On a point of order, I would like to say that the present arrangements do make the access of the Minister to his chair a somewhat more leisurely process than it has been in the past. Perhaps we could allow him to take his seat.
Dublin Metropolitan Streets Commission (No. 2) Bill, 1986: Committee and Final Stages.
In connection with the boundary, the section states that if the boundary goes beyond the Schedule, an order under this section shall be laid before this House. I would ask the Minister to tell the House what this means. He has listed a schedule of the various streets and boundaries. But if it goes beyond that schedule, I understand it has to come before the Houses of the Oireachtas. I ask the Minister to elaborate on this point.
The Senator is right. If it is seen to be necessary or prudent to alter the boundaries as set out at present which is the boundary of the area administered by the commission, an order will be made by me and if either of the Houses sought successfully to annual that order within the following seven sitting days of the House, the order would be set aside.
I regret very much that the Minister had to leave at Second Stage and that he had not an opportunity to listen to the Second Stage debate. One of the more sensitive sections of the Bill is the appointment of the commission. Could the Minister tell me what qualifications the chairman of this commission will have? From what trade or profession will the chairman be drawn? Will that chairman be a member of Dublin Corporation or an executive of Dublin Corporation?
I would like to pursue this section as well. There was some mention in the public press shortly after the publication of the Bill last June or thereabouts that one of the members of the commission would be the Dublin city manager. I do not know whether that is the case. The Minister will obviously in due time be announcing the members of the commission. I wonder to what extent the Minister has considered the role Dublin Corporation may have in relation to the effectiveness of this commission. I gathered from earlier contributions by the Minister, if I took him up correctly, that a fair deal of the work being done by the commission will, in fact, be done by the corporation who will be asked to take it on on the commission's behalf and, to that extent, the appointment of the Dublin city manager would make a great deal of sense. I wonder whether, in view of the division of functions between the manager and the actual city council, he has considered the question of the appointment of a member who might represent the Dublin city council. There has been in the recent past a tremendous amount of involvement by the members of the Dublin city council in bodies we are supporting in one form or another from the Olympia Theatre to the Santry Stadium. I wonder to what extent he has considered that area. Obviously I would see the method of appointment being solely the prerogative of the Minister. I am not suggesting it should be done otherwise, but it might help liaison not just the management of the corporation but with the elected members as well.
I too am concerned about the members of the commission. Should the Minister consider somebody who is already involved in the workings of public authorities for this commission? We are talking about £10 million. If people are already involved they will be very much aware of the position as it prevails rather than as we would like it to prevail. I would see a little bit of bother there. Perhaps we might be better off not to look at anybody who is already concerned.
Senator O'Toole asked about the qualifications which one would expect of a chairman and the members of the proposed commission. The basic qualification would be sound common sense. But also one would expect and hope that the members of the commission would have a sense of style and a realisation of what is needed in the area, an appreciation of its architectural merits and, above all else, a sense of and a love of Dublin.
The question of membership of the commission is not normally discussed in the course of debates of this nature. The members to be appointed to any body are not normally announced in advance of a debate in the House. Senators will appreciate that there is a long standing tradition on that. If the membership were to be announced in advance it would have two effects. First, it would appear to preempt the right of the House to decide whether the measure should be proceeded with. Secondly, it might be more inclined to lead the discussion into the qualifications of individual members rather than having the discussion on the broad principle of the measure proposed. However, when the Bill was first published, I said I felt that the Dublin city manager was an obvious person to be a member of a commission such as this and I would intend to invite him to serve on the commission. I did that to indicate that I felt there would need to be the closest co-operation between the corporation and the commission in the carrying out of the commission's functions.
Obviously, the commission will need to draw on the knowledge and the expertise of the corporation in a number of areas. There has been general agreement on the point that the presence of the chief executive of the corporation on the commission is a sensible and worthwhile proposal in that he will be able to act as a conduit between the commission and the corporation and also because, after the three years' work of the commission, the corporation will take over their functions and be responsible for the maintenance of the area on a continuing basis as set out in a subsequent section as an area with a special status enshrined in law. It is important then that the city manager should be fully conversant with the thinking behind any of the moves and improvements initiated by the commission so that when the administration of the area reverts to the corporation he will have a knowledge and an undertaking of the reasons particular proposals have been adopted and implemented.
I take the point made by Senator Cregan. His suggestion was that there was an opportunity to seek the participation of people from other walks of life in the activities of the commission to bring with them their range of experience in other matters. Obviously I would like to give thought and attention to the bodies who have expressed an interest in the city centre area over the years whether from a business, an architectural, or an environmental point of view. It would, perhaps, be reasonable to suggest that it would be from those sort of areas that the membership of any commission like this would be most likely be drawn.
While I agree that the chairman of a commission like this must have common sense, I think he would also require architectural qualifications if the face of the inner city is to be changed. I am not asking that the Minister should name a person. What I am asking is will he be a planner, an architect, an engineer, a consultant, an ordinary layman? Will he be a city manager or what type of person will the chairperson of this commission be? I thought we might be able to get that much information.
Having a love for Dublin is one thing, but if you have a love for Dublin and no knowledge of planning or no knowledge of development or no architectural qualifications then it might not be enough. Perhaps it should be the city manager. I am not worried about that but I am worried as to the type of person who will be appointed to the commission. That is very important because you are taking away the power from the elected members of the corporation and it would be unwise to hand that power over to people without full qualifications and knowledge of planning and development. You are also taking away power for the construction of roads and maintenance, making bylaws, removal of taxi ranks, bus stops and pedestrian crossings. It is a wide scope of power to give to a commission of six men when we do not know from what walks of life they will come or what qualifications they will have. I believe they require some qualifications relative to environmental development.
Will they be full time or will they be part time? Will people be seconded from the Department of the Environment and put on this commission for a three year period? If so, will they be full time and will they have an office and a base known as the Dublin city commission buildings or whatever, or where will this commission operate from? It is important to know that, even though it is only on a three year basis. There are no staffing implications for the Department, I read in the memorandum, and also that this commission will rely mainly on statutory bodies and the engagement of consultants. The setting up of the commission is important because if you get the selection of the commission right at the outset, the end product will be right. Section 3 is the section that requires the greatest thought. Every individual must be screened to ensure that he has the necessary qualifications for the job he is given to do. I would like to know if they will be full time; will they be seconded; part time or whatever.
I absolutely agree with Senator O'Toole that the membership of the commission may well make or break this whole plan and it is essential that they should be the best people available. While I accept the need for expertise, qualifications and so on, I think the Minister could fall too deeply into this situation where one is looking for people who are already so expert in the field that one is appointing what is now the planning establishment.
While I accept that Dublin Corporation have done some good things, as a citizen of Dublin I would have to say that there has been a dreadful failure in the proper development of the centre of Dublin city. This is why the Minister is bringing the Bill before us and this is why I welcome the Bill. I suggest that while the Minister must look to people's qualifications, he should beware of the Charybdis on the other side of appointing people who are already part of the establishment which has so singularly failed in the development of Dublin city. While I appreciate that the city manager should be a member of the commission, I feel the Minister should look for people with breadth of imagination and understanding of how the city should be developed as apart from people who have technical expertise. After all, technical expertise can always be got by the commission by appointing consultants, by appointing staff or by looking for particular kinds of technical expertise. What we look for now to try to recover from the terrible situation in the centre of Dublin as it is now with the gap-toothed quays and O'Connell Street a sort of honky-tonk of hamburger joints is somebody with a breadth of imagination that the original wide streets commission had. I would suggest that is the kind of person the Minister should be looking for.
In many ways Senator McGuinness has answered the questions Senator O'Toole posed. Perhaps I may stretch out the suggestion a little. It may help the House to understand better how I would envisage the commission working. I am not envisaging that the membership of the commission would be composed of people who would be serving in a remunerated capacity. There is through the normal provisions of other Acts power to pay them reasonable expenses or a stipend, but I would be intending to invite seven people to serve on this commission who will be basically giving a lot of their time and expertise voluntarily on the basis of being members of the commission. In turn, the commission will have a chief executive and I would envisage a very small full time staff. As Senator McGuinness suggested, they would draw on consultants or on the staff and expertise available to them from the corporation to provide the advice and prepare the detailed and technical plans which are necessary. Those would be coordinated through the chief executive and the staff of the commission who would act as a policy making body.
Senator O'Toole envisaged that the members of the commission might be acting on a day to day basis in an executive as well as policy making role. My purpose in setting up the commission in this way was to establish the commission as being the overall policy makers with a degree of imagination and style as they approach the question of what needed to be done and that the expertise whether architectural or engineering or from whatever other discipline, would be provided either on a bought in basis through consultancies or from the various statutory bodies including the corporation. It is important that it should be done in this way and that the commission should have a relatively small staff, bearing in mind the duration of the life of the commission of three years. It would not be right to build up a large staff which would then have to be either absorbed into the corporation or in some way dispensed with.
Perhaps my thinking in that regard was influenced to some extent by my former occupation in another Department. When bodies are being set up with a limited lifetime, one should recognise that in the approach to the staffing arrangements. That is why I envisage that most of the administrative and executive work would be carried out on the basis of bought in expertise and that the members of the commission would act in a policy making role. Basically we are talking about inviting seven people who would have to give, of their own time to a great extent, and who will do it because of their commitment to and their love of the city rather than on the basis of monetary reward.
I want to ask one question. A question was put as regards a member of the commission being the city manager. While the Minister is agreeing with that, I would question it. I presume the chief executive will be the chairman; could that be clarified?
It could be either.
Knowing the Minister, he would reply in that way. If there is to be a chief executive and if there is to be a chairman I do not see why we must consider—the impression might be there — that the manager of Dublin Corporation might be the chairman. I would not like that. We are talking about a great deal of money being spent in four or five streets and a lot of restructuring is required. Because of their mistakes at planning level, people would be prepared to spend somebody else's money because they knew they did the wrong thing in the first instance.
I certainly would not like the discussion or these remarks to be interpreted as being in any way a slight on any person. May I point out to the House that immediately this gives an example of the difficulty which arises when a person is mooted for membership of a body before the body is discussed in the House? We are now beginning to talk about the particular role of the one person I did suggest. I do not want to appear to be critical of the Dublin City Manager. I have known him personally for a number of years and his contribution to the life of the city has been considerable. For that reason I felt it was appropriate that he should serve on the body.
I do not intend it and I do not think the city manager would expect to be chairman of the streets commission. It is appropriate that he should be a member of it so as to provide the link I referred to earlier. From the chairman one will have to ask and expect an additional contribution in terms of time and personal commitment. I do not think the demands of the job of chairman of this commission would be such that the city manager would be able to afford that amount of time, given his other responsibilities. Knowing him I am sure he will feel the same way.
May I also point out to the House, as a practical example, that I have already announced we intend that a very eminent architect who has a particular interest in and expertise on the question of streetscapes and urban landscapes and a sensitive approach to the question of urban renewal and restoration will be appointed as consultant architect to the commission. The choice involves a husband and wife team who have already made a significant contribution to the improvement of streetscapes and urban facades in many parts of Ireland. They acted as consultants very successfully to the city of Kilkenny which I am sure the House will agree has steadily and spectacularly improved recently in its appearance. They have also acted as consultants to Waterford Corporation. They have been involved in the publication of a book on the appearance of Irish towns and have also acted in an advisory capacity in the judging of the Bord Fáilte Tidy Towns competition. Their personal commitment to the entire concept of urban renewal is very deep. Because of the slight hiatus in the arrangements for the establishment of this commission which unfortunately delayed its coming into being for some months, I have actually commissioned that firm to look at the area and consider what might be done in the hope that when the commission are established they will be able to sit down immediately with the commission and give them some of the background knowledge and detail they have managed to assemble over recent months.
The same architectural practice was commissioned by the traders and business people in Henry St. in Dublin some months ago to carry out a study on that area. That study was tremendously successful and was acclaimed by many people and widely welcomed by the traders. I hope it will have its own effect on the improvement of the streetscape and the appearance of Henry St. It is a similar though much wider and much more important and extensive job that I would hope those consultant architects would be able to do in working with the Commission.
The Minister mentioned the husband and wife team but I will not pursue names on this occasion. We are particularly fortunate that, apart from the experience they have had in the various towns mentioned and spectacularly in Kilkenny and other parts of the country and their role in the Bord Fáilte Tidy Towns competition and so on, they have also been acting in an advisory capacity to the Dublin Corporation Planning Department in relation to streetscapes in connection with the review of the city development plan. They are very much abreast of the problems of dealing with the centre of the city. As the Minister has indicated, they have been doing a particular study in the last number of months and it is good to know they have advanced to that stage so that the work of the commission can take off very quickly when the Bill is enacted.
Listening to the Minister I have got some further details of my conception of what this commission will be doing. I understand a voluntary body will be set up and there will be a specifically decision-making commission. My understanding is that the physical work involved will become the responsibility of Dublin Corporation and that after the decisions and planning have taken place the corporation or their staff will undertake the carrying out of the adjustments within the inner city. I would like the Minister to tell me if that will be the position. Is it envisaged that any elected members of Dublin Corporation will be members of this commission?
I envisage that the physical carrying out of the improvement work will be done in a variety of ways by different bodies including Dublin Corporation depending, as appropriate, on the particular task which is being addressed.
Senator McGuinness referred to the wide streets commissioners when she spoke earlier on this section. Quite frankly, the best thumbnail description of the members of the Dublin Metropolitan Streets Commission is that they will be the modern day equivalent of the wide streets commissioners. If they are as successful — as I hope they will be — they will in turn have as profound an effect on the city centre and life in the city centre as the wide streets commissioners had. I hesitate to remind the House — but perhaps it is appropriate that I should — that, when they were established and during part of the time of their operation, the wide streets commissioners did not always receive unanimous support or acclaim for their efforts. Like so many things that happen in this country it was only after their demise that the merit of their work really began to receive the acclaim and praise which it was entitled to expect.
As to whether there would be elected members on the commission or not, I think it might be better if we did not pursue this discussion at this time because what I fear — and what I feared at the outset and I said so — is that we would begin to discuss the individual members or the merits of particular people for participation in the commission. I fear that, as the discussion on the section is going on, I am being drawn more and more into the area in which at the outset I thought it was inappropriate that the Minister should become involved. It is probably because of the beguiling nature of Senator O'Toole's western approach that he is managing to coax me bit by bit down a road which I did not intend to set out on in the first place. From that point of view he is to be complimented and I am to be reprimanded.
The Minister may make provision for the transfer of property. Is he going to make it or is it that he may make it? That is in subsection (2) (a) of section 4.
Because of a short period for any development to take place — I believe three years is a very short period for the completion of any work — the work will only be put in train at the time of the dissolution of this commission. Most of the unfinished works will have to be carried out by Dublin Corporation at that time. They will be accepting responsibility for that and they will also be accepting responsibilities for any legal problems that are in train at the time of the dissolution. I was anxious that Dublin Corporation would have membership of the board at the outset under section 3 involving planning matters. As far as I can gather if a planning matter comes up during the commission's period of three years, a decision will be taken on that planning matter by the commission and not the planning authority of Dublin Corporation. I would like to hear from the Minister if the unfinished work will be taken over by the corporation, if the legal problems that are in train at that time will be taken over by the corporation. Will the planning authority of Dublin Corporation cease to exist during the period of three years for the new planning proposals that will be coming up during the three year period? If I am a resident in that particular scheduled area, do I apply to the corporation for planning, or do I apply to this commission? It seems a bit vague. I would like the Minister to clarify the position in connection with the unfinished work, the legal aspects and the planning.
The first point was raised by the Acting Chairman in relation to subsection (2). That subsection provides that a dissolution order "shall contain such provisions as the Minister considers necesary" and it goes on to say "... and, in particular, may make provision for..." The section is allowing the Minister to make the necessary arrangements for the appropriate transfer of the various rights and liabilities of the commission at the time of dissolution to the appropriate bodies. The question Senator Cregan was addressing was the use of the word "may" rather than "shall". That is simply a matter of drafting and it was considered by the parliamentary draftsman that phrasing was the most appropriate. It is, of course, the intention that whatever property, rights or liabilities the commission would retain at the time of dissolution would all have to be transferred to the appropriate bodies so as to allow for the proper winding up of the authority.
Senator O'Toole raised a very interesting point as to whether a three year time span is the appropriate one. When we came to consider the setting up of the commission, various time scales were considered, including a longer time scale than the one now envisaged. As I said during the Second Stage debate on this Bill in this House, I am a firm believer that when establishing a body it should be given a target and a completion date for its work because I have a great fear — perhaps it is due to the experience of almost 20 years in public life — that when an organisation is established that does not have a definite period established for it at that time, it can sometimes be very slow in the initial period in setting about its work, feeling that it can have time to consider and ponder and get about to making decisions and implementing those decisions at some time in the future. Usually, those are the bodies that have been least successful and that have not received the gratitude of the public or perhaps those who established them by the time they eventually meandered to the conclusion of their activities.
In general when a single-function body is set up such as this it should be given a reasonable target time to carry out its work and a reasonable budget to do its work. In all the circumstances this target time is the most appropriate. I was also influenced by the fact, which was adverted to by the Senator and some of his colleagues during the Second Stage debate, that the functions of the commission are functions which can be carried out and then assigned back to the corporation. I wanted the commission to have completed their work during the lifetime of the present corporation so that they would have returned to them the completed work of the commission.
The Senator will recall that some of his colleagues were, perhaps, a little upset at the fact that the area to be covered by the commission was being removed from the jurisdiction of Dublin Corporation. One of the points which weighed with me in deciding on the lifetime of the commission was that it should be a lifetime less than the lifetime of the current corporation so that their work is returned to the current corporation during their lifetime for their administration. The time scale involved means that from the outset the membership of the commission will have to realise that they must make decisions and they must set about implementing those decisions so that they can have their work completed on the basis of the targets which they set for themselves.
I would, of course, be very concerned if, at the time the commission were being dissolved, there were heavy outstanding liabilities which would have to be assigned to the corporation. That is certainly not the intention. Indeed, I would have to say it would be very unfair to the corporation if they were to have returned to them improvement works with a heavy outstanding amount of liability for one reason or another. It is not at all the intention that that should happen. I refer the House to the powers which I have under section 10(8) and 12(4) to give certain directions to the commission during their lifetime. I envisage that those powers will be used, for instance, particularly in the last of the three years, to ensure that the commission did not take on potential liabilities which would have to pass on to the corporation, as I say, unfairly.
I would also have to say I think it would be very remiss of the commission and not at all in the spirit of the reasons for their establishment if they were to embark on such an — one would almost have to say — irresponsible course of action in the last year as to build up an enormous amount of bills which would have to be passed to Dublin Corporation. Although I am very hesitant to reopen the conversation, if I can remind the House, the presence of the Dublin city manager as a member of the commission would have its own steadying effect in that regard. I would envisage that the controlling influence of the Minister's directions under sections 10 (8) and 12 (4) should be used to ensure that did not arise.
Senator O'Toole also asked about the arrangements regarding the making of planning applications by individuals or businesses living in or operating within the area to be covered by the commission. That is specifically dealt with in section 6 and if we wait until we reach that section it might be more appropriate.
The section says that the commission will secure by every practical means an improvement of the area. On this side of the House, we welcome any improvement in the scheduled area mentioned in the Bill. Let it not be construed in any other way: it was the method by which you were to go about that development that we were opposing. I personally oppose the non-involvement of the elected members. That was the main thrust of our opposition to this Bill. We are all interested in the further development of the inner portion of the city to make it more beautiful and encourage people to revert to the old time custom of coming into the centre of Dublin city from the outer part of the city to admire its beauty and architectural merit. We hoped that we would go back to those good old days mentioned by the Minister and others in the Second Stage speeches.
I want to clarify that point on section 5. We would much prefer the whole geographically integrated area of Dublin city included in the plan and we would also welcome an application from this Government to Brussels for grant-aid for the development of the whole integrated area of Dublin city. With the financial constraints which we have, an application should be made by this Government to Brussels to get a sizeable amount of money — it will take a sizeable amount of money — for the development of the whole city. I feel we should be making such an approach to develop Dublin as a whole rather than the sectional centre that is envisaged under this Bill.
May I ask a question on this section? The commission are asked to secure by every practical means an improvement in environmental conditions. Is the Minister saying we should say to people that for a general improvement in the environment and in their buildings and streets, they are allowed to give grants? Or are the commission allowed to say to people within the area that they are prepared to give grants? I see this area as being very important because the commission could be seen to be doing everything themselves. By giving example and a little bit of help we find — I certainly see it — that people are prepared to do a lot more themselves. Have the commission the right to give the grants or create a situation where a certain amount of money is given to people within the specific area for general improvement?
To take the last point first, grant-aid is not specifically provided for in the Bill, because whilst £10 million may be considered a very generous amount of money at the same time it could very quickly become dissipated if there were to be a specific management provided for in the Statute. I also worry that it might turn the minds of the members of the commission more towards the idea of a large scale development rather than that they can spend the money on the physical improvement of the street lighting, furniture and the street design.
We have already got a clear indication that a number of property owners would be more than anxious and ready to respond in spending quite large sums of money on their own property and on the restoration and renovation particularly of those properties and that improvement of the whole area will generally come about. This is not to say, however, that in the actual disbursement of the £10 million loan for three years the commission might not from time to time for some particular reason feel that an unusually expensive work should be undertaken and they would have discretionary power to do that. I want to emphasise that it is not intended that a large part of the funds of the commission should be sent on grant-aiding private property.
Some Senators seem to have reservations in relation to this proposal. While I find the reservation understandable, I find it difficult to comprehend that the Senator's party have this difficulty. Some legislation passed through this House and the Dáil six or seven months ago giving to the corporation the right to have certain areas designated. Under the provisions of the Finance Acts, certain provisions were made in regard to tax incentives. During the course of that urban renewal programme the opposition Party in the Dáil tabled an amendment to the Bill which would have given me, as Minister, power to set up a series of special authorities for development purposes for whatever reason I chose, at whatever time I wanted, or in whatever part of the country I wanted for whatever purpose. The Minister of State handled the Bill in the House and, had I known what was going to happen a month later, I would have urged him strenuously to accept the amendment.
If the amendment had been accepted, this Bill would not have been necessary because I could have established this authority under the amendment proposed by Deputy R. Burke in the other House. I could have given them wider powers or had them operate in a wider area. I was interested to read some of the things the Deputy said advocating his proposal. He said he did not find the Urban Renewal Bill itself to be antidemocratic but that it supported the democratic procedure and gave extra powers. I do not understand why there has been now or, indeed, within a month of that proposal a change of heart on the part of the Opposition. They moved from suggesting giving discretionary powers to the Minister for the Environment to establish authorities for development purposes. In pursuit of that suggestion the Deputy actually made the point that very often the officials of the local authorities involved were so busy with their day to day activities that they were not able to concentrate their resources on spotlighting areas in need of redevelopment and regeneration.
That is precisely what this Bill recognises and why we have gone about the task in this way. We did not accept the amendment at the time because we felt it was more appropriate, if the Government believed there was a need for special function authorities, that they should seek to have them set up by way of a Bill being introduced, debated and then accepted by the Houses of the Oireachtas. That is the course of action we have taken in relation to this Bill. Had we accepted that proposal at that time, this Bill would not be necessary and the Senator and his colleagues would not have had the opportunity to express their reservations. Those reservations would have been set aside through that Fianna Fáil amendment.
Senators will know that, on a number of occasions in recent months, I have expressed my frustration at trying to establish the reason for the opposition to this Bill. Perhaps now that I have explained the background, Senators will understand why I felt that frustration. I should like to take this opportunity to say that, in general, the contributions made by the House last week in the Second Stage debate were reasonable. I appreciate in particular Senator O'Toole's support for the general concept outlined in section 5 as to what the commission might do.
Section 6 (7) refers to the consent of the commission. There is also the planning authority. I would like to know from the Minister do we make the applications in the three year period to the commission or to the planning authority. Who will decide on the planning applications over the three year period? In the event of an appeal, will the same machinery obtain which obtains now under Dublin Corporation? I see that all development which is consistent with the scheme prepared will be regarded as exempted development. I understand from that that, if the commission decide on a particular plan and it is consistent with their proposed development plan or scheme, it will not require any planning permission. The Minister has had a change of heart. The Minister is giving the commission the right to be planners while reference is made on the one hand to the consent of the commission and also to the planning authority. If the Minister's proposed schemes are excluded as exempted development, that will mean they will not require planning permission. On the one hand it is stated that the consent of both the planning authority and the commission will be needed while, on the other hand, it is said that if a scheme is designed and proposed by the commission it is exempted development. I would like the Minister to clarify what the position will be with regard to new applications coming onstream during the period of the commission.
Is the Minister saying that generally the impression is that the Bill provides for improvements to the environment? Is the Minister saying we are not pushing to get people back into the centre of Dublin? Is the Minister saying the commission have no right to say that people should be encouraged to come back into the centre? Have the commission the right to create a situation where people will be recompensed for coming back into the city centre? Are we to say we cannot talk to Dublin Corporation or to the Department of the Environment about giving people encouragement to go elsewhere at this time with certain grants? Are we to give them the same opportunity to come back into Dublin centre? Have the commission the right to say that? Can the Commission asked somebody else to say: "If we provide accommodation for these people, will they get the same grants for moving out of the city?
I see a golden opportunity here for the commission to get people back into the centre. People are needed in them all the time. Lights are needed upstairs. Have the commission the right to say that they may be thinking this way? It is important to the whole area that there should be lights on when everybody else has gone home from offices and shops. Do we encourage them to go back in there?
In relation to the point made by Senator O'Toole, basically the commission will prepare an improvement scheme for the general area. Having prepared that scheme, they will then consult with Dublin Corporation and Dublin Transport Authority. Afterwards, the scheme will be submitted to the Minister for approval and a copy of it sent to the corporation, as the Senator will see in section 6 (3). The Minister can the consider any objections made by the corporation and can order appropriate modifications. This provides for two situations. If a proposal is then made for a development which is in accordance with the improvement scheme prepared by the commission after consultation with the corporation and the transport authority and if it is approved by the Minister a person then applying to carry out a development that is totally in conformity with that scheme would be in a position to do so without seeking planning permission. If, on the other hand, there was not an improvement scheme, or if the application was to do something which was not in conformity with the improvements scheme, the person would then apply in the normal way to Dublin Corporation for planning permission. The section then imposes an obligation on the corporation to take cognisance of the scheme in deciding on the application.
Perhaps if I gave an example it might help the House to understand what is envisaged. A section of an improvements scheme envisaged the large scale restoration of a streetscape such as a facade or perhaps six or ten shopfronts with the storeys overhead. If one of the property owners then proposed to remove some of the additions to the frontage that had been put on over the years in order to restore the entire frontage and facade to its original architectural concept and to bring it into line with the proposal in the improvements scheme outlined for that block of property by the commission, that property owners would be in a position to go ahead without applying for planning permission. Essentially, the planning of the project would have been done by the commission in the course of preparing the improvements scheme.
If, on the other hand, the commission had prepared an improvements scheme of that nature, suggesting a particular architectural treatment of the block of six or ten properties, the property owner wanted to carry out a redevelopment that was very much at variance with that concept, such person, of course, would have to apply for permission to Dublin Corporation. The corporation, in deciding on the application, would be obliged to take into account the improvements scheme that had been prepared by the commission. The intention of that would be to ensure that the development would be compatible with the overall objective for the improvement of that area as outlined by the commission. Such a person would not easily get permission from the corporation. I hope, through the example I have given, that I have helped to give the House a picture of how it is envisaged that this dual function would operate.
There are two points I wish to make in relation to this section. First, I wish to speak on the general preparation of a plan by the commission and the role which the commission will be taking in relation to individual applications for reconstruction and restoration within the defined area of the commission's responsibility. The Minister will readily agree that one of the great problems in O'Connell Street recently has been the fact that, instead of a street made up largely of small units, there has been a development into very large department stores on a very wide street, thus losing the intimacy between shops and, indeed, between both sides of the street. The scale of the likely type of architectural standards the commission might have in mind is important. We should try to bring the scale down to a size which is appropriate to that street. Obviously the expert architectural advisers are better equipped to comment on that than I am.
One of the greatest problems that has faced the city in the period in which I have been a member of Dublin Corporation— which goes back some 12 years—is the fact that, while very often the right decision is taken on the particular application, looking at the merits of the application both in terms of design and the detail of what is proposed, sometimes the planners seem to forget about the effect of the proposal on the street in question. In other words buildings are being put into a part of a street which are totally out of character with the street itself. Obviously, that goes back to the original point I was making. We have to get the architectural concept right. I bow to the expertise of the architectural consultant who will advise on this.
The other point I wanted to make relates to what Senator Cregan was saying a moment ago about the theme of the living city. I said in my Second Stage speech—the Minister was not fortunate enough, or otherwise, to be here for it— that very few people reside in this area. The area we are talking about is largely a place of commercial use.
There is something that should be looked at by the Minister in the context of a much wider problem affecting retail streets in towns and cities throughout this country. It follows on the legacy of rent control. I speak with some experience in this area. Many shopowners have ignored using the upstairs portion of their buildings. They could get an income from upstairs and that might keep the building in better shape. No building is better able to survive than the building that is occupied. Some owners have ignored taking that option of using the building because of the fear of rent control. Rent control should no longer concern them. There is an immense amount of potential residential accommodation available over shops, in streets, in trading areas and in retail areas throughout the country. It is not being used because of this fear of rent control, which could be put to rest by the Minister or his Department getting involved in a public relations exercise which would explain the up-to-date position to people who were always in and out looking for advice from their solicitors in relation to this matter. If the Minister takes the trouble — as I am sure he has because I know he is concerned for the environment—to look at the upper storeys of houses in trading areas in other cities outside this country, he will see a marked difference in the use of upper storeys of buildings in trading streets. I remember about ten years ago——
Much as I dislike interrupting the Senator, I cannot allow another Second Stage speech. If we could stick to the section——
I have made my point and I would be interested to hear the Minister commenting on it.
I did not, perhaps, deal sufficiently with the point made by Senator Cregan regarding the need to encourage the highest possible amount of residential usage of inner city areas. I am not sure whether the Dublin Metropolitan Streets Commission are the most appropriate vehicle to achieve that quite admirable objective. A number of good inner city infill housing schemes have been carried out by Dublin Corporation in recent years. Between Gardiner Street and O'Connell Street there is a very fine estate of Dublin Corporation new housing, which Members of the House may be aware of. It is within 100 years of O'Connell Street. The activities of the commission in the area I have mentioned, if they are successful, will help to encourage the entire concept of inner city living.
It is important to consider the objectives of this Bill in conjunction with the designated areas for urban renewal which I mentioned in connection with another section and which, in the case of Dublin, are immediately contiguous to the areas being covered by the Dublin Metropolitan Streets Commission. As the House will remember, there are very attractive incentives contained both in the Urban Renewal Act and in the Finance Act to encourage residential living in those areas which are known as the designed areas for Dublin and the other cities. It could be argued that the areas covered in the designated areas are the more appropriate ones to encourage residential infill development than the particular streets covered by the commission.
There is a difficulty regarding the upper storeys of accommodation generally in urban areas and in relation to the premises in the metropolitan streets area. It is a much wider one than specifically just the remit of this commission. I agree with Senator FitzGerald that it is something that merits particular attention. The situation may have evolved in Ireland for a variety of factors. Originally, it may have evolved for security reasons and nowadays the cost of insurance may be a factor. There are conflicting reasons, some of which ought not to be in conflict. One would have thought it might have been easier to secure insurance and security by having people living overhead. Sometimes it is considered to be quite the opposite.
One of the areas for urban renewal that will have to be looked at, and not just in the context of inner city Dublin but in relation to urban areas generally, is the question of how to encourage people back into living inside towns and urban centres in general. It may be that there is a specific role for local authorities in this regard. It may be that, apart from trying to identify suitable sites for the building of and the provision of infill local authority housing, perhaps the local authority should be looking at the possibility of either acquiring or renting upper floor accommodation in inner cities which could be refurbished, so providing very attractive flat or apartment accommodation for people who have a desire to live in those areas.
The most important thing is that, through what we are endeavouring to do by the work of this commission and what we hope will be achieved through the incentives set out in the urban renewal scheme, the entire centre of Dublin will become regenerated and alive again. It will become an area where people go to visit, not because they have to but because they want to. Then automatically and naturally a certain number of people will move into and identify suitable accommodation and refurbish it themselves. Part of what we are doing today — although it is not a specific objective set out for the commission—will bring about a greater usage on a residential basis of our inner cities and towns.
As has been pointed out by Senators, it is a much wider question than is provided for in this section or in this Bill. It is a question which is very interesting. We should be considering now how to make our urban areas living units on a 24 hour basis rather than just during business hours as, unfortunately, so many urban areas have become.
I would be disappointed to think we have set up a commission with a very good imagination and at the same time have to say we are not prepared to consider the idea. I am not saying the Minister said they are not prepared to consider it. I do not want to give the impression that we are talking about infill housing. There is a vast difference between infill accommodation and infill housing. At the same time, there is an opportunity here. The commission can show example if they are prepared to say some infill accommodation can be provided. Given the opportunity and the good will of the Minister and the Government a situation can be created in which people will recognise the opportunities being afforded to them. I am sure there are many people who are prepared to go back into city living.
I read no later than one month ago that in London people are paying a lot of money to live in the city centre. People who were living on the outskirts have now gone back into the city and are paying a lot of money to be accommodated there. However, the commission should stress that they want people back in centre city areas because people are needed there. People must be seen to have their little paths and windows there. That is important. There should be an opportunity for two brothers, or a husband and wife, or two sisters or a sister and two brothers, and so on, to live in the inner city. I see no reason why the commission should not show the example. It would be a pity if they did otherwise.
This transfers the functions of Dublin Corporation in relation to the construction, maintenance and improvement of public roads and any other functions incidental thereto under the Local Government Acts, 1925 to 1985, the Road Traffic Acts, 1961 to 1984 and under any other enactment to the Commission in so far as they apply to the metropolitan central area.
I could see that, when a plan was drafted by the commission for the improvement of roads within the metropolitan city area, it would be necessary to consult with the corporation and say to the corporation: "This is the scheme we want you to carry out:" I can see the engineers in the local saying to themselves: "Now that the commission have been set up we have no more responsibility for three years for the inner roads of the Dublin central area."
Suppose there is a breakdown in the surface of a section of road within the corporation area, or the scheduled area, will the commission be saying from day to day to Dublin Corporation: "There is a portion of road at the top of O'Connell Street broken up and buses have refused to go on that route. Will you get your staff in there immediately and get it repaired?" Will there by this type of confusion between the corporation engineering and maintenance staff and the commission?
This would not arise at all until such time as the scheme from the commission was drafted and then they would say to Dublin Corporation: "We want you to carry out resurfacing of all O'Connell Street from the Garden of Remembrance to O'Connell Bridge and we want it resurfaced on the other side as well." All this work will have to be carried out by the corporation. The Bill states: "shall stand transferred to the Commission". It refers to all the functions of Dublin Corporation in relation to transfer of road functions and so on. That is the bit I think is not necessary. You will still have to have the corporation and their staff to carry out the works on any given route within the area and they will have to be responsible and be there at all times.
I fear that the corporation might say that they no longer have any responsibility for that area and that they will not take part in it until the commission come back to them and say they require this that or the other. It may be necessary for other reasons to stipulate that the functions of Dublin Corporation will cease but I think the ordinary day to day running and maintenance of routes within the Dublin central area will still have to be carried out by the staff of the corporation and they will have to be on hand at all times to ensure that heavy traffic areas will be given continuing maintenance supervision and they will have to be responsible.
The Bill is providing that the corporation will cease to be responsible from now on. It does not state whether they will be responsible or not. I would like to ask the Minister will their activities cease and will the engineers say they will not do anything until they get information or a direction from the commission. I want that clarified.
I direct the attention of the House, and particularly Senator O'Toole, to section 16(2) which enables the Minister to bring the Act or part of the Act into being on a particular day or days and to make an order or orders as to when particular parts of it will come into effect. Obviously, when the commission are established on day one it would not be the intention, for instance, to implement the provisions of section 7.
I may, perhaps, try to illustrate the reason for this section by way of an example. The House will probably remember that I spoke last week about the central mall in O'Connell Street and said I regarded it as being vital to the success of the entire improvement scheme for the O'Connell Street area. The street itself in its entirety is 148 to 150 feet wide, and when the wide streets commissioners originally laid it out they envisaged that the central mall would be 148 or 150 feet in width throughout the entire length of the street. As the House will know, that area now varies extraordinarily in size and has been encroached on for various reasons.
I will be disappointed if the commission do not decide to pay particular attention to that central mall and carry out a scheme to have it widened to some agreed width on a uniform basis for its entire length and then carry out intensive development of the central mall by the planting of flowers, shrubs, the provision of street furniture, possibly the provision of some type of cafes or restaurants and shopping kiosks.
In relation to the pavements in O'Connell Street, for instance, kiosks might be provided for the sale of newspapers and periodicals rather than the present arrangements. The footpaths themselves should get particular attention and treatment so that they would be attractively reinstated by way of paving slabs. It would almost certainly be a conclusion of the commission that particular parts of the area to be covered might well be pedestrianised.
What we have not given any attention to so far in our discussions is the fact that, apart from the central spine, as it were, to be covered from the top of Grafton Street to the bottom of O'Connell Street, we are also including some of the streets abutting that area for some 50 or 80 years in length. It may be decided that some of the streets abutting Grafton Street might be more permanently pedestrianised than they are at present. I am giving those as examples. I am not suggesting that any of those things will specifically happen, but for the commission to make these decisions and set about that work they need the power contained in section 7. When they would need to take on that power can be regulated by section 16 (2). Until that comes about the road and footpath surfaces would, of course, continue to be maintained by Dublin Corporation.
As Senator O'Toole suggested, it is also quite likely that, if the commission decided to carry out some rebuilding or altering of the physical condition of some of the roads or footpaths, it might very well be that, although the power would by then have been assigned to them by section 7, they would use the corporation on an agency basis to actually carry out the work on their behalf.
A problem arises here in relation to taxi ranks, bus stops, pedestrian crossings and the removal of signs. If the commission feel that the removal of a sign or a number of signs is unauthorised development or that a sign was not in keeping with the commission's proposal, have they the right to declare that sign unauthorised development? Does the Minister envisage that major distortions of taxi ranks, bus stops and pedestrian crossings are put in as part of the Bill so that, in the event of the commission deciding on the alteration of the location of bus stops, pedestrian crossings and taxi ranks, if they are in a particular part of the scheduled area they will be in opposition to further development and will be removed only on that basis rather than on the basis of a general complete overhauling of the taxi ranks, bus stops and pedestrian crossings?
If that were the case there would be a big distortion. There would be great confusion and they would be back to the corporation for their physical removal and replacement. It would alter the statistical documentation in connection with the commission's programming for an area. I would like the Minister to say if he envisages any major changes in connection with taxi ranks, bus stops and pedestrian crossings, and if the removal of a sign is one that the commission deem to be unauthorised. I will leave it until we come to the appropriate section.
There is no doubt there are likely to be major changes in relation to traffic management generally in the area to be administered by the commission. One of the primary objectives of setting up the commission is to encourage far greater pedestrian usage of the main streets to be covered by the commission. For example, Grafton Street has been regarded as a pedestrian street for 19 years and yet it is still used for traffic purposes, ostensibly on a one-way basis, though I gather from complaints on a two-way basis from a certain hour each evening. I do not think that is satisfactory. I do not think one can try to secure on overall pedestrianised scheme for a street like Grafton Street if every few years, because of other road improvement works being carried out somewhere else, the street is converted back into a traffic street; or if one decides to operate the street as a pedestrianised street for part of the day and then convert it again in the evening.
I am endeavouring to pre-guess what conclusions the commission may come to having studied the matter. If decisions are made regarding pedestrianisation they will almost certainly be decisions which will require pedestrianisation of a permanent nature. If Senators reflect on cities in other countries which they may have visited with large scale and successful pedestrianised areas, they will appreciate it is because those areas are built and equipped in a way which takes on board the concept of permanent pedestrianisation.
A fundamental objective in relation to O'Connell Street must be that a much heavier volume of pedestrian use the street and use it not just because they have to, or because they go there to carry out business or official functions: they use the street much more for enjoyment. Part of what I envisaged for the improvement of O'Connell Street is that, in conjunction with the development of the central mall, there would be such things as additional sculptures, fountains, some band or orchestral recitals, open air theatre, outdoor events organised for evening time designed to encourage more people to use the street for enjoyment, enjoying the street and the ambience of the street. To do that will definitely require major re-organisation of the traffic flow and traffic management.
I have said publicly that I see no justification for heavy goods vehicles using the principal street of our principal city. One of the first things the commission would have to look at would be a prohibition on heavy goods vehicles using the street. If the ultimate objective of what I have been trying to outline to the House is arrived at, almost certainly you may have to move to a regime in which delivery vehicles would be required to make their deliveries before a certain hour in the morning or perhaps after a certain hour in the evening. Many of us will have come across this practice in other cities which are much more pleasant to move around in. Plans such as we are now discussing have been considered in those cities and have been implemented.
If the central mall is to become an integral part of the use and enjoyment of O'Connell Street, that will have implications for some of the taxi vehicles but, on the other hand, it is necessary to ensure that taxi ranks are provided as conveniently as possible for the taxi operators and the public because, if more people use the street, there will be a far greater need for taxis. The commission will need to identify how taxi ranks can not only be improved but additional taxis accommodated to provide for the additional business which we hope would be generated through the success of the commission's efforts.
In all of that it has to be decided how the public transport system best fits in. One of the things about using a street like this is that one will have to consider the noise level and the scale of traffic using the street. Pedestrians are prepared to tolerate only a certain level of traffic noise and certain volumes of traffic before they feel the traffic is the primary presence in the street and that their function there is to do their business and get away from it as quickly as possible. The commission will have to take those things into account in conjunction with the Commissioner of the Garda and the Dublin Transport Authority who will be taking over some of the functions we have traditionally associated with either the Commissioner or Dublin Corporation. They would have been transferred this month to the new Dublin Transport Authority but instead they are being temporarily transferred in relation to the metropolitan Dublin area to the Metropolitan Streets Commission.
I will refer to something I intended to mention earlier which may help senators to get a better picture of the concept. There are many different disciplines and areas of expertise which the commission will need to draw on to get advice as to how to do particular things. Somebody who has great talent in the architectural sphere would have no particular advice to offer on traffic management. The commission will have to draw on a wide range of areas in order to get the expertise necessary to make the right decisions. I hope that as well as the commission being established there will be established an advisory committee who could be much larger in size than the seven person commission being envisaged, and the advisory committee could have people from the various disciplines who would be able to help by giving advice. For instance, on the advisory committee there might be representatives of CIE and the Garda and businesses using the city centre area.
In relation to the Garda fundamental to the success of the scheme is the question of security. That has been emphasised by everybody with whom I have spoken about the proposal. One of the things we have looked at which will get the attention of the commission is the concept of there being built in Grafton Street, Westmoreland Street and O'Connell Street kiosks which would be, in effect, Garda sub-stations, small Garda offices from which these streets would be patrolled and policed. Then there would be a visible, permanent Garda presence in these streets. It is vital to the success of the scheme provided for in the Bill that there would be a clearly visible level of security so that people will feel secure.
The same would apply in regard to the removal of refuse. It is mainly in central areas that we envisage that the Litter Act, 1982, would be in full force to improve the cleanliness and the general appearance of the centre of Dublin. Some delivery vehicles can create a very unsightly look. This is one Act that will have to be put into effect immediately. We would like to see that Act put into effect in regard to local authorities in general but, because of finances and staff problems in counties such as Mayo and other large counties, there is not full implementation of the 1982 Litter Act. I suggest that in this small portion of Dublin city at least the 1982 Litter Act should be put fully into effect. It is very important if we are to have the centre as a showpiece for the rest of the city and country.
Anything the commission can do through transferring responsibility and giving a trial spin of how they would plan the prevention and control of litter within that area should be done. The physical removal of litter from the city will have to be the responsibility of the corporation and their staff. I ask the Minister for a comment in connection with the removal of litter. As the Minister said he could see the commission as a voluntary organisation with a very small staff, the removal of litter would have to be carried out by the corporation.
I do not envy the commission their task in trying to bring a new standard of cleanliness to the streets in the centre of the city, or elsewhere should their remit be extended. The problem is not entirely the fault of the large staff of 700 odd men involved in the cleansing staff of Dublin Corporation. They are working against the unhygienic attitude of so many Irish people in the way they behave in relation to litter: they drop almost anything they like in the streets and public parks.
Two aspects strike me here. First of all, I do not know whether the Minister has been in Fleet Street recently which is not too far from the area which will be the remit of the commission. Over a period of years, CIE buses have developed an inch deep of oil and this has embedded itself in the surface of the street. The commission will have to deal with Córas Iompair Éirann and the way they behave in relation to the maintenance of their bus fleet and the generally stickly condition of many of the pavements in retail areas, outside shops and so on. We have not used water sufficiently to spray down pavements in areas which get a lot of pedestrian use. When we have a superfluity of water generally, except in the last six weeks or so, we should use water much more frequently to spray down pavements and road surfaces. We have equipment which goes along the gullies and does a limited job there, but there could be much more extensive use of water in the cleaning of our streets and pavements. It is available to us. It is a resource we do not seem to use but it is used elsewhere: the brilliance of pavements in other cities compared to here is something I know other Members of this House and the Minister will accept.
I take the points made by the Senators. There has been a very uneven application of the 1982 Litter Act by the local authorities throughout the country. Only a minority of local authorities have made by-laws under the 1982 Act. When Senator O'Toole suggests that the provisions of that Act should be applied in full in this area, he is asking for something which certainly will be done by the commission. I can only take this opportunity to appeal that it should be done by the local authorities throughout the country. I do not want to get involved in contention in this matter. One of the local authorities who have not adopted by-laws under the 1982 Litter Act are Dublin Corporation. Without pursuing it any further, perhaps that is one of the examples of why I was led to the conclusion. The last anti-litter by-laws adopted by Dublin Corporation were adopted on 11 February 1938. While there is provision for the commission to take over the corporation's powers under the Public Health Act, 1878, the last by-laws made by Dublin Corporation referred to the cleansing of footways and pavements, the removal of snow, dust, ashes, rubbish, silt and house refuse, the cleansing of earth closets, privies, ashpits, cesspools and dustbins. They were made by the Right Honourable the Lord Mayor, Aldermen and burgesses of Dublin and adopted by them on 5 June 1899.
Though it is correct to say the general public are not as tidy a people as we might hope, very often I am not sure that we as public authorities have really pursued the question as we should. On the other hand, no authority have more problems than Dublin Corporation in this regard because of the sheer size of the area they have to cover in population terms and because many people come from outside the area to use the city centre as it is our capital city. I agree with Senator FitzGerald. It is not enough that the area should merely be swept free of litter. The streets must be washed. Equipment is now available to public authorities which washes and cleans the pavements and the streets. When the commission go into operation, I hope that not only will the streets be free of rubbish, but that the footpaths will be cleansed of the grime which has build up and is layered upon them on a 24 hours basis. When anybody goes into the area covered by the Dublin Metropolitan Streets Commission, they should see activity carried out to keep the street area to the highest possible standard and the best possible appearance.
I invite Members of the House, the next time they walk down Grafton Street, Westmoreland Street and O'Connell Street, to look at the footpaths, not at the litter on them but the condition of them, the way they are stained, the way paving slabs are broken and cracked, and to notice that where for some reason underground work was done in recent years in a set of attractive paving slabs, the paving slabs were removed and replaced by tarmacadam crudely put back in, and to notice that generally kerbstones have broken down. I am not talking about an area in a small town in rural Ireland; I am talking about the area covered by the commission. People moving past in cars or other vehicles do not notice this, but people who walk in the area do.
I invite Members of the House, the next time they walk through that area, to look at the physical condition of the street and the footpath. Senator FitzGerald has given a very practical example, where because of the constant usage by CIE buses, Fleet Street and other places that have been used as termini for buses in the city centre have now become like an oil skating rink over the years. Incidentally, I might remind the House, that Fleet Street between Westmoreland Street and D'Olier Street and Fleet Street for a distance as it runs in a westerly direction will be covered by the commission.
I am worried about this section. I ask the Minister to clarify it. The Commission may serve a notice for the removal of a structure. Will there be consultation with the residents of an area in connection with the change of use of a business, or where a line of business is traditionally carried out and the commission decide it is no longer suitable for the area and deem it an unauthorised structure? Well-established traditional businesses along the route may be told by the commission that it is no longer appropriate to carry out that business there, and the commission can move in and ask for its removal. Will there be full consultation with the people and the owners of properties and businesses prior to their being deemed unauthorised? If a business or property is deemed unauthorised and if the property owners or the business people fail to cease operating they may be fined up to a maximum of £1,000.
How can one transfer the expertise built up in an area to another type of operation? These people would not have expertise in another field, but if the commission decide that it is an unauthorised business they are liable to cease the operation of that business, and failure to do so will result in a fine of £1,000. It is possible that the powers of the commission will be pursued in an unfair manner. A consultation process would give people time to think and time to alter their premises to meet the requirements of the commission's proposals. If a business must be altered, will the owner be given enough time to readjust and will he be given help from the commission by way of consultation? Businesses along the route should not be terminated by a ruling of this commission without full consultation with the people. It is not easy to change one's occupation, to adapt from being a florist to being an undertaker for instance. That is the area where I see people's rights being encroached on. There will have to be some shrewd consultation with the property owners before a business can be deemed to be unauthorised. I would like the Minister to elaborate on that in full.
Senator O'Toole is right in saying that the commission in drawing up their plan should allow for as much consultation as possible, particularly at the stage where they are implementing the plan, and they come across areas of removal of either uses or structures that are inappropriate to the area which the Bill encompasses. Although it is important to have consultation the overall interests of the city, indeed of the country, are involved in the central trading streets of Dublin. At some early stage in the commission's formation it is important that they have the authority to get on with their plan design that will signal a new era for the centre of the city.
The aspect of giving the commission the wherewithal in terms of cash to get on with the job is more important than this section. This section does not deal only with the control of unauthorised uses which the planning authorities are in a position to deal with, through the courts provided they move fast enough. It allows the commission to enter into the business of dealing with structures or uses which have concerned and bedevilled the city planning department and the corporation for a number of years and which have been causing untold damage to the appearance of streets. A cause of real concern has been the gaudy advertising hoardings and features of these streets which really damage the total environment. These new powers which the Minister is giving to the commission under this Bill, are powers he will be asked to give in a planning Bill which will amend the existing Act.
I hope that, in the very near future, the Minister will consider giving similar powers to the planning authority to deal with the defacement of streets and residential areas by other structures and uses not just in O'Connell Street, Grafton Street, and so on, but in Rathmines and many other parts of this city. These defacements are uncontrollable because a number of years ago they were not dealt with fast enough by the planning department. There was much less appreciation then of the need to tidy up these trading streets than exists at the moment. There is more awareness of the problem now and a desire to get on with it. I welcome the powers in this section.
The planning authorities have these powers at present in section 36 of the 1963 Planning Act. They have been used very rarely. The cost implications in relation to potential compensation are presumably the reason they have been resorted to only occasionally. This section is largely modelled on sections of the Planning Act and the powers the planning authorities have. A number of the powers in the 1963 Act are utilised very rarely in this case because of the cost implications.
In relation to the reservations expressed by Senator O'Toole, I suggest section 11 should be read in conjunction with the Second Schedule. The obligation is being placed upon the commission. When they prepare an improvement scheme, if they envisage the discontinuance of the use or the removal of a structure for any reason, the proposal to do that has to be outlined in the improvement scheme. As the house will remember, we discussed earlier the fact that in preparing the improvement scheme there would have to be consultation with Dublin Corporation and the Dublin Transport Authority. The improvement scheme has to have regard to the Dublin development plan then in force. It then has to be sent to the Minister, after consultation with the corporation, for his adoption or modification.
The schedule also makes arrangements for the commission to consider submissions by interested parties in relation to a scheme. There is quite a wide consultation power envisaged in relation to the preparation of an improvement scheme. When an improvement scheme is being prepared, any proposal for the alteration of usage or the removal of a structure would be included. That power of consultation exists when one reads section 11 in conjunction with the Second Schedule. Paragraph 3 (d) of the Second Schedule refers to the making of submissions by interested persons. In addition to that, the Minister has power under section 19 (8) to give directions of a general nature to the commission on policy in the performance of any of the functions assigned to them under the Act.
If it were found that adequate consultation was not taking place, the Minister would use his powers under section 10 (8). However, when Members of the House read section 11 in conjunction with the Second Schedule they will realise that wider consultative obligations are placed upon the commission than might be immediately apparent when section 11 is read in isolation.
I am aware of section 36 of the 1963 Act. I led a campaign to ensure that a large porch encompassing the entire frontage of a house at Grosvenor Square was removed. It is the only structure to be removed since 1963 by Dublin Corporation using these powers. The difficulty under that section is that the procedures involved in moving to extinguish a use or deal with a structure that is unsuitable are lengthy. That is one of the reasons the corporation have not been involved in doing enough of this work where structures clearly conflict with the general aesthetic experience of streets or residential areas. I hope the more specific powers contained here can be widened for use by the planning authority generally at a future time.
Does the Minister envisage that whole sections of chip shops, for instance, in O'Connell Street will be closed down and other types of business in keeping with the commission's proposal set up? If so, does he envisage problems with the livelihoods of people?
A balance has to be achieved. We must have consideration for the livelihood of people and take into account the services they provide. Businesses will have to be in keeping with the overall streetscape proposed by the commission. We must start by ensuring that businesses are compatible with the architectural appearance of the streets involved in the way they market their product.
Will we adjourn for a period?
I would like the Minister to be more specific on the apportionment of funds as between Dublin Corporation and the commission. This is another statutory commitment for the corporation. All county councils throughout the country are trying to get rid of statutory commitments. In any given year I can envisage the corporation having to provide a certain sum in their estimates. The provision of this sum will have to be in a vacuum because there will be no identification of the particular levy. I do not know what apportionment will take place over the three year period by the city manager will have to provide a certain figure in his estimates. If that figure is not agreed on by the commission, the Minister has the right and the power to decide what that figure might be for the corporation. The Minister comes into play at a time when there is disagreement. I should like to know the amount of money the manager will be providing in his estimates for this commission. It is stated in the memorandum that it is in lieu of the moneys now being spent by the corporation. I should like the Minister to inform the House the apportionment between the commission and the corporation in this regard. This is very important. As I said at the outset, the corporation will not welcome any further statutory commitment. I should like some elaboration on that apportionment by the Minister.
The section envisages that the corporation would estimate the amount of money which they would normally spend on items such as road maintenance, public lighting, refuse disposal and litter control. The corporation would be asked by the commission to assess the amount of money which they think they would normally spend on those functions which are temporarily being transferred from them in the area to be covered by the commission. If the commission agree that figure, then that is the amount which would be assigned to the commission for spending by them on similar functions. In the event of any disagreement, as Senator O'Toole has mentioned, the question of the appropriate amount would be established by me, as Minister.
In this regard I should like to take the opportunity to emphasise this: the commission are being established because I see merit in having a single function, single-purpose type authority to do this work for a designated period, but with the full intention of having the functions then transferred back to the corporation. If the corporation and the commission are unable to agree on the amount of money which the corporation might have spent on carrying out the normal up-keep of the Dublin metropolitan area, any reasonable Minister— and I hope the House would accept that I would be reasonable in this regard— would adjudicate fairly as between the conflicting claims of the two bodies in that regard.
When is it proposed to take the next Stage?
I do not think the Leader of the House minds whether the Bill is taken this evening or tomorrow morning. If the Minister does not mind, I should like to request that Report Stage be taken in the morning if it is suitable.
There are no amendments down. Is it agreed to take Report Stage tomorrow morning?
I must say I am a little taken aback at this suggestion. I understood the House had agreed to take the Committee and remaining Stages of the Bill today. In the normal way, as I hope the Senator will appreciate, I would be only too willing to attend in the House at whatever time the House felt was most convenient to it in the ordering of its business but, as things stand at present, I have a commitment to speak in another place tomorrow morning. Not having the talents of Mr. Boyle-Roche, I would find it extremely difficult to attend in this House and in the other House simultaneously.
Senator O'Toole said if it did not suit the Minister he would agree to take it this evening.
Perhaps it would suit the Senator to take it this evening after Private Members' Business. If it would facilitate the Senator I would be only too pleased to come back at that time, if that did not upset the orders of the House.
That would not fit in with the Order of Business. In view of the fact that the Minister is required to be elsewhere tomorrow morning I will agree to finish the Bill this evening.
May I express my appreciation to the House?
Agreed to take remaining Stages today.
Bill received for final consideration.
I welcome any measure to improve the centre of Dublin city. All of us agree that it is a tatty place, with derelict sites, gaudy signs and fast food outlets. There can be a huge improvement in this whole area given the splendour of old Dublin and the vandalism that has taken place by so-called developers and speculators down through the years.
Whilst improvements are necessary, it is a matter of great sadness and regret for me that the Minister has decided to remove the improvement of the centre of Dublin from the democratically elected corporation who have had responsibility for all such matters down through the years. The Minister in his defence, of course, will say that it is precisely because of the failure of existing authorities to do the work that he is now implementing the Bill. I should like to point out to him that this is not the case. It is due rather to the policies being pursued by the Minister and the Government whereby Dublin Corporation, and all other local authorities, have been starved of the necessary financial resources to carry out and to encourage the type of development which it is hoped will take place.
Why cannot the Minister make available to Dublin Corporation the resources he proposes to make available to the Dublin Metropolitan Streets Commission? Why is he afraid to vest in the elected representatives the power to carry out this work and to decide what is best for Dublin city? Is he afraid that because his party have not control in the city council others might have imaginative ideas which would do the job equally as well as this new commission?
Over the years this administration paid election lip service to the concept of local democracy. They continue to bleat about the need for local government reform and the need to give adequate and proper powers to the local authorities while, at the same time, their efforts through the years belie what they say. For example, they refuse to give power to elected representatives to determine charges. In 1984, they postponed the local elections on the pretext of reformed local government and in 1985 when the elections could not be postponed any further, they brought out a document saying what they proposed to do. Indeed, we are still waiting for the implementation of those proposals.
The Minister has great panache and I am not saying he should not have it because of the publicity associated with ideas like the one before us in the House today and, indeed, others. Over the past month, we had the "Clean up Ireland" idea and others. These are very good ideas but the Minister should learn to bring local authority members along with him. He might have a much better chance of getting better results by vesting more powers in elected public representatives. It is still not too late for the Minister to see the error of his ways and to provide Dublin Corporation with the resources to bring the centre of Dublin back to what we all want to see.
Dublin is after all my capital city just as much as it is the Minister's or anybody's who lives in Dublin. I am very proud of my capital city. I am somewhat sad that the people who have been elected by the people of Dublin have not had an opportunity to become involved in the very core of their own city, the heart of their city, and have a say in the future of that city. I regret this and I regard it as being the sad element and the sad aspect of this Bill.
I dealt with these points in the course of my reply to the Second Stage debate and to some extent during the discussions on various sections earlier today. I refute and do not accept the suggestion that it is anti-democratic or in some way a negation of the normal process to establish single-function, single-purpose authorities to carry out a specific task. It can well be argued that it is difficult to ask a body such as Dublin Corporation, charged as they are, with operating on a multitude of fronts and having a multi-faceted administration, to concentrate their minds exclusively on one particular area and carry out activity in it for an agreed purpose and over a controlled time to achieve an objective. Almost certainly the people involved will have other tasks and responsibilities and they will not be able to give all their time and expertise or concentrate all of their attention in the way that would be required and expected of the Dublin Metropolitan Streets Commission.
This is not a new concept. I mentioned in the House earlier today that the Dublin wide streets commissioners established by Grattan's Parliament had in their day criticism levied at them regarding their activities. It was only after their dissolution that the merits of their work became evident and they were praised. Many of us benefit from that today. In their own way, I believe if the members of the Dublin Metropolitan Streets Commission strive to achieve the objectives I have outlined in the House and which are enshrined in the Bill, they will merit the same gratitude from future generations — not just of Dubliners but of Irish people — as do now the wide streets commissioners.
As I said in my reply to the Second Stage debate, the centre of Dublin is the centre of our capital city and Dubliners would regard it as belonging to them in a special way, or have a special affection for it. It means something special and has a definite place in the hearts of most of the people of the country, as Senator Fallon said. Since I published details of this proposal I have been heartened by the level of support which has come from all quarters, including many people who live outside the capital city.
In relation to the suggestion that it would be better that these moneys should be assigned to Dublin Corporation or that the corporation are starved of cash, let me say that Dublin Corporation are grant-aided on a variety of fronts on a multi-million pound basis by the Government annually and that the present corporation under existing legislation have been in operation now for almost 100 years. They have been controlled by various groupings at different times. Unfortunately — and there is no gainsaying the fact and there was no objection to the assertion— the centre of Dublin city has steadily declined in significance, in appearance, in usage over the past 20 to 30 years. This is not something that is unique. It is a difficulty which has been experienced by many capitals and other large cities throughout the world. Our colleagues in other countries have taken steps in many instances to remedy that situation.
What I am doing now is asking the House to agree to a proposal which will allow us to address the problem in Dublin. It is not something that has been conceived within the past year, which is the period during which members of Senator Fallon's party happened to control the balance of power in the local authority involved. I reminded the House in my opening speech on Second Stage that the genesis for this proposal appeared in embryonic form in a policy document issued by my own party in 1981. I quoted from sections of that document. I do not mind admitting to the House that I was the author of that document at that time. As the House will know, I have been Minister for the Environment since February of this year only. As soon as I was appointed to this position I set about the task of endeavouring to implement the ideas outlined in that policy document and expanding upon those ideas in the way I thought most practicable.
I do not think this is in any way a negation of democracy and, as I said in relation to the discussion on the Urban Renewal Bill when it was passing through the other House, only in May of this year an amendment was moved by the spokesman for Senator Fallons' party which, had it been accepted, would have given to me the power to establish authorities such as this for whatever purpose I felt fit, for whatever area I felt appropriate and for whatever period of time I deemed to be best without any reference to the Houses of the Oireachtas. As it happened, I told the Minister of State who was handling the Bill at the time that he should not accept that wide ranging power, although in pursuit of advocating that amendment the Opposition spokesman made remarks which are not dissimilar to mine in relation to the benefits of single-function authorities. I thought it would be better that, when specific proposals were being evolved for the establishment of authorities to carry out to task felt to be a little too difficult perhaps for existing bodies with a myriad of powers, those proposals should come specifically by way of legislation before the Houses of the Oireachtas and be debated by them.
Had I agreed to accept the Opposition amendment to the Urban Renewal Bill in May last this discussion would not be taking place today, because under the authority I would have been given by that amendment proposed by the Opposition I could have established the Dublin Metropolitan Streets Commission in June. I had hoped it would be established in July, but following publication of this Bill it received wholehearted and widespread support and welcome from bodies such as the Dublin City Centre Business Association, An Taisce, Bord Fáilte and various other business groups. There was only one group in the country who opposed the publication of this Bill or its concept and that, I have to say, was the main Opposition party. For that reason the Bill was not allowed passage through the other House at the end of the last session. The result has been that the establishment of the commission has been delayed totally unnecessarily for reasons which I have been yet unable to establish for five or six months.
I said to the House when I was replying to Second Stage that I regarded it — and I again regard it — as an insult to my approach to my responsibilities as Minister for the Environment that it should be suggested that I would devise and conceive the establishment of a Dublin metropolitan streets commission to carry out this task because some other political grouping happened to hold the balance of power in Dublin Corporation. That is not true and it is not the way in which I would believe it appropriate for me to approach my task as Minister for the Environment or in relation to any other portfolio. I already reminded the House that there are coincidentally a number of other local authority bodies of which the Senator's party have control. In particular I reminded the House of the fact that in the case of the Association of Municipal Authorities of Ireland, the General Council of County Councils his party happen to have more than the balance of power on those two bodies— I have had a number of useful and fruitful discussions with them regarding the closer co-operation that might evolve between them and also towards enhancing the status of those two which I regard as the representative groups, on the one hand the urban and on the other hand the urban cum-rural local authorities of Ireland.
I would be disappointed if those associations felt there was anything other than the closest of co-operation and good working relations between us. It is totally wrong, and I find it hurtful, that it should be suggested that I would introduce the concept of this commission to carry out this fundamentally important task simply because some other political grouping happened to have the balance of power in the local authority involved. Nothing could be further from the truth and had my party 90 per cent of the representation on Dublin Corporation I would still be advocating this Bill today.
It is unfortunate that something of this nature had not been done previously. What we are doing is to appoint seven people with the sole exclusive task of taking the area from the top of Grafton Street to the bottom of O'Connell Street —the core of the capital city of the nation — with a mandate that says: "Fit this area out to the highest possible standards, the best design of public lighting, public seating, public street furniture generally; identify how the public can be encouraged to come back in and to use it, to enjoy it, and to revel in the ambience within it; encourage people to support the businesses within it; recognise the high standards, the architectural quality of many of the buildings within it; restore them to their original grandeur; identify how open areas in the street can best be used for the enjoyment of the general public; recognise the usage which can be made of flowers and of shrubbery in a way in which we have often been lacking in Ireland; recognise that one of the things of which we do not have a shortage is water; consider the use of water in fountains and other public designs for the public enjoyment; consider the greater utilisation of pedestrianisation for the development of the reputation and image of our capital city and the enjoyment of the people who use the area; consider how best traffic can be diverted out of this area without major disruption to the remainder of the capital city in pursuit of the enjoyment of pedestrians and the encouragement of business and the reputation and status of the capital city; and do that with a budget of £10 million assigned to you from central funds as a recognition that the centre of the city belongs to more than Dubliners; that it does have a special and significant part in the minds and the hearts of all of the people of the nation and, as such, that it should be supported by Exchequer funding."
Give those seven people that authority and mandate them to do that task within three years and to have the finished product handed back into the care and maintenance of the local authority but with continuing to have a special status enshrined in legislation so that the local authority will be obliged to maintain the area, its street furniture and its setting to that special and high level. I have already explained to the House that I set the three years to ensure that the area would be returned to the present corporation during their lifetime and before there is another local election. I have done everything in my power to ensure that no member or official of the corporation involved should fear that it is in any way intended to be a slight on or a denigration of their efforts. They have many other important tasks to perform but it is not always possible for such a large body catering for the myriad of services for one million population and the many others who come to use the city every day, to concentrate all of their attention and resources in the way that I hope and expect and will demand of the commission members to do.
What I have outlined for the commissions and the way they approach their task is the best possible way of making the centre of Dublin city the best place of which all of us can be proud in a special way. I commend the Bill to the House.