I move: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."
Over a period spanning more than 200 years, Dublin's docklands have made an invaluable contribution to the development of Dublin as a port and as a city. It was the need to reclaim land to accommodate the increasing size of ocean-going vessels which led to the working port moving into the docklands area from further west along the Liffey quays in the 18th century. The profile of the area rose dramatically on the strength of this trend.
Ironically, in the case of the docklands, it was the very same forces which had once led to the area's growth that also prompted its decline. The need for ever deeper berthage to cope with the development of larger ships and the containerisation of cargo saw the port continue to move further eastwards. The bulk of the working port is now concentrated outside the original docklands area, on the north docks to the east of the East Link Bridge.
Now that the principal port activities have moved on, the docklands area left behind is mixed in character. On the one hand, the area has obsolete and undesirable uses and many vacant sites, all with significant adverse visual and amenity implications. On the other hand, it contains many features of heritage value which bear testimony to the area's heyday as part of the working port of Dublin. The docklands are also home to a number of strong residential communities and it has significant amenity potential with its network of waterways. Its location close to the city centre adds considerably both to the importance of the area in terms of the wider city and to the development potential of the area. The extent of land in the area under the control of public bodies is also of some significance.
The aim of the Government's initiative is to harness the collective energies of all the interests in the area for the purposes of securing the area's regeneration. The special purpose authority for the area, which this Bill provides for, will act as the engine driving this process. It has the potential to secure the vital synergies between the actions of the individual players in the area which would otherwise be lost.
In announcing the docklands regeneration initiative in this year's budget, my colleague, the Minister for Finance, described the large area on both sides of the Liffey which makes up the docklands as an area in transition. The area is, in effect, at a crossroads. To ensure that the many diverse interests in the area do not read the signposts at the crossroads in different ways, the Government decided that a master plan should be prepared to which all concerned could subscribe. Before I get into the detail of the Bill, let me outline what has been done so far to chart the course ahead.
Immediately after the budget, a Docklands Task Force representative of the key Departments and semi-State organisations involved was established. Its remit was twofold. First, it was asked to consider what arrangements should be made to prepare the master plan for the docklands area. Second, it was to make recommendations on the appropriate mechanism for the master plan's implementation.
The task force considered these issues separately and speedily, yet thoroughly, and submitted its report to Government in April. It concluded that the master plan should be prepared by a team of consultants with the diverse range of expertise which would be required if the very many issues facing the area were to be addressed. It also recommended the establishment of a new authority which would lead the implementation of the master plan and, ultimately, the regeneration of the docklands area.
In late April the Government considered the report of the task force and accepted these two principal recommendations. The first recommendation has been implemented through the appointment of a broadly-based team of consultants whose work on the preparation of the docklands master plan is now well under way. The Bill we are debating today fulfils the Government's commitment to the implementation of the task force's second recommendation, that is, the establishment of the Dublin Docklands Development Authority.
There have, of course, also been other factors which have influenced the development of the docklands regeneration initiative. One of the most significant of these is the wealth of urban renewal experience which we have gained since the first urban renewal scheme was introduced in 1986. Ten years ago parts of the heart of our inner urban areas were beginning to suffer the urban equivalent of heart disease. They were simply not able to continue to fulfil their role as the force driving the blood of the urban economy. Much of this role had by then been assumed by smaller, leaner satellites in the suburbs. Although sustainability was not a word much in vogue at that stage, it was clear that the suburbanisation process which had become established was unsustainable. Ever increasing suburban development compelled us to provide a whole range of infrastructural services which were already available with spare capacity in city and town centres.
The aim of the urban renewal schemes was to encourage investment back to the hearts of our urban areas. Under the first scheme introduced in 1986 and its successor which came into operation in 1994, areas designated for urban renewal have seen some £1.9 billion of investment to date. The schemes have, therefore, recorded remarkable success in achieving their principal aims. A consultants' study on urban renewal published only last week strongly supports this view.
However, the past ten years have shown us that the health of the hearts of our urban areas is not dependent only on investment or physical renewal. There must also be social renewal where local communities have a role in determining the way their area is renewed and benefit from that process. There is also a much deeper appreciation of the importance of architectural and urban design considerations in shaping our urban centres.
The consultants' study on the urban renewal schemes makes extensive recommendations on how these issues can be more fully addressed in the future. These recommendations are currently being considered as part of an overall review of urban renewal policy. A consultative process has been initiated in relation to the recommendations with a view to developing proposals for future policy on urban renewal to be considered by the Government in the first half of next year. Even though the review has not yet been concluded, we have learned much from what has so far emerged from it. Many of the provisions in the Bill reflect that learning process.
Another important factor which has influenced the docklands regeneration initiative is the experience gained in the Custom House Docks and Temple Bar. The docklands area includes the Custom House docks, home of the International Financial Services Centre which has now firmly established itself on the global financial services map. The new Docklands Authority to be established by the Bill will be at a considerable advantage in having this ready-made engine for further growth available to it. One has only to look at the constantly growing demand for office space in the IFSC from approved companies for evidence of the centre's growth potential in the years ahead.
Much of the success achieved to date in the IFSC is due largely to the tireless efforts of the Custom House Docks Development Authority which, since 1986, has, with the help of the powers given to it under the Urban Renewal Acts, acted as the driving force in turning the Custom House docks area around. I take this opportunity to acknowledge the Authority's considerable achievements. The 3,500 people now employed in IFSC and non-IFSC companies in the area will stand as testimony to the Authority's ten successful years, long after it is subsumed into the Dublin Docklands Development Authority to be established under the proposals contained in this Bill.
In Temple Bar we have seen the importance of an architectural framework plan in facilitating the introduction of imaginative, modern, yet sympathetic, architectural styles. Both the Temple Bar and Custom House Docks models have also highlighted the success which can be achieved when a specially dedicated organisation is established to lead a regeneration initiative. At the same time, the size and nature of the docklands show us clearly that the area requires more sophisticated structures than a simple replication of either the Temple Bar or Custom House Docks models could provide. Bringing together the wide range of interests in the docklands area will be a fundamental requirement for the successful completion of the regeneration voyage we are about to undertake.
Many influences have been brought to bear in framing this Bill. The influence of the urban renewal experience gained over the last ten years is clear from the mandate being given to the new Authority. While recognising the importance of improving the area's physical environment, the Authority's remit will be considerably wider, encompassing the sustainable social and economic regeneration of the area. The unique structures of the new Authority reflect the need for a more sophisticated model than those employed in the Custom House Docks and Temple Bar.
The Authority will have two arms. It will have a council which will be representative of the local authority, State bodies, local development and community interests in the area and will be responsible for the principal policy making functions of the Authority. The Authority's executive functions will be exercised by an executive board. In recognition of the importance of the International Financial Services Centre and the Government's commitment to it, the Authority will have a specific statutory duty to promote the further development of financial services activities in the Custom House docks area. While the Custom House Docks Development Authority has, in effect, been exercising a similar function since the IFSC was established in 1987, it does not have the express statutory duty to promote the centre as the new Authority will have under this Bill.
I will now deal with the individual provisions of the Bill in more detail. The 58 sections are split into four Parts and there are three Schedules. Part I of the Bill contains sections 1 to 13. These include the usual technical provisions in relation to short Title, commencement, interpretation, the power to make orders and regulations, repeal of enactments and expenses of the Minister. Provision is also made in section 11 for the indemnification of certain persons connected with the Authority in relation to the bona fide performance of their functions. Under section 12, the Authority will not be liable for damages because of a failure to perform any of the functions provided for in the Bill. Section 13 deals with the prosecution of offences under the Bill and the penalties applying to such offences.
Part II is the most significant part of the Bill, covering sections 14 to 47. Section 14 provides for the establishment of the Dublin Docklands Development Authority or, as Gaeilge, Údarás Forbartha Dugthailte Bhaile Átha Cliath, which will consist of a chairperson, a council and an executive board.
Under section 15, the chairperson of the Authority will be appointed by the Minister for the Environment. The term of office of the chairperson will usually be five years.
Section 16 provides for the establishment of the council which will consist of the chairperson and 25 ordinary members. While the ordinary members are to be formally appointed by the Minister for the Environment, the Bill ensures that they will be drawn from a range of sectors, reflecting the many interests involved in the area. The relevant Government Departments and semi-State bodies will be represented on the council as will Dublin Corporation, at both elective and official level. There will also be representation for organisations concerned with the social, economic or other development of the area, as well as community-based organisations. The town planning, urban design, architectural, conservation and engineering professions will also be represented on the council, as will individuals with experience in a range of areas which are of relevance to the Authority's functions.
Section 17 provides for the establishment of the executive board which will have eight members. This will include the chairperson and seven ordinary directors appointed by the Minister for the Environment for terms of up to five years. Section 18 sets out the functions of the Authority. Under this section, the Authority will be obliged to secure the sustainable social and economic regeneration of the docklands area, the improvement of the area's physical environment and the continued development of financial services activities in the Custom House Docks area. The remit of the Authority will be quite broad reflecting the wide range of factors which have a bearing on the regeneration of an area which covers 1,300 acres and is home to over 21,000 people. The participation and inclusion of local communities in the regeneration of the area will be vital. As the future of the docklands area will obviously have an important impact on the futures of its people, it is only right that they should have an important role in shaping that future and be in a position to reap its benefits.
The types of activities in which the new Authority will be able to get involved will be very varied. For example, it will be able to develop land, carry out environmental improvement works and make provision for infrastructure. It will also be able to promote the co-ordination of investment in the area and the development of an appropriate mix of housing. Provision is also made in this section for further functions in relation to the regeneration of the docklands area to be assigned to the Authority.
Sections 19, 20 and 21 set down the duties and functions of the chairperson, the council and the executive board. Section 19 provides that the chairperson will be responsible for securing the efficient discharge of the business of the Authority, by virtue of chairing both the council and the executive board. Section 20 sets out the functions of the Authority which are to be the responsibility of the council. In line with the report of the Dublin Docklands Area Task Force, the council will be responsible for policy matters, including the preparation of the master plan under section 24 and the making of planning schemes under section 25. Its functions will also include making certain recommendations to the executive board and to Ministers. The remainder of the functions of the Authority, other than those assigned to the council under section 20, will, under section 21, be the responsibility of the executive board. Sections 22 and 23 are standard provisions governing the meetings and procedures of the council and the executive board.
Section 24 provides for the preparation of the master plan for the docklands area. It will serve as the blueprint for the Authority's fulfilment of the general duty imposed on it by section 18. Provision is made for significant public consultation in the course of the master plan's preparation, reflecting the critical importance of bringing all the interests in the area together in support of it. Work on the preparation of the master plan, including extensive consultations with all the interests in the area, has been initiated in parallel to the preparation of this Bill. This will ensure the new Authority, once established, will lose no time in getting the docklands initiative formally under way. It will facilitate the Authority's early consideration of a range of proposals now being developed by the consultants preparing the master plan.
The consultants' work has benefited from the completion of a number of studies on the docklands area commissioned by the Custom House Docks Development Authority. These studies cover the area's socio-economic profile, its land-use and building conditions and the important features of its architecture and industrial archaeology, all key factors to be considered in preparing a workable, viable master plan.
Section 25 provides for the making of planning schemes for certain areas, the effect of which is to exempt development complying with the scheme from the requirement to obtain planning permission. This power was available to the Custom House Docks Development Authority in respect of the Custom House docks area and schemes were made in 1987 and 1994. The process of making a planning scheme provides for consultation with Dublin Corporation and requires the Authority to have regard to the corporation's development plan.
In addition to the Custom House docks area, the new Authority will also be able to exercise the power to make planning schemes in respect of other areas specified by order of the Minister for the Environment under section 25 (1) (a). It is envisaged that the power to make orders for this purpose would only be used where very special circumstances exist, which would make the planning scheme approach appropriate. Under section 6 (3), any order made under section 25 (1) (a) would have to be approved by both Houses of the Oireachtas before it could come into operation.
Section 26 provides for an environmental impact assessment in connection with certain planning schemes prepared under section 25. While under the Urban Renewal Act, 1986, any development to which EIA applies may be included in a planning scheme, section 25 (1) (c) will place a restriction on this. In future, the types of EIA-type development which may be included in a planning scheme will be limited to industrial estates, urban development projects and seawater marinas. If any other development to which EIA applies is proposed for an area covered by a planning scheme, it will be subject to the normal requirements of the planning process.
Section 27 provides for the compulsory acquisition by the Authority of land other than land owned by statutory bodies which, under section 28, may, in certain circumstances, be transferred from such bodies to the new authority. Similar powers are available to the Custom House Docks Development Authority at present and they are being replicated in this Bill.
Sections 29 to 33 deal with the financing requirements of the new Authority. The extent of these requirements can only be considered by the Government once the master plan, which will include costings and funding options, has been completed early next year. Accordingly, in line with the recommendations of the docklands task force, the Bill provides for a range of funding mechanisms to be available to the Authority. The extent to which each will be used will be determined in light of the financing element of the master plan and the decision by the Government on it.
The funding mechanisms which are provided for include grants under section 29, borrowings under section 30, some of which may be guaranteed by the Minister for Finance under section 31, and Exchequer advances under section 33. The Authority's power to borrow will be subject to a ceiling of £50 million on the amount of borrowings outstanding at any given time. The maximum amount of this which can be sourced from Exchequer advances will be £25 million.
Section 34 will enable the Authority to ensure it has an adequate number of employees, subject to appropriate ministerial consents in relation to numbers, gradings and terms of employment. This power is subject to the requirement of section 56, under which the existing employees of the Custom House Docks Development Authority will transfer to the new Authority on its establishment. Under section 35, the Authority will be able to make provision for the superannuation of its employees. Section 36 is a standard provision which will enable the Authority to engage consultants and advisers where it considers it necessary to do so to discharge its functions. Under section 37, it will also be able to accept services provided to it by a statutory body.
Sections 38 and 39 are standard provisions under which the chairperson, ordinary directors of the executive board and employees of the Authority are prohibited from also being members of Dáil Éireann, Seanad Éireann, the European Parliament or a local authority. As some of the ordinary members of the council are to be drawn from the elected members of Dublin Corporation, who may also be Deputies, Senators or MEPs, the prohibitions of sections 38 and 39 will not apply to ordinary membership of the council to be established under section 16.
Section 40 deals with the disclosure of interests by certain employees, consultants, etc. and is modelled on a corresponding provision in the Environmental Protection Agency Act, 1992. The section will not apply to the chairperson, ordinary members of the council, ordinary directors of the executive board or certain employees of the Authority, on the basis that the corresponding provisions of the Ethics in Public Office Act, 1995, will be applied to those positions. Section 41 will regulate the disclosure of confidential information by persons associated with the Authority, while section 42 prohibits the making of improper communications to such persons.
Under section 43, the Authority will be permitted to accept gifts of money, land or property. However, it will be precluded from doing so if the conditions governing the acceptance of the gift would conflict with the effective performance of its statutory functions. The Authority will also be required to publish details of all gifts accepted by it in its annual reports. Section 44 is a standard provision in relation to keeping accounts and carrying out audits. Section 45 will require the Authority to prepare an annual report on its activities and to provide the Minister for the Environment with such other information relating to the performance of its functions as he or she may request.
Under section 46, the Minister for the Environment will be empowered to give to the Authority policy directives and directives in relation to financial objectives. This is a balanced provision which allows the Minister to make directives which would apply generally to the Authority's performance of its functions, while at the same time making clear that it does not confer any power or control in relation to the Authority's exercise of its functions in individual cases.
Section 47 makes provision for the dissolution of the Authority by way of order made by the Minister for the Environment. As was made clear in the report of the Dublin docklands area task force, the Authority will not have an infinite life but should aim to fully carry out its duties over a period of ten to 15 years. Once the Authority has completed its work, section 47 will enable an order to be made to dissolve it and to make the provisions consequential on this.
Part III covering sections 48 to 57 sets out the transitional provisions which will apply to the subsuming of the Custom House Docks Development Authority into the new Authority. Section 48 provides for the transfer of all land and other property from the Custom House Docks Development Authority to the new Authority, while section 49 makes a similar provision in relation to rights and liabilities.
Section 50 is necessary to provide for the continuation in force of a range of contractual and other agreements. This will be done by replacing the reference to the Custom House Docks Development Authority in each such case with a reference to the name of the new Authority established under this Bill. Sections 51 and 52 make similar provisions in relation to the continuation of pending legal proceedings and the construction of certain references to the Custom House Docks Development Authority respectively. Section 55 provides for the continued admissibility in evidence of documents of the Custom House Docks Development Authority after its dissolution.
Section 53, which provides an exemption from stamp duty in respect of the vesting in the new Authority of property or rights transferred under the Bill, is a standard provision where transfers between public bodies are being provided for. Section 54 provides for the preparation of the final accounts of the Custom House Docks Development Authority. Section 56 provides for the transfer of all the employees of the Custom House Docks Development Authority to the Dublin Docklands Development Authority. Under section 57, the Custom House Docks Development Authority will be dissolved on the establishment day. The establishment day is the day to be specified under section 14 on which the new Authority will be established. Section 58, the only provision in Part IV of the Bill, provides for a number of technical amendments of sections 4 and 7 of the Urban Renewal Act, 1986, in relation to the making of orders and rates remission schemes under that Act.
The First Schedule to the Bill describes the Dublin docklands area which corresponds to the area outlined at Appendix 1 of the Dublin Docklands Area Task Force report. Under section 4, the Minister for the Environment may make an order adjusting the area, either by way of adding contiguous areas or excluding areas currently included. The Second Schedule describes the Custom House Docks Area which corresponds to the area currently defined as such by virtue of the Urban Renewal Act, 1986, and orders made under the Urban Renewal (Amendment) Act, 1987. Section 5 of the Bill makes a similar provision to that in section 2 of the Urban Renewal (Amendment) Act, 1987, under which the area can be extended eastwards as far as the East Wall road. The Third Schedule lists the repeals to be made by the Bill. Part IV of the Urban Renewal Act, 1986, which provided for the establishment of the Custom House Docks Development Authority, and the entire Urban Renewal (Amendment) Act, 1987, are to be repealed.
As Deputies will have gathered, this is an elaborate and comprehensive Bill. Its comprehensiveness is dictated by the need to establish structures which will provide for the widest possible degree of participation in the Authority's work and to clearly set out the comprehensive mandate which is being assigned to it.
I look forward to the master plan for the area taking shape and to seeing its proposals being translated into reality. The establishment of the Dublin Docklands Development Authority will be the critical factor in that process. The regeneration of the docklands area is, of course, not only important for the area itself, it is also of immense strategic importance to the city of Dublin and the vibrant development of the economy as a whole. A city, like any living organism, requires a healthy, beating heart. As a critical part of the heart of Dublin, the health and vitality of the docklands will be of enormous value to a city which has seen many other parts of its central area regenerated in recent years. I commend the Bill to the House with great enthusiasm.