setting and in a rural setting. For example, local authorities dealing with the provision of houses in rural areas will often have to flow against the stream in a number of ways. On the one hand, if one wants social provision not to be totally run down, one must provide houses; yet, on the other hand, our migration from a number of small villages will be continuing. So one does not often have the demographic substance for planning Acts that one should be taking. On the other hand, in the urban areas there is immense demographic pressure.

I mentioned earlier the changed nature of the planning process in older areas and newer areas of cities. Another major contrast between the rural areas and the urban areas has been the changed character of housing. For example, over half of the dwellings in the aggregated rural areas of Ireland were built before 1919 as compared with one-third of the city dwellings. City dwellings therefore are newer on average than rural dwellings. One would like to think that when we have finished with planning legislation dealing we will have built into it sufficient flexibility to meet the differences between old and new towns and also the differences between town and country.

My other remarks deal more narrowly with the environment and would be best related to the Water Pollution Bill when the debate on it is resumed on Second Stage in the Seanad. Once again, I welcome the Bill and I look forward to the Minister's reply.

Ba mhaith liom ar an gcéad dul síos fáilte a chur roimh an Rúnaí Parlaiminte sa Teach seo. Tá sean-aithne agam air agus tá áthas orm go bhfuil sé anseo. Tá a fhios agam go bhfuil an-eolas aige ar gach rud a bhaineann le rialtas áitiúil ós rud é gur chaith sé seal fada mar bhall den comhairle contae i Laois-Uíbh Fhailí. Tá mé cinnte go dtiocfaidh an t-eolas sin chun tairbhe an Bhille seo.

Ba mhaith liom fosta fáilte a chur roimh an mBille. Tuigim gur sórt leathnú é den Bhille úd a chuireadh os comhair an Oireachtas sa bhliain 1963. Cuireadh síos a lán leasú don Bhille seo sa Dáil agus is fíor go ndearna lucht an Fhreasúra sár obair ann. Caithfidh mé a admháil go raibh an tAire sásta glacadh leis a lán de na leasaithe seo agus sílim go mbeidh an Bille i bhfad níos fearr san deireadh ná mar a bhí sé nuair a tugadh isteach é don chéad uair.

I welcome the Bill because its main object is to ensure better provision in the interest of the common good in relation to the proper planning and development of cities, towns and so on. That is a very laudable thing. Planning is necessary in all walks of life and it is very necessary so far as local authorities and the Government are concerned and, in particular, in the layout and erection of buildings and roads, reservoirs and various other amenities. Consequently in the post-war years and in 1976 people have become more conscious of the need for planning. It is only right that a Minister would take cognisance of this fact and this has already been done in the 1963 Act. The purpose of this Bill is to amend that Act so that it will fit in with modern development.

Since the Planning Act was introduced, local authorities have had the option of adopting it in part or in whole. The way they handled that power was responsible for the vast difference that appeared to exist in the standards applied as between one county and another when granting planning permission. In some counties it was practically impossible for a person to get permission to build a dwelling-house along a main road, but when you travelled a few miles further on, going into an adjoining county, you could see that development was taking place along arterial roads. It is right that there should be a common standard all over the country so that people will not feel aggrieved.

In northern and western areas local authorities are reluctant to refuse planning permission. The main reason for this is that in most of these counties there has been a drop in population. Because of that anyone who applies for building permission, unless they are building the house in the middle of an arterial road, are readily granted planning permission. Building a house is the greatest project undertaken by a person and the site is important. Often he will have a preference for a particular area. If too many restrictions were imposed on him it might result in the family moving out of the area. If that happened it would create a problem not only in that area but also on account of the family moving into the city.

At present Dublin city is bursting at the seams and it is extending out as far as Counties Meath, Kildare and Wicklow. This is causing major problems in those areas. We do not blame young people for going to the cities in search of employment, because that is where it is concentrated. However other problems arise in regard to planning when these people begin rearing families. New schools and communities centres are needed, while in other parts of the country we find derelict homes and buildings. We should try in drafting planning legislation to take cognisance of those facts.

Planning is not only a social exercise but also a political one. For that reason much of the planning which takes place is governed by the thinking of the Government in power, in other words, whether they are wholly committed to the decentralisation of Government Departments. If the Government are committed to such a policy then in those areas which have been designated for Government Departments planning problems will arise. It would be necessary to make some infrastructural provision beforehand to ensure that there would be adequate facilities available to provide a good standard of living for the community. That would be the proper way in which to use this type of Bill thereby attracting people from employment in the city to the rural areas. There are far too many service jobs provided in cities compared with rural areas.

I listened to the excellent contribution of Senator Higgins in which he covered many points. The main idea behind this Bill is to ensure that appeals from local authorities will be dealt with by a board and not by the Minister and his officials. It will be the duty of that board to pass judgment on these appeals as quickly as possible. The chairman of this board will be an ex-High Court judge, and this is a wise provision. It is right that a person of that calibre should be appointed because he is an independent person and cannot be accused of bias. My only reservation is that there might be too many legal men on the board, and that the person making the appeal might be reluctant, because of a built-in fear of appearing before any court, to take his appeal that far if he had to engage a legal person to make his case for him at that level.

Generally planning acts have been very useful. The provision whereby people were prevented from building along arterial roads was a wise one. The horseshoe development, where there would be two openings into 40 or 50 houses, was much better. Allowing each individual to have a gate or farmyard opening onto a main road is a traffic hazard and should be avoided if at all possible. Anybody who has travelled along the M1 in the Six Counties will be aware that the main roads bypass towns and that there are very few houses to be seen. It is important when constructing these main roads to remember the safety of people living in the area.

The members of the board should not be regarded as being remote and living in an ivory tower, thereby making it difficult for somebody to put his case. I am not sure how many members will be on the board. I would be pleased to think that the establishment of this board would speed up the clearing of the backlog of appeals. The building industry has great employment potential. We know the population is increasing, even though we do not have the census figures at hand. Because of that there will be a greater need to have adequate facilities available. It is important that there should be no delays in granting planning permission. It has been necessary for a long time to have an overall authority, such as this board, to co-ordinate the various planning developments from individuals and local authorities.

Provision has been made that there will be nobody on the board who will have any interest in the granting or withholding of planning applications. This does not mean that people appointed to these boards would be influenced by having an interest. However, we have to take cognisance of the fact that many people would be suspect in this respect. We have to keep in mind the old legal phrase that justice is done and is seen to be done.

It is important that we should know when exactly the Bill will come into operation. I suppose it will depend on the length of time it takes to get it through this House, but I expect the Minister will see that it comes into operation as soon as possible. In section 3 the Minister can remove some of the members of the board from office and that is as it should be. It says in the memorandum that four people will constitute the board with the judge and that a majority of the people present can make decisions. I am not sure if there is any provision as to what constitutes a quorum but that may be only a very minor matter.

Another section precludes a member of the board from acting in relation to any matter in which he has a material, financial, or other beneficial interest. The purpose of this section is to ensure that the board will act objectively and without prejudice. That is a very important clause too. I wonder how the remuneration will be spread between the Government and the local authorities. Will the local authorities have to pay a share of this and in what way will it be apportioned? As the Minister knows, many local authorities would like to see the appeals rushed through as quickly as possible. Whether they would be in the same haste to pay their contribution is another matter.

There is mention of advance notice being required for the removal or alteration of any structure. The white paper refers to "an increase in the penalty for noise offences under section 51". In this age noise affects quite a number of people. I wonder what powers the Minister has with regard to licences issued to various halls all over the country in which bands play. The intensity of the sound would split your ears. There should be some means by which this could be measured, fines should be imposed if the sound exceeds a certain level. When there is so much noise that you cannot speak to your neighbour standing right beside you, there must be something wrong. This is bound to affect the hearing of the youth and, indeed, of the aged in time to come. It is essential that there should be some way of curbing this. Some Minister should take cognisance of this as quickly as possible before the harm is done. It is a health hazard.

Good planners will always try to ensure that what they are doing is helping to improve the health of individuals and families as well as providing amenities. One recognised method of doing that is to have reasonably well-designed homes. It is important that, in future development and planning in built-up areas in particular, ample provision should be made for playing spaces for children and for teenagers so that they will have some recreational space adjacent to them where they can amuse themselves in healthy enjoyment and grow up to be strong and useful citizens rather than passing their leisure time getting into mischief.

The Government should insist that in the developer's plan provision is made for this. Local authorities should insist, when they are providing housing estates, that one of the conditions is that these facilities will be provided or that space will be left for their provision. The same applies in some of the newly built-up areas. On my way here I saw an advertisement for 280 houses. I wonder is space allotted for the provision of a new school, if necessary, and a playing field attached to it? Down the country recently, more or less because of the Department, a post-primary school was built for 600 pupils and they have no playing field whatever. That is lamentable.

Reference was made to old buildings and the preservation of the interior of certain structures. I do not know what people have in mind unless it is artistic ceilings, and so forth. I concede a case could be made for the preservation of these buildings but an equally good case could be made for the preservation of the outside of the buildings as well. How this can be done may not be relevant on this Bill, but I would suggest that owners of houses of architectural value, if they are unoccupied, should not have to pay rates. The owner of one of these houses, even though he is debarred by a demolition order from destroying the house if it is fit for human habitation can, nevertheless, remove a slate or two and let pigeons and scaldcrows in, and eventually it will fall down. This has happened, and many fine old buildings have been pulled down below cause if they had been left standing the owner would have to pay rates on them although they were unoccupied.

These old houses have a value and character of their own. If we preserve them we will be doing something we might be thanked for in years to come. They would be a tourist attraction. I do not mean they are all big mansions. I would also like to see included ordinary small thatched houses which are disappearing very quickly in rural Ireland. They are little gems from a tourist point of view. They are part of the history of our nation. We will not moan when they all disappear, I suppose, because there was a certain stigma attached to them. The ancient Irish lived in them. A few two-storeyed thatched houses which are very rare should be preserved. If the owner has built a new house adjacent to the cottage he should be allowed exemption from rates so that he could leave the house standing or it might be used for some other purpose. At least it should be retained intact for the time being at any rate.

In section 42 there is an amendment which reads:

(4A) Building reguatlions may make provision in relation to the special needs of disabled persons.

Naturally any Minister for Local Government or any Minister for Social Welfare would try to do their best for those who are maimed, disabled or ill in our community. This is very important in the design of houses and local authority houses in particular. I have always been amazed that when county council houses were being erected the engineers decided to put three or four steps up to the front door. That was wrong. There should have been a gradual slope instead of inflicting the hardship on old people of having to climb steps to get into their home. I always felt in the design of local authority houses, in the past at any rate, there was far too much uniformity. One felt the local authority were saying: "Well, we must let the neighbours know this is a local authority house." They often put a big farmyard gate in front of the door instead of doing the thing in a decent way and encouraging the man to buy out the house and become the owner of it himself. He was entitled to do this and, indeed, the quicker he did this the more beneficial it would be for the local authority because it would have saved them expense. He would be the owner of his home and take an interest in it. In designs such as those, it is important that little points like that should be noted.

In Teach Laighean the handrail is on the stairs on one side only. It has been pointed out to me on two occasions by a lame man who was in here that he could go up the stairs all right but he was unable to come down on that side because the architect, in designing it, put the handrail on one side only. These are small points but they are important to people who are disabled.

Tribute must be paid to the people in the various towns all over Ireland who entered for the Tidy Towns competitions. They cleaned up old buildings, planted trees and, in one way or another, ornamented their towns. They entered this competition and many of them did very well. We should promote an attitude such as that in our towns. It is very important that people should take an interest in them and aim at winning a Tidy Towns competition. It is a great prize to win and it is a great thing to be classified as one of the cleanest and best towns in the whole country. By having a competition like that you encourage others from all over the country to enter. The competition has been geared in such a way that even small towns can enter. It is important that the citizens themselves, instead of always asking the Government to do something for them, should be encouraged to take a hand in beautifying their surroundings and doing the very best they can to make them look better.

It is true, as Senator Higgins has said, that pollution more or less impinges on this Bill. We know there is a Pollution Bill coming but it is not out of place to refer to the problem here. In the past, particularly in rural Ireland, we were very anxious to get industries into our counties as fast as possible. Since the last war a tendency developed whereby the majority of the people were moving from the land. The small farmers could not sustain them and they were moving into the towns and villages. Because of that, we had to try to attract industries into the localities so that the younger people who were staying at home would find jobs in these factories. Factories were built. Perhaps they did not get the scrutiny they should have got because people who were trying to promote them were afraid they might go to another part of the country. They were overanxious to get them. Industrialists set up their factories and caused a certain amount of pollution.

At the same time, it is only fair to say there must be a fair balance between pollution and industry. The bald salient fact is that, when people are unemployed, they are anxious to get jobs. The industrialist who sets up a factory in any area is a very important man. He puts his own capital into it. He may be getting State grants. I suppose he is trying to make money for himself but it is very important to us that to do that he will have to employ labour. The unions are there to see he pays a fair wage. If the workers are — and they should be — members of a union, they will have somebody to fight their battles. We should not try to create a clash of interest between industrialists and people who want to preserve the environment.

The man who has a wife and family and who is without a job and is not earning any money, while scenery, blue hills, water, forests and so on are grand, he does not think very much of these things. What is important to him is where he will get his next meal and how he can continue from one day to another.

The same applies to tourists. There is not much use in us telling the tourist about the fine scenery we have if we are not able to provide him with a decent meal. Unless he can get a meal in Killarney or anywhere else, he will get tired of scenery. He wants to satisfy his inner man. While it is important that local authorities, the Minister and the board should keep in mind the preservation of certain tourist amenities in various areas, I would not like to see them being too hard on the industrialists.

In my own county recently there has been a great expansion in the pig industry. Longford, Cavan and Leitrim were good counties for pigs in days gone by but recently they have developed larger units. A group in Bailieboro are working on a method whereby they will be able to dry up slurry for use as artificial manure and sell it to farmers all over Ireland. That is an important development. We have succeeded in keeping the pig industry there. At the same time many of the lakes which were polluted in the beginning are being cleaned and the trend is changing completely. The environmental aspect must be kept in mind but it is also important to remember that without industry many of our towns and villages would be fairly dull and we would not have young boys and girls coming out of the factories and spending their money in the locality.

The type of fencing used along arterial roads varies from county to county. It may be the fault of the local authority. In many areas wire fencing is put up and after a few years it falls down. It does not look very tidy along the main road. Native stone or timber fencing should be used. There should be a unified standard, because it is important that main roads should be properly fenced.

The Government decided some time ago to set a speed limit of 50 miles per hour to conserve petrol but this was not a success and 60 miles per hour is now regarded as more acceptable. When traffic is moving at that speed it is important to have good fencing along public roads. Planners should ensure that these fences are reasonably artistic to enhance the appearance of our roads, especially for the tourists. If there is not a considerable difference in cost between wire and native stone fencing, the latter should be used where possible.

I should like to refer now to farmers carrying out reclamation schemes on their land. We are fortunate to have many old forts still standing. It is said that these have been protected by the fairies for generations, but in recent times they have been disappearing very fast. Many have been bulldozed overnight and we have lost historical ruins which have existed for centuries. There should be some provision for consulting the farmers in this regard and some method should be worked out for preserving old forts and dolmens and similar ruins. The country that bulldozes all evidence of its past existence into the ground in the interest of development, is not making any progress. They are destroying evidence of a past civilisation. The study of these prehistoric ruins is fascinating and we should try to ensure that they are not destroyed overnight. The Minister is conscious of this because in his own county a tremendous wealth of historical data has been unearthed. It is important that places such as Newgrange, Lough Crew and Tara itself should be preserved.

This is a good Bill. As a member of a local authority the Minister has wide experience over many years and I know he will give his attention to the comments made here today because they are in the sole interest of helping him in the task that lies ahead. It is a complicated Bill and one that is very necessary. Anything we can do on Committee Stage to help him will be done. He has been open-minded in accepting amendments in the Dáil and the Bill has been improved immensely. When the Bill has passed both Houses I hope it will be the best possible piece of legislation that can be provided and the Minister will be pleased that he was the person who piloted it through the Houses of the Oireachtas.

I welcome the Bill. The Act it proposes to amend has been in force for more than 12 years and it is inevitable that shortcomings would come to light. The Bill goes a long way towards remedying many of those shortcomings. The main change proposed deals with appeals. The matter is being taken out of the hands of the Minister and given over to An Bord Pleanála. This is a good thing because, hopefully, appeals will also be taken out of the political arena. The Bill also proposes to amend other provisions in the Act—for example, those relating to unauthorised development. The most appropriate word in the Bill is "withering" in section 29, because it denotes graphically what has been happening. We have been witnessing the withering of many central urban areas because of exploitation and appreciation of capital over the years. The provision of a period of five years for permission and withering if development does not go ahead is one of the most worthwhile sections in the Bill.

The most important provision, however, is the establishment of a board. The Minister is to be complimented on his action in this regard. It is a decision which I hope will be a forerunner to many of its kind. The finger of political patronage is often pointed at the Government of the day. This provision will go a long way towards putting a stop to that and to remedying this so-called malady.

As far as I can interpret the Bill, the handing over of responsibility does not dispose of the principle of accountability so for as the Minister is concerned. The Bill states that the board in reaching their decisions will work within broad policy lines handed down by the Minister of the day. This is as it should be. The Minister is the elected head of the Department. He is put there by the people and he has ultimate responsibility, apart from the fact that he is the man who pays the piper.

This Bill gives Members of both Houses of the Oireachtas an opportunity to discuss planning in depth. Many of us are members of local planning authorities and I hope that the interchange of ideas that will emerge from this discussion would be of benefit to us all. Physical planning in the broader sense is an important factor in our lives. Yet it never becomes a very emotive issue on a national scale like some other issues. We seem to get hot and bothered about the moral or immoral issues. It is only when somebody builds a mausoleum in our back garden or takes the light from our back window that we realise that there is such a thing as planning and that we have recourse to a planning authority.

Proper physical planning and the proper approach to it is the only protection we have against the destruction of our environment. Decisions taken in this House and in the Dáil will literally affect generations to come in the way they live. Acts can be passed, amended or repealed; but once a natural resource is destroyed which is any part of the environment it cannot be replaced.

In drafting legislation in relation to physical planning two problems face legislators and draftsmen. The first is the problem of constraints, both in the physical and human sense. We have not the Utopian situation where we have unlimited land, unlimited money and unlimited trained personnel. Therefore there are constraints from the start. The second problem is that of conflict, where one would like to do something and is torn between the interests of the developer and the interests of the public at large.

The problems I have mentioned are not rare. They are met every day in reaching planning decisions, either at local authority level or at ministerial level on appeal. They differ very much between developed areas and less developed areas. There is a tendency to imply, rightly or wrongly, that in the interests of reaching economic objectives and goals we might be tempted to lower our guard with regard to planning. In other words, in our rush to create jobs and to increase standards of living we might be tempted to ignore the environmental aspects. We often hear talk about an oil refinery in the environs of the city. People say in regard to that: "It would pollute Dublin Bay; why not site it elsewhere?" I am sure the Minister would not agree with this philosophy, but it is an idea that is abroad and the sooner it is knocked the better.

My own area has undergone phenomenal industrial advancement in the last couple of years. We have had introduced to our area very large industrial projects, potentially dangerous so far as the environment is concerned; but both the local authority and the Departments involved applied the most stringent standards possible. Everybody is now satisfied that the planning permission and the conditions outlined in the planning permission given are acceptable and that the planning authority and the State have gone as far as they can go within the present restrictions of legislation. This development brought home to me the interaction between economic, social and physical factors.

Senator Higgins dealt at length with many of these aspects. They are there and must be recognised as being very important factors in all planning. Because of this interaction there is a demand for infrastructure in the case of industry, expansion of amenities, and all other matters concerning ancillary development. It is in an effort to co-ordinate all these factors that planning is brought into action.

The time factor is also very important. We have examples of the IDA as a State agency providing a factory, a large complex of industrial development — which in most cases is very welcome — into a basically rural area. It is then realised that there are no ancillary developments. Roads, water, sewerage, housing must be provided, and it is a question of when and in what order. In many cases the "when" is dictated by the availability of resources. However, there are occasions where the "when" is not dictated by the availability of resources.

I refer to housing estates where developers move in and provide a large number of houses, 100, 200, or 300 and tenants move in. In many cases there is no provision for schools, churches and open-space recreational areas. The open spaces are there but they are actually derelict sites. I notice this happening in the smaller urban areas around the country. I do not blame the developers but I blame a certain laxity on the part of the planning authority. This is a social area of the activity of planning and it is very complex and important.

There is further evidence of weakness in our approach to civil planning. It can be seen in every town in this country. I speak of what is known as "ribbon development". This brings the planning authority into the area of land usage and the rights of the individual landowners. We seem to allow large fortunes to be made by landowners in the vicinity of towns who sell off their land at inflated prices. In many cases they sell sites along the road and they come to the local authority and demand that water and sewerage and other services be extended. In most cases this is done. The local authority feel they have an obligation to their ratepayers. This results in enormous expense to the authority and in enormous wastage of land, land in a very convenient situation if it were used properly and with full capacity.

There is a moral question here of the local authority elected to look after the public at large. In many cases what the local authority find themselves doing, consciously or unconsciously, is enhancing the property of the fortunate individual to the detriment of the unfortunate public. The minute the local authority go out of their way to provide these services, such as an extension to the town water supply, the next landowner along the line ups his prices and demands a further extension. I realise that since the passing of the Local Government (Planning and Development) Act, 1963, the present Minister and his predecessors have always felt that local or planning authorities should have the greatest autonomy and freedom of action possible. We have reached a stage now where, in regard to ribbon development, the Minister should in consultation with local authorities draw up some acceptable norm whereby this kind of development could be stopped. It is most wasteful and expensive.

Again, the Minister is responsible for road safety. With ribbon development there is inevitably a multiplicity of access points onto a main road if there are sites just along the road frontage. This constitutes a traffic hazard. I hazard a guess that most of our traffic accidents take place, especially so far as children are concerned, at such access points on the periphery of towns on main roads leading into and out of those towns.

Something not mentioned in the Bill which I would like the Minister to comment on is the question of temporary dwellings. In many cases these are an extension of ribbon development, and for the past couple of years we have a great problem created by temporary dwellings along our roads. Here is a situation where the planning authorities would seem to have no definite policy. I am not referring to the accepted demountable dwelling but rather the caravan parked temporarily along the road. There are no defined demarcation lines in respect of temporary dwellings in so far as law enforcement or the Garda authorities are concerned. It is very difficult at times to know who is responsible for what. In my experience the only time the Garda authorities become involved is when the temporary dwelling constitutes a traffic hazard. Then they may have it moved. In many cases they will not do so without instructions from the local authority. This is a grey area into which some light should be thrown and I would ask the Minister to comment on it.

The Minister has said in his statement that physical planning does not operate in a vacuum. He is right in this. There are many factors that influence planning decisions, and indeed many factors that influence the overall policy in relation to physical planning. Many of these factors are purely physical — for example the location of industry which, in turn, might affect the redistribution of population. This, in turn, leads to problems in the social sphere, provision of houses, amenities, preservation of natural resources and so on.

At present there are many agencies involved in planning. We have the Minister's own Department. We have the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries concerned with our fishing grounds. We have the Department of Transport and Power which deals with foreshore development. We have all the local authorities which come directly under the aegis of the Minister for Local Government.

As Senator Higgins said, the Minister would seem to have set his face against one central agency—let it be within a Department or let it be a Department concerned with planning and the environment.

The Minister has now set up a board dealing with what would at first sight seem to be a very narrow field, appeals. But that board will be faced with making decisions on anything from the siting of a caravan to the siting of a smelter, anything from a septic tank to an oil refinery. These are the types of decisions and problems that will face that board. From that it would seem imperative that the personnel on that board be people who have the high skills and the professional expertise required. That goes without saying. I am sure we can rely on the Minister to provide us with that type of personnel on the proposed board.

At the moment we have many statutory bodies dealing with planning. We have, of course, non-statutory bodies who concern themselves with preservation and conservation. They do a very good job; they act as watchdogs for the people. However, in many instances there is unnecessary conflict between them and the statutory agencies responsible for planning. In many cases this conflict is due to misunderstanding and a fragmented approach because there are so many agencies involved. I know of one planning permission which first came to the county council who, having given the matter exhaustive consideration, agreed to grant planning permission with certain conditions applying. It then had to go to the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries and then to the Department of Transport and Power. This should not be necessary.

I would like to see a time, not very far off, when we will have sitting here a Minister for the Environment. There may be good reasons why, as the Minister has strongly implied in his Second Stage speech, one man would not be able to look after all aspects of environmental planning and development, that it would be unfair to ask him to do so. That may be so, but this matter is so important that we should consider the possibility of giving this area of our lives that kind of status and providing it with a Ministry. It is the logical evolution. We will have one board being asked to decide on all classes of appeals. We will have that board being fed by four or five different agencies from different Departments. It would be much more efficient if that board were part of an overall Ministry of the Environment, and I ask the Minister to comment on that suggestion. The biggest difficulty we have at the moment is our failure to be able to co-ordinate and to give the full information on what local authorities and planning authorities propose.

One further aspect of planning should be mentioned, again in very general terms. We are an agricultural country. We are striving very hard to increase industrial development. But unless we achieve acceptable balance between industry and agriculture a conflict could result which could be damaging to the environment in the sense of physical planning of industrial expansion.

An imbalance, if it were allowed, could also result in social conflict— not in civil war or any type of war, but social conflict in the sense that people would not be happy with the balance struck between industry and agriculture, the amenities available to communities in both spheres of activity. Odious comparisons would be made. We have that at this very moment. The agricultural worker feels that he is second best to the industrial worker. This is a very strong argument for upgrading planning and development to the status where all the strands could be taken into one area and given to one Minister directly responsible for that activity.

This Bill is very welcome and will go a long way to rectifying some of the shortcomings of the 1963 Act which, in itself, was good legislation. Hopefully, we will continue to see Bills being introduced here on planning and development because development is on-going, it is evolving and changing all the time, and I am sure that this House will give this Bill the support it deserves.

I join with other Senators in welcoming this Bill. It is a very important step forward, in regard to planning appeals, that not only should justice be done but that it should be seen to be done. Therefore, it is better that the appeal should be decided by a body which is not involved in planning considerations up to that point. In short, that it be taken from the political arm and given to the type of board proposed by the Minister. It is a worthwhile step and should give confidence to all engaged in the appeal mechanism.

It is an appeals board. I could not agree with Senator O'Toole that it should be part and parcel of the existing mechanism. As an appeals board it should be outside the existing mechanism. I share Senator O'Toole's concern that the existing bodies should co-ordinate more and expedite the matter. That is a question aside from the provision of the very necessary and timely planning appeals board.

In regard to planning we must be careful that the convenience of the centralised bureaucracy does not triumph at the expense of the rights of the individual citizen or of the consideration of the local locality. The essence of planning is variety. Variety lends colour to the appearance of the country. This should not be sacrificed for the comfort of centralised rule and planning. We should ensure that local feelings and local amenities are given paramount consideration over a centralised approach, a book of rules with the answers for all parts of the country, whether in Dublin or west Cork. I hope we will avoid falling into that trap.

We should recognise at all times the valuable work done by many national voluntary groups such as An Taisce and others. The long hours worked on a voluntary basis and the input made is very significant. At times it may appear that they are overstressing and being incorrect in some of their demands, that they are over suspicious about the effects likely to result from some project or development. That is their role just as in a court case, where the prosecution and defence attorney approach the case from different angles and putting their individual viewpoint. It is the same with the voluntary bodies. They have to err on the side of caution because they are not the deciding factor in planning permission; they are only one input.

Therefore it is right that the objections should be stressed in a properly documented and clearly thought out fashion. Even though at times we find that individual members of those organisations can make vexatious comments we must accept it as part and parcel of the strength, on the one hand, and failing, on the other, of voluntary organisations. Being voluntary, the members must have freedom of expression. The public must put up with the occasional crank who gets the limelight on certain projects. It has been unfortunate in some cases that vexatious appeals have often held up worthwhile developments. I share with the Minister the desire to mitigate the effect on those cases.

The scheme as proposed seems reasonable enough, but it would be better if some members of the board were appointed by sources other than the Minister's. For instance, the Institute of Architects or some other group might be entitled to nominate some members for appointment by the Minister. If that was the case the lower limit of four would need to be increased so as to give two nominations; therefore six members would be required for the board. It would be worth while to get away from the tendency, inherent in all boards or committees, of letting the Minister appoint people. Would the Minister indicate to the House when he is replying if he has any ideas on inviting any of the voluntary bodies or professional bodies engaged in planning to make suggestions in making appointments to the board?

The board are to report annually to the Minister and the report will be laid before both Houses of the Oireachtas. That is important because in the area of planning, environment and so on everybody is concerned. It is right that periodically this subject should be debated in either or both Houses. The debate should not be put off until a Bill is being introduced and so used to justify it. The discussion of the report could be used as a justification. Being realistic I know that a report every year would not be worth while; but a good debate, say, every three years would be worth while. It would make a large contribution to the formulation of Government policy on the issues concerned. It would be worth while reviewing and analysing the direction in which the planning board and planning in general has been going in the previous three years. The danger is that where reports are issued every year it is not regarded as a serious event and consequently does not provoke a debate; whereas if it was issued less frequently it would seem obvious to debate it. Perhaps we could see to it that there would be a debate on the environment and on planning at least every three or four years.

I would like to join with the other Members in looking forward to the day when we will have a Minister for the Environment. It should be a challenging and worthwhile role for any Minister. I hope we shall see some indication of progress in this direction before too long.

There is also the question of amenities. It is the little things that contribute to amenities. Nothing can disfigure a countryside more than garbage, trash, old papers and so on scattered around—in short, something that just needs local effort to tidy up. I would suggest that in the future, with the co-operation of people with free time the Government might be able to put something into the organisation of such voluntary work groups by providing contributions towards the cost of the materials involved. We are going to have more and more leisure time available in the future. Unfortunately that time will be available to people who have not got work opportunities and who would like and wish to be involved in some type of activity. Modern society has seen to it, and I subscribe to it, that the level of social assistance increased progressively. Unemployment does not cause the same dire financial and living consequences that it did in the past.

The absence of some mission, of the feeling of making some worth while contribution to our society, is the greatest deprivation that the unemployed experience. I would suggest that if ways and means were provided by which such people could make a substantial contribution to local environmental work it would be worth while for their mental health and self-respect and also for the community. I do not suggest segregation there. We are facing a time when the work week is contracting more and more. What work is available will have to be rationed more. After all, 50 years ago the 70-hour work week was common. Now it is down to 40 and it is going to be much less. Therefore, there is no reason why there should be segregation in regard to this local environmental effort. In other words, all would be expected to contribute to it in proportion to the amount of free time they had. Somebody who was working a 30- or 40-hour week could provide an afternoon to help in local effort; somebody who is temporarily unemployed would be in a position to make a greater contribution. If all were contributing in proportion to the amount of free time they had then obviously there would be community spirit and there would not be a stigma attached to it that it is a similar type of work to that performed by the work gangs in the thirties simply to fill up unemployment time.

The Bill is largely a Committee Stage Bill. There are many sections in it which perhaps we may be able to improve in its passage through the Seanad. Certainly many sections should be capable of provoking worth-while debates. One point I would raise is on the question of a chairman. As it is in the nature of a judicial body, it is obvious that the chairman should come from the courts, but it should not be a retired judge. Judges are entitled to their retirement the same as the rest of us. If other people adjudged as not being sufficiently alert or interested to make a positive contribution when they have reached the retirement age, then I do not think the Judiciary should be an exception to this rule. We need vitality in this body and it should be subject to the usual age rule. I welcome the Bill and look forward to the Committee Stage.

Like other Senators, I welcome this Bill. This is an effort to avoid the necessity for certain matters to come before planning authorities when the Planning Act falls down. The most important section of this Bill is that dealing with the setting up of the planning board. Most Senators dealt with this matter very fully and I do not think there is much I can say about it except that we have had many criticisms under the 1963 Act — some were possibly exaggerated — against public representatives, planning authorities and Ministers. Taking those criticisms against what has been happening I do not think we have fared too badly. As Senator Higgins said earlier, now is the ideal time for this. We have an opportunity at this stage in our history of getting to grips with things before they run away with us and maybe do damage which cannot be corrected later. The board, in theory, should remove such unfounded suspicions as we have had up to now. Whether it will work as efficiently as we think it will time will tell. I think most people would be agreeable that this is a desirable provision.

It happens from time to time in the Planning Act that we find ourselves at local level in a stew because of the lack of enforcement of planning permissions. Sections 26 and 27 of this Bill will strengthen that. That is very desirable, because at local level up to now it has been almost impossible to get an enforcement order against a builder. By the time you have got the enforcement order the reasons for it are there no longer. This is a most desirable section, along with section 24 which deals with areas other than our own area where a planning authority have a development in view.

It is necessary that there should be some control over contiguous areas outside the planning area itself. For instance, if a city is planning development and there are outside areas which can adversely affect or undermine development, planning control is of no value. For that reason, I would hope that this section would further strengthen the other adjacent authorities to ensure that planning would be streamlined to such an extent that each authority would know exactly what the other was doing, and would not adversely affect the development in another authority.

When the planning board are established, I assume they will be on the same basis as the present legislation under which the Minister allows an appeal against a local authority; it comes back to the local authority and the local authority revoke that permission again. Are we going to have the to-ing and fro-ing we had for many years under the old Act or will a decision from the planning authority be final? If it is to be final, that is not too bad. If not, there is one drawback. If a local authority revoke the Minister's decision and it goes back to the Minister and he allows the appeal again, the applicant and the local authority are both informed at the same time. The local authority are at the disadvantage that they may not meet for a week. During that week the developer can go ahead and start work and that finishes the local authority's objections which can be fairly strong. I would ask the Minister to try and enlighten me on both those matters.

The withering of planning permissions is to be welcomed. This is something all local authority members have seen from time to time—somebody coming along and getting maybe not one but 20 planning permissions around an area which then lies dormant for years. The person may have no interest whatsoever in the area. He is a speculator and he is eventually able to purchase a property. The development goes ahead. Sometimes people are up in arms. They do not even remember there was a planning application so many years previously. Therefore this provision is most desirable. It does away with this long-drawn-out development, maybe starting now and finishing in 20 years' time or no development going on at all for years. Being human, we have made some mistakes, but we have been lucky so far. We have an opportunity now of ensuring that future planning will be done in the interests of everybody in the country.

Planning is a very sensitive area. It no longer confines itself to local government planning, as Senators have pointed out. It involves environmental problems; in fact, the Wildlife Bill can be brought into it. We have had accusations that the attitude of most planning authorities is jobs at all costs. I do not think that is quite true. We have had clashes and conflict at local level, sometimes maybe to the detriment of jobs. Some people, maybe self-appointed leaders of a group — I am not accusing all associations or organisations of this — object or protest about something which has not even got off the ground. They frighten off some of the people who would perhaps be interested in industrial development.

I had experience of these protests and objections even before the plans were finalised. This finished the plans before we got anywhere with them.

There is a lot to be said for consultation but consultation does not mean the right of individuals to protest before decisions are made. After all, the elected representatives of the area are also interested in ensuring that that area is developed properly. I do not think local representatives have been given credit for that. Most of the time they have been in the firing line as if they alone wanted to destroy everything that was good in the community. Other people belonging to some organisation or other decided that they were the people who knew best. There is a happy medium and we should try to attain it.

In the debate last week it was suggested that local representatives should be remunerated. I would like to give the Minister my views on that. I would hope that he or any future Minister would never decide to remunerate the local representative. I know he works hard and he is not appreciated as much as he should be. Remunerating such an office would possibly mean taking out the people who now work so hard for nothing and have a natural interest in the area and putting in people who may be undesirable. I would not be in favour of that.

I welcome the Bill and hope that the planning board will work efficiently.

I also welcome this Bill. If it did nothing else but stop the talk of the political influence that is alleged to be used in the granting and opposing of appeals, it would be a good day's work. The Minister and the officials in his Department have, in my estimation, done a good job in dealing with the appeals.

There are a couple of points in this Bill and in the Act which I would like to refer to. I do not think a fee of £10 for the lodgment of an appeal is sufficient to stop vexatious appeals. You get the type of man who does not mind putting down £20 or £30 if he can delay the thing for a certain period of time. Many people with appeals who come up before local representatives have not got a leg to stand on. Ten pounds is not a sufficient deterrent to these vexatious appeals. I would ask the Minister to look into that. He should raise the amount of the fee and put the cost or a portion of it on the person if the appeal goes down. Some people bring the most foolish appeals. We call them fánach appeals, but they delay the developers or the man who is going to get on with the work. There might be a very big delay in industry.

I know people who appealed against housing development in my own area. If they had to put down a substantial deposit to back up their appeal and had to pay a portion of the cost of their appeal, they would not bother going through with it, because they would know they had not a chance. One of the objections in the appeal was that it was obstructing their skyline view. Anyone who goes out into the street and looks up in the air can see plenty of the sky without his skyline view being obstructed. That was one of the main objections in the appeal against the decision to grant people permission to develop an estate where houses are badly needed at present in the Ballina, North Mayo area where a huge development is taking place. In this instance the developer allowed in his development a greater area of open space than the Act required. They maintained that he had not allowed enough space for their children who live across the road in another place altogether. If they had to deposit £10 each and if they had to share the cost of the appeal they would be slow to bring vexatious appeals, and something should be done about that.

When the board are formed are they going to stick rigidly to a county plan, an area plan, or a regional plan? If they do, it will be very strict. Supposing an appeal is brought before our local authority, we, as councillors, can amend the county plan, which we have done on very few occasions, to allow something to be done. For instance, we have a rule that nobody will be allowed to build between a main tourist road and the sea or a lake. We had a case of a young man who came home from England and his mother gave him a site between the road and the sea. We had to bend the rules to allow this man and opportunity of building a house on the site. If the board are going to stick rigidly to a county plan, regional plan, or an area plan, they will have a difficult time. If possible, a provision should be inserted in the Bill to allow exceptions to be made. Some months ago the Minister was very wise when he advised the planning authorities to use common sense and logic in their decisions. That was to reduce the number of appeals coming before the councils. If planning officers were reasonable and used their common sense we would not have had half the trouble we have had with the Planning Act in the past.

My county is one with the largest number of section 4 appeals and we are not happy with the position. At one stage even a plan for the building of a chicken house would not satisfy the planning officer and it had to be brought before the county engineer. The outcome often depended on whether or not he liked the paper on which the submission was made. This held up many things which should have gone through without any trouble at all. This niggling attitude resulted in almost total chaos.

How many people have proper planning qualifications to back up their theories? We have a planning officer who has come to Dublin on various occasions at the council's expense to attend lectures on planning and development. He is our official planning officer. He makes decisions, but they can be reversed by council. As members of that local authority it causes us serious trouble. I have a refusal which was handed to me last night. The planning authority granted outright planning permission for the building of three or four houses, so the developer bought a site, but now he has been told that he cannot build because the medical officer says it will create a health hazard.

This brings me to another point. The medical officer should have no function in the selection of a site because he is not sufficiently qualified to judge the position. The medical officers are responsible to the health boards and are seconded to the local authorities. But they work to suit themselves and they may hold up planning permission for long periods. We have no authority to direct them because they are employees of the health board. When they go out, their decisions may depend on what sort of humour they are in. They may go out after a downpour of rain, which we frequently get in the west of Ireland. If there are a few inches of water on the land they refuse their sanction. They say that there is no soakage and that this will create a health hazard. They have no idea what soakage is in that soil or in the surrounding land. The Minister would be doing a good job if he left it to the engineers alone to sanction septic tanks because they are quite capable of finding out the local conditions. If there is a fair percentage of soakage there will be no health hazard. Local authorities should be allowed to use the services of their own engineers in determining local conditions. The medical officer of health is not the best person to judge the suitability of soil because he has not studied this matter.

Access to primary and secondary roads has often been a matter for discussion by local authorities. The Bord na Móna development in Bellacorick is an extensive one. This has made access to the county roads more dangerous than access to the arterial roads in the area. On an arterial road, or a national secondary road, there is what is known as the hard shoulder. This is the area along the main thoroughfare sometimes used as a slow traffic lane. This is quite capable of carrying traffic, but cars do not travel along it at a speed of 50, 60 or 70 miles per hour. If there is access to that road and a man builds his gate well back, he has plenty of time to check traffic conditions before he emerges on to it. He can travel along the slow traffic lane for miles before he crosses into the main traffic lane which is usually ten or 12 feet out from the side of the road. On a county road this does not apply. Even in the Minister's own county there are some roads which are tarred and are not much wider than the width of a car. Some cattle trucks take up the whole road, and access to those county roads is more dangerous than access to the main thoroughfare. Planning authorities should not stick so rigidly to the idea of non-access to national primary and secondary roads. My contention is that it is even more dangerous on the county roads where there is development and industry with people travelling to and from work.

I had a narrow shave one evening last week in Castlebar when some cattle jumped out onto the road in front of my car. If I had injured the cattle I would have been liable and could have been made to pay for them. I did not get anything for the damage that was done to my car.

If there are a number of houses being built along a road it may be necessary to have one access point. Where an occasional house is built along a national primary or national secondary road it creates another access and is a real traffic hazard. There is no control over access to country roads.

I welcome this Bill. Our local authority have had some disputes about who is actually the planning authority. We are at loggerheads to find out who is the planning authority. If planning officials would use their common sense it would eliminate a lot of section 4 appeals. A fully qualified planning official who knows his job well should not be under the hard hand of the man who is not qualified in planning. A fully qualified officer should not be held responsible to the county engineer of any county unless that county engineer is a fully qualified officer himself. He should be held responsible to the county manager. I maintain the same thing about chief fire officers. He should be held responsible to the county manager only and not to the county engineer.

I hope the planning board, when in operation, will do as good a job as the various Ministers who have had to operate this system since the 1963 Planning Act came into force.

In our area we have had to change our plans to a large extent because of the development taking place there. We have had a North Mayo/Sligo development group set up. We have a lot of plans for improving sewerage, water, roads, transport and so on.

Having heard the forthright views of Senator Garrett it is with some trepidation that I rise to make my comments. Senator Garrett mentioned that the 1963 Act was not in very active usage for the first few years of its existence. To some extent the reason for that was that the entire Act was, contrary to expectations, introduced by the Minister on the same appointed day for the whole country. These planners were not there from 1st October, 1964. There was a blanket order made in introducing this Bill to take effect in every planning authority. The expectation was that it would be introduced on a gradual basis so as to allow a sufficient number of trained planners to emerge. In the interim they have certainly emerged. We now have economists, statisticians and sociologists, all with town planning qualifications and claiming to have as expert a knowledge of the planning code as the more traditional engineers and architects who previously studied that code. The more of them there are, the more of a conflict that will arise among themselves, with the administrators of planning and local authorities and, to some extent, with the political members also.

Having listened to the views of the Senators here today and last week on this Bill, I could not help but remember the story I once heard about a discussion on who was most responsible for the planning of an area—the technical planner, the administrator, or the politician. The technical planner who was an architect insisted that they were the responsible authorities for planning because architects commenced when the world commenced and by careful planning had brought order out of chaos. The administrator answered that had it not been for the administrative skills —the gathering together of finances and orderly administration—the planning that had been devised by the technical people would never have come to pass. The politician sat back quietly and said, "Gentlemen, you admitted that there was chaos in the beginning so there must have been a politician there at the start."

To some degree, this is the attitude that is adopted on the part of either the technical planner or the administrators towards the politicians and the public representatives and their interest in the planning field. It is said that they do not have any particular professional qualification, that they do not have as great a grasp of the planning concept as architects or engineers. Of course, the grasp they often have is that they are looking at planning from the point of view of people. Very often those who are involved in narrow visions in their particular skill and discipline are inclined to forget that planning is for people, that it was designed for people in the first place.

For that reason I should like to endorse the remarks made by a number of Senators in relation to the activities of the appeal board when they are set up. I hope the board in their operation and consideration of appeals will remember that planning is for people; that while many people, be they technical officials in local authorities, or technical officials attached to appeal boards, or to Government Departments, may try to plan a Utopian concept, we do not live in Utopia. Planning applications do not relate to Utopia. They relate to Ireland in present day circumstances, and they relate to people. All too often planning recommendations ignore people and regard them merely as ciphers.

Rigid planning laws are interpreted in relation to applications which result in harsh recommendations being made. It is then, of course, up to the planning authority to decide whether to accept those recommendations or not.

The fact of the matter is that there can be a great amount of inflexibility in the approach of technical planners to their subject. It is important always that in any decision-making process there should be a mixture of administrative people, people with common sense, and people who remember that planning is for people, rather than that it would be left purely to technical people. It is also important to remember—and obviously it has always been the worry of any Minister charged with deciding on planning appeals—that what must be taken into account in deciding an appeal is that the country needs development. Without a certain amount of planning permission coming forth, you can very easily wind down the entire building industry. Very often, and unfortunately of late, I get the impression that there is growing up in this country a group of professional protestors who seem to be prepared to protest at the drop of a hat against any project and who scale their protests according to the size of the application. Very often these protestors find themselves committed before they become aware of the full facts of the case in which they involve themselves. Too often there can be an emotional or subjective approach to very important planning matters, applications that have far-reaching economic, industrial and employment consequences for the country.

It would be as well for those who embark on this professional type of protesting to remember that the consequences of their actions could affect many people. This comes back to the point that planning is for people. If part of that planning is to provide jobs for people, then that is a valid consideration also. It too often happens that those who are not directly involved and will not be directly affected lose sight of the fact that their objections may deprive others of employment.

For that reason I wanted especially to make the point that the appeal board should be composed of practical men who will bring a degree of common sense to the decision-making process, who will give valid consideration to the technical advice put before them by their officers, and give equally valid consideration to the objections lodged with them by the planning authority whose decision is being appealed against, or by the appellant. They would then bring a measure of common sense to bear in their decision.

Incidentally, I do not think the present Minister was doing such a very bad job in making that sort of decision in relation to often very difficult applications. If local or planning authorities had more often operated a degree of common sense in seeing that there was a balance maintained between development and preservation of the environment the process of a difficult, emotive and long drawn out appeal such as occurred in the past might never have arisen. What I am trying to bring out is that what are referred to in the Bill as "ordinary members" of the appeal board should be ordinary. It would not be a great idea if all the members of the appeal board were of the class of people such as a judge of the High Court, who will be the chairman of the board. Someone like that is, I presume, a useful person to act as an impartial chairman. As well as professionally qualified planners there should also be representatives of people in industry, people representing labour interests and others drawn from a wide spectrum of Irish life rather than from a narrow and confined group who are, perhaps, to a large extent self appointed protectors of the environment, often in the worst possible way.

I can see why the Minister has introduced in his Bill the provision that the appeal board should take account of general policy directives made by him or his successor from time to time so that decisions of that appeal board will adequately represent the thinking of the Government of the day and so that a situation will not arise where the appeal board could consistently embark on a campaign of making decisions that were at variance with the economic or industrial policies of the Government in providing employment and preserving a balance in protecting the environment.

Senator Garrett referred to a situation which is well known here and which existed in his county for some time. Apparently some of the professional people were at variance with each other and if one professional man made a recommendation in relation to a planning application the other invariably made the alternative proposal. That same situation operated in a local authority very near Dublin; it was not one of the Dublin authorities. It operated for a number of years to the detriment of the people of that county and to the embarrassment of the elected members of that authority. It has been cured to some extent now but only due to the passage of time and not to the improvement of the attitude of any of the people involved. It would be as well that the appeal board when making decisions should take most carefully into consideration policy directives of the Minister and the general thinking of planning authorities. If they do that they will have served a useful function.

Regularly I and other members of local authorities come across people who appeal for the sake of appealing. I could not help being shocked—and I am sure other public representatives must have felt the same—when I read recently of the carry-on in Dublin city in relation to the motorway proposals. There was a well laid down situation in law where local authorities prepared and drafted the development plans, put them on display for the specific purpose of inviting the views of the public in relation to the provisions in the draft. That provision is there—and it is strengthened in this Bill—that those views from the public should be invited and considered and must by law be considered by the elected members of the local authority. Yet a group of professional protesters can stir up enough agitation in Dublin city to disrupt meetings of the elected city council in an effort to prevent them from including in the revised draft of their plan the provision to invite the public expression of view. In other words, because one small section of the public are not in favour of a motorway they try to bring pressure to bear, even the pressure of disruption of meetings, to prevent the motorway proposals from being included in the draft plan and so prevent the public from expressing their views on them. If people can go in to break up meetings so as to prevent the invitation of the views of the general public then democracy has taken a bad turn.

Another of the matters we must balance in relation to this is pollution. With some colleagues I was recently in Britain. We witnessed large scale industrial pollution of the atmosphere and one of my colleagues turned to me and said: "In Ireland our problem will be to strike a balance. The people want the best standard of living available in any part of Britain but they are not prepared to have the level of pollution existing in so many other parts of Britain".

We should not be prepared to have those levels of mass atmospheric, water and noise pollution which they have in so many industrialised countries. One of the few advantages of our late industrialisation is that we can learn from the mistakes of others, and introduce fairly effective measures of pollution control before the pollution becomes serious. On the other hand, in imposing those forms of control we must expect that we will have to pay the price for the imposition, the building, the carrying out and the monitoring of those pollution controllers. It is as well that that type of thing be balanced against the provision of industry and the provision of employment.

I was interested recently in an interview I saw given by the recently retired United States Ambassador to the United Nations, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, in which he was at pains to point out that people who do not want a large industrial conglomerate to come to their country and provide heavy industry, have only one thing to do. They have only to say: "We do not want you" and they will go somewhere else very quickly. They will provide the skills, the expertise, the know-how and, above all, the very scarce and extraordinarily large capital resources necessary to allow heavy industrialisation to take place. If sufficient people are prepared to say they do not want any form of industrialisation, Ireland's green and golden land will stay that way, but many will be unemployed. It is the difficult planning task of trying to provide a balance between employment and industrialisation and the preservation of the atmosphere and the environment that must exercise the minds of every one of the planning authorities each day, and equally must exercise the mind of the appeals board.

There is a danger, of late, of putting certain things into unfair perspective often from the point of view of gaining cheap and sensational publicity, and not allowing a fair picture to be presented, and a fair assessment to be made of both sides of the case in relation to major planning and proposals of an important, far-reaching and long-term nature. That is regrettable. I hope members of the new appeals board will not be swayed by the type of hysterical campaign which has been whipped up of late. It does not add anything to the planning process and it certainly does not make the task of the planning people, whether they be technical, or administrative, or decision-making people, any easier.

One of the things I have been consistently concerned about in relation to appeals to the Minister, and which ought to be borne in mind in relation to appeals to the appeals board, is that major developers and people of property have the financial wherewithal to employ the best technical and professional advice available to present their case to the appeals board or to the Minister in the best possible manner. The person who can least employ that advice is the person who often needs it most, that is, the small man, the individual who is endeavouring to build a house for his own occupation. He is put to the pin of his collar to employ some professional advice to make his application to the planning authority. It is turned down for some reason or, perhaps, permission is granted and it is appealed against. He is then put to the additional expense of making an appeal to the Minister and, if the third party who appealed against him or, indeed, the local authority so wish, they can, by way of expert and extensive professional advice, almost guarantee they will present a far better case to the deciding authority than the individual can.

It is very important that the fact that the small individual may not have the financial resources to present his case in as good a light as possible should be borne in mind by the appealing authority and that they should go out of their way to see that all possible facts in favour of the small individual are elucidated in the consideration of an appeal. That was done to a great extent by the existing Minister. I agree with his policy of trying to see that permission issues to individuals wherever possible. It is worth repeating for the benefit of any authority that will succeed him, that the same attitude of helpfulness should prevail.

I agree entirely with the views of the Minister and other Senators who have spoken in relation to oral hearings. They became, to a large extent, the vehicle whereby these professional protesters could air their case consistently and take up many lines in the media without by one whit improving the case they were making, which very often could only be found out by going back to their first written submissions. Too often requests were made for oral hearings either (a) to gain publicity or (b) in order to delay even further the decision-making process where certain people did not want decisions to be made because they did not think they would be in their favour.

One aspect of the Bill which disappointed me—although I understand the difficulties that might obtain in it—is that, when this Bill is enacted, there will not be provision whereby an appeal decision must be made within a certain period of time after the appeal is lodged. If a clear obligation is laid on the planning authority to make decisions within two months of an application being lodged with them, the officials of planning authorities never make their decisions until the last day of the two months, and they always say they have not got time. My answer to that has always been that if the 1963 Act had provided for 12 weeks they would still be making their decision on the last day of the 12th week. If it had provided for four weeks they would have geared themselves accordingly and employed staff accordingly and made the routine different so that they could make the decision on the last day of that appointed time. Whatever it is, it means that there will be an important decision-making process that must be carried out at the end of every two months in relation to a planning application or the applicant gets permission by default.

It is unfair on the appellant that he may appeal to the appeal body—in this case it is the Minister, afterwards it will be the appeal board—and his appeal can lie in Limbo, for genuine reasons, I accept. Either the decision is so difficult to make that the person who is charged with making it finds it impossible to decide, or technical or professional advice does not always emanate from the bodies concerned as quickly as it might. I accept that often the local authority are remiss to submitting their point of view in relation to the original decision. For whatever reason, there is no time limit on the appeal period and that is a flaw and is unfair to everybody involved in a planning appeal.

I suggest to the Minister that consideration should be given to the introduction of a section laying down some reasonable period after which an appeal decision will be taken as beingde facto and de jure, whether it is made by the appeal board or not. Incidentally I am not suggesting two months. I presume, in relation to an appeal, that a period of six months would be more appropriate, bearing in mind the various activities and protests which have to be gone through.

I entirely agree with the section of the Bill which suggests that permissions should die after they have been in existence for five years if they have not been commenced, or if they have not been satisfactorily completed. As a member of my own local authority, I secured agreement with them some years ago that outline planning permissions in County Dublin are in existence for one year only. After that time they automatically lapse unless they are re-applied for. We have operated it successfully. Whether or not we have the full authority in the 1963 Act to do it, it has operated so far.

This question of outline permissions can often cause some degree of confusion. I heard Senator Russell speak about this last week. It has not been clarified in the Bill. Some period after which outline permissions would lapse should have been cleared up. A five-year period after which a full permission would wither appears fair. It would be far too long in relation to an outline permission. The situation in relation to outline permissions should also have been clarified.

I want to ask a question in relation to the waiving or withering of permission after five years. Is there any likelihood of a case for compensation being made by people who enjoy a permission at present which will wither in five years' time for compensation because they did not exercise it? If there is a possibility of a compensation case, will it be taken against the planning authority who are not the withering authority because it will be contained in this statute? Will it be against the State? Or is the Minister satisfied there will be no case for compensation whatsoever?

It is important that that should be clarified, not just in relation to new permissions which might become obsolete after five years from some time after the appropriate date, but also in relation to permissions which existed prior to the implementation of this Act, and which will wither in less than five years from now and over the granting of which the local authority had no control in relation to the possibility of compensation ensuing if the permission is not exercised. I can think of certain valuable permissions which exist at present but, because of the economic situation, the people enjoying them have not gone ahead with their implementation. If they thought they would get compensation in two or three years' time because they had not exercised them, they would be sitting back and rubbing their hands with glee. It is important that that aspect should be clarified.

I am less than happy with another aspect of the Bill, that is, the extremely important provision of section 25 which gives the local authority power to move in and acquire land where a developer does not carry out the development of the open spaces in estates in accordance with the terms of his permission. This was to deal with the extraordinarily unsatisfactory situation which existed for so long, where houses were built, sold and occupied, but it was impossible to get the developer to complete the open space by levelling, grassing and seeding it to the satisfaction of the local authority so that the estate could be handed over for public use and thereafter maintained by the local authority.

The Minister has to a large extent brought in the remedy in section 25. He is allowing the local authority to take over the land involved if the developer does not satisfactorily carry out the development in accordance with the terms of his permission. The land will then vest in the local authority and they will, presumably, carry out the work which should have been completed by the developer and then it will be made available to the public. There is one important consideration which is not dealt with in section 25. If the local authority take over the land and a nil value compensation is given, as would obviously be appropriate in the case, then the land will vest in the local authority and they can make it available to the public.

The cost of developing the land in accordance with the terms of the developer's permission will fall on the local authority. It is extraordinarily unsatisfactory that, because a developer is remiss in not carrying out the conditions of his permission, the local authority take over the open space and then the ratepayers will be obliged to bear the cost of developing the open space to satisfactory standards and making it available to the public. That is not the right answer. There should be some way in which the local authority could seek to recover the cost of implementing the conditions of the planning permission.

I am thinking of a particular case. It is a major development in County Dublin. Officers in my council recently had reason to cost the full development of all the open spaces in this permission. If these spaces were to be levelled, grassed and seeded to the full extent, it would cost £70,000. If the developers in that case decided not to comply with the conditions of permission, when this Bill becomes law section 25 gives Dublin County Council power to move in and take over the open spaces. They will be under heavy pressure to do this from the residents. The cost of doing this, according to the council's parks department, will be £70,000. There is something wrong there. Will the conditions of section 25 apply to permissions which were granted prior to the day on which the Bill becomes law? This is important, because it affects many people living in existing housing estates which are in an unsatisfactory situation.

I am also concerned that the power of taking in charge of estates does not appear to be improved as much as it might in relation to the powers which exist in the 1963 Act for the local authority to move in and complete estates to their own satisfaction if the developer has not done this, and to seek to recover the cost from the developer. The local authorities, as the Minister and his advisers will be aware, have been very reluctant to do this in view of the fact that developers would always argue as to the extent of the work necessary to be done for the estate to be taken in charge. Because of the amount of argument and the slow and cumbersome legal process which would ensue the local authorities are reluctant to take it on. I am disappointed that those sections of the 1963 Act were not strengthened also.

I should like the Minister to deal with the question as to whether or not the new estoppel powers, and the powers of the High Court to insist on discontinuance, will apply to existing non-conforming and non-permitted uses or if they will apply only in relation to non-conforming or non-permitted uses which occur after the appropriate day. This is also important.

Specific powers should have been written into the Bill to enable the local authority to ensure that, where insurance company bonds are lodged with the local authority as a guarantee for the successful completion of the estate, power should be vested in the local authority to ensure that those insurance company bonds can be kept alive for as long as the estate is not completed satisfactorily. Insurance companies will not grant developers open-ended bonds and developers, after they have done what they consider to be a reasonable amount of work in the estate, allow their bonds to lapse. The local authority then discover that the muscle they thought they had had lapsed because the developer had not renewed his insurance company bond.

I am disappointed, in relation to the increase in the fines in respect of the major infringements, that, while the increase in the fines is a new and more realistic maximum, the Bill does not specify a minimum penalty. Far too often, where local authorities have taken developers and individuals to court for non-compliance with the terms of their permission, or for unauthorised usage, the judges in the District Court have been inclined to regard this as bureaucracy leaning on the little man. I suggested recently that, where developers were continually unco-operative with my local authority in handing over of estates, and the completion of the estates satisfactorily, so that the residents could enjoy the amenities, the residents should be invited into court to give evidence on behalf of the local authority rather than a county solicitor. Too often justices have treated the cases with scorn, adjourned them, and then imposed minimal penalties. As well as maximum fines, minimum fines should also be specified in the Act. Once the case was proved the judge would have no alternative but to impose the minimum fine at least.

I am also concerned about paragraph (i) of section 39 which relates to the powers of local authorities to modify or revoke permissions. I should like the Minister to deal with that in his reply. An occasion can arise when the local authorities—I admit that it is their fault in every instance —for one reason or another allow a planning application to slip through their hands without making a decision within the two months which I referred to earlier. The applicant then has permission by default, even if it was for the most extraordinary, unworkable and socially unacceptable thing. The only way that that permission can be nullified is by immediate revocation by the members of the planning authority at their next meeting. It seems to me that the terms of section 39 (i) might well interfere with that power. I should like the Minister to clarify whether it does. Perhaps it is a good thing if it does. If the local authority occasionally make a mistake and let a permission slip through, may be it should be allowed to stand because it will teach them a good lesson.

There is another question which is worthy of the Minister's attention, that is, the matter of compensation in relation to reservations. For instance, in a development plan, a local authority might feel obliged to make important long-term reservations in relation to roads or public open spaces or for educational purposes. If someone made a planning application afterwards to build a house in the middle of a major motorway interchange, the local authority would refuse it and one of the reasons for refusal would be that it was on land zoned for major road purposes. The affected person can serve a notice on the local authority obliging them to purchase that land within a certain period of time. It could very well be very unfair to certain local authorities in developing areas if they are obliged, in the proper planning of their areas, to make major provisions for long-term public zonings and if they are then obliged by the affected landowners to pay large compensations for lands which might never be needed, or certainly would not be needed for many years to come. That ought to have been dealt with.

I am very much in agreement with the measures taken in this Bill to improve the amount of controls in relation to water, noise and atmospheric pollution—measures taken, of course, in conjunction with the Water Pollution Bill. It is a very welcome move on the Minister's part and one every member of a local authority and every public representative will be very much in favour of, because the degree of control which existed up to now was minimal, and certainly did not allow us to ensure that proper standards were maintained. Indeed, we could have learned by the mistakes made by other countries.

I am pleased to see the strengthening of the provisions in relation to tree preservation orders and public rights of way. All of us who are members of local authorities have experienced a difficulty in seeing people interfering with rights of way and, because the law was so vague on this, we found great difficulty in defending public. rights of way on behalf of the public. We also experienced a great weakness in trying to ensure that mature trees we feel are worthy of preservation are, in fact, preserved. If someone sets out deliberately to do away with trees they wreak havoc before anyone can stop them. Indeed, I recall a recent instance in the Minister's own county and constituency where a large acreage of trees was cleared away before anyone was able to get at the offending party.

One thing upsets me in relation to the improvement in the tree preservation orders. The fine has now been increased to a maximum of £250 and, in another part of section 26, there is a provision for continuing day-by-day fines for people carrying out a continuing non-conforming or unpermitted use. That is no good if you are talking about prosecuting people under this section for cutting down. trees. The trees are cut down. They are fined once for cutting the down. If a man cuts down ten acres of trees and is fined £250, it might be well worth his while to do it if he gets ten acres of arable land, or ten acres of land he can afterwards force a permission on, and he can only be fined £250.

In relation to all the other provisions of section 26 he can be fined a continuing fine. That will make it not worth his while to carry out the unpermitted use. Once trees are gone, they are gone. There should be special and specific provision for a larger fine, or provision for the replacement of those trees, or the replacement of the value of those trees assessed by some independent party, the amenity value to the community of those trees, their replacement in cost or payment in kind by the person who carried out the damage. That replacement cost should be levied against him.

I welcome the provisions of section 37. A change in the draft of the development plan meant that the entire draft had to go back on display again. This meant that the well worthwhile provisions of the draft and development plans in the major Act were, to some extent, unworkable. That was unfortunate. I believe the original intention was that the development plan, once it became a development plan, could be continually modified and improved. The strictures of the Act in its operation meant that that was very difficult to do. I am glad to see section 37 for that reason.

I am disappointed that the Bill does not contain enhanced control of roadside trading and roadside dumping. Both of these items are touched upon in the 1963 Act and there are provisions for a penalty of something like £10 for roadside litter dumping. Obviously those penalties are unrealistic in present day terms. All of us who are members of local authorities, especially authorities outside major conurbations, are finding a great proliferation of indiscriminate roadside dumping. The controls available to us under the law to try and prevent this are ineffective. I thought the opportunity might have been taken in this Bill to improve that situation.

I similarly thought an opportunity might have been taken in this Bill to control roadside traders who operate without licence, without paying rents or rates, without any regard for the sanitary or health conditions of the local populace, or the requirements of the local health board or local authority. The amount of control over them is fairly minimal. I thought there would have been specific provision written into this Bill to deal with them. It could be suggested they can be caught under the provisions of unauthorised, or unpermitted, or non-conforming user and, if necessary, the local authority could go to the High Court under the provisions of other sections of this Bill. I thought there would have been a specific section dealing with this matter of roadside trading. It merited it and it might still be worthy of attention.

Over the 12 years the 1963 Act has been in force, there have been examples where the local authorities would have preferred to impose particular and specific conditions in relation to major applications or in relation to unusual applications. They found themselves to some extent bound by the regulations made under the 1963 Act in relation to the conditions which they could or could not impose. It might be worthwhile if the conditions attaching to a permission were written into this Bill. It would also be worthwhile if, written into this Bill or some of the regulations, were general conditions which would allow the Minister from time to time to add certain other conditions to the list of conditions which a planning authority may attach to a permission. That is something which could well be considered before this Bill is finally dealt with.

Senator Dolan touched earlier today on what was a very important point, and one which is becoming more and more central to planning authorities, that is, the fact that, while an obligation falls on the planning authority to make reservations for major public usages, to make reservations for major public roads, reservations for national school sites, post-primary school sites and third level school sites in certain instances, reservations for public open spaces for shoppers, and so on, the obligation to acquire the sites for public open spaces or for roads falls upon them ultimately. There is no obligation upon them to acquire the sites for education purposes, and there is no obligation upon any particular authority to acquire educational sites. That appears to be an unfortunate situation, and it is time that consideration was given to charging local authorities or some other authority with the responsibility to acquire sites for educational purposes which they would afterwards dispose of to whoever the educational user happened to be.

There is also a need for consideration of the provision of recreational facilities for the general public in conjunction with recreational facilities for educational purposes on an agreed shared capital and user basis so that those scarce capital resources can be best used for young people at school during the day and for the community at night time. Too often, duplication of things like swimming pools, sports halls and major open spaces means a proliferation in one area and an absolute scarcity in another. That is not acceptable or desirable. There is an onus on the Departments of Education, Finance and Local Government to consider carefully before spending capital moneys on the provision of recreational sporting facilities for educational and general public use.

There are many other things I would like to say on this Bill but they are more appropriate to the Committee Stage. We will have to give Committee Stage a detailed examination and I would like if some of the points I made this afternoon would be adverted to by the Minister in his reply. I think they are important and merit some consideration.

I welcome the Bill, especially the aspect of it that will allow the local authority more control over unauthorised or non-conforming operations.

I first thank Senators for the way in which they dealt with the Second Reading of this Bill. To me they seemed to be divided into two different schools. There were the practical men and women who were on the local authority and who seemed to know everything about planning as it should be and who expressed their views no matter which side of the House they were on. They commented on the Bill as they saw it rather than on the political angle which so often spoils a debate of this kind. There were then a few who could not let the opportunity pass without getting their own hobby-horse trotted around the floor and making some comments which perhaps would be better left unsaid. I do not want to go into detail on the Bill at this Stage because it is, as has been said by so many speakers, a Committee Stage Bill. There are enough sections in it to cover practically every aspect, if anybody wants to have a matter teased out.

There were one or two references made during the debate which I think it would be just as well to deal with very quickly. One was made by Senator W. Ryan. Unfortunately he seemed to have one or two pet things he wanted to talk about. He referred in particular to a planning decision of mine relating to a site at Cashel. He comes from that area himself, and naturally knows it well and would be interested in it. He seems either not to know the background to the case or, if he did, he did not tell us. In fact what happened in the case was that the people applied some years ago for a motel. They got permission and found no difficulty in getting water and sewerage and sanitary services, and they proceeded for a while. I understand it is now for sale, but that has nothing to do with the fact that it did operate. Immediately after it a few hundred yards down the road, there was another application made and permission was given for the erection of a factory. One can imagine the amount of traffic that would be going in and out to a factory, not alone workers but also various materials going in and the finished article coming out. The factory did not materialise. Then somebody bought the site and applied for planning permission for 20 houses. After it had been refused by the local authority the matter came to my office. On the expert advice I got I decided to grant permission for ten houses.

I do not think ten houses would generate more traffic than the factory would, or that there would be any more difficulty in getting water and sewage disposal in the area than the motel which is just beside the site. People should not attempt to colour things in a certain way. The only reason for referring to it now is because, if I did not, it would be on the record and it would appear as if there was something to be ashamed of. I am certainly not ashamed of the decision which was taken.

Senator John Horgan covered many matters in a very short time. It is difficult to deal with them all. I can tell him that as far as section 25 is concerned, yes, it does apply to those previously. He also referred to the question of the cutting of ten acres of trees. That is the concern of the Forestry Division. We do not deal with those. All we would be dealing with are ornamental trees, single ones or a small number of trees. Therefore it would be the Forestry Division who would be taking the necessary action. They can of course take a High Court injunction to stop it. Under the new Bill they can be stopped. Anybody can be stopped by an injunction from doing something which should not be done.

With regard to the question of the bonds, which may go after a couple of years, a local authority who get the insurance bond for the purpose of having an estate completed and put a limit on the bond are rather foolish. The obvious thing to do is put the limit when the estate is completed, not at a period of time. This is the only way these matters can be dealt with. Otherwise all the dishonest developer has to do is wait until his bond goes out, then there is no onus on him to do anything at all. He has saved his money. The way to deal with it is to have the bond covering a period until the estate is properly developed.

With regard to the question of the two months' default, the local authorities do not deal with it in the way Senator Boland said. They are supposed to give a reply within a period of two months and some of them—this is something I dislike intensely—wait until the last couple of days, and then send a stupid letter asking for something which they have already got on their files in order to give them a further two months, and the matter drags on and on. Members of local authorities should ensure that this sort of thing does not happen.

Let me refer to something Senator Garrett said. He made an excellent contribution. He referred to the question, as did Senator Russell earlier, of who was responsible as the planning authority? The planning authority are the elected representatives, but it is the manager who is responsible for the administration of the planning provisions. If the manager takes a decision which is contrary to the wishes of the elected representatives, they are entitled to—and nobody should be ashamed of having to—put down an appeal under section 4 of the 1963 Act. I know it is a bit annoying if dozens of such appeals have to go down. Senator Garrett need not be afraid that his county has the record because there is another county much nearer which has the record for the number of section 4 appeals which went down. That has been changed.

As far as the question of permission and deciding on something is concerned, it comes down purely to a question of common sense. It is true that on a number of occasions I asked local authorities to use their common sense in dealing with planning matters. Many of them have done so. Some of them, unfortunately, do not appear to have any common sense. From the decisions which have come in on appeals to me, it would appear that for some extraordinary reason somebody decides not to give permission. Even worse, I have from a number of people the suggestion that the person who refused permission said to the person who applied, "Apply to the Minister and he will probably give it to you. We believe you should get it." If there is anything more foolish than that I would like to know what it is.

I am aware that there are a number of cases where, because of the plan for the area, it has not been possible to give a planning permission even though it seems to be the right thing to do. In this Bill I am making provision to enable local authorities to alter their own plans. In other words, if an area is not zoned for housing and they want to put houses there they can alter their own plan without going through the rigmarole of sending it up to me so that I will alter the plan for them. At present under the 1963 Act, they have no authority to alter it themselves. This will be an improvement.

I suggest—and this is in line with what Senator Garrett said—that every local authority should set up a planning committee from the elected representatives. I sent circulars to the local authorities and I have spoken on a number of occasions to the county managers about this. The committee should discuss the planning applications made for their own area. Who knows better than the people who live in the area whether or not something wrong is being done? This would ensure much less to-ing and fro-ing between the Department of Local Government and the local authority on many cases which are relatively simple and which could be dealt with at local level.

There have been a number of queries about the length of time and whether we should have put a limit on the time for appeals. It would not be reasonable to set a limit because from time to time matters arise which may delay progress. It is only fair to point out that we are able to deal here with appeals in approximately half the time it takes to do it in Britain. The normal case will not be longer than six months and some of them are dealt with in a relatively short time. Long oral appeals sometimes take longer than they should because evidence must be taken down and a report made. Even if it is taped it may be a long time before it is possible to prepare the evidence on which the decision is given.

Another matter which has been referred to by a number of Senators is the question of vexatious appeals. Originally in the Bill as I introduced it in the Dáil there was provision made not alone for a deposit to be made by those lodging an appeal but provision to make them pay for the cost of the appeal if it was a vexatious appeal which they lost. As a result of a request made to me by the Opposition I agreed to remove that almost completely. There is provision that under certain circumstances costs can be awarded against those who make such vexatious appeals, but I gave a guarantee that that would be used only on very rare occasions.

We have the situation where persons living at one end of the country make appeals against decisions covering the other end of the country. This is particularly true of two types: one is where industries are concerned and the second is where commercial buildings are involved. In one example a local authority allowed permission for, say, a supermarket or some type of shop in a town in the north of the country and someone who lived in Dublin city or some miles south of it appealed against it for no reason at all. That person was what used to be referred to as a "man of straw". The only connection I could find was that a friend of his was erecting a similar type of building in the same town. He was merely trying to give a headstart to his friend. This is dishonest and it would be unfair to allow it.

Then there is the other type—the people who object to industries. Senator W. Ryan referred to the one which is the greatest scandal in the country, Shearing Plow, where not alone was a decision to appeal made, but when the appeal was heard and when the most stringent conditions which were ever applied to any industry were applied, a threat of a High Court action was made. That threat is still hanging there. As far as I am concerned, anybody who is dissatisfied with a decision is entitled to go to the High Court but he is not entitled to blackmail anybody by saying: "We will sometime take a High Court action." For that reason I am seriously considering putting into the Bill a proposal that there would be a limit on the period within which such High Court action could be taken.

A gentleman called on me and talked about the necessity for having a clean environment. I am satisfied that he had not washed his face or hands or changed his clothes for six months. Yet he claimed to be representing a national institution of his own. That is wrong. We have organisations such as An Taisce who were set up to do a specific job, and who are entitled to make an appeal and to support appeals which are made. But even with An Taisce or any other organisation the onus is on them to make their case when the appeal is being heard.

I feel strongly about this. When a decision is taken it is wrong for any organisation or any individual to attempt to criticise or to claim that the decision was wrong. They have every opportunity within the law to make their appeal and they should leave it at that. When the appeal is over, if they want to take it to the High Court, they have that right. It is wrong for them to carry on a running fight with somebody—I do not know who it is. They are not carrying it on with me because as far as I am concerned when I make a decision that is that. Even if I wanted to I have no power to change it. When an organisation object to a decision they are entitled to make an appeal and they should put the full force of their organisation into it. When the decision is taken if they want to go to the High Court they can do so. If they do not wish to do this, they should leave it at that. It does nobody any good to carry on a running fight over a long time. It does harm to everybody.

There is one thing I hope will not happen the new planning board. I have discovered that if I make a decision, particularly on an important matter, and, I take the advice of my officials, I am accused of not having a mind of my own. I am told I am the Minister and why should I consult my officials. If, on the other hand, I take a decision myself, which seldom happens, they want to know why have I not taken the expert advice of my officials. In my job you just cannot win. I am not interested in winning or losing but this is something which I hope will not happen to the new board. As Minister I take a decision and it is my job to do so, but it can be terribly disheartening for members of a board who are set up to do a particular job to be confronted by people who feel that they can get headlines in the newspapers by attacking them. Here I blame the media because a lot of coverage has been given to publicity-seekers who go to an oral hearing for the one purpose of getting publicity. The Press, the television and the radio seem to fall for the story and they give it considerable publicity. If there was not so much publicity given to them they would not do it so often.

I do not want to give the impression that I am trying to prevent people from exercising their right to object. If they feel they have a right to object, then they should object. There are small objections and there are big objections. We have had objections over the simplest complaint. There are complaints about somebody who has built an addition to his house, or applies to build it, and there is an objection. People complain that neighbours interfere with their light, or perhaps a wall built outside is interfering with them in some other way. Each of these appeals must at present come before the Department. They are coming in at a rate of about 4,000 a year and they are being dealt with fairly quickly. But it is a heavy job to get through them. The extraordinary thing about it is that when the appeals are submitted representations are made to me from all political sides. I do not care from whom they come. If in my opinion the recommendation is correct, the recommendation will be made and I will notify the members of the Opposition on the same day as I notify my own people. This is the sort of thing in which there should be no favours——

The Minister is about the only Minister who does.

I thank the Senator. The other question is whether we should have some way of dealing with very small appeals. The board will consist of a judge of the High Court or an ex-judge and between four and ten people. Again it is a question of the mechanics—whether there should be some section dealing with really minor appeals or whether someone should be dealing with the major appeals. It was pointed out here that the people who would be dealing with this job will one day be dealing with an additional bathroom and the following day dealing with an oil refinery. Perhaps there should be a little more expertise used. While we have not yet decided on the composition of the board, it would be a mistake if anybody got the impression that we intend to put on it a group of technical people only. Again, the necessity for common sense is very important.

There is one other matter which may require an amendment. It is something which I did not think of when the Bill was going through the Dáil. It is the question of the High Court judge or ex-judge. Supposing we cannot get one. We may be put in the position of having to ensure that there will be a judge appointed. Supposing we do get one and he retires or dies after a few years, what happens? I or my successor will have to find one somewhere. Should we take a chance or should we make provision for this? Having considered this I think it is something for which we shall have to make provision. I have not finally made up my mind yet but when I do it will come before the House and it can be decided what is best to do. Senator M. D. Higgins referred to the preservation of the interior of dwellings, and somebody asked, "What about the exterior?" The position as far as the exterior is concerned is already covered. The proposal is that the local authority should be responsible for saying what dwelling would require the interior preserved. They would act on the advisory service of the planning authorities and would help out in this.

Senator M. D. Higgins also referred to the need for more trained planners. A couple of references were made to the difference of opinion between county engineers and county planners. I would suggest that since the county manager is the person who is paid to run the county—even if the county planning engineer is not able to report directly to him—and if the county engineer changes the report and makes a different recommendation from what the planner made, the county manager is entitled to take cognisance of what both say. That is the simplest way to deal with it.

Since the 1963 Act came into force the Department of Local Government have done a lot to rectify the position. Additional resources have been made available for the development of the university course in town planning, in which after completing a two year course a person gets a diploma. Provision has been made for scholarships to that course and the supply of qualified planners has been increased.

Senator Horgan and M. D. Higgins referred to the question of providing for conservation areas where special provisions relating to the preservation of buildings would apply. The 1963 Act is quite flexible and allows for the preparation of partial plans covering specific areas and buildings. For the use of this power to specify preservation objectives a planning authority can, in effect, specify conservation areas. The real problem is a financial one. Local authorities may be very anxious to preserve an area but could find that they had not the money.

Senators O'Toole and Garrett talked about traffic. They wanted the local authority to deal with restricted access or trespass onto property. This could not be dealt with here. The local authority have the relevant powers.

The question has also been raised about roadside traders. While it is true that they have caused difficulty in places, there are powers already there to deal with people who camp on the roadside. At least one local authority found great difficulty when they widened a road, when there was a wide roadside verge being left, sometimes as much as a quarter of an acre, and it was used as a camping ground by people who left a pile of rubbish behind. At my suggestion they agreed to transfer this strip back to the farmers adjoining it who would fence it.

Senator Dolan referred to the bad fencing along the roadside which was done by the county council. The cost of erecting stone walls at the present is rather high and they do not stay up too long either unless they are built with cement.

That is not so.

I am not talking about the west of Ireland. Perhaps it would be better if the other suggestion were adopted. Usually there is some type of concrete post but these also cost a lot of money. I thought it might be possible to replace the old sod fences, but I am told they cost even more than either the concrete or the posts and wire.

They could dig trenches.

At Dublin Airport there is some kind of a ridge which prevents caravans going over it. The ideal way is to give the verge to the people along whose land it runs. They will adequately fence it. The other way of dealing with it would be for local authorities to make adequate camping arrangements for itinerants or those who move around from place to place.

With regard to the question of revoking decisions, the position is that at present if a planning appeal is made to me and I give a decision which is contrary to what the local authority want, it can go back to the local authority to be revoked; it can come back to me again and if I take the original decision it continues going backwards and forwards like a yo-yo. Under the new Bill it is proposed that this will not be possible. Once a decision is given that should end it.

On that point, if and when the decision is given by the Minister is it binding? If the Minister or the planning board give a decision I take it that it is binding. Is there any hope of a stay on the length of time an objector would have in which he could appeal further?

No. If the planning board give a decision that is binding. It should be so. We have to have finality.

Will the Minister ensure that it would not be possible for objectors to go on threatening to take the matter to the High Court?

I am considering the question of putting a limit on the time during which an objector might be able to threaten to go to the High Court. A reasonable time limit such as two months would appear to be a good idea.

On the question of the life or the withering of planning permission already in existence, Senator Boland was not quite correct. The situation is that if the planning permission is in operation it still has five years when the Bill becomes law even though it may be several years in existence, so there is no question of a shorter or longer time. Five years has been decided on because for a number of reasons it might not have been possible to do things which somebody had intended to do, and it is thought that five years gives adequate time.

The question has also been raised of a single Department being responsible for environmental matters. A number of people seem to have the idea that all you have to do is to appoint a Minister for the Environment and he immediately waves a wand and can do a lot of wonderful things. There was a lot of talk of what has been done in other cases. Recently a Department of the Environment has been established in a number of countries, notably the United Kingdom, and more recently in Norway. The functions of those and other Departments of the different countries very considerably. The British Department have a massive range of functions embracing housing, construction, local government and development and the transport industries including ports. In other words, in Britain the Department of the Environment is a glorified Local Government and Transport and Power Ministry. I do not think that is what people here were talking about. In Norway the department have the responsibility for regional planning, pollution problems, major conservation and recreation and appropriate information services. We are not doing badly at all here in the way it is dealt with and I do not see any immediate sign of a change to a Ministry for the Environment.

There was also the question of the delay in bringing the Bill before this House. Anyone who makes that comment here does not know what happens in the other House. I do not want to pursue that any further. Suffice it to say that when the debate was finished in the other House the three Ministers most concerned with it said they were grateful for the way it has been handled so they must have been satisfied. I said there that I was prepared to accept any reasonable amendment and have it considered. I make the same offer here and I mean it. There is no point in passing the Bill through if there is something which is worth amending. I would be prepared to consider it as long as it is remembered that every amendment put down may mean a slight delay in dealing with it. It was suggested here that the Bill could go through fairly quickly. Nothing would suit me better than to have this Bill through here in the fastest possible time, because I am not anxious to hold on to the deciding of appeals one minute longer than I have to, and I am sure my Parliamentary Secretary, Deputy Oliver Flanagan, would be even more anxious than I am because he deals with the bulk of the appeals.

I will repeat what I said when introducing the Bill here, that, in addition to the passing of the Bill here there are many arrangements to be made and it could be as long as five months after the signing of the Bill before it becomes law. I do not want anybody to get the impression that you just pass it, it is signed and immediately put into operation. I wish it were so. There are a number of matters which have to be considered, including the training and transfer of staff and the regulations which will cover the new Act when it becomes law. All those things will have to be dealt with but I assure you that I will get it out of my Department as quickly as I possibly can.

There was a suggestion also about general orders being given by the Minister. This is so. The general policy will be laid down, but there will be no interference nor will the Bill allow any interference in individual cases. This is a safeguard which must be written in to ensure that things are as they should be. I was a little surprised at Senator W. Ryan suggesting that I had relaxed the conditions with regard to the issuing of planning permission too much. Senator Garrett made an excellent contribution which was the direct opposite to that made by Senator W. Ryan, because he agreed with my point of view which is that we were hamstrung with regard to planning permission for years.

Because the local authorities were not told to use their common sense, they continued to have a stringent approach to the issue of planning permissions and we had the ridiculous situation that the only place one could build was in what was referred to in the Department and in practically every appeal before me as a settlement that is, a town or a village, but you could not build anywhere else. You could not build on a national primary road or a national secondary road because it was supposed to be a traffic hazard. I agree with Senator Garrett that the wide verges along the side of the road, particularly slow lanes and other wide verges, do allow an excellent view in many cases. You could not build on one of those roads; you could not build on other roads because they were too narrow; they had not got water and sewerage. The whole thing was going around in a circle. I do not think Senator W. Ryan was expressing the view of anybody of any party in this House or in the other House except his own. I want to make that point because everybody I have met, no matter what political party he belongs to, has expressed the view that he was satisfied that it was necessary to relax planning permission and this is what I did.

Senator Garrett also referred to the question of the county MOH deciding that the ground was not suitable for septic tanks. The county MOH does not come into it at all unless the local authority allows him to do it. He is not in the employ of the local authority; he is an employee of the health board. In fact, the county council are entitled to make the decision themselves and they do not have to get advice or ideas from the county MOH.

I wish the Minister would issue that instruction to the local authorities.

They already know what the score is and I do not think there will be very much more trouble with it. He can give them advice if he wishes, if the local authority agree, but if the local authority decide that they do not want it that is it.

If the MOH is brought in and he says it is a health hazard, are the local authority bound to refuse planning permission?

It is only his opinion.

This has not been made known to the public representatives. Many of them suffer under the illusion that if the county MOH says that the site is unsuitable that ends it.

There is only one exception and that is, some local authorities have introduced bye-laws and even if planning permission is given, the bye-law says certain things must be done. I do not think it is a good idea. If planning application is made, the final decision should be given to everybody before the planning application is dealt with. As somebody said here, and rightly said, the second most important decision those men make, assuming the first one is getting married, is to build a house. Then somebody decides after the permission is given that, because of something or other which is not mentioned beforehand has not been carried out, permission is refused. This is wrong and I suggest that perhaps the local authorities might have a look at it. I am talking to some of the managers about it at present.

As far as farm buildings are concerned, under existing regulations most of these buildings are exempt from planning control. However, with modern agricultural development I do not think it is possible any longer to allow this situation to continue to exist, particularly having regard to the extent that water pollution can be caused by large buildings used for the housing of animals. I was interested in Senator Dolan's reference to the use of the manure from the pigsty, and I hope that will be generally accepted. One of the greatest causes of pollution, particularly in Counties Cavan and Meath, is the effluent from the pigsties and from the silage pits.

I discussed with the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries the question of amending the exempted development regulations in so far as they apply to farm buildings, and an agreement in principle has been reached with us. It remains to work out the details and to amend the regulations to give effect to this change as well as to some other changes which are required in the light of experience. What I am saying is that, while I agree that there should be certain facilities given where farm buildings are concerned, it is not logical that by law we should allow somebody on a farm to do something which is not allowed anywhere else.

The siting of industry in close proximity to housing is a matter which should be dealt with in the first instance through the provisions of the local development plan and, secondly, through the proper application of planning control. The making of the local development plan is a matter for the elected councillors and it is for them to see that zoning provisions included in the plan are suitable and compatible with one another.

So far as particular cases are concerned, I have already dealt with the question of how councillors can influence decisions and applications for permission. May I ask again, now that the new plans are being prepared, that every public representative would take a little more interest in the plan and encourage people who will come to them afterwards complaining about what has been done to offer their opinions to at least stop them from complaining after they have ignored the whole process. I am making provision, as I said earlier, to allow councils to reverse their own plan for the purpose of allowing a worth-while planning application in their area rather than having it sent to me for the purpose of making that decision.

I do not want to detain the House, but there are one or two other small matters which we should consider. Roadways have been mentioned. There was a hullabaloo in Dublin recently about roadways. Perhaps it would be unfair to blame the people who are objecting, because maybe they did not understand what was being done. In fact, what was being done was that the plans were being prepared which would be published and they could then object, and they might not appear. We have a tendency at the present time to make headline news out of something that is not likely to happen in this century. It is a bit much when we find people getting all hot and bothered over something that may not happen until many of us are long dead. I would suggest that people go a little bit cooler about this because while we need good motorways we may not need such motorways—and at the present time we are not likely to get them anyway—for a long time to come.

Again I would like to thank the House for the way in which they dealt with the Bill. Again I assure them that if there is any matter which they feel would improve the Bill I would be only too glad to consider it when it comes before us again.

On a point of information, I refer to the situation in my county, that when we make a decision on a "section 4" in a planning application, while we might say "Yes", we could be told by the county manager that we would be contravening the Management Act. Can anything be done to remedy that because it takes away the powers from the councillors?

Yes. Under the new Bill if the local representatives have enough strength to get the "section 4" through, they will have enough strength to vote through the decision to change the plan in order to allow the application through.

Take the case where planning permission is refused by the planning authority. The applicant goes to the councillors and they put in a "section 4". The planning authority have already got all the plans and specifications for the building but they will not accept them. They will say there is no application before them and that section 4 does not stand up, although the written application, the plans, the specifications and so on are there in the offices. Unless the man goes along and pays for another new set of plans and submits a fresh application, section 4 will not stand up. That is ridiculous.

That is true. That is legally correct if you do not find what the score is before the manager signs the decision. What I was suggesting here earlier was that you should have some planning subcommittees in your council and you will then know what decision is going to be taken in all these cases and if necessary the "section 4" can be put in before the decision is taken.

We did that but we were told that our section 4 was out of order, that there was no decision at all made on the planning application.

No. The decision does not have to be signed, because what you are doing is requiring him to make the decision which you want made, and whether he signs it is immaterial; you are requiring him to make a decision in a certain way.

Question put and agreed to.
Committee Stage ordered for first sitting day after Easter.