Planning and Development (Amendment) Bill 2016: Report Stage (Resumed)

Caithfimid dul ar ais go dtí an Bille um Pleanáil agus Forbairt (Leasú) 2016, An Tuarascáil agus an Chéim Dheiridh. Bhíomar ag Leasú Uimh. 5. We are on amendment No. 5 in the name of Deputy Eoin Ó Broin. Amendment No. 5 arises out of committee proceedings. Amendment No. 5 and amendments Nos. 8 to 14, inclusive, are related and may be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 5:

In page 7, line 40, after “assess” to insert “and make legally binding determinations on”.

It is such a long time since we last dealt with this Bill that it is worthwhile to remind ourselves of the core issues dealt with by the Bill, and particularly this group of amendments. As Members will know, this legislation arises out of the Mahon tribunal recommendations, specifically with respect to reforming our planning system. This has been a matter of some debate in this Dáil, the last Dáil and the Dáil previous to that.

In support of these amendments, I want to remind the House of what the Mahon tribunal said with respect to the need for an independent planning regulator. In the relevant section of the tribunal findings under planning, Mahon stated:

Finally, with regard to enforcement, the Tribunal is concerned that recent changes in the planning system have resulted in an over-centralisation of power in the hands of the Minister for the Environment which is not subject to sufficient checks and balances. Consequently, the Tribunal is recommending that the Minister for the Environment’s ability to give directions to Regional Authorities and Local Planning Authorities should be entrusted to a Planning Regulator. However, the Minister for the Environment should continue to play a key role in adopting the NSS [National Spatial Strategy] and NDP [National Development Plan].

Mahon went on to state:

While the Planning Regulator should assume some of the Minister for the Environment’s existing role in relation to enforcement, the Tribunal considers that his or her role should not be confined to this. In particular, the Tribunal is recommending that the Regulator should also be entrusted with the power to investigate possible systemic problems in the planning system, including those raising corruption risks, with the aim of making recommendations to address those problems.

At the heart of the Mahon tribunal recommendations was not simply a call for an office of the planning regulator but for that regulator not only to be fully independent but to have real teeth, and for powers to be transferred from the Department, now the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government, and the Minister with responsibility to this regulator.

On Committee Stage we had lengthy debates about how that is not what this legislation contains. While it creates a regulator and it has an office, it is not independent, it does not have teeth and it does not involve transferring powers from the Department or the Minister to its offices. As such, it is not faithful to the core recommendation of Mahon with respect to planning.

Everybody in this House knows, as does the public, the consequences of not having such a regulator. It allows, in certain sets of circumstances, for the possibility of the kind of abuses of planning processes and failure of political oversight that took place in the past to happen again. That is not the intention of the hard-working civil servants who drafted the legislation, it is not the intention of the previous Minister or the current one but it is a fact that will arise if this legislation goes through un-amended. To anybody who says that was in the past and it will not happen again, I would say that there has been a legal report on allegations of planning impropriety and corruption in Donegal sitting on the Minister's desk since June or July of last year. None of us knows what is in it, none of us has been able to get access to it, and we are not aware of any imminent action with respect to it. That report did not come out of nowhere. That report relates to allegations by a former planning official in Donegal County Council which were raised directly with the Department over a decade ago and has been subject to court proceedings and other matters of significant public interest.

The Government is asking us in the Bill to trust the Minister of the day, as it does not want to concede too many powers to an independent body. It wants to let the body to conduct its investigations and inquiries and make recommendations to the Minister but trust him or her to then act. My difficulty is that not only did Ministers not act decades ago, but I am also not convinced that on the issue in front of the Minister - allegations of planning corruption and impropriety in County Donegal - he is acting and assisting. That is why the amendments seek to strengthen the power of the regulator not only to conduct investigations but also to make legally binding determinations. I absolutely accept that in drafting the amendments I do not have the expertise of departmental officials. I have no difficulty with the Minister of State in telling me that he can do a better job than this, but when I raised this issue with the former Minister, Deputy Simon Coveney, on Committee Stage, he objected to the principle of the amendments, not the wording. He said: "A judgment call is required here in what we are trying to do as regards where the buck should stop on decisions to intervene to correct an inappropriate decision or to respond to corruption, although if it is a breach of law, it should involve the Garda." He was saying clearly that the intention in this legislation was for that responsibility to lie with the Minister. That is not what the Mahon report stated, which is why I propose the amendments.

As somebody who would desperately like to see an independent planning regulator and be on the side of the Government on the Bill, if that function of the new office is not strengthened, there is no point in us passing the legislation and setting up the office because, ultimately, issues will come back to the Minister, as has happened in the case of the planning corruption allegations in County Donegal. The likelihood is issues could end up sitting on the desk of respective Ministers with no action, public oversight or accountability and we would be no better off than we were when the legislation was introduced. It is on that basis that I propose the group of amendments tabled. I urge Opposition Members and, crucially, the Minister to reconsider his opposition to them.

I oppose the amendments which primarily propose the making of legally binding determinations on development plans and regional strategies by the office of the planning regulator, OPR. The primary role of the regulator is to evaluate and assess development plans and regional strategies and make statutory observations and recommendations on them. It is not necessary or appropriate to amend the Bill to give the OPR the power to make legally binding determinations on development plans and regional strategies. The Bill provides that the regulator will be independent in carrying out its functions and, as drafted, provides the OPR with sufficient powers to make observations and recommendations to planning authorities and regional assemblies on their draft development plans and regional strategies and for them to have sufficient weight and to be appropriately taken into account. The OPR can submit observations and recommendations to the relevant planning authority or regional assembly on draft plans and strategies. A planning authority or regional assembly is then required to notify the OPR and state the reasons its plan has not been made in a manner consistent with the observations and recommendations. If the regulator is subsequently of the opinion that the development plan or regional strategy as made by the relevant planning authority or regional assembly does not set out an overall strategy for the proper planning and sustainable development of an area or region, the OPR shall recommend the use of a ministerial direction to ensure the plan will set out an overall strategy for proper planning and sustainable development and shall submit a draft direction to the Minister to issue to the planning authority concerned.

The Bill further provides that where the Minister agrees with the recommendation of the OPR in respect of a plan or strategy, he or she will issue a direction to the relevant local authority or regional assembly. If the Minister does not agree, the Bill provides, in the interest of transparency, that he or she will be required to explain his or her reasons for the disagreement and must lay the reasons before the Houses of the Oireachtas and publish them on the Department's website. This is much different from the current scenario in which the Minister makes that decision. Therefore, the OPR will have to bring the case to the Minister in the first instance. There is power to instigate that procedure.

These provisions incorporate appropriate checks and balances to ensure the observations and recommendations of the OPR will be given due weight in the preparation of development plans and regional strategies, that the plans and strategies will address and take account of all relevant legislative and policy requirements and that the development plans and regional strategies eventually adopted will be enhanced by the checking procedures requiring the evaluation and assessment of such plans and strategies by the OPR and further consideration by the Minister, where necessary. I, therefore, do not accept the amendments. They are not needed, but I understand the reason the Deputy has tabled them. We are dealing with the thrust of the Mahon report in the legislation and the provisions will result in much more scrutiny of the procedures than is currently provided for.

I do not propose to accept amendment No. 14 either, as there must be clear lines of demarcation between the role of the OPR and other responsible bodies, particularly in the area of corruption and planning decision-making. Where there is evidence of potential planning corruption, impropriety or breaches of the law, these matters are strictly for investigation by An Garda Síochána.

In respect of decision-making on individual applications, the planning Acts provide for a clear hierarchy of decision-making review from the local authority to appeal to An Bord Pleanála and, thereafter, for matters to be brought before the courts. The Bill has sufficient provisions regarding the investigation of complaints by the OPR and ensures the complaints, where warranted, can be referred to a more appropriate State authority. Furthermore, it provides that the OPR may, at its own behest, at the request of the Minister or on foot of a complaint received, carry out reviews and examinations of the systems and procedures operated by planning authorities in the performance of their functions under the planning Acts.

The Bill allows the regulator to form its own opinion and make recommendations, as appropriate, to the planning authorities and the Minister, including recommendations on the need to put in place revised organisational structures or systems and procedures to ensure the assessment of planning applications and the drawing up of development plans are carried out in an appropriate and robust manner in accordance with the highest administrative standards. The Bill also provides that in respect of complaints made by any person to the regulator on a planning matter, the OPR can, where warranted and it detects potential corruption, impropriety or malpractice in a planning authority relating to the conduct of its functions, refer the matter and any related document to one or more of the Ombudsman, the Standards in Public Office Commission, An Garda Síochána or any other State authority as may be prescribed in further legislation. I consider that the provisions relating to the examination and investigation of complaints received by the OPR are sufficiently and comprehensively addressed in sections 31AU and 31AX and, therefore, do not see the need for the amendment. Accordingly, I oppose it.

I accept the Deputy's concern about timelines. I will not go into the Donegal issue. I will receive a full briefing on it and discuss it with him. Perhaps we might do something at a later stage about timelines which would mean such a report could not sit there for an excessive time. We could be prepared to look at that issue, but there are sufficient powers in the Bill to address the Deputy's concerns. I am happy to consider timelines and putting something into the Bill to reassure the Deputy, if possible.

It would be more upfront if the Minister of State said the Government was not accepting the core recommendation of the Mahon tribunal report. I refer to the quote I read. Judge Mahon talked about an over-centralisation of power in the hands of the Minister and the Department. Perhaps I do not understand this well. Will the Minister of State outline where in the legislation there is an attempt to reverse that over-centralisation? If there is no attempt to do so, the Minister of State is not being consistent with the letter or spirit of the Mahon tribunal report. The judge referred to the ability to give direction to planning authorities and regional assemblies to be entrusted with the OPR. It is not that an opinion could be given; the power to give direction was a central recommendation. Again, this is not provided for in the Bill, unless I am misreading it and I am happy to be corrected if I have it wrong. If the OPR is not being allowed to give that direction, the Minister of State is not being consistent with this key recommendation.

I acknowledge that this is a technical Bill and that it has, unfortunately, through no fault of any Member, had a sporadic history as it has passed through the House, but the corruption at the heart of the Mahon tribunal had huge consequences for individual communities, the economy and our society overall. It brought our planning and political systems into enormous disrepute. For example, in my constituency it led to the shift of the town centre between Lucan and Clondalkin from Clonburris to an edge of town retail shopping complex which was not in the interests of, or needed by, the local community. That continues to have significant consequences for people to this day. The Minister of State cannot, on the one hand, say this is consistent with the Mahon tribunal report recommendation and, on the other, that the OPR will not be given powers, particularly powers to direct.

I also do not accept that allowing a Minister to explain through written or oral replies to parliamentary questions why he or she is not acting on recommendations is sufficient, nor did Mr. Justice Mahon, which is why he did not recommend it. The Minister of State is correct that if a matter is criminal in nature, it should be investigated by the Garda.

However, a regulator would have a level of planning expertise that would allow it to undertake investigations and then, if there is a matter to be furthered by criminal investigation, the regulator can hand that over to the Garda for it to conduct, as is very often the case in many other statutory agencies. I do not accept the Minister of State's defence of the Bill. I was not expecting him to support my amendments but it is important that people listening to this debate understand this is not what the Mahon report recommended. This is not an independent planning regulator and this will not improve our planning system sufficiently so that people can have confidence that such planning irregularities and corruption will be less likely to occur in the future.

I suppose I will work backwards. In our view the Bill does give the power to the planning regulator to do that. The Deputy calls it an investigation, we call it a review and examination of the systems and procedures, but it is the same thing. The power is there. Who deals with it afterwards? It is brought to the relevant authorities. That would happen in any system of justice. That would have to be done. It is a job for An Garda Síochána, the Ombudsmen or the other bodies. The planning regulator, however, would instigate that process. It could take on a case on foot of a complaint or its own opinion and could decide to investigate it, review it and assess all the checks and balances. It would then bring any outcome of that review forward to be dealt with by somebody else. That is appropriate and, in my view, it should give people reassurance in the system. If the Deputy thinks differently we can tease this out again, but the power for the regulator to do that is in the Bill. It will not need the direction of myself or the Minister of the day. The planning regulator can do so off its own bat.

The Mahon recommendations seek to bring many more checks and balances to the system. That is the thrust of the recommendations. That is what is happening in this Bill. The planning regulator would bring forward any suggested directions. It would go through all the channels, independently of the Minister of the day, and then if a local authority does not heed its advice it could recommend that the Minister make a direction. Currently we have approximately 300 cases ahead of us in respect of local area plans and so on. We make directions quite often. They are, however, made after going through a long chain of command and a long process which tries to give local authorities a chance to come with us, which is exactly what the planning regulator will do. It will lead that process. Only at the end will a case come to the Minister for intervention.

There has to be a balance between a regulator's powers and the powers of this House and democracy. It is important to have that balance. However, I think it is there. Any Minister who would not heed the regulator would have to come in here and explain why, which is what the Mahon report would want. In the past that did not happen. Decisions would be hidden away and made away from any public scrutiny. There is very clear public scrutiny built into this Bill. There will be no hiding for any Minister who would abuse his or her position in respect of planning powers. That is what we are trying to do in this legislation. In my view that is what the Mahon recommendations wanted us to do.

The balance between this House and the regulator is that it is for this House to set legislation, policy and guidelines, while the purpose of the regulator is to ensure that, where another public body - a planning authority or regional authority - breaches those guidelines, action will be taken. That is what the clear distinction should be.

That is in here.

The problem that the Mahon report rightly acknowledged is that there was not a proper balance or separation of powers. What the Mahon report proposed was not that there should be the power to investigate. That is in the Minister of State's Bill. That is not in dispute. It proposed the ability to give directions to regional authorities and planning bodies. It is that ability to give direction that is not in this Bill. That is why these amendments are here.

Again, I understand what the Deputy is saying but-----

I am sorry. The Minister of State does not have any right to come in.

Okay, I will just pop in then.

Those are the regulations.

I might have to ask-----

If there is nobody else-----

I will just make one quick comment. The regulator will have the ability to make a direction through the Minister. The regulator will bring it to the Minister. That process is in the Bill. It is not there at the moment, but will be after this Bill is enacted. That is what we are trying to do here.

Amendment put:
The Dáil divided: Tá, 24; Níl, 77; Staon, 0.

  • Boyd Barrett, Richard.
  • Brady, John.
  • Broughan, Thomas P.
  • Buckley, Pat.
  • Connolly, Catherine.
  • Crowe, Seán.
  • Cullinane, David.
  • Doherty, Pearse.
  • Ferris, Martin.
  • Healy, Seamus.
  • Kenny, Martin.
  • Mitchell, Denise.
  • Munster, Imelda.
  • Murphy, Catherine.
  • Nolan, Carol.
  • O'Brien, Jonathan.
  • O'Reilly, Louise.
  • Ó Broin, Eoin.
  • Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.
  • Ó Laoghaire, Donnchadh.
  • Pringle, Thomas.
  • Quinlivan, Maurice.
  • Smith, Bríd.
  • Stanley, Brian.

Níl

  • Aylward, Bobby.
  • Bailey, Maria.
  • Barrett, Seán.
  • Brassil, John.
  • Breathnach, Declan.
  • Breen, Pat.
  • Brophy, Colm.
  • Bruton, Richard.
  • Burke, Peter.
  • Byrne, Catherine.
  • Byrne, Thomas.
  • Cahill, Jackie.
  • Calleary, Dara.
  • Canney, Seán.
  • Cannon, Ciarán.
  • Carey, Joe.
  • Casey, Pat.
  • Collins, Michael.
  • Collins, Niall.
  • Corcoran Kennedy, Marcella.
  • Cowen, Barry.
  • Creed, Michael.
  • Deasy, John.
  • Deering, Pat.
  • Doherty, Regina.
  • Donnelly, Stephen S.
  • Donohoe, Paschal.
  • Dooley, Timmy.
  • Doyle, Andrew.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • English, Damien.
  • Farrell, Alan.
  • Fitzpatrick, Peter.
  • Flanagan, Charles.
  • Griffin, Brendan.
  • Harris, Simon.
  • Harty, Michael.
  • Haughey, Seán.
  • Healy-Rae, Danny.
  • Heydon, Martin.
  • Humphreys, Heather.
  • Kehoe, Paul.
  • Kelleher, Billy.
  • Kelly, Alan.
  • Kyne, Seán.
  • Lahart, John.
  • Lowry, Michael.
  • MacSharry, Marc.
  • McConalogue, Charlie.
  • McGrath, Finian.
  • McGrath, Mattie.
  • McGrath, Michael.
  • McGuinness, John.
  • McLoughlin, Tony.
  • Mitchell O'Connor, Mary.
  • Moynihan, Aindrias.
  • Moynihan, Michael.
  • Murphy O'Mahony, Margaret.
  • Murphy, Eoghan.
  • Naughton, Hildegarde.
  • Neville, Tom.
  • O'Callaghan, Jim.
  • O'Connell, Kate.
  • O'Donovan, Patrick.
  • O'Dowd, Fergus.
  • O'Loughlin, Fiona.
  • O'Sullivan, Jan.
  • Ó Cuív, Éamon.
  • Penrose, Willie.
  • Phelan, John Paul.
  • Rabbitte, Anne.
  • Ring, Michael.
  • Ross, Shane.
  • Scanlon, Eamon.
  • Smith, Brendan.
  • Stanton, David.
  • Zappone, Katherine.

Staon

Tellers: Tá, Deputies Eoin Ó Broin and Catherine Murphy; Níl, Deputies Paul Kehoe and Tony McLoughlin.
Amendment declared lost.

Amendment No. 6 has already been discussed with amendment No. 4. How stands the amendment?

I do not wish to discuss it. I just want confirmation from the Government that it will prepare related amendments and table them in the Seanad.

Amendments Nos. 6 and 7 not moved.

I move amendment No. 8:

In page 8, line 7, to delete “observations and” and substitute “observations,”.

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 9:

In page 8, line 8, after “recommendations” to insert “or legally binding determinations”.

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 10:

In page 8, line 8, to delete “authorities and” and substitute “authorities,”.

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 11:

In page 8, line 8, to delete “assemblies,” and substitute “assemblies or the Minister”.

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 12:

In page 8, line 12, to delete “and”.

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 13:

In page 8, line 13, to delete “recommendations,” and substitute “recommendations or legally binding determinations”.

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 14:

In page 8, between lines 15 and 16, to insert the following:

“(c) to conduct investigations into allegations of planning corruption, impropriety or negligence so as to make findings of fact which can used by the relevant authorities to prosecute breaches of law. The Office shall have the legal power to secure any documentation and to call any witnesses which it deems relevant to the conduct of any such investigation,”.

Amendment put and declared lost.
Amendments Nos. 15 and 16 not moved.

Amendments Nos. 17 to 20, inclusive, 28 to 32, inclusive, 44 to 48, inclusive, 69 to 71, inclusive, and 76 are related and may be discussed together.

Amendments Nos. 17 to 27, inclusive, not moved.

I move amendment No. 28:

In page 23, line 11, after “section 10” to insert “and, in particular, subsection (2)(n) of that section in relation to climate change”.

I want to address amendments Nos. 28 to 32, inclusive, and 44 to 48, inclusive. I will add in general conversation some comments on amendments Nos. 17 to 20, inclusive.

I will deal, first, with Government amendments Nos. 28 and 44. Further to amendments tabled by Deputy Eamon Ryan on Committee Stage, I undertook to examine the feasibility of including in the Bill a reference to climate action and low carbon development and, if appropriate, bringing forward a suitable amendment on Report Stage. Having examined the matter, I propose to make two amendments to sections 31AM and 31AQ of the Bill to make sure in evaluating and assessing the matters relating to development plans and regional spatial economic strategies the OPR will also address legislative and policy matters relating to climate change and place appropriate emphasis on this issue in its assessment of such plans and strategies. Section 10 of the Planning and Development Act 2000, as amended, already provides clarity on the content of development plans and provides that local authorities must take account of the policies and objectives of the Government when preparing their plans, including the conservation and protection of the environment with clever references to climate change. Section 23 of the Act has similar provisions with regard to regional spatial and economic strategies.

I recognise that Deputy Eamon Ryan looked for specific references to the Climate Action and Local Carbon Development Act 2015 to be included in the Bill. However, having examined the matter, I consider it more appropriate to make an overall general reference to climate change, emphasising its importance in the context of the OPR's evaluation and assessment of development plans and regional strategies, rather than mention specific legislation which could become outdated in time. I fully recognise and support the broader objectives of tackling climate change which are very important and they need to be referenced in the Bill, but the amendments I am proposing to sections 31AM and 31AQ will ensure the regulator will have sufficient powers to take matters related to climate change into account when evaluating the development plans and regional strategies of local authorities.

I do not propose to accept Opposition amendments Nos. 17, 20, 29, 32 and 45 to 48, inclusive, as tabled by Deputy Eamon Ryan. Amendments Nos. 28 and 44 will better address the inclusion of a reference in the Bill to climate action and low carbon development. In that context, the Bill, as drafted, makes specific reference to the regulator being required to have regard in the performance of its functions to a number of specific EU directives, namely, the environmental impact assessment directive, the strategic environmental assessment directive, the habitats directive and the birds directive. It is on this basis that planning authorities have been designated as competent authorities for the directives. However, I do not consider it to be appropriate to include a reference to the other EU directives on water, air quality and flooding, as referred to by Deputy Eamon Ryan in his amendments. Although these directives are relevant to planning authorities, they are not the sole competent authorities for the directives in question. It is considered that the directives are already covered by the general requirement on the regulator to have regard to the requirements of relevant Acts of the European Union in the performance of its functions, as provided for in section 31S of the Bill.

I will hold back on commenting on amendments Nos. 69 to 71, inclusive.

Amendment agreed to.
Amendments Nos. 29 to 43, inclusive, not moved.

I move amendment No. 44:

In page 32, line 36, after “section 23” to insert “and, in particular, subsection (2)(c)(viii) of that section in relation to climate change”.

Amendment agreed to.
Amendments Nos. 45 to 55, inclusive, not moved.

I will not move amendment No. 56 on the basis that the Government confirms it will be brought forward as an amendment in the Seanad.

Amendment No. 56 not moved.
Amendments Nos. 57 to 59, inclusive, not moved.

Amendments Nos. 60 to 65, inclusive, are related and may be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 60:

In page 38, between lines 39 and 40, to insert the following:

“(c) may not be exercising its enforcement functions under Part VIII appropriately to ensure compliance in its administrative area with the Planning and Development Acts 2000 to 2017, including enforcement consequent on the issue to it of any policy directive under section 29 for the purpose of such compliance,”.

I undertook on Committee Stage to examine Deputy Ryan's proposed amendment regarding planning enforcement with a view to bringing forward an appropriately worded amendment to allow the Minister to ask the office of the planning regulator to conduct a review of a planning authority where there may be issues around the exercise of its enforcement functions. One of the key functions of the regulator is to undertake reviews of systems and procedures of planning authorities and An Bord Pleanála in respect of the performance of their functions under the planning Acts.

Under existing planning legislation the enforcement of planning control is a matter for the relevant authority which can take action under the extensive enforcement provisions provided for under Part VIII of the Act if a development does not have the required permission or where the terms of the permission have not been met. Under section 29 of the Act the Minister can issue policy directives regarding a number of issues, including enforcement. The most recent ministerial policy directive regarding enforcement was issued in May 2013. Having examined the matter in detail, I consider that it would be prudent to have a specific provision in the Bill regarding enforcement.

Government amendment No. 60 provides that the Minister can request the office of the planning regulator to conduct a review of a planning authority where he or she has formed the opinion that the planning authority may not be exercising its enforcement functions under Part VII in a manner to ensure compliance with planning law in its area, including compliance with ministerial directives on the issue. Government amendments Nos. 62 to 65, inclusive, are minor technical amendments which are consequential on amendment No. 61. I do not propose to accept amendment No. 61 as drafted by Deputy Ryan as I believe the proposed amendments to which I have just referred will better address the issue of enforcement by allowing the Minister to ask the regulator to conduct a review of a planning authority where there may be issues around the exercise of its planning enforcement functions. I hope Deputy Ryan and his colleagues can accept my amendments to address issues with planning enforcement and will withdraw amendment No. 61.

Amendment agreed to.
Amendment No. 61 not moved.

I move amendment No. 62:

In page 38, line 40, to delete “(c) may” and substitute “(d) may”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 63:

In page 39, line 1, to delete “(d) may” and substitute “(e) may”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 64:

In page 39, line 3, to delete “(e) may” and substitute “(f) may”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 65:

In page 39, line 5, to delete “(f) may” and substitute “(g) may”.

Amendment agreed to.
Amendments Nos. 66 to 73, inclusive, not moved.

Amendments Nos. 74 and 80 are related and may be taken together.

I move amendment No. 74:

In page 47, between lines 4 and 5, to insert the following:

“(b) by inserting the following new paragraph after paragraph (i):

“(ia) requiring planning authorities to ensure that any interventions made by elected members in respect of specific planning applications are noted on the planning application file and that the file is made available for public inspection on the planning authority’s website;”,”.

This amendment seeks to implement key recommendations of transparency arising from the Mahon tribunal. One of the key recommendations was that when elected members make representations on a planning file, it would be noted. We want to put it on a statutory footing though it is happening in a number of local authorities at the moment where, if a person makes a representation, it is noted on the website. On some occasions it is noted in the file but there is no clarity around these matters. In some local authorities, a person makes a representation digitally but when a member of the public opens up the actual file, the record is not there. It would bring clarity to the process and is what the Mahon tribunal was looking for.

I will speak to amendment No. 80 as it is grouped with amendment No. 74. My amendment gets to the heart of what the Mahon tribunal was all about. It was about corrupt payments to politicians for land rezonings and planning. It was a key issue that angered and scandalised people. Senior figures in Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael were accused of taking payments of one sort or another to influence decisions around planning, and these were confirmed in some cases. One of the key recommendations of the tribunal has not been included in legislation which was supposed to implement the recommendations of the Mahon tribunal which centred on corruption of senior people in the two biggest political parties in the State. It involved the brown envelope brigade, as they were known, and payments made in Conway's pub at the end of O'Connell Street to senior figures in political parties for planning permission and rezonings. These actions made a lot of money for a lot of people but the people of this country paid a bitter price for it.

Among his many recommendations, Judge Mahon proposed that relevant political donations to public representatives who have a role in decision-making or who influence decisions around planning and rezoning be made public, but this is not included in the legislation. In the Bills digest summarising the responses to the various recommendations, it is suggested that the reason it was not done was that the implications and practicalities would have to be carefully worked through. I do not know why they have to be carefully worked through. We need to know if developers or other people with a stake in planning decisions or development are making donations to political parties. In my own short time as a public representative, I have experienced an instance of somebody with a development proposal offering to pay election expenses to one of our councillors if the councillor supported a particular development plan. It is outrageous but this is still going on. We need to know who is getting donations from developers and how this may relate to how they vote in development plans or how they make observations or otherwise exercise influence around planning because councillors do not have direct influence any more, though their observations can certainly have an influence.

This amendment requires that there be disclosure of any donation of any amount in monetary terms or other form to any political party or individual representative in any county council or to a Member of Dáil Éireann that was made prior to the planning application, and this information shall be made publicly available by the authority. I do not see why we would not include this amendment, given that it was recommended by Judge Mahon. I would be interested to hear what the Minister and other Deputies have to say about it.

I would not disagree with some of the points that have been made. Regarding amendment No. 74, perhaps the Minister of State might clarify the arrangements because there is no doubt that it is very hit and miss. In most cases, if someone wants to put in an objection, they pay €20 and are treated in exactly the same way as anyone else who wants to do that. My understanding was that, in the main, people were precluded from making those observations if they did not go through that process. Perhaps the Minister of State might clarify that point with regard to planning applications, particularly amendment No. 74. I will leave it at that. I may come back briefly.

I will address amendments Nos. 74 and 80. Amendment No. 74 in the names of Deputies Cowen and Casey proposes that the planning authority be required to ensure that any interventions by elected members in respect of specific planning applications are noted on the relevant planning file and are made available for public inspection on the planning authority's website. In this regard and in the interests of transparency, the current position is that all observations or submissions made to a planning authority in respect of individual planning applications, as provided for under section 38 of the 2000 Act, be they from the public, prescribed bodies or elected members, are already required to be attached to the relevant planning file which is available for public inspection. I would be concerned by what is meant by the word "interventions" with regard to this amendment as it could be interpreted broadly to include verbal contact, phone calls by the elected member to the planning section regarding a particular planning application, or comments made by an elected member on a planning application at a local municipal district meeting as well as a number of other scenarios. My concern about this amendment is not really about the principle of it but about the wording. Perhaps we could look at that and how it is drafted. I agree that we need some clarity here and, at the very least, we need some guidance to planning authorities so that the same standard is applied across the board. Things should not be different with regard to different applications in different local authorities, so we can deal with that, perhaps, if the Deputies agree to look at changed wording or some other way. I accept the principle, just not the wording, if that is okay.

Amendment No. 80 in the names of Deputies Richard Boyd Barrett, Bríd Smith and Gino Kenny relates to the disclosure of political donations made by planning applicants in monetary terms or other form to elected representatives or political parties and making such information publicly available. I acknowledge that this amendment is based on one of the planning-related recommendations of the final report of the Mahon tribunal and I see the merit of the proposal. However, it would be my view that issues relating to political donations generally are probably most appropriately addressed in standards in public office legislation or in the Electoral (Amendment) (Political Funding) Act 2012, which was enacted on 28 July 2012 and which significantly enhanced the openness and transparency of political funding in Ireland, thereby addressing many of the issues that were central to the recommendations made on political finance in the final report of the Mahon tribunal, rather than having specific provision made in the planning code. Accordingly, I am also not in a position to accept this amendment. The Department is of the view that the recommendations are not all to be dealt with by this Bill. There are other ways of doing it and that legislation is the most appropriate place to do that and it makes very public who got donations. We think it is dealt with sufficiently there. If the Deputies want to discuss it again, I can talk to them before we complete the passage of this Bill, but we think it is best dealt with in the legislation that is already dealt with.

I thank the Minister of State for his reply. We did not mean any intervention at any stage. We are specifically talking about an intervention on a planning file. We accept that there are inconsistencies throughout the country in how that is recorded. Given the Minister of State's commitment to bringing forward the appropriate wording for this amendment in the Seanad, we will withdraw the amendment.

I do not accept that SIPO's regulations around political donations and funding are sufficient, as good as the work of SIPO might be. This is specifically about planning corruption. This was at the heart of some of the worst corrupt practices in the political system - how it corrupted planning and rezoning decisions to make fortunes for people, where local communities suffered the consequences and where major political parties were deeply implicated. To ensure this does not happen, the people in every local authority area need to be able to access easily all information pertaining to who has a stake, who has tried to exercise influence regarding rezoning and planning decisions, or where money has exchanged hands with politicians that may have influenced their planning decisions. People need to know that information. Otherwise they are not getting the whole picture. During my short experience as a councillor before being elected to the Dáil, I had reason to believe that money was at play with regard to one development plan with which I was involved, that developers were trying to influence councillors and that they were making donations to certain councillors who were supporting certain decisions. I believe the public has a right to know. No doubt, some of those councillors will defend their position and say it is legitimate, and we can argue that point, but I think the public has a right to know. I urge the Minister of State to accept the proposal from the Mahon tribunal. This is not a proposal from the radical left. It is the left in the Dáil inserting as an amendment what the Mahon tribunal proposed.

I did say earlier that I would be willing to talk this through and discuss it with the Deputy. I know what he is trying to do and I accept the principle and the link is there. In my view and that of the Department, it is very clearly dealt with in other legislation and there is a public record of donations. I see what the Deputy is saying. He wants to strengthen the link, make it very clear and make it easier for people to see that. I accept what he is trying to say. Originally, we would have felt that it was dealt with fairly well in legislation, but I am prepared to discuss it with the Deputy before we complete the legislation. I would not be in a position to accept the amendment on the floor of this House but I have no problem discussing it with the Deputy and my officials before we finalise this because I know what he is trying to do and I agree with the principle of it. We just felt originally that it was dealt with sufficiently in legislation but I would be prepared to go through it again with the Deputy if need be. However, I will not accept the amendment on the floor of the House.

I appreciate the Minister of State's response but I will press the amendment.

Is amendment No. 74 being pressed?

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendments Nos. 75 and 81 are related and may be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 75:

In page 47, between lines 22 and 23, to insert the following:

"(2) Section 34 of the Principal Act is amended in subsection (3) by substituting "the applicant, and" for "the applicant." in paragraph (b) and by inserting the following after paragraph (b):

"(c) where an application for permission relates to a residential development comprising 10 or more houses—

(i) any information available to the planning authority, or furnished to it by the applicant, concerning implementation by the applicant of any housing development in the previous 5 years, and

(ii) an assessment by the planning authority of the likelihood of the proposed development being implemented within the appropriate period sought, being the appropriate period within the meaning provided for by section 40(3).".".

Amendments Nos. 75, 81 and 97 should be viewed together as an anti-land hoarding package.

Amendments Nos. 75 and 81.

Amendments Nos. 75, 81 and 97.

Amendment No. 97 may be discussed with amendment No. 93. Amendments Nos. 75 and 81 may be discussed together.

Amendments Nos. 75 and 81, and later on, amendment No. 97, which we will address again, should be viewed together as an anti-land hoarding package, although part of the text of amendment No. 97 is no longer needed after the enactment last July of the Planning and Development (Amendment) Act 2017. As signalled on Committee Stage of this Bill, I gave a commitment to bring forward provisions along these lines on Report Stage. These provisions are intended to send out a strong signal to both developers and planning authorities alike that land hoarding, namely, holding on to and extending the life of planning permissions without commencing substantial development, should not be encouraged or facilitated, particularly in the context of the housing supply shortage we face.

I propose, therefore, to address these proposed Government amendments together. Amendment No. 75 will amend section 34 of the principal Act which relates to certain information or submissions that the planning authority shall have regard to in considering an application for planning permission. The amendment adds to this requirement so that where an application for permission relates to a residential development comprising ten or more houses, a planning authority shall be required in addition to consider, first, any information available to the planning authority or furnished to it by the applicant concerning the implementation by the applicant of any housing development in the previous five years and, second, an assessment by the planning authority of the likelihood of the proposed development being implemented within the life of the planning permission. In other words, as part of its assessment of a planning application for ten or more houses, the planning authority shall now be obliged to consider the past performance of an applicant relating to the implementation of previous housing permissions for the purpose of determining the likelihood of the proposed development being implemented.

With regard to amendment No. 81, section 40 of the Planning and Development Act 2000 provides that the default period for the duration of a planning permission is five years, unless specified otherwise. Section 41 of the 2000 Act allows that five-year period to be extended by the planning authority for a further five-year period. However, the Act does not specify that the default period of five years can be reduced to a period of less than five years by way of condition attached to the permission where that might be more appropriate. In the case of a planning application in respect of a residential development comprising ten or more houses, amendment No. 81 will further allow the planning authority, when considering whether to specify a period other than the default period of five years, to consider information available to it or furnished to it by the applicant concerning implementation by the applicant of any housing development in the previous five years. Additionally, amendment No. 81 will allow the planning authority to assess the likelihood of the proposed development being implemented within the planning permission period being sought by the developer. This amendment will encourage and facilitate planning authorities to interrogate the planning application proposal fully to establish the likely build-out time of the development and to consider imposing permission durations of less than five years if it is considered that the development can reasonably be completed in less than that timeframe. This proposal will consequently allow realistic build-out periods to be incorporated into planning permissions while also taking account of the past performance of the applicant, where relevant.

It should be noted however that, in the event that developers cannot complete the development in the time allocated to it by way of condition attached to the planning permission, be it five years or less, they can avail of the extension of duration provisions in section 42. That is something we discussed on previous Stages. It was not the intention to allow for potential land hoarding so we are ensuring that is dealt with. Relevant history is important when making these decisions.

I thank the Minister of State. I do not oppose the amendment. Although it is modest, I welcome it. I have two questions. When we were dealing with the emergency legislation granting a second period of extension, this was one of the issues some of us raised at the time. We did not want to stop the granting of a second period of extension if it allowed a development, but we felt that a planning authority should have more scrutiny as to why the extension was being sought. If it was being sought for legitimate reasons, it should be granted. However, if, for example, as this amendment seems to suggest, there might be something in the behaviour or lack of activity of that developer in another development, the extension might not be granted.

Subsection (c)(i) refers to "any information". Clearly the drafters of the section had a notion of what kind of information they were referring to. I ask the Minister of State to expand on that.

The main point was at the end. My comments might have been a bit long-winded. It is to do with the track record of the builder or the owner of the land in question and local knowledge as well. The planning authority will have the scope to take on board information it believes is relevant. We are not detailing exactly what that will be. Naturally, in making planning decisions, it is hoped that planners take on board all information, but it is important that they have the opportunity to do that with a condition for a timeframe of less than five years.

It is possible to judge, based on the history of a certain developer or landowner, if he or she fully intends to use this or if he or she is applying for an additional five years for another reason. This will give that local decision-making power to the planning authority on that. If need be and if the Deputy wants, we can give them guidance, but we expect most planners will take on board also any information on voids that is provided to them by people.

Amendment agreed to.
Amendment No. 76 not moved.

I move amendment No. 77:

In page 47, between lines 24 and 25, to insert the following:

“(3) Section 34 of the Principal Act is amended by substituting the following for subsection (5):

“(5) The conditions under subsection (1) may provide that points of detail relating to a grant of permission be agreed between the planning authority and the person carrying out the development and, accordingly—

(a) where for that purpose that person has submitted to the planning authority concerned such points of detail, then that authority shall, within 8 weeks of those points being so submitted, or such longer period as may be agreed between them in writing, either—

(i) reach agreement with that person on those points, or

(ii) where that authority and that person cannot so agree on those points, that authority may—

(I) advise that person accordingly in writing, or

(II) refer the matter to the Board for its determination,

and, where clause (I) applies, that person may, within 4 weeks of being so advised, refer the matter to the Board for its determination,

or

(b) where none of the events referred to in subparagraph (i) or in clause (I) or (II) of subparagraph (ii) occur within those 8 weeks or such longer period as may have been so agreed, then that authority shall be deemed to have agreed to the points of detail as so submitted.”.”.

Amendment No. 77 relates to compliance conditions associated with planning permissions. It provides that, in addition to the complete decision of the planning authority on a planning application and details of any conditions imposed and the date of the decision being noted on the planning register relating to a planning decision, as is the case at present, further supplementary points of detail, referred to as compliance conditions, as are agreed or deemed to have been agreed under section 34(5) of the Act between the planning authority and the person carrying out the development subsequent to the granting of the planning permission should also be noted on the planning register. The purpose of this amendment is to enhance transparency generally on planning permissions and on points of detail or compliance conditions attached to such permissions so that there is wider and more comprehensive public information available on planning permissions. These compliance conditions or points of detail are deemed to be of such minor insignificance in the overall context - colours of roof tiles, landscaping etc.- as not to warrant the involvement of the public after the granting of the permission.

Amendment No. 77 supplements the previous Committee Stage amendment to require planning authorities to conclude agreement on supplementary points of detail or compliance conditions with persons undertaking development within a specified period of eight weeks. Where agreement is not reached within that eight-week period, the planning authority will be deemed to have agreed with the points of detail submitted by the developer by default. This will speed up and streamline the process of planning authorities and developers reaching agreement on specific points of detail relating to development works so that developers can proceed with the necessary works in reasonable time and without undue delay, thereby providing greater certainty on the progression of development works which have already been permitted instead of being delayed on minor points of detail.

There is often a sense of frustration and we often get feedback that developments are delayed because of minor discussions that just do not happen due to time. We need to ensure that the planning authority has the resources to do them in the timeframe. I think eight weeks is enough time to agree some of these minor details.

I ask the Minister of State to clarify. Strategic plans are lodged with An Bord Pleanála directly and not with the local authority. If it is appealed, the local authority will be dealing with the modifications. I presume this provision applies to that as well as when it is dealing with the planning applications directly.

As in all planning cases, it is a matter for the local authority. The board would not make the decision on that. That detail is dealt with by the local authority and would be in those cases as well, as suggested.

Amendment agreed to.
Amendment No. 78 not moved.

Amendments Nos. 79 and 92 are related and may be discussed together.

I move Amendment No. 79:

In page 48, between lines 5 and 6, to insert the following:

“Amendment of section 35 (refusal of planning permission for past failures to comply) of Principal Act

12. Section 35 of the Principal Act is amended in subsection (7) by inserting the following after paragraph (b):

“(ba) a registered society under the Industrial and Provident Societies Acts 1893 to 2014 that—

(i) carried out a development pursuant to a previous permission,

(ii) carried out a substantial unauthorised development, or

(iii) has been convicted of an offence under this Act,

or, during any period to which subparagraph (i) or (ii) relates or to which any conviction under subparagraph (iii) relates, the registered society was, during that period, controlled by the applicant—

(I) where, pursuant to section 15 of the Friendly Societies and Industrial and Provident Societies (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2014, ‘control’ has the same meaning as in section 220(5) of the Companies Act 2014, or

(II) as a shadow director within the meaning of section 2(1) of the Companies Act 2014,”.”.

The purpose of these amendments is to address the past performance of developers in the consideration of planning applications. I commenced my addressing of this issue with my Committee Stage amendment No. 69 which proposed the amendment of section 34 of the principal Act to require that planning authorities shall, in the assessment and determination of planning applications, have regard to previous developments by the applicant which have not been satisfactorily completed and previous convictions against the applicant for non-compliance with the Planning and Development Act, the Building Control Act 2007 or the Fire Services Act 1981.

Amendment No. 79 elaborates on this and addresses section 35 of the principal Act relating to the actual refusal of applications for planning permission for past failures to comply. Specifically, amendment No. 79 proposes that where a person has previously operated under a particular company name which has left estates unfinished and who subsequently applies for planning permission for a new development under a different company name, this may be taken into account by the planning authority as the basis for refusing the planning application under the second company name.

For completeness, I am supplementing this amendment with amendment No. 92. That amendment is intended to ensure that refusals of planning permission under this provision will be excluded as grounds for compensation that might be claimed by planning applicants where planning authorities make use of this provision. Again this addresses a concern that members of the public have raised with all of us over the years. They feel extremely frustrated when they cannot link company names even though the same people are involved in them. That is what we are trying to address here. Most people would agree with it.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 80:

In page 48, between lines 15 and 16, to insert the following:

“(2) Section 38 of the Principal Act is amended by inserting the following new subsection after subsection (1A), inserted by the Planning and Development (Amendment) Act 2010:

“(1B) Prior to the planning authority giving its decision in respect of a planning application, the applicant shall disclose any donation of any amount in monetary terms or other form to any political party or individual representative in any county council or to a member of Dáil Éireann that was made prior to the planning application and this information shall be made publicly available by the authority.”.”.

Amendment put:
The Dáil divided: Tá, 25; Níl, 68; Staon, 0.

  • Barry, Mick.
  • Boyd Barrett, Richard.
  • Brady, John.
  • Broughan, Thomas P.
  • Buckley, Pat.
  • Connolly, Catherine.
  • Crowe, Seán.
  • Cullinane, David.
  • Ferris, Martin.
  • Funchion, Kathleen.
  • Healy, Seamus.
  • Kenny, Martin.
  • Mitchell, Denise.
  • Munster, Imelda.
  • Murphy, Catherine.
  • Nolan, Carol.
  • O'Brien, Jonathan.
  • O'Reilly, Louise.
  • O'Sullivan, Jan.
  • Ó Broin, Eoin.
  • Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.
  • Ó Laoghaire, Donnchadh.
  • Pringle, Thomas.
  • Quinlivan, Maurice.
  • Stanley, Brian.

Níl

  • Aylward, Bobby.
  • Bailey, Maria.
  • Barrett, Seán.
  • Brassil, John.
  • Breathnach, Declan.
  • Breen, Pat.
  • Brophy, Colm.
  • Bruton, Richard.
  • Burke, Peter.
  • Butler, Mary.
  • Byrne, Catherine.
  • Cahill, Jackie.
  • Calleary, Dara.
  • Canney, Seán.
  • Carey, Joe.
  • Casey, Pat.
  • Collins, Michael.
  • Collins, Niall.
  • Corcoran Kennedy, Marcella.
  • Cowen, Barry.
  • Creed, Michael.
  • Deasy, John.
  • Donnelly, Stephen S.
  • Donohoe, Paschal.
  • Doyle, Andrew.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • English, Damien.
  • Farrell, Alan.
  • Fitzpatrick, Peter.
  • Flanagan, Charles.
  • Grealish, Noel.
  • Griffin, Brendan.
  • Harris, Simon.
  • Harty, Michael.
  • Haughey, Seán.
  • Healy-Rae, Danny.
  • Heydon, Martin.
  • Humphreys, Heather.
  • Kehoe, Paul.
  • Kyne, Seán.
  • Lahart, John.
  • Lowry, Michael.
  • MacSharry, Marc.
  • Martin, Micheál.
  • McGrath, Finian.
  • McHugh, Joe.
  • McLoughlin, Tony.
  • Moynihan, Aindrias.
  • Moynihan, Michael.
  • Murphy O'Mahony, Margaret.
  • Murphy, Eoghan.
  • Naughten, Denis.
  • Naughton, Hildegarde.
  • Neville, Tom.
  • O'Callaghan, Jim.
  • O'Connell, Kate.
  • O'Donovan, Patrick.
  • O'Dowd, Fergus.
  • O'Loughlin, Fiona.
  • Ó Cuív, Éamon.
  • Phelan, John Paul.
  • Rabbitte, Anne.
  • Ring, Michael.
  • Ross, Shane.
  • Scanlon, Eamon.
  • Smith, Brendan.
  • Stanton, David.
  • Zappone, Katherine.

Staon

Tellers: Tá, Deputies Richard Boyd Barrett and Eoin Ó Broin; Níl, Deputies Paul Kehoe and Tony McLoughlin.
Amendment declared lost.

I move amendment No. 81:

In page 48, between lines 15 and 16, to insert the following:

“Power to vary appropriate period, etc.

13. (1) The Principal Act is amended by substituting the following for section 41:

“Power to vary appropriate period

41. (1) Without prejudice to the powers conferred on them by this Part to grant a permission to develop land for a limited period only, in deciding to grant a permission under section 34, 37, 37G or 37N, a planning authority or the Board, as may be appropriate, may, having regard to the nature and extent of the relevant development and any other material consideration, specify the period during which the permission is to have effect, being a period—

(a) in the case of all development requiring permission, of not less than 2 years, and

(b) in the case of residential development requiring permission, of not more than 10 years,

and where the planning authority or the Board exercises, or refuses to exercise, the power conferred on it by this section, the exercise or refusal shall be regarded as forming part of the relevant decision of the authority or the Board under section 34, 37, 37G or 37N.

(2) Where an application for permission relates to a residential development comprising 10 or more houses—

(a) material considerations in subsection (1) may include any information available to the planning authority or furnished to it by the applicant concerning implementation by the applicant of any housing development in the previous 5 years, and

(b) an assessment by the planning authority of the likelihood of the proposed development being implemented within the appropriate period sought, being the appropriate period within the meaning provided for by section 40(3).”.

(2) Section 42A of the Principal Act is repealed.".

Amendment agreed to.
Amendment No. 82 not moved.

I move amendment No. 83:

In page 49, between lines 15 and 16, to insert the following:

"Amendment of section 176A (application for screening for environmental impact assessment) of Principal Act

16. Section 176A of the Principal Act is amended in subsection (7)(a) by deleting "together with any fee received from the applicant,"."

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 84:

In page 49, between lines 15 and 16, to insert the following:

“Amendment of section 176C (review of screening determination for environmental impact assessment and referral of application for screening for environmental impact assessment) of Principal Act

17. Section 176C of the Principal Act is amended—

(a) by inserting the following subsection after subsection (9):

“(9A) Following the notification by the Board under subsection (8), the Board shall publish its determination and the main reasons and considerations on which its determination was based, along with a notice referred to in subsection (9), on its website.”,

and

(b) in subsection (10) by substituting the following for paragraph (c):

(c) make the record, and the main reasons and considerations on which its determination was based, available on its website and available for purchase and inspection during office hours,".".

Amendment agreed to.
Amendments Nos. 85 and 86 not moved.

Amendments Nos. 87 to 90, inclusive, are related and may be taken together by agreement.

I move amendment No. 87:

In page 49, to delete lines 27 and 28 and substitute the following:

“(a) in subsection (1)—

(i) by substituting "Subject to subsection (7), where a development" for "Where a development", and

(ii) by substituting "not later than 6 months after being so requested" for “as soon as may be",".

These amendments amend section 18 as it stands following Committee Stage, which in turn amends section 180 of the Planning and Development Act 2000 dealing with the taking in charge of housing estates by planning authorities. The amendments seek to ensure that planning law in regard to taking in charge will also apply to housing estates provided on foot of planning permissions for strategic housing developments of more than 100 units granted permission on foot of the provisions of the Planning and Development (Housing) and Residential Tenancies Act 2016. Currently, section 180 of the 2000 Act applies only to housing estates provided on foot of planning permissions granted under section 34 of the 2000 Act, namely, standard planning permissions. These amendments extend the provisions of section 180 to cover the taking in charge by planning authorities of relevant strategic housing developments or the relevant parts of such developments. In this regard, it should be noted that strategic housing developments may comprise or include student accommodation units or apartment blocks or both, neither of which is really appropriate for taking in charge by planning authorities.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 88:

In page 49, between lines 29 and 30, to insert the following:

"(c) in subsection (2)(b) to insert ", or a condition attached to a permission under section 9(4) of the Planning and Development (Housing) and Residential Tenancies Act 2016" after "section 34(4)(g)",".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 89:

In page 49, between lines 30 and 31, to insert the following:

"(d) in subsection (2A)(b) to insert ", or a condition attached to a permission under section 9(4) of the Planning and Development (Housing) and Residential Tenancies Act 2016" after “section 34(4)(g)",".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 90:

In page 50, line 2, to delete “authority.”.” and substitute the following:

"authority.",

(e) by inserting the following after subsection (6):

“(7) This section applies to that part of a development for which permission is granted under section 9 of the Planning and Development (Housing) and Residential Tenancies Act 2016 that relates to the construction of houses and the provision of—

(a) new roads, open spaces or car parks, or

(b) sewers, water mains or service connections, within the meaning of the Water Services Act 2007,

relating to such houses and references to ‘development’ in other provisions of this section shall be read accordingly.".".

Amendment agreed to.
Amendments Nos. 91 and 92 not moved.

Amendments Nos. 93 to 97, inclusive, are related and may be taken together by agreement.

I move amendment No. 93:

In page 52, between lines 28 and 29, to insert the following:

“Construction of Fifth Schedule (conditions which may be imposed, on the granting of permission to develop land, without compensation) to Principal Act

25. (1) The Act of 2016 is amended by inserting the following section after section 25:

“Construction of Fifth Schedule (conditions which may be imposed, on the granting of permission to develop land, without compensation) to Act of 2000 during specified period

25A. The Fifth Schedule to the Act of 2000 has effect during the specified period as if in paragraph 1 ‘or section 9(4) of the Planning and Development (Housing) and Residential Tenancies Act 2016’ were inserted after ‘section 34(4)(g)’.".

(2) Section 1(3) of the Act of 2016 (which relates to commencement of provisions of that Act) applies to the commencement of the amendment provided for by subsection (1).".

This block of amendments relate to provisions of the Planning and Development (Housing) and Residential Tenancies Act 2016, the 2016 Act, regarding strategic housing development and have accordingly been grouped together for discussion. Amendment No. 93 inserts a new section in the Planning and Development (Housing) and Residential Tenancies Act 2016 providing that compensation shall not be payable in respect of the inclusion of a condition in a planning permission for a strategic housing development requiring the giving of security for the satisfactory completion of the proposed development. A similar provision is already in place under the Planning and Development Act 2000 in respect of such a condition included in a standard non-strategic housing development planning permission. The amendment will only apply for the duration of the provisions relating to strategic housing developments, namely, until 2021.

I am opposing amendment No. 94 which proposes to delete the provision in subsection 7(3) of the 2016 Act which states that a person shall not question the validity of a determination by or an opinion of the board under that section by reason only that the procedures set out in subsection (2) were not completed within the timeframe referred to in the subsection. This subsection is similar to existing provisions in other sections of the 2016 Act relating to strategic housing development, namely, section 5(4), section 6(12), section 8(7) and section 9(15) and 9(16). The strategic housing development provisions in the 2016 Act provide for a streamlined application process for large-scale housing developments of more than 100 units and this is underpinned by a constituent number of timelines throughout the decision-making process. In this context, I recognise that, despite the best endeavours of all parties, from the pre-consultation to the final decision stage, there is the potential and possibility for some slippage in the component deadlines to be met in progressing applications. To this end, I wish to ensure that the overall strategic housing development process should not be derailed and that the validity of any steps or decisions taken by the board that are outside the stated timelines will not prevent strategic housing developments applications from proceeding. Therefore, I oppose this amendment which would delete this provision for large-scale housing developments.

Government amendment No. 95 amends section 27 of the Bill as it stands, which in turn amends section 8 of the Planning (Housing) and Residential Tenancies Act 2016 dealing with requirements relating to applications for strategic housing development. In cases where an applicant is required to notify a trans-boundary state of an application in respect of a strategic housing development that may significantly affect the environment of that state, amendment No. 95 removes the requirement that the authorities to be notified must be prescribed in regulations. As the identity of the appropriate authority in other states to be notified in relevant cases changes frequently, it is preferable to have the flexibility of updating the appropriate authorities in other states on an administrative basis rather than having to amend the regulations regularly. The procedure in appropriate cases will be that An Bord Pleanála will inform the applicant which authority in another state should be notified of the making of the strategic housing development application with a view to giving that authority the opportunity to make a submission or observations to the board on the matter.

In regard to amendment No. 96, section 10 of the 2006 Act currently requires An Bord Pleanála to inform the public of its decision on an application for permission in respect of a proposed strategic housing development by way of a notice in one or more newspapers circulating in the area concerned. This amendment proposes to request the board instead to publish its decision on its website. This manner of publishing a decision is considered to be proportionate, having regard to the nature of the project and the earlier publication of a notice inviting submissions or observations on the proposed development when the application was being made to the board.

Debate adjourned.