Committee on Finance. - Derelict Sites Bill, 1960: Second Stage.

I move that the Bill be now read a Second Time.

The purpose of the Supplementary Estimate, to be moved in connection with this Bill, is to enable grants to be made by my Department towards the cost of works on derelict sites, which will help to improve the appearance and amenities of towns, villages and countryside. Despite the efforts which have been made, especially in recent years, too many of our towns and villages present an image of drabness, which is bad for ourselves and for our vital tourist industry. With the increasing mobility of our own people and of tourists, the eyesores presented by derelict sites are observed by more and more people every year and have been the subject of serious criticism by visitors. It is particularly important that our tourist resorts should raise their standards. I know that there are difficulties and that much effort is required to reach the standard achieved by, say, Glenties. The initiative of individuals and local development associations can be of great practical value in supplementing the efforts of local authorities and I would like to think that we may look forward to the growth of much fruitful co-operation in the interests of better community environment.

The grants scheme together with the Derelict Sites Bill, 1960, deals with one aspect of the subject of amenity. I have been reviewing the general question of amenity and the powers of local authorities under the Town and Regional Planning Acts to secure the preservation and development of amenities. These powers can be fully exercised only where a planning scheme has been made and approved. From my review of this problem and indeed from my examination of the Dublin Town Planning Scheme, I am satisfied that radical changes in our town planning law are necessary. This is not the time to discuss these matters: I am simply mentioning them to indicate to the House that the present proposals are but the first instalment of a more fundamental campaign to improve the physical development of town and countryside. The House will be given an opportunity at a later date to discuss this wider problem.

It will be noted from the supplementary estimate that the grants will be payable to local authorites, private persons, local development associations and other bodies. The grants will be 50% of the approved cost of the works, subject to a maximum grant of £100. No grant will be payable where the approved cost of the works is less than £30. The cost incurred by local authorities and local development associations in acquiring sites may be included in the cost of works for grant purposes.

The sites in respect of which the grants will be payable are sites which are or are likely to become dangerous or injurious to health or to the amenities of the neighbourhood by reason of their objectionable or neglected condition or by reason of the presence on the sites of ruinous buildings, debris, etc. This definition is less restrictive than the definition of "derelict site" for the purposes of the Derelict Sites Bill, 1960.

Works which will be eligible for grants include:

(a) demolition, clearance, levelling, fencing, walling, paving, surfacing, grassing, planting, and/or

(b) amenity works such as provision of shelters, seating, toilets, tennis courts, playgrounds, car parks or other amenities which will be available for use by the public.

Some derelict sites may be suitable for the erection of houses and the grants will be available for the demolition and clearance of any ruinous buildings or walls on such sites.

Details of the scheme of grants will be forwarded to the local authorities through whom applications for grants must be made. If the applicant's proposals are acceptable to the local authority, the local authority will send on the application to my Department. It will be a condition of the grants that satisfactory arrangements are made for the future maintenance of the works.

I recommend the Scheme with confidence to the House and I am sure that Deputies on all sides will do what they can to make the Scheme a success. This is a new Scheme and it is impossible at this stage to make an accurate forecast of the expenditure on the grants.

The provision in the Supplementary Estimate is for payment of grants which may fall due in respect of completed works before 31st March, next. I propose to include in the Estimate for Local Government for 1961/62 a larger provision for the payment of grants in that year.

The object of the Bill is to enable more effective action to be taken to secure the clearance and improvement of derelict sites. The definition of this term in the Acquisition of Derelict Sites Act, 1940, was so restrictive that the majority of these eyesores were technically outside the scope of the Act or could be excluded by works or use which fell far short of the desirable clearance. We are all aware of the deplorable result. Despite local authorities' grave concern with the problem of derelict sites their efforts have been generally ineffective. Many of them have pressed for a very wide definition of "derelict sites" and an endeavour has been made to meet this requirement in the Bill insofar as it would not be inconsistent with the accepted principles for the assessment of compensation in respect of such sites.

The Bill proposes to repeal the Act of 1940 which enabled Local Authorities to secure the clearance of derelict sites only by acquisition or the threat of acquisition. A different approach is now proposed. While it is hoped to spread the net wider, the aim will be to secure voluntary clearance and improvement of objectionable lands and buildings. That is the purpose of Section 2 of the Bill and of the preliminary notice for which it provides. I think we may expect local authorities to make extensive use of this procedure and that property owners who are forgetful of their obligations to the community will be induced to face up to their responsibilities. The scheme of grants, which is covered in the supplementary estimate should greatly facilitate this approach to the problem and should go a long way to relieve any hardship which might be imposed where the local authority have to invoke their powers of enforcement.

These powers are necessary to ensure that owners who undertake to clear their sites will, in fact, do so. Sections 3 and 4 provide also for cases where no undertaking or no satisfactory undertaking is received by the local authority. The power to require works to be carried out is a new feature in legislation affecting derelict sites but the principle is long established in other codes such as the Housing and Sanitary Services Acts. An appeal lies to the Minister for Local Government against any requisition under Section 3.

A general power to acquire derelict sites compulsorily or by agreement is provided by Section 6. It seems inevitable that some cases will remain where acquisition will be the only satisfactory solution, e.g., where the site is abandoned. Compulsory acquisition will be by means of vesting order. This provision of the Act of 1940 is being retained because it is particularly appropriate to derelict sites, being both expeditious and inexpensive.

A local authority proposing to acquire a derelict site compulsorily will be required to give adequate notice of such intention and the occupier or any person having an interest in the land may lodge an objection with the local authority within one month. Where such objection has been made and is not withdrawn, compulsory acquisition cannot be effected without the consent of the Minister. The Bill provides that such consent shall be refused if the Minister is of opinion that the land, which it is sought to acquire, is not a derelict site. He may, however, consent to the acquisition of part of the land if that part is a derelict site. The Minister is also empowered under Section 8 to refuse consent if he considers that the local authority should adopt either of the alternative procedures provided under the Bill, i.e. acceptance of an offer of voluntary clearance or requisition to carry out works.

The remaining Sections of this Bill are generally similar to provisions in the Act of 1940. Compensation for derelict sites acquired compulsorily may, in default of agreement, be determined by arbitration. The basis of assessment remains the value of the site, less the cost of clearance and levelling. I recommend the Bill to the House.

Derelict sites have been eyesores in this country for many years and, as the Minister has rightly pointed out, particularly to tourists. Familiarity sometimes makes one less observant and we Irish possibly do not note sufficiently the derelict sites throughout the country. It is a good thing that they should be cleared up. When these sites were first built on they must have been regarded as valuable sites. Otherwise, buildings would not have been erected on them. I hope that many of them will have buildings erected on them again after demolition and clearance.

I always thought that local authorities did not carry out the duties imposed upon them under the 1940 Act. The Minister has stated that all that they could do was to compel the owner to clear a derelict site or threaten to do so. I am afraid I know very few local authorities who exercised the powers conferred on them under the 1940 Act. That was a tragedy.

There are a few things in the Bill with which I do not agree. I take Section 1, which gives the local authority power to acquire land which in their opinion is likely to become injurious to the amenities of the neighbourhood by reason of its objectionable or neglected condition. Why acquire land? I know no land in this country that by reason of its condition is more objectionable to the amenities for tourists than the sides of our roadways where bentweed and all other classes of weed are permitted to grow and are never cut down by the local authority. There is no greater sinner against the objects of this Bill than the local authorities themselves.

Under one Local Government Act they have power to compel owners of roadside hedges to cut them and, if they do not cut them, they may prosecute them or, alternatively, they may cut them themselves and charge the cost to the owner of the land. There is nothing more injurious to the amenities of a neighbourhood than uncut hedges. Let local authorities put their own house in order before they intervene in others. If they would compel owners of land to cut hedges and if they remedied all the other things which are injurious to the amenities of neighbourhoods they would be going places and would be doing a great deal to help tourism.

Why should they acquire land? I can imagine a small farmer, through inability to avail of the advantages of the land reclamation scheme, finding his land becoming swampy and boggy and being unable to rid it of growth and the local authority saying: "We will declare that gentleman's land a derelict site". That would be a very bad thing.

Would the Minister signify at this stage that this will be a reserved function and not an executive function?

Executive.

That is just what I was afraid of. It will be an executive function. In other words, it will be the county manager, not the members of the local authority, who will declare the site derelict.

What about Section 4?

That is the appeal section?

The section that you brought in, under which you compelled the county manager to carry out the wishes of the council.

That is grand if he has not made an order. He need not inform them that he has made an order. The members of the local authority will not know about this until it is circulated to them that the manager has declared John Smith's field a derelict site. I think that is bad, particularly when you have regard to the section governing the right of appeal. To whom does the appeal lie: to the Minister?

With great respect to the present Minister and to all Ministers for Local Government, they cannot possibly deal with each appeal individually. On at least one day in the week there is a file of appeals handed to the Minister with the recommendation of the Department's inspector on them and the Minister, unless he has some reason or other to examine each individual file, merely signs what an individual has put before him.

I do not agree with the Deputy, although he may have experience.

I have had experience.

I do not agree. I am talking from experience. I do not sign town planning appeals or any other appeals without knowing what is in them and reading them for myself regardless of what fact may emerge.

The Minister may say what he wishes. I have gone down and examined the location of these appeals. I have gone as far as Kerry.

I know you have.

I have gone as far as Galway.

I have gone to examine the locations of these appeals and if the Minister will tell me now that while he is Minister he will go out and examine the location of these appeals or refrain from making an order until such time as he has examined them——

It would be far better if some of those that the Deputy is talking about had not been examined.

Mention one.

Never mind. If the Deputy wants to generalise, let him generalise.

Is the Minister inferring that his predecessor——

What the Minister is saying is that he does not agree that the Deputy's experience in the Custom House is his experience.

I see. So the Minister will not inspect the locations?

That is not a function of the Minister.

There is the answer.

That is not the function of the Minister.

That, therefore, is the answer.

It is not the answer.

The Minister says he will not inspect, that it is not the function of the Minister, that it is merely the function of the Minister to read the report of his official.

Several officials, as the Deputy knows.

Of several officials.

Exactly.

One second. Remember, and it is very important to remember, that if the local authority are to exercise the powers conferred on them by Section 3 and if they are to seek compensation for the clearance of the site, they must first of all submit an estimate to the Minister and the Minister must sanction the amount which he is to give by way of grant for the clearance. In other words, the Minister has given a decision before an appeal reaches him as to whether the site should be cleared or otherwise. The Minister has very fairly pointed out to me that he would not dream of examining the site, that he depends on the reports of the officials of the Department of Local Government.

I want to point out to the Deputy that what he now purports to quote is not what I said.

It is not the first time the Minister has gone back on what he said.

I do not want to be misquoted. That is what is now being done. The Deputy is quite adept at that.

The Minister said that he does not examine sites, that he depends entirely on the reports of his officials. I hope the official report will not be tampered with; that is what the Minister said——

Unless the Deputy tampers with it.

——that he depends on the reports of his officials.

I did not say I would not dream of examining a site.

He said it was not the duty of the Minister to go and examine sites. That is what he said if I mistake not.

The Deputy ought to read what I said and not misquote me in the meantime.

If the Minister tells me now he did not say he would not examine sites I will accept his word but I distinctly heard him say it was not his duty——

Which is a far different thing from saying I would not.

The Minister cannot have it hot and cold.

It would be very bad if the Minister for Local Government examined sites.

He must depend entirely on the reports of his officials.

The Minister for Local Government cannot walk every acre of land.

I am not suggesting he should. What I am suggesting is that the Minister should not depend entirely on the reports of his officials. It is his duty to inspect sites. He is there in a quasi-judicial position. To go back to my argument, I maintain that the Minister is not the person who should adjudicate on an appeal, that some other tribunal should adjudicate on that, some tribunal which would hear viva voce evidence if necessary.

I do not think there is anything wrong with that. Deputy Cunningham appears to think there is. Take the case of a countryman on an uneconomic holding whose field is going to be acquired. I do not see why he should have to go to the expense of employing an engineer or an architect to prepare a report to contradict the report of——

He should employ a solicitor instead.

Supposing he did not employ a solicitor, he could go before the justice and say: "That is my field" or "That is my garden". He would have the right to say to the justice: "Will you come out of the court and have a look at it?" Very often justices do inspect the location of a property in dispute.

That is the trouble.

Letting those people out.

In other words the Deputy suggests the architect or the engineer should prepare a map and bring it before the justice and say: "These are the plans." How often can maps be misleading?

And how often can district justices be misled and misleading? A case is stated and the poor farmer is mulcted.

Do not forget the local authority may be mulcted and that again a further right of appeal could be given, if necessary, to a higher court.

Keep it out of court.

If half these matters were permitted to go into court things would be much better. There should be less arbitrary justice. One of the objections I have to this Bill is that the right of appeal is to the Minister who tells this House that he depends on the reports of his officials.

Experts.

Of his experts. Who is the expert in the Custom House who can tell us whether a field in West Donegal or East Donegal, in West Kerry or West Cork is a derelict site through lack of cultivation or otherwise?

Does the Deputy not want these derelict sites cleared up?

The Deputy is most anxious to see them cleared up.

I am glad to hear it. It does not appear that way.

The Deputy took the initiative in this matter when he spoke in Bandon and appealed to local authorities to clear them up.

It is about the only thing he did about it.

What I object to is the acquisition of land——

Which is a derelict site.

——which is a derelict site. I know many farms in the Deputy's own parish which an inspector from the Custom House would declare a derelict site if he got the opportunity, and in my own, too, simply because they have not the capital to use on them, simply because they cannot take advantage of the land reclamation scheme introduced by Deputy Dillon when he was Minister.

This right of appeal is a very important one particularly when you look at Section 8: "Objection to compulsory acquisition of derelict sites." Again the objection is to the Minister who is depending entirely on reports of what he describes as his experts. There is not the slightest doubt that he has experts but there is no greater expert on the location of a derelict site than the man who is living in the locality where that site is. His advice should be sought in these matters before confirmation of compulsory acquisition is given by the Minister I would ask the House to consider Section 13 which says:

(1) A local authority may use any land acquired by them under this Act for any purpose connected with their powers and duties.

They may use it. This could be a very simple method of acquiring land. This could be a very simple method whereby the county manager, without prior consultation of any description, could acquire land for many purposes and objects. That is something which worries me very much indeed.

I agree with the Minister that throughout Ireland there are many towns which on account of the derelict sites in them are eyesores. He quotes the example of Glenties. Glenties is a progressive town which had not to clear one derelict site in the whole town. The local committee merely had to compel the local authority to clear up the property of the local authority, that is the market house and the court house. That is all they had to do to become the premier town in this competition for three years in succession. I know other towns. There is one town in the Minister's own area, the town of Ramelton where there are derelict sites, some of which are owned by very prosperous people and which should be cleared up.

The two objections I have to the Bill are: first compulsory acquisition of land to be used by the local authority for any purpose they wish, and secondly, no right of appeal other than to the Minister who depends entirely on reports of his officials as to what decision he will come to. That is unfair. Those are two matters which I should like the Minister to look into between now and the Committee Stage.

There is one other matter. I think we are a little premature with the Money Resolution. We are providing a sum of money to cover the period from now to the 31st March next. Does anyone here think that any local authority will, before the 31st of March, implement any one section of this Bill or clear one site under this Bill when it is enacted. I think the resolution is premature and that the Minister, as he said in his opening speech, would be time enough in introducing a Money Resolution when he is introducing his annual estimate next March.

I should like to see advantage taken of the Bill. I think it is a very good thing that compensation will be given to those who demolish those derelict sites. There is one question I should like to ask the Minister. Where one has a derelict site, will one be paid for the clearance of it and then receive the housing grants to which he will become entitled if he rebuilds on the site?

Certainly.

That is a very good thing.

Provided, of course, he conforms with all the other requirements.

I agree. That might help to abolish these reconstruction grants on very old houses. If people are paid to demolish old buildings and rebuild, they might go into the larger grants and rebuild instead of just reconstructing.

I am not opposed to this measure. I welcome it. There are only two things to which I take objection—the compulsory acquisition of land and the right of appeal. I am not suggesting the person of the Minister is wrong, but I think it is wrong that any Minister should have to depend entirely on the reports of officials in order to come to a decision on such an important matter as to whether or not a man's field is derelict.

This is a good Bill. Any discussion which focuses attention on the tremendous problem that exists with regard to derelict sites is a good thing. I am encouraged, too, by the fact that the Minister described this measure as being the first instalment—to quote his own words—of a more fundamental campaign to improve the physical development of town and country. It is true that we have had other legislation in former years to deal with the problem of derelict sites. For various reasons the problem has never been approached in such manner as would suggest that local authorities are in earnest in their desire to cure these scars and heal these eyesores in country, town and city.

While the changes proposed are not revolutionary they represent an improvement in the powers vested in local authorities by the Derelict Sites Act of 1940. There has been a good deal of discussion as to the undesirability of derelict sites, especially in tourist areas. There is nothing so disappointing to visitors as seeing so many derelict sites, so many fallen-down houses, so many houses in a very bad state of repair, so many vacant lots. I am all in favour of this measure, here in this House and outside it, because I believe that, if the problem is approached in the proper spirit, we can make these derelict sites much more attractive in a very short time.

This legislation is in the same category as most legislation emanating from the Department of Local Government. Most of the legislation is enabling legislation. Too often we have local authorities clamouring for legislative permission to do things. On the other hand, there are many local authorities and many individuals in local authorities who are not prepared to use the instruments given them by this House to do things, or correct things, in their own particular areas. If local authorities do not approach the problem of derelict sites with the same enthusiasm as members of this House do, this Bill will not be worth the paper it is printed on.

The county managers.

Just a moment. Will the Minister point out to me where the power to deem a site to be derelict or to acquire land is made a managerial function? I may have missed it in the Bill.

It is not in the Bill.

The Minister did say it was a managerial function.

Unless it is made a reserved function, it is a managerial function.

I plead with the Minister to make it a reserved function. It is not that I distrust managers as much as Deputy O'Donnell seems to distrust them in this particular instance; county managers have come to learn the importance of consulting public representatives. Whether it is that they want to become better administrators, I do not know. Whether they do it for their own protection, I cannot say. But I cannot see any county manager declaring sites to be derelict without prior consultation with the members of the local authority. I do not say that is a good reason for giving this absolute power to the county manager. The Minister would be wise—indeed, he would gain the support of the members of local authorities—if he left these two particular acts as a function of the elected members. I do not believe managers would want the power of declaring sites derelict or compulsorily acquiring land. The Minister should consider conferring these powers on the elected representatives. The fears —in some cases legitimate fears—of Deputy O'Donnell may then be allayed. I do not believe there will be widespread declarations of sites being derelict or widespread compulsory acquisition. Members of local authorities are very representative of their areas and they will be careful to ensure that no wrong is done to any particular section or any particular individual.

It is true, as Deputy O'Malley said, that if the Minister persists making these a managerial function the members of the local authorities may invoke the section too seldom invoked by them, Section 4 of the Act of 1955, or 1956. That was a piece of legislation introduced here by Deputy O'Donnell. Local authorities can, by resolution, prevent the manager from doing something they think should not be done.

I do not see any real objection to the appeal provision in this Bill. I do not see how much further we can go than an appeal to the Minister. I have some experience of appeals in town planning and the officials of the Department and the Minister have approached such appeals in a very fair way. Generally, there has been no widespread criticism of the decision. I say "no widespread criticism". There may be particular criticism. I do not wish to enter into the controversy between the Minister and the ex-Minister with regard to the approach in deciding appeals. Whilst the Minister should never declare himself to be entirely dependent on the reports of his officials, I assume that he follows the normal pattern; he has regard, as his predecessors have had regard, to the reports of his officials and then, as his predecessors did, he makes up his own mind.

It has been necessary from time to time for the Minister or Parliamentary Secretary to visit a particular area believing that the reports he had before him were inadequate and that he would be better able to make up his mind if he visited the locality which was the subject of a town's planning scheme. By and large, I think the reports that will be submitted will be sufficient. I think that any report by the aggrieved person, the officials of the local authority and the officials of the Department will be sufficient to enable any Minister to make up his mind without visiting the site which it is proposed to declare derelict.

It may happen that he will be required to visit the site, but I believe that the members of the local authorities will concern themselves about that side of the problem, and will, I hope, be the determining factor if the Minister decides that these two functions should not be reserved for the manager.

I must confess that I have not examined the Bill in detail in respect of this problem but perhaps the Minister will tell me whether the Bill covers it. In the last 20 or 30 years the motor car population of this country has increased by thousands and thousands. The Minister is aware of the problem caused by the wear and tear on the roads of the country by reason of that increase but in that regard there is compensation in the increase in the road tax received. However, another problem arises and that is what people do with their old and discarded cars. One of the greatest eyesores in the country is where a field or a plot is covered with 20, 30, 40 or 50 shells of old cars which have been left there, not for weeks or months, but for years.

They are an eyesore which is every bit as bad as the derelict sites in the villages, towns and cities. I do hope that the Minister has given power to the local authorities to deal with a situation like that. I do not think it is good enough for a locality to be scarred in such a fashion and made so ugly with dozens of shells of such cars. That sort of picture detracts from the amenities of any locality. I trust that in this measure power is given to local authorities to deal with a situation like that, to require the owner to take these old shells away or to do it themselves and present the bill to the owner.

I know it must be difficult for the garage proprietors to dispose of junk of that sort. It is bulky and difficult to get rid of but there must be ways and means of having such stuff disposed of. So long as we allow these people to carry on in this fashion they will never make an effort to get rid of such vehicles.

The Minister also stresses what is required to be done with the derelict sites in the towns. The character of many of our towns has changed and I might say that many of the towns are now out of character. I could quote one example, Wexford town, where there are many derelict sites by reason of the fact that many old houses had become derelict and had to be levelled. Many of the streets in Wexford town show gaps where these houses have been levelled and so the general character of the streets has changed. I think it undesirable that we should have the pattern of a town like Wexford where we have a whole shell of old buildings with many gaps in between, and that the town should be represented by so many thousands of corporation houses all looking similar. I believe that, as far as planning by local authorities is concerned, in the building of local authorities' houses we have done an extremely bad job.

There may be some Deputies who will say that in respect of a particular town they have preserved its character and have not made it as ugly as I have described it. I do say that, so far as the building of houses in the last twenty years is concerned, we do not seem to have approached the matter from the point of view of preserving the character of the town or even of putting a different, or nicer, face on it. That is not so much a problem for decision on this Bill but I would urge the Minister in turn to urge local authorities to try to fill in these derelict sites in our towns and cities by building houses on them.

The Minister states, with regard to sites that have been declared derelict, that the local authority may, if necessary, provide that shelters, seating accommodation, toilets, playgrounds and so forth be erected on them. If the Minister or the local authorities do not take the initiative it will merely mean that derelict sites will simply be fenced off and there will not be much improvement. I do not know if this problem is covered by the Bill but certain local authorities are afraid to demolish old buildings because it seems that there is some Act which says that if they demolish an old building they are responsible for the adjoining building for so many years. If they take down a house and if there is any danger to the adjoining house the local authority is responsible for its repair and upkeep; they are responsible to see that it will not be damaged. As long as that state of affairs remains, local authorities will be very reluctant to demolish that type of house.

As far as the Supplementary Estimate is concerned, I suppose the figure does not make much difference in present circumstances because we do not know to what extent the local authorities will avail of it. However, £5,000 seems to be pretty small even in view of the fact that we have only four months of the financial year to go. The Minister says that the maximum grant that can be given is 50 per cent. of the cost or £100. I think £100 is a very small sum.

I say that with my tongue in my cheek because in my view any suggestion that comes from a Minister for Local Government will be followed by the local authorities asking for much more money than it is proposed to give. I suppose one could consider this as a windfall for the local authorities who, under present circumstances, got no assistance at all in these matters.

Accordingly, we must be thankful for small mercies. I should like to stress again that if the Minister and this House show initiative in approaching the problem of derelict sites with enthusiasm, it will not be worth anything unless the local authorities approach the problem in the same way because there is a very serious case for tackling the problem of derelict sites both in town and country. I hope that as a result of the Bill and the financial assistance offered we will, in a short time, have done something about the derelict sites that have been like scars and eyesores in the countryside.

I am not quite clear whether the grants referred to in the Supplementary Estimate are also contained in the Bill itself.

I do not follow the Deputy. What is the purpose of his question?

In introducing the Supplementary Estimate the Minister said that the grants would be paid to local authorities, organisations, private persons and other bodies, that the grants will be 50 per cent. of the cost subject to a maximum of £100 and that no grant will be paid where the approved cost of the work is under £30. Is that also in the Bill?

This is the scheme of grants which will be operated in conjunction with the Bill but is not dependent on the Bill.

Are the provisions mentioned in connection with the Supplementary Estimate also contained in the Bill?

No. The scheme is independent of the Bill. In fact it was announced before the Bill.

Will the scheme be a continuing scheme, even after the Bill becomes law?

Yes. It is hoped the one will help the other to give more and more encouragement in the eradication of derelict sites.

We cannot have the scheme when the Bill becomes an Act.

Yes. Under existing law you are able to have the scheme.

The scheme is therefore more or less to encourage smaller local authorities, development associations, individual and other bodies to take an interest in the clearing of derelict sites?

Yes, plus the fact that it is of general encouragement to all concerned, from the local authorities down.

The maximum sum available is small so I take it it would be of more interest to small organisations. Would it apply to parish councils?

Yes—to all organisations who wish to do that type of work if they have the semblance of being bona fide organisations. They will all be welcome.

It is a step in the right direction though I cannot help feeling it is a pity we have to buy the co-operation of local communities. We could take the town of Glenties, which the Minister knows well, as an example of this local co-operation. They did their work themselves, presented the town for the annual competition without any grant and it is a pity that other areas could not follow this worthy example.

However, the provisions of this scheme may help many local authorities to be more co-operative. Deputy Corish referred to the abnormally high number of eyesores that disgrace our countryside. There is one type to which I would like to refer—the large country mansion which is bought by an enterprising speculator, usually for the purpose of taking off the roof, taking out the floors and windows and leaving a gaunt shell standing. Can such an individual or company be proceeded against under the terms of the Bill, because I think that kind of thing creates the greatest eyesores in the country to-day?

There is another type of eyesore which is unfortunately becoming more familiar as each month passes. I am referring to derelict houses and cottages in country towns and villages. Due to economic conditions our country towns and villages are falling more and more into disrepair, and it is quite certain that this tendency will become greater as the young people emigrate and the old people die off. I wonder if, under the terms of the Bill, the local authorities will be given sufficient powers to remedy that state of affairs, due entirely to economic conditions.

I must say I share Deputy O'Donnell's views about the definition of land. The Bill says that a derelict site means any land on which either there are no buildings at all or the buildings are temporary structures or in a ruinous, dilapidated or dangerous condition. I would suggest that land on which there are no buildings could quite easily be a field or other kind of open space retained by a property owner for some further development and that under the terms of the Bill it would be open to local authorities to designate the place as a derelict site. I wonder if the Minister would satisfy the House that the property in such open spaces of that kind would be safeguarded. I know that later in the Bill the Minister is being given powers to refuse an application from a local authority if he is satisfied a site is not in fact derelict. That is an important point.

I wonder, too, if we should make money available for the provision of tennis courts and similar sporting amenities. I feel the community should themselves provide these amenities and that local organisations should make their own arrangements in that respect. I wonder if including in the Bill provision for the giving of grants to establish tennis courts is not creating a very bad precedent. Personally I would rather see these amenities provided by the sporting and voluntary organisations who have managed to provide them down through the years. If we provide tennis courts it might not be looking too far ahead to the day when we will be asked why we should not provide soccer pitches, hurling pitches, rugby pitches and so forth. I think in that regard the initiative might be left to the local voluntary organisations to provide these things for themselves.

I am glad to see the Minister made reference to the present unsatisfactory position of the Town and Regional Planning Act. I think his disquiet was corroborated by a reply which he gave me last week when I asked him the number of local authorities which had in fact adopted town planning schemes. Apparently only one in the whole country has done so to date, Dublin. It would be a step in the right direction if the Minister overhauled the existing Act and, having done so, insisted that the local authorities concerned should put it into effect within the stipulated period.

Generally I welcome the principle of the Bill. In common with other Deputies, I hope it will encourage local authorities to take the initiative in clearing up the many derelict sites which disgrace our countryside.

I should like to preface what I have to say by remarking that in general I hold little brief for town planning, especially when it cuts across the personal interests of people, and particularly when it interferes with the private businesses of people in towns and prevents them from expanding. However, this is not the occasion on which to debate the pros and cons of town planning as such.

I am convinced that this Bill will confer many benefits. Much has been said here about the effect on tourists of these numerous eyesores. It has been stated that tourists object to seeing so many derelict buildings on their tours throughout the country, and rightly so. But to my mind this Bill should not be introduced simply to satisfy the aesthetic pleasures of tourists, but rather should it be introduced for the prime benefit of our own people. It is they who are most vehement in declaring that these derelict sites should be removed.

We hear a lot of talk not only about the scarcity of houses but even about the scarcity of sites on which to build houses in our towns. It is obvious that if, under this Bill, many derelict sites are removed, that will automatically provide more good sites for the building of new houses. That is one of the especial benefits which should result from the enactment of this Bill. There are also many derelict buildings of various types in the country area. Sometimes they are outside the fences and sometimes inside them. If they are removed they will provide not so much additional building sites but additional land, which is also very important. We are often reminded that agriculture is our prime industry, and there is a possibility that this Bill will provide, perhaps only in a small way, additional land with agricultural potentialities.

Deputy O'Donnell, a former Minister, referred to this matter of land and questioned the wisdom of putting a clause in the Bill entitling a local authority to take over land if it decides, in its wisdom or otherwise, that it is a derelict site. If I interpret correctly what the Deputy said the local authority have power to put that land to any use they think fit. I should like to ask the Minister could he give an example of land which is a derelict site. I am referring to land which is just ordinary land on which there is no building or structure of any kind. It may be termed a derelict site because many weeds are growing on it, but the remedy in that case is to enforce the noxious weeds legislation. I do not think any local authority, or anybody, should have power to acquire land and use it for any purpose they think fit just because they think it comes within the category of being a derelict site.

It seems that the manager will have executive powers in this business of declaring a site to be derelict. I would endorse what has been said by Deputy Corish when he suggested that before making any Order declaring a site to be derelict the manager should confer with his local council. To a certain extent I see the wisdom of making it an executive function. You may have the case of Mr. X whose site is being threatened with being declared derelict. Naturally he will contact the various councillors and seek their support in his cause. Councillors being human beings, political human beings, will come down on the side of their political friends in all probability. That has been the pattern through the years but the county manager is more or less a neutral person in this case and, to my mind, he is the person most fitted to decide whether a particular site should be declared derelict or not —I do not mean that from the technical point of view but from the neutrality or authoritative point of view—the manager having received the report of the local surveyor on the case.

Under this Bill, £30 cash is the minimum grant that may be given or at least no grant will be given to a job that costs less than £30——

No grant will be given in respect of a job that is estimated to cost less than £30.

If the estimated cost is, say, £29, no grant will be given?

It would amaze me if such an estimate were ever made.

It would be quite possible.

The point is, at any rate, that half the £30 is the smallest grant that will be made, in other words 50 per cent. of jobs not smaller than £30.

In other words, £15.

Suppose a small farmer has an outhouse or a cattle shed beside the road. It is for practical purposes a derelict site as it presents a very unwelcome sight for passers by. He has no practical use for it—I am assuming this—and it has been declared a derelict site. The man must knock it down. He either loses his own time to do so or he delegates his son or a workman to do it. That costs money. He is a small farmer. I do not know what it would cost but it could cost, say, £14 and he would not qualify for any help. I think you could multiply that case many times over the country, outhouses, or even half-demolished cottages with just bare walls standing. It would take very little to knock them down with a pick-axe or a heavy hammer but that man will probably have to carry away the rubble that will result from demolition and that would cost money, perhaps £10 or £12. Under this Bill he will not qualify for any grant. I think the Minister should reconsider that aspect of the matter and act accordingly.

Deputy Russell referred to the likelihood of ambitious projects such as tennis courts, car-parks and amenity buildings being initiated. All these are very good in themselves but I contend that the main purpose of the Bill is the clearing of derelict sites and it should stop there. The aim of the Bill is to encourage people to demolish eyesores lying about the country and I do not think it should perform a second function in so far as it might very easily set off another spiral of local government expenditure on the provision of these amenities.

Obviously, when a derelict site has been cleared it will cost money to transport the rubble or debris. Will the grants cover the cost of such transport to, say, a local slobland? Will that be included in the full estimate?

Yes, all items necessary and ancillary to the clearing will naturally be included in the estimate.

Deputy O'Donnell seemed to think that the appeal provided for in the Bill should not be to the Minister but that there should be some sort of tribunal of experts. I think that was the gist of his remarks. I think the provision for appeal to the Minister is proper and laudable when we remember that the Minister has his experts in the various fields who, I presume, will visit the derelict site, examine the pros and cons of the case and report back to the Minister. It would involve too much if we set up further tribunals for such purposes as this.

In regard to the £5,000 Supplementary Estimate which is being discussed in connection with this Bill, like Deputy O'Donnell, I do not think that there will be much call for these grants before the new financial year begins on the 1st April. That prompts me to refer to the new buildings that we see going up throughout the country.

Suppose an industrialist or business firm intends to build a new structure in a town and they see a number of old houses that have not been condemned officially and are not derelict sites, what is to stop the industrialist or the firm from asking the local authority to declare such an area a derelict site? What is to stop the big businessman from qualifying to receive so much money when he clears the site before he builds on it? Up to date, he would not get any grant to demolish ruinous buildings on the site where he is going to put a new building but under this Bill, he will. I do not begrudge the grant but would like to have the matter made clear. Such persons would confer a dual benefit on the community, first of all, by providing employment in the new building work and they would also clear derelict sites and make the area generally more acceptable.

I conclude by asking the Minister if this Bill will encourage or result in the appointment of additional inspectors to go around the countryside to find out if certain places are derelict sites or not. I presume it would be the function of the local surveyor to do this. It is my earnest hope that will be the case and that this will not result in having further staff in the various local authorities. Generally speaking, I welcome the Bill and I hope it will have the results and benefits that we all expect.

The Derelict Sites Bill, 1960, would not have been necessary if the 1940 Act had been operated as envisaged by those who introduced it. The whole purpose of this Bill is to clarify beyond doubt the definition of a derelict site. Various local authorities have tried to acquire land compulsorily, different procedures were adopted and different interpretations given by law agents. That is the reason, in my opinion, for this Bill.

In connection with an area in which £1,000,000 is to be spent on housing in the near future, Limerick Corporation were told by the legal adviser that it would take 20 years to acquire the sites. The sites are being acquired and the necessary steps are being taken at the present time, even without the assistance of this Bill.

I admit that under the 1940 Act, before a site could be acquired in urban areas, the site had to be in a ruinous condition and the buildings on it a danger to the public. That was a let out clause. The definition in Section 1 of this Bill will do away with that.

The purpose of the Bill is to define beyond doubt what a derelict site is. I respectfully submit that when we are dealing with this matter we should make a good job of it. I do not think we have done so. I have not a legal mind but I can see that this Bill will give rise to different interpretations.

Under Section 1 "derelict site" means any land on which either there are no buildings or all the buildings (other than sheds, huts and other temporary structures) are in a ruinous, dilapidated or dangerous condition and none of the buildings is being used as a dwelling. That will have to be amended, if the Minister wants to make a proper job of it. It is faulty. Suppose I have a cottage, a little gem, in the middle of a huge devastated area, with motor cars piled up on one side and a tumbledown mill or ruined cottages or houses on the other side. I can hold up acquisition of the entire area under the Section as it stands. If I have a little cottage on the land, Section 1 (a), sub-paragraph (i) goes by the board.

Sub-paragraph (ii) describes any-land "which is or is likely to become injurious to health or to the amenities of the neighbourhood by reason of its objectionable or neglected condition." Paragraph (b) (i) refers to land consisting of buildings which are not being used as dwellings and the sites thereof, means of access thereto and any yards and gardens attached thereto, which are in a ruinous, dilapidated or dangerous condition. That will have to be clarified. A great deal of worry has been caused to rate-payers and people awaiting houses by various interpretations of legislation by law agents. The purpose of the Bill is to clarify but the definitions in Section 1 are not doing that.

Under Section 2 subsection (3) a local authority may enter on the land if works which have been specified in an offer have not been carried out and the land continues to be a derelict site. If after the specified period the work has not been carried out, the local authority may enter on the land and carry out the appropriate work and recover the cost from the owner. The local authority may do those things or they may not. A person may have a derelict site which is ruining the approaches to the city, town or village. He gets five months to carry out the appropriate work, which is reasonable, and at the end of that period, if he has not done so, the local authority may enter on the land, carry out the work and recover the cost. Consider the temptation in that case for the owner to canvass members of the local authority to use their good offices with the county manager not to recover the cost or not to enter the land. The provision should be stronger.

Under Section 4 the amount recoverable may not exceed the amount of the estimate. The local authority may, however, remit all or part of their claim, if they see fit. That is very bad. I can see many difficulties. I may not be giving the correct interpretation to the section but I do not think so. It is not fair that a member of a local authority can be put in the position that a person can say to him, "I own this site. The local authority want £100 from me. Will you do something for me at the next meeting of the council?" Members of local authorities should not be put in the position of having to do anything about such matters.

Section 11 deals with compensation. It is on the same basis as the 1940 Act. The compensation is paid on the value of the land less the cost of clearing and levelling but the period for claiming compensation is being extended from three months to 12 months. What is the purpose of inserting that provision? I do not mind if the period of compensation were extended to two years. For instance, there might be some person in Australia who might not have any knowledge of this. However, if a person is in Australia he should have disposed of his land long ago. What I want to ascertain from the Minister is this: could the owner of the land— if he could not I do not mind—hold up the local authority taking possession of the site in question by saying: "Until I am paid for my site"— hitherto it was free—"you may not take possession." I doubt that he can but is there the possibility?

Deputy O'Donnell was very worried because he thought a county manager might without the knowledge of the local authority acquire a site and declare it a derelict site under the terms of this Bill. If that happened would it not be possible for the local authority, under the measure which Deputy O'Donnell himself brought in, the City and County Management (Amendment) Act, to invoke the section which could compel a county manager to carry out the wishes of a local authority? Deputy O'Donnell said they could not because they would not know what he intended to do. He would have it done before they could pass the necessary resolution. If Deputy O'Donnell read this Bill he would see there was the statutory requirement of notices in the public press, and the local authority would have power to require a manager to do as they wished. Most managers act in a common sense way but, as in the case of district justices, there are peculiar cases in county councils.

Deputy O'Donnell launched an attack on the Minister because every town planning appeal was not examined personally by him. It would be a sad day if every town planning appeal were to be examined by the Minister for Local Government. You can imagine the rejoicings and the preparations which would be laid on by the interested parties in Glenties or any of these other places down South if they thought a Minister——

I would not advertise my coming. I would come like a thief in the night.

I think it would be a bad thing if the Minister did go down to these places. I should like to ask Deputy O'Donnell, when an appeal is heard and expert evidence is given before a circuit court judge or a high court judge, do these gentlemen go down to the place in connection with which there is a title action about the grazing of a cow.

They hear the evidence.

They hear the evidence, and the Supreme Court, the supreme legal body of this land reads the evidence. The unfortunate litigant does not even get a trip to Dublin to hear his two senior counsel and junior counsel, instructed by the solicitor, when they appeal to the Supreme Court.

The Deputy should be fairly well up in that, being closely connected with the legal brethren.

I am only stating the facts as I see them and trying to refute the point which Deputy O'Donnell made and which, in my opinion, is completely fatuous. When county managers in the past told us that there was difficulty in finding out who owned certain property, that there was property on the hands of different local bodies for years and they could not find out who owned the houses, who paid the rates? The occupier was rated but supposing it was unoccupied, who paid the rates?

The Minister's statement in regard to the Town Planning Acts in general is one of the most momentous statements, reading between the lines of what is said, that I have heard for many a long day in this House. I tried to take down what he said. He said he had been reviewing the general question of the powers of local authorities under the Town and Regional Planning Acts to secure the preservation and development of amenities. He said: These powers can be fully exercised only where a planning scheme has been made and approved. From my review of that programme and from my examination of the Dublin Town Planning Scheme I am satisfied that radical changes in our town planning laws are necessary.

How right the Minister is and how long it took. I have been talking here year after year on Estimates of the Minister for Local Government about ugly buildings in our beautiful cities. I often referred to the honky-tonk Grafton Street was turned into. Under the Town Planning Act provision was made in relation to building. We have our eminent town planners and our eminent architects in Dublin. They can go down to Trinity College and U.C.D. and lecture the young students on the appreciation of Georgian architecture and the proportions of the Doric column. Nevertheless they let these monstrosities get through. It is hard to get a housing scheme through or a scheme of flats. There is a great deal of red tape involved where the so-called architects of local authorities are concerned, but look at what they allowed in this city alone. They desecrated Dublin, and the damage is done now.

That is true not only of Dublin but also of Limerick and Cork. The House knows what I mean. I do not wish to close main streets to shops but one does not require a very great knowledge of architecture to realise the lack of taste and dignity in many of the buildings that are permitted to deface the principal streets in our cities and towns.

I am glad the Town Planning Acts are being amended. Indeed, the sooner a comprehensive measure is brought in the better it will be for all concerned. I may not enter into the ramifications of town planning on this measure but, until such time as town planning is adopted by every local authority and until such time as local authorities and the public generally are clear on town planning, dissatisfaction and injustice will prevail. I doubt if any member of this House, I doubt if even a senior counsel, could tell me that, if I apply to-morrow to the Limerick Ard Comhairle, the City Council, the county council, for the sake of argument, for permission to erect a shed to house greyhounds——

I am afraid we are getting away from both the Bill and the Estimate. A discussion on the Town Planning Act would not arise at this stage.

I had adverted to that. May I say that sheds for greyhounds are not very desirable along the approach route to a city. I doubt if a refusal to permit the erection of such sheds is legal, even in the case of bodies which have adopted an interim town plan. There have been very definite challenges in the courts in the past, with success to those who challenged. If anyone cared to challenge a refusal for permission to build he would undoubtedly succeed.

Deputy O'Donnell and others criticised the fact that the Minister was looking for £5,000 by way of Money Resolution. I think it is a good thing that Money Resolution will be passed because it will enable local authorities and private individuals to start planning straight away.

It is proposed to give power to local authorities to require owners of derelict sites to carry out certain improvement works. I do not know that the Bill goes far enough. In my city there are several unsightly embankments. They are covered with weeds. They are dangerous. They could collapse at any moment. Subsection (3), paragraph (i) of Section 2 provides that a local authority may—

(i) by their servants or agents enter on the land and carry out the works and may claim, by demand in the prescribed form given to the owner aforesaid, the expenses incurred by them under this subsection,

The embankments to which I refer were once the responsibility of a Mill Race Committee. That committee is defunct. I should like something to be done to meet the case of these embankments. Ours is a major tourist area.

It will not be possible, of course, to get after a defunct committee to make them pay up. All I can see at the moment is a continuation of the present position. I think this measure should include some provision to cover such cases as these. As far as I can see the Bill is aimed at John Citizen and not at the powers-that-be. I should like the Minister to include provision to enable these embankments to be dealt with.

Reference has been made to the dumping of old cars. In certain areas unsightly boat hulks detract from the amenities of the areas in question. These old hulks could be broken up and given to the poor as firewood. They should not be left there to rot.

I welcome this measure. It is overdue. Derelict sites, particularly in towns and tourist resorts, are badly in need of improvement. There are many in my own area and they are increasing in number as a result of emigration. If the local authority were to take over all the derelict sites—derelict houses and derelict farms—in West Cork they would have a big job on hands.

The Deputy never produces a figure for these abandoned holdings.

They are there in their thousands from Bantry to Castletownbere. I should like to protect owners of property, even if they are the owners of derelict sites. I know that there is power in the Bill to appeal to the Minister but even though that power is in the Bill there would always be the temptation of wire-pulling and of bringing pressure to bear if it is not fully agreed between the parties to give away a particular site. Where compulsory acquisition is necessary I feel that the owner of such a site should have the right to appeal to the local district justice. He is above politics, he is above wire-pulling of any description, he would be disinterested except to carry out the law for the good of the community.

The owner of the derelict site would be protected in that respect by having the right to appeal to the district justice or to the circuit court judge. I think the district justice in each area would be able to deal with such a case. I think it would give confidence to the people that they would be dealt with in a fair and just way, that they would be protected by the courts and that no county manager would have the power to go in and take their property compulsorily without them having any redress whatever.

I do not consider the appeal to the Minister is sufficient protection at all even though I believe that the Bill is 100 per cent. necessary for the removal of derelict sites in cities, towns and tourist resorts. I know that tourists from England and America go around taking photographs of these sites. They display them in their own countries to show how backward we are in Ireland.

They have such sites themselves.

I know they have but they show these photographs to indicate how backward we are. I believe that it is necessary to clear these derelict sites. I have seen rusty, corrugated iron sheds in towns that ought not be there. The necessary steps should be taken to acquire them and put them in a proper state of repair so that they would be presentable to the people at home and to the tourists who come here.

I know that one person may not agree with another in regard to what is a derelict site. Who is to decide what is a derelict site? Is the sole responsibility to rest on the county manager? If he sees ragwort or thistles growing in a field he may look on that field as a derelict site whereas a farmer might look on it as a good field. That is why there should be an appeal to the courts so that there would be some other person to decide whether the owner is aggrieved because of the compulsory acquisition.

I know that there will be great developments in the region of Cork City in the near future as a result of the building of Cork airport. Town and regional planning will be very essential there and every step should be taken to ensure that the whole area is developed along the right lines so that when people come off the planes at the airport the neighbourhood will present a decent appearance. Perhaps it will be necessary to acquire the derelict sites in that area for the construction of the approaches to the airport. I should like the Minister to amend the Bill to give the necessary protection of the law and the courts to the people.

I welcome this Bill. It is one which will do a good deal to benefit our towns and our countryside and help our tourist industry. I do not agree that where disagreement occurs the matter should be referred for decision to the district justice or to the courts at all. The value of each property is so small that it would be foolish to encourage people by legislation to engage in costly litigation and to bear expenses in connection with what really are items of trivial value.

I do not think that the Bill goes far enough; perhaps I am wrong. There is provision in the Bill for certain matters which I intend to mention. First of all there is the question of the abandoned railways. I wonder if there is power in the Bill to do away with these eyesores. There is nothing which mars the appearance of a place so much as these abandoned railways which are overgrown with weeds and which are used as dumps by the local people.

Memorials to Fianna Fáil.

You people have quite a few memorials too. Seriously, that is a matter which I think should be covered in the Bill. I admit that it is going to be a very big job. Arising out of that we also have abandoned railway stations, small houses and buildings and tracks which have been allowed to fall into a very bad state. The same applies to railway bridges across roads which have fallen into disuse and are an eyesore to the public and a hazard to traffic.

What I have said in regard to railways applies also to canals. I should like to see provision in the Bill to deal with canals although the Minister for Transport and Power has indicated that these will be developed for inland fishery purposes.

Among our greatest eyesores are hoardings erected on roads entering and leaving towns. In fact advertisements on such hoardings are the greatest eyesores we have. They have been erected in a haphazard way and without any regard to the appearance of the countryside or to the appearance of the town or village near where they are situated.

Another matter giving great concern and which caused a lot of annoyance in towns which entered for the Tidy Town Competition, are what I call car graveyards. These are usually on the outskirts of towns but in many cases they are situated right in the centre of the town. It will be difficult to deal with these cases because not alone have you scrap cars and lorries but also disused cars and other vehicles.

Supposing the local authority steps in, as it will have power to do when this Bill becomes law, and removes the scrap from the site and disposes of it somewhere—and what a problem that will be—can the owner come along and say that in the removal of the junk the local authority got rid of a number of cars capable of being put to use again? That will, I am afraid, create a problem to which I would like the Minister to give his attention before the Committee Stage of the Bill. There are several other points I mentioned which I think the Minister should also examine before we come to the Committee Stage.

What I have to say on this measure is connected with something that does not appear in the Bill at all. In this legislation the word "site" seems to refer to land only and not to water. I would point out that there are several derelict canals, lakes and so forth which should come under the provisions of the Bill. The last Deputy referred to what the Minister for Transport and Power was doing about providing fisheries in canals, but I do not think the Deputy had in mind the canals inside the Dublin city boundary. These waterways are only dumping grounds for dead dogs, cats and all sorts of . They are also full of weeds and many children have been drowned through being caught in those weeds.

I suggest that the Minister put something about areas occupied by water into this Bill. I would point out that the Liffey was a filthy river up to a short time ago. Nobody would take responsibility for cleaning it and it was necessary for me to suggest in the Dublin Corporation that the Corporation would take legal action against the Dublin Port and Docks Board. I am not sure whether the Corporation have any power in future to compel the Port and Docks Board to keep the river clean. Surely a local authority should be given power to see that either the Port and Docks Board or whoever is responsible for a river should keep the waterways clear of filth. I suggest that the Minister inserts a provision in the Bill dealing with water.

It is included.

Is the word "water" mentioned?

I must look more closely at the Bill. I think the Minister should give us more enlightenment on what is contained in this measure.

I feel that the introduction of the Bill at this time is very desirable. Moreover, a large number of voluntary bodies who entered the competition, which Bord Fáilte has been sponsoring to beautify our towns, find considerabe difficulty in getting their efforts brought to fruition mainly because the existence of derelict sites militates considerably against them. Accordingly, I was particularly pleased to hear the announcement of the Minister some weeks ago on the propose introduction of this legislation.

The main purpose of the Bill is to remedy difficulties and anomalies which existed in the previous Act. I agree with another speaker who pointed out the ineffectiveness of the existing Town Planning code. That, of course, is a matter for another day but it is all the more reason why this Bill should come along at this time. There are many difficulties under present legislation to be remedied. There is a general tendency, and a very praiseworthy one, nowadays on the part of voluntary committees in towns and villages to try to make them more attractive to the eye and generally to introduce much needed amenities, particularly at seaside resorts.

It is the experience of all of these committees that they are prevented a good deal from providing these amenities very often because of lack of land accommodation. Land is becoming a more and more difficult problem, whether it be good or bad. At the moment there is no town or village which has not a number of derelict sites. The great difficulty seems to be to acquire ownership of these sites. In fact it is sometimes more difficult than in the case of good land.

That is something I cannot understand. I have had experience of it in my own town where there is a very energetic local committee who took on the job of entering for the Tidy Town Competition. By and large, they got all the necessary co-operation from the people of the town and from landowners in general. But there were a few black spots—cases of derelict house sites for which either no owner could be found or, as in one case, where the owner was found but was not willing to give the necessary facilities for the acquisition and improvement of a highly objectionable site. This Bill will go a long way to meet such a situation particularly when the Minister is introducing a scheme of grants to enable local authorities and voluntary bodies to provide certain very desirable amenities on these sites.

A number of speakers have expressed doubt as to whether the Bill contains sufficient definition of what a derelict site is. I have in mind particularly quarries and refuse dumps while other speakers have referred to car dumps. No doubt the Minister has taken the existence of such places into consideration and has provided that the terms of the Bill will adequately deal with them. However, if the Minister has any doubt on that point, I would respectfully suggest to him that the measure should be re-examined and if amendments are desirable to provide for such contingencies, they should be introduced now.

One Deputy stated that the appeals machinery was not equitable. I believe it would be a complete waste of time to have any kind of appeals machinery other than that of an appeal to the Minister. Litigation before the Courts is costly and can be very uncertain. I believe that, by and large, appeals coming before the Minister are decided equitably to the satisfaction of all concerned. The Minister is not infallible in these matters but he is in a position to have all the facts before him and give a decision in the light of those facts. I do not think he will weigh the scales in favour of the local authority. In fact, I would say that he would, if possible, give the benefit of a doubt to the appellant.

A suggestion I would put to the Minister is that he should make clear where the initiative lies in this matter of clearing sites. The Bill does not state whether the members of the local authority or the county manager may take action. I can see the possibility of friction between members of local authorities and county managers if that point is not made clear. Deputy O'Malley referred to the fact that the less say members of local authorities had in the matter of appeals and asking the county manager to make orders, the better. I thoroughly agree. Even though we complained in the past that we were not in a position to clear these derelict sites, I am afraid that now, when we have sufficient scope, local authorities will be reluctant to act in certain cases where the sites are the property of local people who might raise objection. I am sure the Minister will take those points into consideration and that any doubts as to the rights of local authorities and managers will be clarified.

Might I just clarify a point made by Deputy Sherwin which I think may be misinterpreted? When the Deputy asked whether or not water and waterways were included in the Bill, I said they were. I feel the House may have felt that the word "water" should have been mentioned in the Bill. The fact is that, under the Interpretation Act, land includes water as far as the effects of the Bill are concerned. Therefore, water is effectively included.

Would it not be best to put in "water"?

It is not necessary.

Is the Minister certain?

I am quite certain.

Lawyers are very funny people, you know.

This is one of these Bills that sound excellent on paper. A Bill is introduced in Dáil Éireann dealing with derelict sites. The idea is that the State or the local authorities should have the power to take over anything they consider to be a derelict site. I think Deputy Sherwin has brought out very well that the question of what is actually a derelict site will lead to a good deal of controversy. If we pass this Bill we are giving to the local authorities —and, I suppose, to the Government as a whole—a good deal of power to go in on any person's land, on any private ownership, and to declare it a derelict site.

Many people when they come to consider derelict sites must think of what Deputy Sherwin has just been talking about, the Dublin canals. Since C.I.E. gave up the use of these canals they have been overgrown with weeds. They are literally rotting with them and they are more or less cesspools which are injurious to the health of the community as a whole. This Bill enables the local authority, which I assume in this case to be Dublin Corporation, to go in and take possession of the derelict sites concerned, or force the owner of the site to do a job on it or, in the event of his failing to do the job, to do the job themselves and make him pay.

Does this mean that if we pass this Bill—the Minister has just clarified the position by saying that water is included—probably the first order will be that Dublin Corporation, if they are doing their duty, will order C.I.E. to clean the canals? That seems to be a rather long-winded way of going about things. I am merely citing this as one particular instance. I would imagine that the health authority in Dublin already has such power, looking at it from the medical point of view of the injurious effect these cesspools have on the health of the people, without having to come to the Dáil with a Bill for derelict sites.

What about the bedsteads? They would not be injurious but they are very ugly to look at.

That is a point I would find difficult to answer. Anyway, in so far as they dam up the canal and lead to further growth of weeds, they probably would be injurious to health. In rural Ireland and in the towns you see many sites with houses on them, houses which the local authorities have condemned. The people who own those houses have not sufficient financial means at their disposal to pull them down and build other houses on them or even to repair them. I know of many instances where local authorities have been asked to take over sites like that and have refused to do so.

This Bill, as I read it briefly yesterday evening, seems to me to impose on private owners the liability that they may be taken over by a local authority, but it does not seem to impose on a local authority the obligation to remove eyesores for which they themselves may be responsible.

Debate adjourned.