Thursday, 4 November 2004

Questions (80)

Dan Boyle


66 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if the needs of children will be recognised in his preparation of a new guidance manual for planning authorities. [27588/04]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government)

New development management guidelines — a review of the development control guidelines of 1982 — are at an advanced stage of preparation by my Department. These guidelines are intended to give advice to planning authorities, planning practitioners and the general public on various areas of planning control and development management. The guidelines deal with the best ways to handle planning applications and other planning control issues, and will not deal with issues relating to any particular section of society.

The needs of children are provided for in the planning context by the guidelines for planning authorities on child care facilities and by the Planning and Development Act 2000. The child care guidelines were published by my Department in July 2001 and are designed to assist planning authorities in making suitable provision for child care facilities in their development plans and to ensure a consistency of approach throughout the country to the treatment of planning applications. Among other things, the guidelines state that a standard, with regard to new housing areas, of one child care facility with a minimum of 20 child care places for approximately 75 dwellings may be appropriate. The Planning and Development Act 2000 provides that planning authorities include objectives in their development plans for the provision, or facilitation of the provision, of services for the community including schools, crèches and other education and child care facilities.

My Department is currently finalising guidelines for planning authorities on development plans, which will be published in draft form for public consultation in the near future. The guidelines will aim to improve the standard and consistency of development plans and thereby improve the quality and consistency of decisions taken on the basis of those plans. They will refer,inter alia, to the mandatory objectives which planning authorities must include in the development plan with regard to community services including schools, crèches and other education and child care facilities. The guidelines will also refer to other community facilities, including facilities for children’s play, such as playgrounds, skateboard parks and other such facilities. The guidelines will indicate to planning authorities that they must respond to the circumstances of their own communities when formulating development plans. Under section 48 of the Planning and Development Act 2000, planning authorities may levy development contributions on developers to fund the provision of community facilities, including playgrounds.

My Department also assists the National Children's Office to administer the playgrounds grants scheme, which aims to increase the range of public play opportunities available to children. The scheme will provide funding for the provision of new playgrounds or refurbishment of existing playgrounds. An additional sum of €2 million was made available this year in my Department's budget for play facilities, to coincide with the launch of the national play policy in March 2004.