Compulsory Purchase Orders (Extension of Time Limits) Bill 2010 [Seanad]: Second Stage

I move: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

I thank Members for agreeing to take this Bill at very short notice. This is a small two section Bill, with just one section of a substantive nature. The amendment to section 217(6) of the Planning and Development Act 2000 proposed in this Bill was introduced and agreed on Committee Stage in the Dáil during discussions on the Planning and Development (Amendment) Bill 2009. That Bill is due to return to the Seanad next week for Report Stage and conclusion.

Unfortunately, a timing issue has arisen that necessitated the introduction at short notice of this Compulsory Purchase Orders (Extension of Time Limits) Bill 2010 to deal solely with the amendment to section 217(6) of the Planning and Development Act. Under that section, once An Bord Pleanála confirms a compulsory purchase order, the local authority has 18 months in which to serve notices to treat on any landowner affected. If it fails to do so, the CPO lapses.

Where judicial review proceedings are taken the likely timeframe for reaching a conclusion means that the CPO notices to treat may expire before the legal action concludes. The difficulty this presents is that work undertaken and expense incurred by local authorities on schemes that go into judicial review and are subsequently given the go-ahead will then be redundant because the prescribed time period for the CPO has expired. Such a situation may arise if this Bill is not enacted today.

The project involved is the Galway city outer bypass where, as the result of a referral to the European Court of Justice arising from a challenge to the approval by An Bord Pleanála of the road scheme, the CPO 18-month limit will expire at midnight. The current section 217(6) makes no allowance for the possibility of such legal challenges and, as a consequence, fails to factor in a holding provision that would maintain the validity of a CPO approval beyond the fixed 18-month period in circumstances where such challenges arise.

Under the current legislation it is open to a county council to make a new CPO, with all the costs and effort that would entail, to replace a lapsed CPO once the outcome of the legal challenge is finally determined. Apart from the waste of resources and duplication of effort involved, the new CPO would have to comply with all standard legal requirements, including publication of notices, availability for inspection by the public, objection procedures with a minimum period of six weeks allowed for making objections, submission of the CPO to An Bord Pleanála, holding of an oral hearing and determination of the matter by the board.

The process associated with a new CPO could easily take a year or more to complete, with obvious implications for the timeline attaching to the advancement and construction of the road scheme and also in respect of additional costs. As the Bill providing for the amendment to section 217 of the Planning and Development Act will not be enacted in time to deal with the lapse of the Galway CPO notices to treat, a Bill has been prepared that contains the relevant provision from the proposed Planning and Development (Amendment) Bill. This will resolve the situation where court proceedings lead to the expiry of local authority CPOs before a decision is reached. It will mean that the CPOs in the case of the Galway city outer bypass project will be extended to the earlier of 30 days after the conclusion of the legal proceedings or 18 months after the expiry of the initial 18-month period.

The European Court of Justice is not likely to rule on the referral for some time and therefore the purpose of the Bill is to avoid the considerable expense and work associated with repeating the CPO process in the event of a positive decision by the European Court of Justice. The Galway city outer bypass is regarded by the NRA as a high priority project and the construction of the bypass was provided for in Transport 21. In line with that provision, Galway County Council and Galway City Council, with the support of the NRA, progressed the planning of the project. The project was approved by An Bord Pleanála in November 2008.

There is, however, a legitimate issue to be resolved for to An Bord Pleanála approval for the Galway city outer bypass regarding the interpretation of Article 6(3) of the habitats directive and of Regulation 30 of the Habitat Regulations 1997. I am fully supportive of the Galway city outer bypass, subject to all necessary legal consents being obtained and compliance with all obligations under EU law. If, therefore, the legal situation is resolved I wish to see construction of the road going ahead as quickly as possible. This Bill will facilitate that possibility.

Section 1 of the Bill provides for the amendment of section 217 of the Planning and Development Act 2000. The effect of the proposed amendment is that where there are legal proceedings challenging a compulsory purchase or consents relating to a particular project and a notice to treat is not served within 18 months, the time limit for serving the notice can be extended to the earlier of 30 days after the conclusion of the legal proceedings or 18 months after the expiry of the initial 18 month period. This section also provides that in the event of legal proceedings not being concluded within the extended time limit provided for in section 1 the relevant local authority can apply to the High Court for a further extension and the High Court, if it considers there is sufficient grounds for doing so, can allow such a further extension as it considers reasonable and fair in the circumstances. This Bill only deals with CPOs and notices to treat involving local authorities. No Government agency, such as the NRA or CIE, will be in a position to avail of the provisions of this Bill. This is a matter which should be reviewed at a later stage.

Section 2 of the Bill is merely the Short Title and collective citation and is a standard provision in all Bills placed before the Houses of the Oireachtas. I again thank Members opposite for facilitating this process and the passage of this Bill. It is necessary to save money for the taxpayer, as well as to try to ensure that when this matter is resolved in the courts, if it is given the go-ahead, it may proceed without undue delay.

I wish to share time with Deputy McCormack. Perhaps the Ceann Comhairle will let me know when seven minutes have expired.

First, I am looking forward to taking over the transport brief.

Sorry, I should have welcomed the Deputy to his new portfolio.

The Minister is fine. I am sure he has a lot on his mind. I look forward to working with the Minister and his Department on transport issues generally.

On this particular issue, I was somewhat taken aback today when Members were asked to take this legislation. It is not good practice, as the Minister probably will accept, to introduce legislation the Opposition does not have an opportunity to amend. While Opposition Members will comment on it, essentially it is being driven through in the space of an hour or so this evening. This is not something of which Members should make a habit. That said, if this measure will save money and if it makes sense, then Members have an obligation to try to facilitate the process.

However, I wish to ask a number of questions on this Bill. First, I do not understand the reason the Minister for Transport is taking this Bill and not the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. It proposes to bring forward a section of the Planning and Development (Amendment) Bill that is going through the Oireachtas at present and which is almost finalised. Consequently, I do not understand the reason the Department of Transport is taking responsibility for it this evening. I understand its purpose is to facilitate a particular road project, namely, the Galway city outer bypass that, as far as I am aware, my party strongly supports. However, I do not understand the reason the Department that at present is dealing with this issue in planning law is not taking this Bill.

Second, I presume the Office of the Attorney General has answered the question as to whether it is legally appropriate to change the law in the middle of a legal case, which is what is happening here. Even though the case, which is before the European Court of Justice, pertains to giving a ruling on how a section of the habitats directive applies in this case, the impact of the outcome of that case on the timing of the implementation of a compulsory purchase order, CPO, will be changed. In other words, the outcome with regard to the extension of the CPO is being changed.

If this makes sense for local authorities that make CPOs for whatever reason, they normally are for roads but they have other purposes, I do not understand the reason it would not also make sense for the other State bodies that are entitled to make CPOs. For example, why should it be different for EirGrid, were it obliged to deal with a legal challenge regarding pylons thereby requiring an extension to the time limit of a CPO? I do not understand why the rationale is any different for local authorities than it might be for other State agencies or bodies. Essentially, are Members merely passing this legislation to deal with this particular case in Galway or it is being suggested that it is good law to be able to extend the 18-month period after which a CPO collapses on foot of a legal challenge to the process or to the planning process that may be related to it? If it is good law for local authorities, surely it also is good law for the other bodies concerned. For example, what would be the difference in the case of a port company or the Irish Aviation Authority in respect of an airport? I do not understand. While I am willing to facilitate the Minister in respect of what he is trying to do this evening, many genuine questions arise as to the reason this legislation is being done in this manner, whereby it only applies to local authorities. In addition, an issue arises about rushing the Bill in the first place. It was known weeks ago that this was likely to be the case, because it was unlikely that the planning legislation would get through the Houses before the end of term. There are reasonable and genuine questions that probably deserve answers.

As this is a Second Stage debate, I also wish to raise a more general point regarding transport projects. My understanding from media coverage this week, which highlighted that 40 road projects are on ice at present, the Galway city outer bypass being one of them, is that even were the issue in respect of the CPO and an extension of time resolved and even were the go-ahead secured from the European Court of Justice to build this road, apparently there would be no funding for it anyway. The Minister should provide clarity on the funding and prioritisation of this project. If Members are going to go through the process of changing the law to facilitate a CPO, will it be possible to find the capital to make the project happen?

On a more general point, I can understand the serious expenditure-related pressures on the Minister at present. However, I appeal to him to consider other ways to finance infrastructure projects through private sector investment. I do not suggest the privatisation of building roads through the mechanism of imposing tolls and so on. However, in the case of, for example, motorway stopovers, it sounds ridiculous that although the NRA does not have the capital to build such facilities at present, it is not considering tendering to the private sector to build them, while regulating the design, size, safety issues and all other issues that must be in place for a motorway stopover. At present, dozens of developers would be willing and able and extremely interested in building such infrastructure, if they could be facilitated by the NRA to so do. The State must be more imaginative about how it finances capital programmes that are linked to or connected with the transport system and I ask the Minister to do this. I will now hand over to my colleague, Deputy McCormack, to speak more specifically about the Galway issue.

First, I wish to put on record that Fine Gael is supportive of the Galway city outer bypass road project and has no objection to the passage of this rushed legislation this evening, which is relevant to that project. However, I both firmly believe and predict that at the end of 18 months, it will not make any difference because I do not expect any work to be done on this road. Why is this Bill being introduced at the last minute, when it has been known for the past 18 months that the CPO would expire within 18 months? Now, within four hours of the deadline for extending the time, Members are rushing a Bill through the Dáil. I believe this is being done as a face-saving measure for Deputy Fahey, who, like myself, is a strong supporter of the Galway city outer bypass road.

When the list of suspended projects appeared in yesterday's newspapers, it was stated that the NRA was abandoning this project. This Bill really acts as camouflage to pretend there will be a further 18 months in which to decide on the project. That period will probably extend beyond the next election, after which it will be up to the new Government as to whether it will be able to fund the proposed road.

The proposed Galway city outer bypass has been an ongoing project for the past 12 years, which encompasses the full lifetime of Fianna Fáil's participation in government. The most favourable route for the road was established nine years ago in 2001, at least three years before any part of that corridor was designated as a national heritage area. The designation is now being used as an excuse for stalling the building of the bypass road for the past ten years. There is no will on the part of the Government, especially the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Deputy Gormley, whom I am surprised is absent, to have the road built. In fact, at all times the Green Party has opposed the building of the road. Before the current Green Party Senator from Galway, former councillor, Senator Ó Brolcháin, lost his seat on the city council he used his position as mayor to object to the bypass on mayoral notepaper to An Bord Pleanála. Despite the objection of the Green Party, An Bord Pleanála granted permission for the first phase of the road from Doughiska to Bushy Park on the N59 Moycullen road. The decision was appealed to the High Court by the objectors to the road. In October 2009 the High Court decision ruled in favour of An Bord Pleanála overruling the objection to the road.

The Minister, Deputy Gormley, stated in reply to a parliamentary question from Deputy Hogan on 21 January 2010 that: "Following the High Court ruling, the State [no less] and Mr. Sweetman separately sought leave to appeal the judgment to the Supreme Court. Leave to appeal was granted on 6 November 2009." The Supreme Court then referred the matter to the European Court of Justice and as the seanchaí said, things rested so. The Mr. Sweetman referred to by the Minister was a former candidate for the Green Party in an election. That begs the question of whether the Minister is now or ever was in favour of the road being built. The suffering business people in Galway and Connemara and the frustrated motorists believe he is not in favour of the road. If further proof were needed, the Government has now suspended the project. It was listed as No. 4, N6 Galway outer bypass, on roads projects suspended by the NRA according to yesterday'sIrish Independent. The Minister for Transport, Deputy Dempsey, said the NRA considers the road a high priority but it does not look like a high priority to me.

Given that the decision of An Bord Pleanála only sanctioned the outer bypass as far as the Moycullen Road at Bushy Park suggests that only slightly more than half of the scheme had been approved. With the estimated cost of completing half of the work at approximately €450 million I seriously question whether there is any commitment from the Government, or from one section of it at any rate, to ever proceed with the project, especially in view of the current financial situation where we are in debt to the tune of untold billions.

The decision of An Bord Pleanála to only allow half a bypass to be carried out renders it very unlikely that any work will be done on this road or that the necessary funds will be provided in the current climate for work for this road. The reasons given by An Bord Pleanála for not sanctioning the second part of the road from the Moycullen road to the Spiddal road was the possibility of endangering bog cotton and because part of the area was designated as a natural heritage area. The route was established as the most favourable route in 2001, at least three years before the area was designated as a natural heritage area. It seems very strange to me that that would be the case now. The decision would not allow the road to bypass the Galway to Moycullen road and would have a serious effect on other proposed road projects in the south Connemara area, namely, the proposed road to Rossaveal and the Barna relief road. It now seems unlikely that those proposed roads will proceed following the decision.

It is impossible to build half a bypass route in any case and to have it end, as is currently the case, on the N59. Up to €20 million has already been spent on planning the road and carrying out environmental tests yet not a sod has been dug on the road yet. It is most unlikely that a sod will be turned on the road in the next 18 months. Whether the High Court or the next Government decide to proceed with the road it is a doubtful project. We are only engaging in shadow boxing in having the CPOs extended. It is only a matter of saving face so that certain people in a Government party can claim the project is not dead and that it is really still alive when it is not alive at all. Everyone in Galway knows that at this stage.

The intimate knowledge of Deputy McCormack has hit the nail on the head in regard to this project. I did not realise bog cotton was an endangered plant species. There is plenty of it around in the west on all kinds of habitats. There is something surreal about us——

——forcing through a Bill at the last minute. We have until the witching hour of midnight to get the legislation through.

I wonder whether the Greens will be in the House to vote on it.

That is an interesting point too. The legislation relates to one specific project. It is not just rushed legislation but the fact that it is put forward for a particular purpose as distinct from a broad, collective range of purposes seldom makes for good legislation.

We find ourselves in an extraordinary situation. Only yesterday, the Minister announced the project was going nowhere for the time being yet now we have to get the time for the compulsory purchase orders extended. There is something strange about the timing of the Bill. It was unusual to find when I was speaking in the House at 2.30 p.m. that the Chief Whip arrived to introduce the order, which had not been introduced in the morning. The least one expects is that the business of the day will be regulated and completed in the morning but in this case the business was not ready.

At 2.30 p.m. the Chief Whip announced that the Bill would be going through all Stages today, but he also announced that it would be in the name of the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. I therefore expected that the passage of the Bill would be conducted by the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government because we were dealing with what is essentially a provision of the Planning and Development (Amendment) Bill which we could not complete at this time but, lo and behold, it is the Minister for Transport we see before us tonight. The Minister of State at the Department of Finance took the Bill in the Seanad. Something very strange seems to be going on given that neither the senior Minister in the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government nor the Minister of State at that Department, Deputy Cuffe, was available to deal with the Bill. I wonder whether the two parties are singing from the same hymn sheet on this matter.

I have a letter from the manager of Galway City Council which is profuse in its reference to Deputy Fahey, who is present. It gives him the credit for the idea of this legislation. The letter was written this week, which is very recent. It is strange, given that the case which has been taken to the Supreme Court and subsequently to the European Court of Justice, and has been ongoing for a considerable period, that the possibility of this situation arising was not envisaged earlier without having to rush through the legislation in this manner. The letter was addressed to the Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Deputy Cuffe. Did he, as the appropriate Minister in the absence of the senior Minister, decide not to deal with the legislation? Do issues arise as outlined by Deputy McCormack in regard to objections along the route? Is it the case that the Green Party was not interested in being seen to take the legislation which would have the effect of ensuring that at least the compulsory purchases would go ahead some time in the future once the case was exhausted in the courts?

These are questions that should be answered because it seems there is a very substantial political dimension to the legislation. We are being asked at the 11th hour, almost the 12th, to accept all Stages of the legislation in an hour and 20 minutes. We know from experience that does not work and that there are nearly always flaws in rushed legislation. Legislation rushed through both Houses after 8 p.m. on the same day could very well end up being problematic.

When the Planning and Development (Amendment) Bill 2009 is completed, will the Minister repeal the Compulsory Purchase Orders (Extension of Time Limits) Bill? Will this be a priority and a commitment? There is nothing in the legislation that will bring an end to it.

How appropriate is it to introduce legislation that pertains to a case that is before the courts? The Bill will have a bearing on the outcome of the case because it is effectively extending the timeframe associated with matters relevant thereto. I would like to hear the Minister respond on this.

I have no objections to the substance of the Bill. It is very reasonable in that no country could carry out projects such as roads projects without compulsory purchases. In respect of the 2000 Act, it is strange that an extension of time was not required because of legal actions. I can envisage such action, particularly given the litigious nature of Irish citizens and all the objections that arise when there is a major project. The provision to amend the planning legislation is welcome and we have no objection to it.

I did not realise the amount of money spent to date was as large as the amount stated by Deputy McCormack, that is, in the region of €20 million. This money must not be allowed to go down the tubes. The cost of having to reapply for a compulsory purchase order and engage again with An Bord Pleanála, with the consequent work on specifications and planning, would be quite substantial. It is eminently desirable not to subject the taxpayer to that cost.

It is eminently desirable to know whether projects will proceed or whether, having applied for planning permission and obtained compulsory purchase orders, there will be no funding. Does the Minister envisage any progress in the foreseeable future on the long list of projects that have been suspended indefinitely, and which we read about in the newspapers?

There is something strange and fishy about this legislation, arriving as it does at this time and given the manner in which we are being compelled, much against our will, to pass it on the basis of a guillotine. We talked about the guillotine all day today and many votes arose because of it. This Bill involves what one might call a super-guillotine. It is the kind that nobody would expect in any circumstances. The danger is that we are being forced to do something we might regret. I ask the Minister to commit that this legislation will cease to exist once the provisions of the Planning and Development (Amendment) Bill are in place.

There is some spare time. Deputy Fahey has indicated he would like a few minutes in which to speak. Perhaps he could be allowed to contribute before I call the Minister.

I welcome the agreement of the Opposition to the substantive issue, which pertains to compulsory purchase orders in general. The Bill affects the Galway outer bypass and is, as the Minister stated, to ensure the local authority will not have to waste considerable time and money by having to go back to the drawing board. As Deputy McCormack stated, a very large amount of money has been expended on the project to date. It has taken several years to get to this point and it would be very wrong for the Oireachtas to allow a waste of taxpayers' money. In that respect, this legislation is welcome.

This is not a question of whether the bypass should go ahead; it has no bearing on it. The bypass has been subjected to judicial review. The case has been before the High Court and Supreme Court and has now been referred to the European Court of Justice for a preliminary hearing. In this democracy, that is as it should be. Those who have objected have every right to do so. Those who are concerned about the process have every right to be concerned.

As Deputy Costello stated, the reality is that there are environmental issues to be considered. For his information, the priority one natural habitat area is for slender bog cotton. It is a very rare plant and quite different from bog cotton. There are approximately 2 hectares involved. The route of the bypass is to affect approximately 3.5 hectares of limestone pavement on the eastern side of the city. It is a priority one natural habitat according to EU specifications. As a proponent of the bypass, I accept fully these issues must be dealt with through the proper legal channels, as the Minister said. While this takes time, it is very important, for Galway and the rest of the country, that the issues be dealt with properly and to the satisfaction of everyone. That is why I have never been critical of objections. It is part of the democratic process.

The issue at hand does not concern whether the bypass should proceed; it is simply concerned with the need to ensure good practice. This legislation was passed by the Dáil last week. It was due to proceed to the Seanad this week and it was only because there were 100 amendments to the planning legislation, which the Bills Office could not process, that it was not possible to pass it in the House this week. This House is not passing any legislation that has not already been agreed by it. It was agreed that it would proceed to the Seanad. No amendments were tabled for the Seanad. Therefore, the legislation would also have been passed by the Seanad. It was intended that it would be passed by that House before the deadline pertaining to the Galway bypass.

Notwithstanding some of the points made by the Opposition, with which I disagree politically, I thank it for agreeing to the substance of the Bill. This legislation is in the best interest of the taxpayer and Galway. There are those with legitimate objections thereto and, as a democrat, I am prepared to recognise those. The European Court of Justice will now give its opinion on the case to the Irish Supreme Court. One could not have a decision made in a better way. I will be quite happy to accept that decision when made. My one appeal to the courts is that they make their decisions as quickly as possible.

I very much welcome the Minister's statement this evening that this matter is one of his priorities. Galway city centre is now the only city centre that 45,000 to 50,000 cars must enter unnecessarily each day. The M50 prevents their doing so in Dublin. The Waterford bypass, which was opened recently, achieves this objective, as will the Limerick tunnel, which is to open this month. The tunnel will open at a cost of €800 million. The Jack Lynch tunnel is in place in Cork. Every Friday evening, people are stuck sitting in their cars in Galway for an hour, the emissions impacting on the environment. It is commonsensical to move on and build the bypass while acknowledging people's right to object. Let the courts decide, but let us get on with the job and have a decision as quickly as possible.

On a point of information, are the officials who are in attendance from the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government or Transport? I am trying to understand which Department as opposed to which Minister is dealing with this legislation.

The officials are from the Department of Transport, which is the norm when a Minister is presenting a Bill to the House. I thank the Deputies who contributed to the debate, but I am amused by the bemusement concerning a Minister taking a Bill. We operate under a collective Cabinet responsibility system and I would have handled this in the Seanad had I been available, but I was not. Instead, a Minister of State at the Department of Finance handled it. Had he not been available, it could have been a Minister of State or Minister at some other Department.

But not a Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government.

This is what being part of a team is all about.

There are 100 amendments to the legislation.

The officials to my right are from my Department and another is from the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government because of the planning implications. It is not a mystery that my Department would want to ensure the Bill's passage through the House when other Ministers are unavailable. The Bill is the Compulsory Purchase Orders (Extension of Time Limits) Bill. As Deputy Fahey stated, it started as an amendment to the Planning and Development Act.

I apologise for not doing so earlier, but I would like to take the opportunity to wish Deputies Costello and Coveney well in their positions as their parties' transport spokesmen. As is customary, the Department of Transport will offer them every co-operation in terms of briefings and so on. They need only ask, as we try to be as open as possible on all of these matters.

I will not repeat Deputy Fahey's comments, but I agree with them regarding this Bill. The planning and development legislation was slow in passing through the House due to the large number of amendments and, as we know, the compulsory purchase order, CPO, issue became crucial and needed to be addressed before midnight. We undertook to address the matter in a separate Bill. I have been asked whether this Bill will be repealed or what procedure will be used. My understanding is that the Bill will be stand-alone legislation. The advice to the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government is that it should allow the section in the planning and development Bill to remain as is, but not to commence it, and then to repeal it following the planning and foreshore Bill. This is the procedure to be adopted.

Deputy Coveney asked whether the Attorney General had been consulted and whether passing this legislation would be appropriate with a case before the courts. This Bill went through the Attorney General's office, as must all legislation, and we are taking his advice. The Bill is not designed to influence anything. The Deputy raised a valid point about whether we were trying to influence a court decision, but the answer is that we are not. The court will take its own decision. As all contributors to the debate have accepted, we want to be in a position to move immediately when the court case has been decided and not lose a further 12 months.

Despite the gloom of Deputy McCormack, who takes a pessimistic view of everything most of the time, I hope he can be more optimistic about this Bill. I have committed to the project for its own sake——

I bet the Minister any amount he would like to put down that it will not be done within the 18 months.

——and because of my strong commitment to the Smarter Travel policy document that we published. Given the policy's possibilities for Galway city and provided the outer bypass is put in place, Galway could be the country's most sustainable city. This is a marvellous opportunity and I am committed to trying to ensure it is taken.

In terms of the list referred to by Deputy McCormack, it would not be wise to lay money aside for the Galway outer bypass in light of the possibility that the court case could take 12 months. Hopefully it will not, but it could take longer. Stalling other projects would not be wise. When this project gets through the system and is ready for financing, as is the case with all the other pending projects — some newspapers referred to them as being "suspended" — we will move it forward within our financial constraints.

Deputy Coveney raised the matter of motorway service areas and asked why we were not taking the PPP route. We have taken that route and are providing three service areas. They are being constructed. Six months ago, I instructed the NRA to devise a scheme whereby these service areas, just as the Deputy mentioned tonight and in yesterday's newspaper, would be provided without costing the taxpayer any money. PPPs cost taxpayers money and I am awaiting a report from the NRA to try to ensure the scheme is set up.

As to whether the Bill is for a specific project, that happens to be the case currently. As the Members opposite accept, one project would be badly affected. However, the Bill is not for a specific project. Rather, it will apply to any case. This issue was first raised with me not only in the context of the Galway outer bypass, but also in the context of the Enniscorthy bypass in respect of which a court challenge had been mounted. It was feared that the same would occur in this instance. The court case was heard and dismissed, so it does not apply, but this provision will apply if any case arises in future. The Bill applies generally, but in a particular way to this particular project at this stage.

The provisions relating to local authorities will be examined as the question was a reasonable one. In the time available to us on this and the planning and development Bill, we kept the amendment as tight as possible to meet the situation we saw coming down the tracks. Deputy Coveney raised a valid question about this Bill's application to other bodies. That matter will be considered in the context of future planning and development Bills.

These were the major points. I thank Deputies for their contributions and for facilitating this debate. I accept the comments of Deputies Coveney and Costello. If it can be avoided, legislation should not go through the House in this way. However, these circumstances arose and I thank the Deputies for their forbearance in allowing this debate to be held tonight.

Question put and agreed to.