I thank the Deputies for raising this important issue concerning the ongoing situation at the former Irish Glass Bottle site in Ringsend, which I am taking on behalf of the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, who cannot be here. I do not want to get into too much of a row with Deputy O'Callaghan but I am a Minister of State in the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government. I can understand when Deputies wish to hear from a Minister from a Department but it is unreasonable to expect that Deputies get to pick which Minister will speak.
In May 2016, the Government, not Dublin City Council, designated Poolbeg west as a strategic development zone, SDZ, because of its potential to deliver a large proportion of the extra homes needed in the centre of Dublin. The Government’s designation of the area as an SDZ cleared the way for Dublin City Council, as the designated development agency, to take the next step in drawing up a detailed planning scheme or master plan to guide the development of the area. The city council duly prepared a draft planning scheme which was considered by its elected members in May 2017 and approved in October 2017, after the scheme was amended to take account of inputs from public consultation.
As a statutory consultee for that process, the Department highlighted the importance of the planning scheme addressing a variety of housing needs and relevant matters. For clarity, it is important to note that there is currently an appeal to An Bord Pleanála regarding the scheme. The progress of development on the site will be dependent significantly on the nature and timing of the decision of the board. It is my understanding that An Bord Pleanála sought additional information about the proposed planning scheme from Dublin City Council on 20 September last and must revert to the board with that information before 17 January 2019, after which the board will make a final decision on the matter.
Securing an approved planning scheme for this site is a key step in enabling its development to progress. This is a matter for the city council and An Bord Pleanála, and the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, Deputy Eoghan Murphy, has no role in such matters. Under the provisions of section 30 of the Planning and Development Act, the Minister can play no role in a case before either a planning authority or An Bord Pleanála.
Pending the finalisation of the appeal process, and without prejudice to its outcome, I nevertheless wish to put on the record that the Minister is committed to working with the city council, any relevant approved housing bodies and all stakeholders relevant to the SDZ to see the site's development potential, particularly in terms of housing, fully realised.
If the planning scheme is approved, implementation of the SDZ must include delivery of additional social and affordable housing from this site over and above Part V obligations and of the order and magnitude laid out in the adopted planning scheme, but subject to agreement on all the normal and relevant terms, including value-for-money aspects.
The Department also understands that the receiver is engaging with Dublin City Council with a view to advancing an approach that would better enable the orderly development of this strategic but complex city location and assist in delivering much needed additional social and affordable housing. The Minister is ready to support such initiatives, subject to observance of all the normal value-for-money, procurement and wider legal aspects.
Deputies O'Callaghan and Eamon Ryan share the Minister's wish that this site be developed as expeditiously as possible. There are subtle differences between what each of the Deputies expressed. Deputy O'Callaghan's emphasis was exclusively on timelines whereas Deputy Ryan was expressing concerns that the right balance and mix should be delivered. Those are the issues that Dublin City Council and An Bord Pleanála will consider with the draft plan, subject to its approval.
Members should not mislead the public in Ringsend, or anywhere else, to the effect that the Minister can get directly involved in a decision that An Bord Pleanála has to make. The law is strict and there have been many planning inquiries and tribunals in the past, the results of which have led to planning law being in the shape it is in this country. The Minister has no role in influencing the decision of An Bord Pleanála, but he is adamant that, once that decision is made, this vital city centre location will be suitably developed.