Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Wednesday, 11 Oct 1933

Vol. 49 No. 18

Town and Regional Planning Bill, 1933—Second Stage.

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.

The Minister will, no doubt, get a lot of advice and a lot of criticism as to certain shortcomings perhaps in the Bill—as to powers that are left untaken. I think that the Bill, as it is put before the House, provides a very considerable amount of power and a considerable amount of useful and necessary machinery. Town planners and town planning people have been confined to the drawing board to a very large extent, and while a considerable amount of very useful town planning work has been done in certain countries, much more has been done on the drawing board. Recently, in Dublin, before the Royal Institute of Architects, a lecturer said that the planning that had been done in Great Britain was sufficient for the whole population of the whole of Europe. People who regard town planning in a detached way, with a drawing board before them, may feel that a very large amount of unnecessary work can be done. Because of that, the Minister may get advice that will not be of much use to him. Indeed it may be calculated to take him away from the practical aspect of the subject. While the Minister in this Bill takes very considerable powers for the revocation of planning schemes he takes no powers, so far as I can see, for the initiation by himself of schemes of planning in any place.

I do not say that these powers should be taken in the Bill, but I want to urge that the most useful thing that could be done now, before the Bill is passed, is that the Minister should enter into consultation with some definite local authorities, and invite them to look on the Bill and to say what they can use it for, first of all, to get rid of a certain amount of unsightliness which in recent years has grown up in certain places, to prevent it recurring; and then to take some towns of the size of Wexford or Kilkenny, that we hope are growing, and to get from these authorities some conception of the lines on which they were going to develop industrially. I think nothing can be done until some of our local authorities, in co-operation with the Department, get down to a discussion of definite town-planning schemes. At the beginning I think these schemes should not be ambitious. It is only by the Minister encouraging local authorities to take an interest in it, it is only by local authorities getting down to schemes of a practical nature, and to works that require to be done, that there is going to be helpful public sympathy for town-planning, and any understanding of the amount of money that proper town-planning is going to save. I do not know if the Minister has yet submitted the Bill to local authorities. If not, it would be well worth delaying the Committee Stage until he has done so, with some outline from him as to the type of problem local authorities might tackle immediately.

There is no doubt that this Bill is badly needed, and is certainly overdue, but I am not so sure that it is going to bring about what the Title would seem to indicate. While my remarks will be confined more or less to the City and County of Dublin, I have no doubt that people from other parts will find that similar difficulties have arisen there. Looking at Dublin one asks, from the town-planning point of view, what is wrong with Dublin. Dublin is a very old city, and was at one time surrounded by walls. Congestion that arose by reason of the walls of Dublin continued long after the walls had disappeared. The traffic and planning problem in Dublin is complicated by the river that flows through the centre of it. A river has to have bridges, and bridges are expensive items. It is a law of town planning that a traffic artery is supposed to be laid on to each end of a bridge crossing a river. Looking at Dublin from that point of view, it will be found that there is only one bridge and one street there, so that it might be said of Dublin as of Dromcollogher, "There is only one street in Dromcollogher." That thoroughfare is already loaded to the point that it will not stand any more traffic. Remember the problem that the ebb and flow of traffic across the river from one side of the city to the other creates. Every city has its own town planning problem. It cannot be said that as Dublin is about the same size as some other city what cured the traffic or the housing problem in that city will cure the problem if the same methods are adopted in Dublin. The question is, what should be done? In the past Dublin had some very far-sighted people, such as the Wide Streets Commissioners, who planned wisely and well. I do not know whether it was because they went out of existence that Dublin passed through a period—I do not know whether it would be called decay or not—in which there was certainly no development of town planning. I only hope that we are now going to enter upon a new era, in which the question will be considered in its proper relationship.

Looking at the city at the present time, one asks what is the major problem. As far as the business and manufacturing communities are concerned there is considerable congestion. Customers and traders have difficulty in getting their carriages or motor cars up to their premises. Their vans have difficulty in getting to and fro, and workers, by reason of the badly designed traffic arteries, are looking for houses beside their work. I am not sure if there is power in this Bill to make regulations which can be carried out.

Deputy Mulcahy referred to schemes that might be conceived on the blackboard but, when it is considered that the County Borough of Dublin and the Counties of Dublin, Kildare, Meath and Wicklow are included as one area, I am afraid by the time there is a comprehensive scheme for that area, and the cost is settled, a great many schemes might be passed over which would have gone a long way towards solving the difficulty. There is no doubt that additional traffic arteries are required through the city, and when one looks at this Bill and asks who is responsible for initiating this, one begins to look through the Bill in vain. If you ask yourself what happened in the past and what is happening at the present time and what is going to stop that, you look through this Bill in vain. I should like the Minister to enlighten me if I am wrong. Perhaps one of the worst blunders in town planning in this city occurred some years ago—I think about 25 years ago, or it might be 30 years ago—when the bottom of Grafton Street was rebuilt. It was Corporation property and although there was considerable feeling that the thoroughfare—perhaps the worst bottle-neck in the city—ought to be widened, it was not carried through. Now, I suppose, the Minister will say: "Oh, yes, but that was 30 years ago; that was before the growth of motor-cars, and that could not occur at the present time." I do not know whether any body of ratepayers could appeal to the Minister at the present time. For instance, I suppose everybody who is here present in this Dáil to-day will have headstones over them before the bottom of Grafton Street is again rebuilt, but you have only to go a few yards round the corner to see history in the process of repeating itself. Nassau Street and Dame Street are very important thoroughfares and the connection between them, along St. Andrew Street and Trinity Street, is at present being rebuilt. I know one body of ratepayers who are very anxious that the buildings should be set back, and I rather think that one of the prominent sites on that area is about to be occupied by the Post Office. When this particular body of ratepayers appealed to the Corporation and appealed to the Post Office as to whether the Post Office vans left outside the Post Office would congest the thoroughfare unduly they were left in the position that they could not get any satisfactory answer. I would like to ask the Minister, if this Bill was passed, how that question would be remedied. Could that body of ratepayers appeal to the Minister for help and guidance?

To turn from the purely town-planning aspect as it affects Dublin, and to get to what is, possibly, more important, the provision of sites, what is taking place at the present time? We have a very intensive campaign by the Government, through the Corporation, to provide housing or sites for the workers. I should like to suggest to the Minister—and I do not know that it could be remedied under this Bill, although I see no way of remedying it under the existing Bill—that they have built too many house and provided too few sites. There are two schools of thought with regard to housing for the working-classes. When I say housing, I am not referring to houses, I am referring to sites for houses— sites as such. One school of thought says that sites should be provided outside the city on virgin soil; that the houses will be easier to put up out there and the people can be housed more hygienically, and that if proper town planning conditions were adopted and proper traffic arteries made the workers could get much quicker to and from their work, and, in fact, that there would be very little in the contention that the workers were being housed too far from their work. The other school of thought suggests that every ward in the city must have a housing site developed and houses for the workers erected in that area. Now, what is the consequence of that? The Government or the Corporation are unable to enforce their own public health by-laws because the feeling is "where are the workers to be housed if these houses are pulled down?"

Another aspect of that question is that workers cannot be housed by hanging them up on hooks while houses are being built on the particular area which they inhabited. I suggest to the Minister that under a proper town-planning scheme sufficient houses ought to be built outside in order to enable the Corporation to enforce their own by-laws. It would produce several other beneficial effects because, when property has to be acquired in the centre of the city—possibly property that ought to have been condemned as being unfit for human habitation— there has to be a very high price paid for the acquisition of such property. There is another aspect of the question that I do not think is apparent to the ordinary person, in which certainly a great improvement could be brought about under this Bill. Sites in the centre of the city are very difficult to obtain for manufacturing purposes. I think that everybody who has anything to do with the sale or transfer of property is aware that many factories and business places have been unable to acquire additional ground for the extension of their factories by reason of the fact that the sites were occupied by tenement houses, and that as there was nowhere to house their workers, there would be no chance of these houses which, in many cases, were possibly unfit to be used as tenement houses, being demolished and the extension made. I think some of us are also aware of people who have offers for sites and who were anxious to obtain sites for the provision of houses for the working classes and were unable to obtain them. I think, when the Government consider all these questions, they will see how closely related the Town Planning Bill is to the proper solution of housing for the working classes. I think they would be easily convinced that they are not going to solve the housing problem on the lines along which they are proceeding at the present time, because of the delay that is occasioned by taking people from one site and having to find some alternative accommodation for them and getting the area cleared. This Housing and Town Planning Bill, if it were properly administered and amended, points a way to accelerating the progress that ought to be made.

Another question about which I am rather doubtful is the question of betterment. We are all agreed that a property owner who suddenly receives a fabulous addition to the value of his property by reason of some improvement carried out at the expense of the community ought to contribute something, but is the Minister going the best way about it? Theoretically, his idea is perfectly sound, but I have not been able to discover any instance of a property which was enhanced in value in respect of which the enhancement in value would not be recovered ultimately over a series of years by the increase in the valuation. You are very anxious to get people to put up new houses and to develop property, and you have offered them remissions on the rates and all sorts of inducements to get them to rebuild. Now you come along with this betterment clause which seems to me to be a clumsy way of dealing with a very few instances that will escape, owing to what I might call the flaws in the Valuation Act. Supposing, for the sake of argument, that a sum of money is obtained from the owner or, as I should prefer to put it, from the site that has been enhanced in value. What is that to come out of? Is the owner of that site to be allowed to deduct the interest on that sum of money as a permanent expense in calculating the profits accruing from that property? I imagine that the Minister would do far better if he were to ascertain if there was any case that would escape increased valuation where an increase in value was brought about, and I would suggest to the Minister that that is the easiest and simplest way. The Minister has mentioned that if a property is let for any longer period than two years—I think he said 14 years—they can come back on the people for betterment. I would suggest that that is a needless complication and might conceivably lead to people allowing property to remain undeveloped for 14 years. Again, I should like to suggest to the Minister that an increase in the valuation of a property that had been altered or increased would, over a long series of years, bring back to the community, or ought to bring back to the community, an increase in the value that had accrued to that site. I suppose the more detailed remarks that I have made might have been kept until we had reached Committee Stage, but I should like the Minister to have an opportunity of looking into the points I have raised, so that when we come to a later stage he can consider how far some of these criticisms can be met.

I am glad that the Minister has brought in the Bill at last but I am very much afraid that there is a possibility of its becoming a dead letter. As Deputy Mulcahy has pointed out, there is nothing very clear in the Bill as to who is to take the initiative in introducing these schemes.

That is clear enough.

Whether that initiative will be used, I do not know. One of the greatest drawbacks to democracy is its opposition to town planning so that it is generally necessary to get a dictator, or some other person, to take the responsibility of incurring the necessary unpopularity in carrying through a proper scheme of this kind. Deputy Mulcahy suggested that the Minister, before continuing with the Bill, might bring it to the attention of the local authorities and ask for their opinion on it. I do not know how exactly that could be done. Perhaps the Minister might be willing to submit the Bill to a Special Committee of this House, which could get into touch with the local authorities and sift their opinions and suggestions, together with the opinions and suggestions of bodies outside this House who have an interest in the objects of the Bill. It is particularly advisable that municipal and local authorities should be consulted because of the cost that would be put on them. At the present time, they cannot stand the great increase in the costs which they have to bear, and for that reason they should have some say in the preparing of the Bill. In fact, the whole question of the cost of the schemes will require very careful study by the House before it is agreed to, because I think that the State will have to take more responsibility than appears in the Bill as it stands. These matters, of course, would be matters for Committee, and I think that the best thing would be to submit the Bill to a Special Committee. There are certain minor points such as have been drawn attention to by Deputy Dockrell. Certainly the Dublin regional planning seems to be very vast. Towns like Arklow and Carnew, to the south of the Wicklow Mountains, and places like Nobber, in the north of County Meath, are included in the Dublin area. They do not appear at first sight to have much connection one with another.

There is one matter which I have referred to on a previous occasion in connection with the Land Bill. It is the provision of municipal aerodromes and landing grounds. I do not find anything in the Bill which in any way facilitates local authorities in providing these landing grounds under this scheme. The Minister said, or seemed to suggest, that the municipal authorities already possessed the necessary powers to acquire and maintain land for such purposes. I am informed by municipal authorities that they have not got such powers. There is nothing in this Bill which gives them these powers. In Part V of the Second Schedule there is reference to the establishment, extension or improvement of the system of public transport. I do not know that aviation could be included in such a definition as "public transport," because it would be largely a question of privately-owned air-craft, and such aerodromes would not be used mainly by publicly-owned vessels. For that reason there will be necessity for a clearer definition when the Bill goes into Committee. I think that we would be well advised if we did not attempt to deal with this Bill across the floor of the House in general Committee of the Dáil. I think that we should submit it to the more careful consideration of a Select or Special Committee.

Like the other Deputies who have spoken, I welcome this Bill, and I am only sorry it was not introduced many years ago. It is a Bill that will require a great deal of consideration. I should like to offer criticism of a few points of the Bill now. The regional authorities which will have to administer the Bill cover too large an area. In Section 14, the county borough of Dublin and the counties of Dublin, Kildare, Meath and Wicklow are, for the purposes of the Bill, to form collectively a planning region. Anybody with any knowledge of planning would place that area under the control of, at least, four bodies. I trust that before the Bill leaves the House that matter will receive consideration.

One of the advantages of the Bill is that it gives greater powers to the local authorities. Anybody who has had experience of local authorities knows that, in the matter of building and planning, they had very small powers. As long as a building complied with the by-laws, the local authority had really no power over it. This Bill gives power to the local authorities, so that if monstrosities should crop up in the future as in the past we shall know that the local authority is to blame. The power given to the local authorities is very wide. They are to say what form a building shall take and whether or not a man shall build in a particular way. If a man is prepared to pay for a particular form of building, it is very drastic to give the local authority power to tell that man that he shall not build in that way, but that he must build in some other way. In that particular respect, I think that there ought to be some redress in the event of an unwise decision by a local authority. In this country, as in some other countries, there are here and there unwise local authorities. On the average, their wisdom is very marked, but I know of one or two decisions that were anything but wise. In these cases it might be advisable to have a reference to the Minister, so that if a person feels aggrieved at the action of a local authority, he can have recourse to some superior authority and have his grievance redressed. I hope that that matter will be adjusted on Committee Stage.

The portion of this Bill that will give rise to the greatest amount of contention is that referred to by Deputy Dockrell—Part VIII, which deals with betterment. Like Deputy Dockrell, I am not satisfied that the provisions set out here are the best under the circumstances. Take a case of the betterment of property. The man who owns that property may admit the betterment but he may not be able to derive advantage from it. It is well known that, in certain eventualities, where betterment arises, the owner cannot immediately avail of the advantages. He cannot force a market. He cannot sell his premises. Nevertheless, the local authority compels him to pay for the betterment. That, I think, is an unwise provision. I agree with Deputy Dockrell that the better way to provide for compensation for betterment to the local authority is through valuation and taxation. If the valuation is increased, the betterment compensation will accrue gradually instead of in a lump sum. I make these comments for the consideration of the Minister and we shall see whether we cannot advance along that line on Committee Stage.

Town planning is a very big subject. The reason I am sorry this Bill was not brought in years ago is that there is a crying need for parking places. Business people object to having the front of their premises used for the purpose of parking. Yet, there are no other parking places. The streets are so lined with vehicles on both sides that you can hardly drive through them. That is an injury that might have been righted if this Bill had been brought in some years ago. But in any case, it is a matter from which we suffer at the present moment. It is a grievance that would be remedied in the near future. I hope that one of the first acts of a local authority will be to produce proper parking places for motors and to free the front of the different business premises in our city. At this stage I do not propose to offer any further criticism of the Bill. I congratulate the Minister on bringing it in even at this late hour.

Whilst this debate was going on Deputy Good many times looked over at me expecting apparently that I was going to speak. I think he has at the back of his head that I am opposed to town planning. That I am opposed to town planning is right. If I had my way this Bill would get a very short shrift indeed because I do not know what town planning is. I have been listening to talks on it for 25 years but I do not know what it is. I did not read the Bill because I trusted that the explanation that would be given to me here would be sufficient for my poor brain to grasp some intelligent meaning from it. But I am an uncouth man, uncultured, a ward politician and a Dublin man who has no view apart from Dublin. Dublin is the town mentioned constantly here to-night and that is why I speak.

It is certainly well over 20 years since the Dublin Corporation, of which I was a member, decided that they would try to attack the slum evil in this city. As the Minister knows, for he was a member of the Corporation himself then, a very determined effort was made by the municipal council to do it. We were immediately or almost immediately confronted with an agitation got up by town planning people and various literary men gave expression to the wonderful improvement that would be brought about in Dublin by town planning. Pictures were drawn of the boons and amenities that would be available for the working-classes if town planning were adopted. What these were they did not say but the workers were promised garden cities where they could have their own orchards, two or three acres and a cow and all that business that at that time was popular in England in those days. The working-classes were to have their own cocks and hens. They were to have ham and eggs for breakfast and all that sort of thing.

It came to pass that certain professors were brought over here from an adjoining country to instruct us as to what town planning was. One of them came before the housing committee of the Corporation. At any rate the result of all this was that the Corporation's efforts to deal with the slum evil were then hampered, interfered with and almost prevented. To my mind certainly that was the result of all this talk about town planning. That was more or less the impression that was left in my mind by all that was spoken and written about it. The Corporation appointed a committee to go over to Scotland so as to view there the wonderful improvements that these Scottish professors had brought about. I was one of the deputation that went to Glasgow and Edinburgh in order to find out what was done by these professors in their own towns. When we got there we were laughed at. We were told they did nothing there, that what was done about town planning was done in London.

In Glasgow they had a society called "The Common Good" Society. That was a society that entertained visitors. As far as my experience went they did that remarkably well. We had luncheons, excursion parties and all that sort of thing. We had the same experience awaiting us in Edinburgh. In Edinburgh they had the "Common Good" Society too, but with no town planning, no garden cities and no magnificent homes for the workers. We asked the same questions in Edinburgh as we did in Glasgow. Then in Edinburgh we met Professor Geddes and I think Professor Abercrombie. I think these were their names. They had not done anything there. When I saw the congestion that existed in that city I was astonished. The modern portion of the city is beautiful but in the older portion of the city people can easily shake hands with their neighbours across the street for old lang syne's sake. Where is the necessity in this City of Dublin for town planning? Are not the streets, generally speaking, amply wide?

Mr. Kelly

The Deputy says they are not but my view is that they are wide enough, amply wide enough, and I was born and reared in Dublin. The major reason I have for my opposition to this town planning is that I am afraid that it is going to do again what it did 20 years ago. The slums still remain with us and now when another determined effort is being made to deal with them, we do not want this well-intentioned idea of town planning to interfere with our work again and we are not going to allow it do so if we can prevent it. In to-day's paper you have an account of an inquiry held only yesterday by a Local Government inspector in connection with an alteration in certain sites or plots in what is called the North Lotts. Seventeen years ago the City Council made an effort to deal with that and other areas. They instructed their architects and engineers to prepare plans. These plans were submitted to inquiries held by Local Government inspectors and they were turned down. Now after 17 years these slums are 17 years worse than they were then and an effort is again being made to try to deal with them.

We know of the appalling congestion that exists at present. From cases that have been disclosed very recently we had this confirmed. Some time ago the City Manager put in advertisements in the city newspapers inviting applications for about 500 houses. I think that was in March last. These houses are ready for occupation in the Cabra district and in Clonliffe Road in the place known as Donnelly's Orchard. To that advertisement there were responses from 11,000 families. These have since been shifted and divided into separate areas. I represent No. 1 area in the Dublin Corporation and this is the position—according to the answers received to this advertisement there are 169 tubercular families living in one-roomed dwellings. There are 229 families living in one-roomed dwellings. These consist of grown-up people, young men and young women living with their fathers and mothers. There are 1,340 other families living in one-roomed dwellings, with a number of young children varying from three to 10 or 11 years of age. Then there are other families living in basement houses, dirty old kitchens, rat-ridden and vermin-ridden. To all these people living under these appalling conditions the City Manager has assigned 77 houses as the proportion that ought to be allotted to them out of the houses at present ready for occupation. Areas No. 2 and No. 3 are even worse than No. 1 area. That is the result of the Corporation being interfered with 20 years ago by, as I said, well-intentioned people. That is the reason I do not want any more town-planning. If it in any way helps to do away with that appalling system of over-crowding it may be all right. Having regard to my past experience, I do not think it is going to do so. I am not going to vote for it. I do not suppose I can vote against it because probably it will be accepted. Anyway, I thought it my duty to put these figures before you. If it is going to be helpful in the direction of ridding us of the slum evil, it is all right. The Minister knows as much about the slum evil as I do. I hope he will see that this Bill is made effective in getting rid of the slums. Our humbler citizens deserve all the consideration that can be given them. The Dublin Corporation now mean, God willing, to do away with the slum problem.

I welcome the introduction of this Bill if it is to be operated reasonably and if it is to be operated with the thought ever present to the minds of the Government that the first desideratum is not red tape, but the getting of our people out of insanitary houses and placing them in decent accommodation. When that problem comes to be examined the first difficulty that will arise is for the housing authorities to make up their minds whether they are going to accept what to me seems the rotten philosophy of the Viennese housing plans that have been carried through during the last ten years. I consider that this system of taking the poor out of tenements in Lower Gardiner Street and putting them into bigger tenements in Marlborough Street is all wrong.

If the evils of the slums are to be done away with, the first essential is to get our people into living accommodation where they will be able to raise a decent Christian family. No tenement house, no matter how built, constitutes ideal surroundings for the raising of a decent Christian family. The argument will be made that there are plenty of people who could afford to live in houses but who chose to live in flats. To my mind that argument carries no weight whatever. I have always felt, and I believe it is a matter that ought to be examined forthwith in view of the introduction of this Bill, that the only effective way to remedy the housing problem in this country is to induce and facilitate the poor people who are at present living in slums to live on the outskirts of the city and to provide those people with decent houses and small gardens—a small garden for every individual family.

I am well aware that I may be charged with a lack of orthodoxy when I say that I am of the opinion that no charge on the public funds should deter us from carrying that work to a successful conclusion. I come to that conclusion for this reason, that if there were riots and revolution in this city and the people asked no more than the right to have a house in which a decent family could be brought up and the means of subsistence, there would be no man found in this country to refuse the mob either one thing or the other. When that is once established we ought to make up our minds that we are ready to do, without threats or terrorism or disorder, what we would be prepared to do if those threats, terrorism or disorder were upon us. I have adumbrated a scheme. Some years ago I remember asking the present President of the Executive Council—he was then Deputy de Valera— to give us the benefit of his views upon a scheme for the solution of the housing problem in this and provincial cities. I urged then that the poor should be provided with houses on the outskirts of the city and that, if necessary, free transport should be included in the amount of their rents.

I am well aware that the strongest opposition will come, in many cases, from the tenants of the tenement houses. They do not want to go. Many of them have got accustomed to living in surroundings such as obtain in Gloucester Street, Waterford Street and Gardiner Street and in other slum areas on the South side of the city. I will ask Deputies to remember that there was never any reform of a drastic character carried through that did not meet with violent opposition from the people who were going to benefit most from that reform. I venture to recall to their memories the experience of Lord Shaftesbury when he succeeded, in the teeth of the opposition of all the great industrialists in England, in carrying through legislation which prohibited the employment of half-naked women dragging coal trucks through the mines in Northern England. He went up to the area where this practice had been prohibited, to receive the adulation and gratitude of the women who were delivered from that slavery, and it took the militia to get him out! The women came out in their thousands and threatened to tear him in pieces for depriving them of their livelihood, that livelihood being to get down to a mine, strip to the waist and get harnessed with chains to a coal truck. Lord Shaftesbury came back to London a disillusioned but not a discouraged man. Many other great reforms in England were due to his activity, but he did not go back subsequently to receive adulation. There is no use in imagining that if we provide decent houses on the outskirts of Dublin we should go down to the Gloucester Diamond in order to receive an ovation, because we will not get it.

The Deputy is wrong there. Many of the tenement dwellers went out of there.

Deputy Kelly knows our fellow-citizens perhaps as well as any of us do, but I think he will agree with me that there are great numbers of people living at present under appalling conditions in this city who would not go voluntarily to the outskirts of the city.

People have to be near their work.

There is the whole hopeless argument that we have to come face to face with. We are going to leave people in Gloucester Street, and other back streets, and plank them down under the shadow of a huge factory chimney again, and because that new building will be clean and fresh looking Deputy T. Kelly will not think what it will be like in 25 years' time. If we are to follow a big industrial policy in this country—I do not see any sign of it yet—I have no hesitation in saying if we fail to get people out of the city we are certain to have a worse problem in 50 years' time than we have at the present moment. If you went to America and suggested that the working classes should be housed under the shadow of their factories, they would laugh at you. The property in the neighbourhood of these factories is far too valuable, for one thing; perhaps that is why they move people out. But from the point of view of the health and well-being of the people, I would not have any family housed in the shadow of a factory, because no matter what steps you take that settlement will in time degenerate into a slum. Unless this problem is tackled with courage and vision, all this general planning and housing is going to do more damage than good. The resources of this country are limited. I would be prepared to strain them to the very farthest point to solve this problem, and to pledge the credit of the country to the last penny to solve this problem. It would be money well spent. But for Heaven's sake, when we start, let us not throw the money away.

There are large tracts of land within a mile and a half of Nelson Pillar upon which we could plant every single individual in tenement houses to-day, and house them not two miles away from the centre of the city. The same applies to the western side of the city. I am appalled at the possibility that while we are to pull down large blocks of tenements in the city and we are to build other blocks there, if we do that we will have in front of us, in 20 or 30 years' time, a far greater problem than we have now. I welcome this measure, because I believe it will provide the Minister with the necessary powers. I am glad to see that the Minister is possibly more sympathetic to my point of view than Deputy T. Kelly. I think it is fortunate that at the moment the Minister for Local Government and Public Health is more particularly conversant with the appalling conditions under which our people in Dublin are living at the present time, than most people. I hope he will have courage and that he will insist upon providing those people not only with roofs under which they can take shelter but with decent homes in which families can be brought up. I consider this to be the most important social problem that our people have to face. I believe Bolshevism and every form of abomination has had its origin and seed-bed in tenement houses. And I say this, that if I were a man brought up in a tenement house and saw my father and mother living in a basement room, then if I was not a Bolshevist it would be by the grace of God.

There are many Christians living in tenement houses!

Upon my word there are, better Christians than many people in this House, but how long will that last?

It has lasted a long time, and will last longer than you think.

I think the people ought to realise this, and that when the necessary expenses are embarked upon, people ought to realise that the only place that Bolshevism could get an effective root in this country, and I am not sure that it has not already got root, is in the rotten houses to which our people are condemned. That, to my mind, is an important aspect of the question. There is one other important aspect. We have a number of great beauty spots in this country. In England there was a similar situation. In the most charming of these localities unscrupulous building speculators came out and built pill-boxes in those beautiful places. In Ireland I have seen some in process of erection. Take the case of the Vico Road! But for the public spirit of a few people in that neighbourhood, who, out of their own pockets, bought up some ground in the Vico Road, you would have the whole of that glorious view of Dublin Bay disturbed by building speculators. I trust the Minister will not hesitate to use the powers in this Bill to preserve areas of that kind. I trust, on the Committee Stage, we will find that the powers he has taken in the Bill are ample to protect beauty spots of that kind. If they are not, I trust he will accept amendments to provide him with all the powers he may require to that end. But that is of minor significance. The great thing in this Bill is an attempt to solve the housing problem in Dublin and provincial cities. I welcome it because I believe it is the precursor of a really constructive effort on the lines of the British five-year plan which is proceeding at the present time. It is, I consider, the best thing Fianna Fáil has done. But my experience of Fianna Fáil has been of such a kind heretofore that hope is prone to wither in my breast. However, I look to the Vice-President of the Executive Council to water the struggling plant and to give us the satisfaction of seeing his work develop and prosper. And I can assure him that so far as anything he may do towards the realisation and solution of the housing problem in this country is concerned he may depend upon the cordial support of everybody in this House.

This debate, while not being unduly long, has covered a fairly wide field of subjects. It developed largely into a debate on the housing problem. I do not see why it need necessarily have developed in that direction. Social reform, slave labour and Bolshevism, and I do not know how many other subjects, were touched upon. It may be that the subject of town planning is one that gives the imagination something to work upon; it gives people with ideas something to talk about. I do not object if it does stimulate people's imagination and ideas; and my hope is that out of the stimulation that has been given rise to something will come.

This Bill deals with a subject which is new in this country. We have had a good deal of talk, for a number of years, on the subject of town planning but this is the first time that any effort has been made to bring the subject into the region of practicability.

The Bill that is here before us has not received much criticism. Possibly many people in the House, like my friend Deputy Alderman Kelly, have not read it. It is not a popular subject. I think it is a popular subject to write about, but not a popular subject to study. However, I should like the Bill to be studied, I will not say by every member in the House because I know well that probably fifty per cent. of them will not read it, but I should like every member of the House who has any interest in the matter to take the Bill, study it seriously, and give us in amendments the benefit of his observations and criticisms. The Bill is in no sense— and I think it is so accepted by the House—a party measure. There is nothing political about it. It is a measure brought into the House by me as the present Minister; it might have been brought in by my predecessor, because the matter has been under consideration in the Department for a long time. I think my predecessor was interested in the subject; I am interested in the subject largely because I believe it will help to do the very thing which Deputy Alderman Kelly and Deputy Dillon suggest ought to be done, that is help to abolish the slums. It will have, if properly used, a helpful effect in that direction. I agree with Deputy Mulcahy that in the initial stages we ought not to be too ambitious. It is a new subject. We have not had any experience of it, and it is new to our local authorities. The Bill in its whole nature is a permissive Bill. I think it is wise to start in that direction rather than to bring in a Bill saying that the local authorities here, there or elsewhere must do this, that or the other thing. If town planning is to be successful I think we must have the hearty and cordial co-operation of the local authorities in carrying it through. If we have not got that I am afraid that town planning as a problem, like the housing problem, will be with us for a long time. The initiative lies in all cases with the local authorities. In regard to the cities which I know best, the cities of Dublin, Cork and Limerick, I should personally like to take the initiative in urging bodies to make use of the powers which will be given to them when this Act is passed to get sites for housing, sites for parks, sites even for the aerodromes which Deputy Esmonde is interested in, and to get open spaces in their cities and around their cities to make them healthy and beautiful. I should certainly be glad to use my position and any authority I have to urge local authorities to take up the Act when it is passed here and use its powers for those purposes, but I think it would not be wise—at the present stage, at any rate, of the consideration of town planning—for the Government to bring in a measure making it obligatory on local authorities to use the powers which we intend to give them here.

There are subjects, like the subject referred to by Deputy Dockrell and Deputy Good, the subject of betterment, which raise very technical matters and difficult problems, and where there are to be heavy expenses put upon the local authorities. If there is to be a profit—a very big profit perhaps in some cases—derived out of the practical application of this measure, well, those who derive the profit ought to share with the local authorities the profit they make. There will unquestionably be difficulties in arriving at the amount of profit, and how that profit is to be divided. We suggest a means. I do not know whether it is the wisest or best means, but if the two Deputies who have spoken on the subject, or any other Deputies, can put up to us, by way of amendment, any other schemes for dealing with that problem we should be very glad to consider them.

You want the profit before they get it themselves.

They will certainly have got the advantage, and I think people experienced in valuing property would be able to arrive at a figure. The amount by which their property has increased in value—it might be by 100 per cent.; it might be by 400 per cent. —is worth so much in the market. Any banker would advance so much upon it, not perhaps the 300 or 400 per cent. but a certain amount. In the Bill we do not ask for the full amount. However, that is a matter which we will, I hope, discuss in Committee.

May I say to Deputy Tom Kelly that I do not see any antagonism between town-planning and the housing problem. I do not see any reason why the passing of a measure of this kind into law, and the giving of the additional powers that are proposed to local authorities to make better arrangements for wide streets, open spaces, parking places and matters of that kind, should in any way oppose or stand in the way of the quick dealing with the present housing problem in the City of Dublin or elsewhere. I think it ought to be a help rather than a hindrance. If I thought it was going to be a hindrance I would not be here proposing a Bill of this kind.

The Corporation makes provision for all those things in their housing scheme.

This Bill gives considerable additional powers to the Dublin Corporation—and every other local authority which cares to use them— for the advantage of the city, for the making of open spaces, parks, parking places, and helps them also more easily to acquire sites for housing. I know the housing condition in the City of Dublin, which has been talked about so much this afternoon, and I know that a considerable amount has been done—particularly since this Government came into office—to speed up the provision of houses for the poorer classes, but I am sorry to say that I think there is not half enough being done even in the City of Dublin at present. I should like to see building at least doubled in the City of Dublin and in the rural areas. I am not at all satisfied at the rate of progress with regard to rehousing the people. If anybody has any practical suggestion to offer—I think it is out of order to discuss the matter on this particular Bill, but perhaps the Leas-Cheann Comhairle will allow me to make this remark—by which we can get a greater rate of speed we should be glad to consider it. I do not think want of money is responsible. No public authority in the country has yet suggested to me that the grants are inadequate.

What about want of slates?

There are plenty of other roofing materials available, of Irish manufacture. They are not as popular as are slates unquestionably but, after all, it is not necessarily a Government problem to provide slates. There is a big market for slates and where are our industrialists? There are tons of material in the country and it only requires somebody with the necessary energy and money to go and dig the necessary slates out of the land. You will pardon the digression, a Leas-Chinn Comhairle.

I do not think any other point has been raised that need be dealt with now. There is no very great hurry with regard to the Bill. Though I should like to see it passed as soon as possible, I desire to give every member of the House an opportunity of going into it as thoroughly as his time and his knowledge will allow. I suggest that we should not have the Committee Stage of the Bill for perhaps three weeks or a month. Some Deputies suggested that we should submit it to the local authorities. We have already done that. We have sent it to the Council of Municipal Authorities, to the General Council of County Councils, to the chief public bodies of the country, to landowners' associations and to all sorts of other associations whose members' rights might be interfered with. We have asked them for their opinions and we have not yet got any of their criticisms. That would be another reason for leaving the Committee Stage over for a long period.

Would the Minister say if he has formed any opinion in his own mind as to the desirability of building outside the city for the relief of congestion in the slums, as opposed to building on cleared sites within the City of Dublin?

They are building all round the city.

My own preference is for building outside.

Question put and agreed to.
Committee Stage ordered for Wednesday, 8th November.