I thank the Minister of State, Deputy Daly, for coming in. I hope he will not mind me saying that I am disappointed the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Deputy Zappone, is not here. I believe she has a budget press conference at 12 noon but it is only 10.30 a.m. I would have hoped that she would have come into the Chamber to discuss this important issue but I thank the Minister of State for his presence. I hope he will be able to give me some answers and maybe convey the message that I am going to relay today.
I live in north County Dublin, which has the youngest and the fastest growing population in the country. There is a severe issue there in regard to the provision of childcare facilities. When I talk about childcare facilities, I am talking about full-time childcare facilities and not sessional facilities. We have some of those, although we could do with more. We have good coverage of the part-time ECCE-funded facilities but I am talking about full-time crèche facilities. North County Dublin has a very young population that is growing rapidly. Much housing is being built in the area, particularly in Donabate, where I live, and in Lusk. That brings families, people starting families or people who have children. They are moving into areas in the expectation that there will be crèche facilities but that is not the case.
What we are finding is that developers have been granted planning permission for hundreds of houses on the basis that they will provide a crèche in the development. People buy their houses, and spend a lot of money on them, with the promise that there will be a crèche on their doorstep. What is happening is that the second phase of a development might have to go to An Bord Pleanála and the requirement for a crèche is being taken out at An Bord Pleanála level, or at local authority level.
Instead, a proposal for more and denser housing provision is submitted and, suddenly, the community is without the childcare facility it expected to have. When that happens three or four times in a small area, it becomes a real crisis. It is something I have faced personally, as have neighbours of mine. It is upsetting for parents to discover that there is no childcare facility to which they can send their children. This is an ongoing crisis and it is creating all sorts of problems. In the case of large-scale developments which might consist of up to four phases, what is happening is that the provision of a crèche is postponed until the last phase, which may be many years after the first phase was built. In some instances, when the final stage is reached, the builders do not bother to build the crèche and instead leave a small part of the site on which nothing is constructed. By that stage, they have sold 600 or 700 houses on the promise of there being an on-site crèche.
I have an example of this type of thing in Donabate, where planning permission for a development was granted on the basis that a crèche would be provided. The builders have now gone back to Fingal County Council and applied for a change-of-use permission that would allow them to construct two more houses instead of the crèche. When Councillor Adrian Henchy and I arranged a public meeting to discuss the change, there was great interest from families outraged that this was happening. Following that successful meeting, more than 30 submissions were submitted locally to the council and a decision in the case is pending. The developer argued that there was no local demand for a crèche, in response to which we clearly proved there was such demand. The developer also claimed to have been unable to find any local provider willing to offer a childcare service from the proposed crèche. In fact, there are plenty of local providers who are interested in running a crèche from the building if and when it is built. As it emerged, what the developer actually wants is to sell the building for €1 million. The developer simply does not want to rent it for a ten-year term to anybody willing to avail of it to provide a childcare service to people in the village.
Will the Minister of State convey to the Minister, Deputy Zappone, the urgent need for her to get involved, through the local childcare committees, in the planning process? She needs to make submissions to Fingal County Council and, on behalf of communities, to An Bord Pleanála. Parents of young children in the area are already flat to the washers trying to work, provide a home and pay mortgages and other bills. We cannot leave it to them to fight for these essential community facilities. We need the Minister to get on board. All the schemes and reform measures in the world are of little use if we do not have the necessary physical infrastructure in growing and emerging communities and if we allow developers to lead the development of communities to the detriment of families. I could talk forever about the gender pay gap, the glass ceiling and the stress caused to families by the lack of childcare provision, but the Cathaoirleach has indicated that my time is up. I urge the Minister of State to take the message to the Minister that we need her to engage actively in the planning process.