It is understandable that there should not be building along national primary roads, trunk roads, but there are numerous national secondary roads to which I do not think the same rigid regulations should be applied. I am afraid that according to a Departmental circular the same rigid regulations will be applied. I am thinking of roads in Counties Leitrim, Sligo and Mayo to which this should not be applied.
Local Government (Planning and Development) Bill, 1982: Committee Stage (Resumed) and Final Stages.
(Dublin South-East): I will consider that. We will be restating the position to the local authorities.
I welcome the increase in the penalties. However, I suggest that the legal process be speeded up if at all possible. I realise fully the implications of what I am saying. I do not know what can be done about it.
There are a number of people who have carried out developments all over the country without permission and various local authorities have taken action against them. But this is going on for a very long time, in some cases for two or three years. Something will have to be done about it. It just cannot go on any longer.
(Dublin South-East): There is an Act for taking certain cases to the High Court for by-passing and that works fairly expeditiously. But the Senator will agree that we have no control over the courts in that respect.
Something should be done to speed it up because I am quite satisfied that there are some cases in existence from the year 1976 and no decisions have been made and they have not been brought to court yet. There may be earlier cases. The problem there is that other people think that these people have got away with it and they are going to start the same game themselves. We will end up in all sorts of trouble.
(Dublin South-East): That certainly comes under what we would call a general review of the planning laws which is currently being examined in my Department. Of course, where cases have not been brought to the court then nothing could be done to speed up that. I do appreciate the frustration and the content of the comment the Senator is making.
I do not know what the Minister can do about it.
Under this there has to be a charge by local authorities for planning permission. We did get a figure of £280 here in Dublin for the cost of processing a planning application and £80 elsewhere. Is it the intention to charge applicants here in Dublin £280 and £80 to applicants in the rural parts of the country? This has to be looked at much more seriously because young couples getting married and looking for planning permission find it hard enough to meet their other commitments. I know that the intention is to get some finances for the local authority but I do not think that these people will be in a position to afford it. We should do whatever we can to encourage young people to build their own houses rather than putting an extra charge on them. I do not know what is in the mind of the Minister but I would be anxious to hear what he intends to do about it.
(Dublin South-East): There is no decision on the amount at the moment, but the scale will be related to the nature of the development. I can assure the Senator that there will be no question of hoisting a charge of that size on everybody.
In regard to fees, would residents' associations or individuals seeking to object to or appeal a decision have to pay a fee, and if so has there been any fixed amount for that?
(Dublin South-East): There is a degree of flexibility in regard to remission. It would not be the intention to levy charges in every case. There could be remission of the fee in a particular case but cases will be taken on merit — it will not be a fixed charge in every case.
It is residents' associations that I would have immediately in mind and the Minister would be very aware of the process. They are almost in the capacity of voluntary organisations in so far as they work with little or no money. But they have performed an incredibly important task down through the years in saving the environment and insisting on good planning. Sometimes they have been the only watchdog — if I may call them so in the best possible sense — within the neighbourhood.
If there is even a threat that there might only be an assessment of the fee after they have lodged their appeal, that in itself could be a disincentive for pretty pennyless residents' associations or voluntary organisations like An Taisce to continue the good work they are doing. Yet all of us would applaud the work of such organisations and recognise that they have not got that kind of financial backing. Therefore, could an assurance be given or written in that they would not be under threat of being charged a high fees so that it would not be a disincentive for them to apply or appeal in the first place?
(Dublin South-East): I sympathise with all the Senator has to say in this respect. I certainly highly commend the work that residents' associations are doing in the community. They are, as the Senator rightly says, watchdogs in very sensitive areas of planning that the private individual could not be expected to watch in every case. An Taisce are also doing marvellous work. It certainly is not my intention in any respect to make it the slightest bit difficult for such associations to operate in relation to the fee structure. In my experience local authorities welcome the contribution made by residents' associations, keep a list of them in their files, and are constantly in touch with them. If the residents' associations were not actually looking out for irregularities taking place in districts the local authorities might find it very difficult to pinpoint them. I share the view but there is a flexibility arrangement here and the view would be to encourage the work.
Section 10 allows the Minister, with the consent of the Minister for Finance, to make regulations providing for payment to the local authority. But could the Minister say if those payments can be retained by the local authority and if so, when it comes to the end of the year, when the Department are making the allocations to the local authority, are they going to take these moneys into consideration and say that the local authority are entitled to a certain amount but got so much from planning applications and deduct that from the allocation?
Will there be less money to pay for any extra work which they deem necessary? Will it in any way interfere with the local authority's allocation?
(Dublin South-East): The moneys will be retained by the local authority, but I am afraid as far as the grants are concerned I cannot give any budget secrets away at this stage. I would not know at this juncture what the grant will be in relation to the 1983 budget. I might be able to tell the Senator about the 1984 one.
The local authority to which I belong and to which the Minister had the honour to belong for many years are very worried and want to know about this. Dublin being the larger area which will get in a lot more money than most places, they are very anxious to know if they can retain this money. Is it to be an addition to their normal allocation or is it to be deducted from it? They are very anxious to know as soon as possible.
(Dublin South-East): It will be welcomed by the local authorities, being a new source of revenue. I would be happy to meet them to clarify any doubts or worries that they might have in that regard. I would see it as a new source of revenue. I cannot elaborate on the question of the grant, which is something for next year's budget.
The Minister will probably agree that this idea of charges for planning applications was mooted by the previous Government. When it was talked of by our local authority in Dublin we were told by the present Government, who were then in Opposition, that this was a back door way of introducing rates, that people would have to pay for services and that this amount would be part of allocations in lieu of rates. The party to which the Minister belongs said at that time that in no circumstances could they agree to it, that it was tantamount to the reintroduction of rates and that it should be left independent of any allocation for rates for additional services which the council would deem necessary. Could the Minister say whether it will be retained?
(Dublin South-East): No, I cannot. What the Senator is requiring me to do is to anticipate next year's budget. I cannot do that. I do not see it at all as any back door reintroduction of rates. I see this as a sensible contribution to the Planning Act.
I know the Minister may not anticipate what may be given next year. Irrespective of what amount is given next year, will this be taken into consideration in assessing the amount or is it to be independent of that amount?
(Dublin South-East): It will be taken into consideration along with everything else.
In other words, the local authority will not have it for any additional purposes that they deem necessary.
(Dublin South-East): It will be taken into account.
And the allocation will be reduced accordingly.
(Dublin South-East): No. It does not follow. The Senator is anticipating a hypothetical situation which goes beyond the section of the Bill on which we are talking.
I am not anticipating anything. The local authorities are anxious to know whether when they get this money they can spend it as they deem necessary or whether it will be in their normal allocation.
(Dublin South-East): I have said it is a new source of revenue.
It will not be an extra bonus for them in addition to what they are getting.
(Dublin South-East): I cannot elaborate further.
Will the amount that is allocated to them for the year be the amount they have collected?
(Dublin South-East): That has to be determined in the context of budgetary allocations next year, assuming that there would not be a budget before that. Normally every year it would be determined.