Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Tuesday, 21 Jun 1994

Vol. 444 No. 1

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Planning Regulations Amendment.

Seán Barrett


4 Mr. Barrett asked the Minister for the Environment if he intends amending the Local Government (Planning and Development) Regulations, 1994, to take account of the views expressed in the Dáil debate on 25 May 1994; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

The streamlining and updating of subordinate planning legislation brought about by the Local Government (Planning and Development) Regulations, 1994 was generally welcomed in the statements made in the House on 25 May. I responded in some detail on that occasion to the issues raised and the concerns expressed in relation to particular aspects. I have no proposals at present to amend the regulations.

I am disappointed with the reply. The major changes made in the planning legislation incorporated 172 pages of amendments and it is difficult for the public to make an input into the changes which are in place as a result of these statutory instruments. Is the Minister prepared to do anything about the proposal to allow up to four bedrooms to be used for bed and breakfast accommodation without planning permission? Does he intend to do anything about the ridiculous suggestion regarding the restriction of extensions to the rear of houses? Does he intend to do anything about the suggestion I made during the course of the statements we were allowed to make on these changes regarding local authorities advertising each application in a newspaper on a certain day each week rather than the individual publishing his own application? It would be cost effective and informative. Does he intend allowing An Bord Pleanála to continue to contravene development plans if they so wish? A local authority must go through a statutory process before it can contravene a development plan.

The question is very long.

Does he intend to change the regulations to deal with unauthorised developments and people applying for retentions which, in most cases, are granted? The penalties suggested in the regulations are far too low.

We had a lively debate in the House on the planning regulations and there was widespread support for the detailed work for which my Department is responsible. While certain concerns were expressed, no counter proposals were made in relation to the areas the Deputy mentioned.

We were not allowed to do so.

As regards the four bedroomed bed and breakfast accommodation, I explained on that occasion that where no physical change was made to a premises for which planning permission had already been granted and where the numbers involved were of a minor nature there would be no requirement for planning permission. That does not exclude the necessity to obtain a fire certificate, meet food and hygiene regulations and building regulations. Subsequent to the debate a number of Deputies said they were unaware of the necessity to have commencement orders.

Regarding developments at the rear of premises, anyone who wishes to apply for planning permission to build in excess of the prescribed area can so do. There is no limitation on making an application and it will be dealt with on its merits. As far as the other matters are concerned they have been properly explained and widely accepted. I committed myself at the beginning of my term of office as Minister to greater transparency and openness in the planning system. There was wide support during the debate for the provision to improve the public notice requirement so that people would not be faced with problems about which they could take no action after a prescribed period.

On the question of unauthorised developments, I introduced very stringent provisions in the planning and development Bill and increased the fines in cases where people are found guilty of unauthorised developments of a certain nature. The amounts paid to local authorities in respect of applications of that kind have also been doubled. These measures are indicative of my desire to combat the problems in this area.

Deputy Barrett rose.

Let us not forget the time factor in dealing with these questions.

I am well aware of that but the Opposition does not seem to have any chance while the Minister can ramble on for five or six minutes.

There are three remaining questions.

It is very annoying that Opposition Deputies are limited in their time while the Minister can take as much time as he likes. The reality is that the Minister's remarks in this respect were disingenuous — there would have been no debate on the planning regulations if I had not tabled a motion which proposed to annul them. As a result of public pressure, the Government succumbed to providing time for statements. It is inaccurate to say that we did not put forward alternative proposals. One can see from the record of the House that alternative proposals were put forward.

Questions, please.

The Minister must agree that the process of changing major planning laws by way of regulations is totally and utterly undemocratic.

I am awaiting a supplementary question, Deputy.

Will the Minister take up the points made by me and others during the debate, bring forward new planning legislation and provide time for a proper debate on all stages so that we can tease out the various proposals he is now trying to push through without debate?

I reject out of hand the Deputy's suggestion that I am trying to railroad regulations through this House.

That is what the Minister is trying to do.

We will not have a rerun of the debate now. The Deputy will appreciate that it has always been the norm to bring subordinate legislation before this House by way of regulation, the primary legislation having previously been enacted.

That is nonsense.

I cannot give any firm commitments now about changes. I would like to see how the present substantial legislation operates and in the light of that experience to come back to the House with whatever changes are deemed necessary.