The powers proposed to be conferred by the Bill on local authorities are necessary for the proper and economic development of their areas. It is generally accepted that their existing powers of control over development are insufficient The traffic problems in the larger cities to-day are largely due to the uncontrolled growth of these areas in the past. It is not alone a question of guarding against a repetition of past errors but also one of controlling development that is injurious to the amenities of a district. In most countries town and regional planning is regarded as amongst the most important of municipal functions. A city or town whose growth is controlled by a properly formulated plan develops in a manner best suited to the public welfare, and the evils arising from unrestricted development are avoided.
A plan is a framework of growth. It determines the most appropriate housing sites and the density of residential development, the sites for industries and the areas best suited for commercial purposes. The selection of the areas set aside for development should be intimately related to the provision made for sanitary services and to the traffic requirements of the area. The need for proper planning is apparent on all sides. The development of local government in recent years, due to changing conditions in the national life and to the demand for a higher standard of social services, has increased considerably the scope of the work of local authorities. Public moneys are being applied to the carrying out of a large housing programme, the provision of sanitary services, the erection of hospitals, the construction and maintenance of roads and other public purposes. In their own interests local authorities, therefore, would be well advised to have a plan of development of their areas prepared in advance of the execution of such works, when the provisions of this Bill become law. Such a plan, in addition to giving control over private development works in their area would secure that the public works to be undertaken would be fully considered in relation to each other, and that in areas where houses are to be built they will be placed in the most suitable position in relation to essential sanitary services, and the provision of schools and playgrounds.
A planning scheme if intelligently availed of in this manner will reinforce the efforts which are being made to improve the standard of public health, and should also bring about economies in public expenditure on social services. The control over density of houses should go a long way to prevent the conditions associated with the present day slum problem, and the allocation of lands for the erection of buildings, properly grouped, will most likely result in reduced expenditure on roads, the laying of water mains, the provision of sewers and other public services. It is also important in connection with the clearance of insanitary areas that the problem should be examined in relation to the industrial and traffic requirements of the district, and the need for the provision of children's playgrounds and recreation parks.
Of the provisions of the Bill it is not necessary to speak in detail. This House had under consideration some years ago a Town Planning and Rural Amenities Bill introduced by Senator Johnson, and supported by other Senators. Although some of its provisions would now be regarded as out of date, still it had for its object the same purposes as the Bill now submitted to you, and I think a tribute is due to the Senator and his colleagues for their active interest in this question.
The county, county borough and urban district councils will be the planning authorities for their respective areas. Planning regions may be formed by two or more planning authorities, and a planning district of an urban authority may, in certain circumstances, be extended to include portion of the adjoining rural area. Special regions are formed in the Bill which may be planned by the municipal authorities for the cities of Dublin and Cork. Once a planning authority has passed a resolution deciding to make a scheme, all constructive and other works come under control, and pending the final approval of the scheme the procedure laid down in Part VII of the Bill will apply. Development works will proceed in the usual way, subject to the power of the planning authority to prohibit the further proceeding with the construction, demolition or alteration of any particular structure in the area to be planned, which would be likely to contravene the provisions of the plan in course of preparation.
Every planning scheme of a planning authority will require the approval of the Minister. The Minister's Order approving of a scheme, together with the planning scheme, will be laid before each House of the Oireachtas with power to annul within three sitting weeks after the week in which the Order is laid before each House or the notice of publication of the making of the Order in Iris Oifigiúil, whichever is later. The validity of a scheme or any provision contained in it may be questioned in the High Court on certain specified legal grounds. Part VIII of the Bill contains provisions for the payment of compensation and payment for betterment.
Under the Bill a planning system may be set up for this country which will give all the powers that are considered necessary for local authorities to secure the orderly and progressive development of their areas and for the preservation and improvement of amenities. There will be present to the minds of members of this House many instances where it is eminently desirable to take action to preserve existing amenities and beauty spots throughout the country. During the present week I received a petition from residents in the neighbourhood of the Sugar Loaf Mountains, Rocky Valley and district, regarding the disfigurement of the neighbourhood by the indiscriminate erection of buildings. The petition states that the glory of the Sugar Loaf Mountains and the beauty of the Rocky Valley, which afford such pleasure to both the people in the neighbourhood and to visitors, if once despoiled and defaced could never be restored. I have not come to any official decision on the petition, but in cases of this kind the provisions of the Bill will enable a planning authority to obtain the statutory powers to prevent the spoliation of the countryside, which in itself is a very important aspect of regional planning. I commend the provisions of the Bill to the House.