This Bill is one that has been the subject of many questions in the House and considerable interest has often been displayed on the subject in the Press for, perhaps, the last four or five years. The Bill has been a long time under consideration. Since the original draft was prepared it has been changed and altered many times and we think we have got a draft now that will be satisfactory to the House. I formally move that the Bill be read a Second Time.
The measure is designed to secure in the interests of the community greater control over the development of cities, towns and other areas and to confer further powers for the preservation and extension of amenities. The importance of planning is becoming more clearly recognised. The present powers of local authorities to control development extend only to defining building lines, the level, width and construction of new streets, the quality and substance of new buildings and the materials with which the foundations and sites shall be laid. There is no power of control over the development of land in their areas as regards the limitation of dwelling-houses per land unit so as to prevent overcrowding, or the regulation of the character of buildings in the various areas of a municipality. The basis of good town design is the proper distribution of building development with suitable reservation of land for roads, public parks or pleasure grounds, playing fields and other public purposes. Greater control is also required against sporadic development throughout the country and for the preservation of road frontages against what is generally called ribbon development.
The Bill confers on the councils of counties, county boroughs and urban districts the necessary powers for the planning of their respective administrative areas. A plan may be made by a planning authority for their own district or part thereof, or a regional plan may be made for a planning region formed by two or more planning authorities under Section 12 of the Bill. Control of undeveloped land within and around urban centres offers the greatest opportunity for constructive planning. It is, in fact, essential that control should be exercised within such districts and for a sufficient distance outside to ensure harmonious development. With this object in view, Section 15 of the Bill gives power to extend such planning districts.
Where two or more planning authorities desire to act together, they may form a region comprising the whole or parts of their respective areas, and may appoint a regional planning authority therefor with or without restrictions on the matters to be contained in a regional planning scheme. The power to make a district or regional plan is entirely permissive, and may be exercised at the discretion of the planning authority.
I am all for voluntary association and co-operation in planning on a regional basis. The Department will give its full support to bringing about the greatest possible measure of co-operation between planning bodies. Planning to be really effective should be carried out over the widest area possible. The demand for planning powers has not, however, been very wide, and some time may elapse before agreement upon joint action is reached. Greater control over the development that is rapidly taking place in the Cities of Dublin and Cork, which comprise more than half of the entire urban population, is urgently required, and it is important that a regional survey of the needs of these areas should precede the making of planning schemes. For these two areas the Bill provides for the formation of special regions. The Dublin region will include the City of Dublin and the Counties of Dublin, Kildare, Meath and Wicklow. The Cork region will include the City of Cork and the County of Cork. The respective planning authorities for the two regions will be the Corporation of Dublin and the Corporation of Cork. The position of the local authorities within these special regions is amply safeguarded. Apart from the provision in Section 14 of the Bill requiring consultation with the district planning authorities for the areas within the region, the regulations to be made under Section 18 and the First Schedule of the Bill will require that any local bodies that are likely to be affected by a planning scheme shall, as soon as possible after the passing of the resolution for the preparation of a planning scheme, receive notice of the resolution and also a copy of the scheme, and be entitled to be heard at any public inquiry held in relation to the scheme.
The matters within these special regions in which the corporations of the two cities as regional planning authorities will be specially concerned can only be fully determined after careful survey of the respective districts from the social and economic standpoints, but there are obvious considerations which must merit close attention such as main road communications, the reservation of lands in connection with future water supplies; reservation of lands as sites for public buildings required in connection with the administration of public health services, and for other public purposes such as the provision of sites for aerodromes, for which municipal authorities already possess the necessary statutory powers. The reservation of suitable sea-fronts and river parkways might also be considered. Dublin, with the rivers Liffey, Tolka, and Dodder and the two canals, has a unique opportunity for the development of river parkways. A wide radius of pleasure travel is opened up by the motor bus and motor car and it would be desirable to secure permanently for the public the facilities which exist for visiting places of natural beauty and to reserve other similar areas with proper access thereto and suitable parking accommodation.
A planning authority before deciding to make a scheme should have their area carefully surveyed by experts both as to the needs of the district and the lines along which development should take place, with special reference to the sites of new roads to be constructed, open spaces to be reserved and the allocation of buildings for residential and industrial purposes. Once the planning authority has passed a resolution deciding to make a scheme, all constructive and other works come under control and it is important that there should be no delay or check upon development during the period that will elapse before the scheme is confirmed and brought into force. Control over development in the interim period is essential to planning. The preparation of a scheme may take a considerable time, and it will be in the interests of the owners of land ripe for development and those engaged in industrial enterprises that there be no uncertainty regarding the cessation of control by any possible abandonment of the preparation of the scheme. Provision is, therefore, made in the Bill that a resolution of the planning authority to make a scheme shall not be revoked.
Under the powers contained in the Bill a planning authority may, while a scheme is in course of preparation, grant to any person applying therefor, permission for the construction, demolition or alteration of a particular structure, and they may grant on the application of some person interested, or without such application, a permission applicable to the whole of the area for the construction or alteration of buildings and other structures of a particular class or classes. A planning authority may, therefore, take the initiative and grant where desirable the necessary permission for works to be proceeded with. The planning authority may, where deemed necessary, prohibit the further proceeding with the construction, demolition or alteration of any particular building or other structure in the area to be planned. Where permission to carry out any work is sought from a planning authority and no decision is given within two months the permission will be deemed to have been given by the planning authority. Appeal against the grant or refusal of a special permission or a general permission or by the making of a special prohibition will lie to the Minister who will have power to confirm, revoke, or give permission, or vary conditions imposed by the planning authority after due examination of all the circumstances of the case.
When a resolution to prepare a scheme is passed the planning authority is required to proceed with all convenient speed to make a scheme. The procedure to be followed will be governed by regulations to be made under Section 18 and the first Schedule of the Bill. It is extremely important to get the public generally to understand how the welfare of the community will be affected by the systematic regulation of the growth of a city or town and by the preservation of amenities. The planning authority should, therefore, endeavour to secure the full co-operation of all interested parties, particularly the owners of land, those engaged in transport, in private building and in commerce and industry generally, and also organisations and agencies engaged in social welfare, education and the provision of recreational facilities. In this way a wide circle of important interests will be enlisted and public confidence gained.
A planning scheme may deal with matters relating to roads, buildings and other structures, amenities, public services, public transport and communications. The power to regulate and control the erection, alteration and use of buildings will enable planning authorities to define the space about buildings to be erected in the area and to regulate their character, height and frontage line, to limit the number of houses to the acre, and to allocate building sites for residential, commercial and industrial purposes.
Every planning scheme, when made by a planning authority, must be submitted to the Minister for approval, who may either approve of the scheme without modifications or require a scheme to be modified or, if necessary, require a new scheme to be submitted. A public local inqiry will be held in every case to ascertain fully local opinion on the provisions contained in the scheme and afford to all interests concerned an opportunity of putting forward any objections thereto before the scheme is confirmed.
The Minister's Order approving of a planning scheme, together with the planning scheme, will be laid before each House of the Oireachtas with power to annul within three sitting weeks after the week in which the order is laid before each House or the notice of publication of the making of the Order in Iris Oifigiúil, whichever is later. The validity of a scheme or any provision contained in it may be questioned in the High Court on certain specified legal grounds. The Bill thus affords ample protection for all interests affected by a scheme.
When a planning scheme is duly confirmed and comes into force it shall be the duty of the responsible authority or responsible authorities named in the scheme to carry out and enforce generally the provisions of the scheme and to perform the duties assigned to them by the scheme. A responsible authority may alter, demolish and, if necessary, remove any structure which contravenes any provision in a scheme.
Due notice of any action taken by the responsible authority must be given in every case to the occupier of the date after which entry will be made on the lands and the powers proposed to be exercised. An appeal will lie to the District Court. A responsible authority cannot be assigned the duty of executing any public work, undertaking any public service, or acquiring any land unless such authority has or may procure the requisite power for the purpose under existing law. An extended power in connection with the acquisition of land is proposed to be conferred where a planning scheme contains provisions for widening or straightening an existing road. In such a case the responsible authority may acquire certain lands for the purpose with a view to facilitating development in harmony with the provisions of the planning scheme and also acquire any premises fronting to the road with a similar object in view.
All expenses reasonably incurred by the responsible authority in securing compliance with the planning scheme are to be recoverable from the person or persons in default. No expenses are recoverable where the contravention of a scheme arises out of any work done to a building or structure in accordance with a general or special permission, or by the completion of a work begun before the relevant date and still in progress on that date, and not specially prohibited by the planning authority. In the case of a first scheme, the relevant date will as a general rule be the date of the resolution of the planning authority deciding to make the scheme.
Any structure erected before the relevant date which does not conform to the provisions of the scheme may be removed by the responsible authority at their own expense. In all cases the responsible authority will have the right to do the work themselves. Provision is made for the work being done by the owner, or occupier, but only after agreement with and to the satisfaction of the responsible authority.
The provisions dealing with compensation are necessarily complicated dealing as they must with all the details and contingencies which may arise. They can, I think, best be dealt with on Committee Stage. I may say now, however, that it is my intention that owners of land and property shall be fairly treated and that protection should be given to all their legitimate interests. The provisions of Part VIII of the Bill have been drafted with this object.
On the other hand a responsible authority may make a claim for betterment in respect of property that is increased in value by the coming into operation of any provision in a planning scheme or by the execution by the responsible authority of any work in pursuance of any such provision in the scheme. The amount of betterment will be calculated by reference to the value of the property at the time the application is made by the responsible authority. The person to whom such an application for betterment is made may require the calculation of betterment to be made on the basis that the purposes for and the manner in which the property in respect of which betterment is claimed can lawfully be used is permanently restricted to the purpose for and the manner in which the property is being actually used at the date of the application by the responsible authority. There will be no obligation on the owner of land on which development may take place under the scheme to alter the existing use of the land, unless such use is prohibited by the scheme. If it is being used for agricultural purposes it may continue to be so used, even if the scheme should permit of it being used for building purposes, but should the use of the land be substantially altered within a period of 14 years, or should it within the same period be sold or leased or let for a period not less than two years, the responsible authority may make a further claim for betterment if it appears that the use to which the property will be put will be increased by the operation of the planning scheme.
At the time the second application for betterment is made the value of the property is then calculated as if there was no such restriction on the user of the property. If the property is not sold or leased or its use not substantially changed within the period of 14 years the right of the responsible authority to claim betterment ceases. Therefore, as long as agricultural land continues to be used for agricultural purposes, no claim for betterment is likely to arise. Claims for compensation and applications for betterment will be determined by arbitration at which all interests affected can attend and have their views fully represented.
I have dealt in general terms with the main provisions of the Bill relating to the making and confirmation of planning schemes. One other matter remains and that is the question of the cost of planning. District planning authorities will be empowered to levy the necessary rate for the purpose. In the case of a regional planning authority the expenses are to be met by the appointing bodies in such proportion as may be agreed upon, or in case of disagreement as may be determined by the Minister. There are wide powers contained in the Bill for the allocation of the expenses of making a plan which relates to portion only of a county health district, while a planning scheme itself may contain provisions regulating the manner of raising any expenses of the scheme. A contribution may also be made by one planning authority to another. The expenses of the preparation and execution of a planning scheme including payment for compensation under the scheme may be met by borrowing and the repayment spread over a number of years.
Each planning authority will be free to determine whether any expenditure on planning is to be incurred. A reasoned plan of development need not place any great strain on the financial resources of a planning authority. In every country where planning is carried out it has been found that it pays to plan. Rectification of haphazard development in the past is always costly. Planning will supply the corrective against a repetition of any such development in the future. It will, moreover, go a long way to bring about those conditions which will make for social betterment and progress. The Government is actively engaged at the present time in planning an industrial revival throughout the country and those charged with administering local government can help towards that end by the wise planning of the growth of their areas, in which suitable sites could be reserved for industrial purposes, and by providing proper sanitary services and improved housing conditions for the working-classes.
I believe the Bill will give very necessary powers to local authorities for the control of the development of their areas and will enable them to plan public works ahead in a manner best suited to the public interest. I believe, too, that the Bill will fit in with other measures promoted by the Government for the welfare of the country, and I can, therefore, confidently recommend it to the House.