Town and Regional Planning (Amendment) Bill, 1938—Second Stage.

Question proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

This Bill proposes to extend the powers which the Town and Regional Planning Act, 1934, confers on planning authorities for planning the orderly and progressive development of their areas. In some minor respects it also amends the provisions of that Act. The changes proposed in the existing law will facilitate the preparation of planning schemes. They will simplify the procedure connected with the control and development of land by the erection of buildings, the division of land into land units for the purpose of regulating the density of buildings, and the determination of the frontage line of buildings on new or improved roads.

A planning scheme is intended to control not only development that is imminent but also development that is likely to take place during a number of years. As circumstances must be constantly changing, it would be difficult during the preparation of a scheme to provide for every form of future development. It is, therefore, proposed that a planning scheme should settle the main lines of development and confer upon one or more responsible authorities designated by the planning scheme the power of enforcing the provisions of the scheme and of regulating subsidiary development in conformity with the main provisions thereof. By this means, it should be possible to secure the development of an area in an orderly manner and at the same time enable the responsible authority to meet conditions as they arise without resort to an amendment of the provisions of the scheme.

The adoption of a more flexible procedure in connection with the control of future development will not lessen in any way the important safeguards imposed by the Act of 1934 and the regulations made thereunder in connection with the preparation of planning schemes. Appropriate provisions could be inserted in a planning scheme dealing with the improvement of existing roads and the construction of new main roads but it would be difficult to prescribe conditions in regard to roads of lesser importance or lay down the future road system for particular portions of the area planned in which development may not be permitted for a specified period. To meet the position more fully the procedure laid down in Part III of the Bill is proposed. When a planning scheme allocates or reserves particular lands for specified purposes, a provision may be included in the scheme, in the Bill referred to as a restricted development provision, prohibiting the development of such lands, or any part of such lands until a road plan regulating the development thereof has come into force. This procedure will ensure that the internal development of a building site is fully controlled by the responsible authority in conformity with the scheme.

A road plan will be prepared by the developing owner and submitted by him to the responsible authority who may approve with amendments or refuse to approve. The decision of the responsible authority is subject to an appeal to the Minister. Provision may be made in the road plan for the construction of roads, public or private, by the road authority and for the payment of the whole or a part of the cost by the developing owner. Provision may be made by a road plan for the payment by the developing owner of the whole or part of the cost of any construction or improvement of roads between the coming into operation of the planning scheme and the coming into force of the road plan, which has facilitated or rendered less costly the development of land to which the road plan relates.

As regards the provision dealing with the division of land into land units for the purpose of regulating the density of buildings, a planning scheme may include provisions dealing with the spacing of buildings and other structures, but it is doubtful if under the existing law a planning scheme could empower a responsible authority to divide land into building units. Section 8 of the Bill is intended to remedy the position. This power of controlling density will only apply to dwellings and other residential buildings and will be in addition to the power of prescribing a minimum area for the curtilage of such buildings. Every planning scheme will contain a provision enabling owners of land that is divided into land units to appeal to the Minister if they are dissatisfied with the decision of the responsible authority. The Minister's determination on any such appeal will be final.

The other change in the law to which I referred relates to the determination of the frontage line of buildings on new or improved roads. Under Section 13 of the Bill provision may be made in a planning scheme enabling the responsible authority to determine the frontage line of buildings and other structures adjoining any road for which a frontage line is not determined by the planning scheme. Appropriate provisions would usually be included in a planning scheme imposing restrictions on development in the immediate neighbourhood of roads specified in the scheme by prescribing the distance from the centre line of such roads for the erection of structures. Such provisions would relate mainly to trunk roads along which very little development has already taken place and which it is desirable to protect against sporadic development.

Section 13 of the Bill is mainly intended to give power to fix the frontage line of structures on new or improved roads for which a frontage line is not determined by the scheme or on new or improved roads not specifically referred to in the scheme. This power is to be exercised by the responsible authority, subject to appeal by any person aggrieved to the Minister. This procedure will enable the necessary control to be exercised under proper safeguards at a time when the conditions are better known than during the making of the planning scheme.

The power to fix the frontage line of structures on any roads not dealt with in the planning scheme is very necessary in view of the provisions contained in Part III of the Bill for regulating the development of lands in respect of which a restricted development provision is included in the scheme. Secondary roads and owners' roads constructed on such lands will be regulated by the responsible authority and the frontage lines fixed for structures, subject to appeal to the Minister. The Minister's determination of an appeal is final, and any contravention of a frontage line so determined by a responsible authority or by the Minister on appeal will be a contravention of the planning scheme.

Before I deal with the minor amendments to the Act of 1934 I would like to refer to Section 14 of the Bill dealing with compensation. This section was introduced in response to representations made during the passage of the Bill through the Dáil. Under the Act of 1934 compensation may be claimed after a planning scheme has come into force in respect of a reduction in value of property, damage, or loss, arising out of the coming into operation of a provision in a planning scheme, subject, however, to any declaration contained in the scheme that no compensation is to be payable on account of or arising from the coming into operation of any specified provision reserving or allocating lands for specified purposes; or limiting the density of dwellings, or regulating the size or curtilage of dwellings; or controlling the design, colour and materials of buildings and other structures; or providing for the preservation of amenities, excepting a provision reserving lands for public parks, open spaces or other particular purposes whether public or private.

It might be held that restrictions of this kind should not be imposed without compensation, but the basic principle underlying town planning is the regulation of development in the public interest, and where such regulation is necessary for the orderly development of an area the community should not be required to pay compensation. The evils resulting from unregulated development in the past have proved very costly to rectify. If little attention is given to securing a proper environment for the homes of the people, there would likely be a recurrence of those conditions which are associated with slum dwellings. The health of the people is paramount and town planning lays down the basis upon which good housing can be secured for them. It was upon consideration of all the issues involved that the Act of 1934 enacted that claims for the assessment and payment of compensation were to be determined only after the provisions of the scheme had been brought into operation.

Section 14 of the Bill will enable claims for compensation to be dealt with before the scheme is brought into force subject to the provisions in the Act of 1934 as to the exclusion of compensation in certain circumstances. The procedure in Section 14 is as follows: Where during the interim period, that is, the period between the passing by the planning authority of a resolution for the making of the relevant planning scheme and the coming into operation of such scheme, any person applies under the Act of 1934 to the planning authority for permission for the carrying out of a particular work, the planning authority can direct either that permission be refused; or that permission for the carrying out of such work be granted subject to conditions to be specified in the permission; or, in case the work is one that has already been begun, whether before or after the passing of the resolution for the making of the scheme, prohibit the further proceeding with it.

It will then be open to any person to whom such a direction is given by the planning authority during the interim period to apply to the Minister for an order declaring that compensation shall be payable by the planning authority in respect of such interim direction. An investigation of the circumstances of each case will have to be made by the Minister. Firstly he will have to investigate whether compensation would be payable under the provisions of the Act of 1934, if such interim direction were a provision in the relevant planning scheme and that scheme had come into force. Secondly, he will have to investigate whether undue hardship would result to such person from compliance with the interim direction of the planning authority during the interim period. If satisfied that compensation would be so payable and that undue hardship would result the Minister may then make an Order declaring that compensation shall be payable. It is proposed to allow a period of six months to elapse from the making of such an Order before it shall take effect so that the planning authority if they do not desire to incur compensation may have an opportunity of revoking the interim direction in respect of which the Order applies.

If the interim direction is revoked by the planning authority within the period of six months or if the interim direction has not been complied with during that period, the Order declaring compensation to be payable will become void and of no effect. If on the expiration of six months an Order of the Minister under this section comes into force any person affected may apply for compensation to the planning authority by whom the interim direction was given. Such an application must be made within two months from the date when the Order comes into force. The provisions in the Town and Regional Planning Act of 1934 are made applicable to the assessment and recovery of compensation in such cases.

It should be understood that an interim direction (with some exceptions) is not like a statutory provision or a provision in a planning scheme which must be obeyed under penalty. A person who receives an interim direction need not obey it, but if he does not do so he must take the risk of its inclusion in a planning scheme in which case it can be enforced against him without compensation. Where an Order of the Minister declaring compensation to be payable in respect of an interim direction comes into force, it would obviously be wrong to allow the provision of that interim direction to be ignored, and to safeguard the position as far as possible it is proposed to enforce the provisions of such an interim direction under penalty, as if they were provisions in a planning scheme.

It is proposed in Section 4 of the Bill to give an urban planning authority powers of entry on lands for the purpose of examining an area adjoining their district before deciding whether the area should be planned as a contiguous area. To prevent any uncertainty in regard to the validity of a resolution passed by a planning authority deciding to make a planning scheme it is proposed by Sections 5 and 6 of the Bill:—

(a) to provide retrospectively that it will be sufficient for notice to be given of such a resolution to all the persons who are members of the planning authority at the time when the notice is given and not at the time the resolution is passed;

(b) to require the planning authority, as soon as may be after the passing of the Bill and, in future cases, as soon as may be after the passing of the resolution to publish a statutory notice of the passing of the resolution;

(c) to allow persons who own land in the area to apply to the High Court for the annulment of the resolution;

(d) to provide that where a resolution is not annulled on an application brought to the High Court the resolution shall be deemed to have been validly passed.

Section 9 of the Bill enables a responsible authority with the consent of the Minister to grant a total or a partial exemption from one or more of the obligations imposed by a particular provision in a planning scheme, where there is specific provision included in the scheme for the adoption of that course.

It is necessary to extend the powers of a planning authority to make special prohibitions. Section 57 of the Act of 1934 only enables a planning authority to prohibit the further proceeding with the construction, demolition, alteration, extension, repair or renewal of any particular structure in the area to be planned. Section 10 of this Bill will enable the planning authority to prohibit the execution of any specified work, including the cutting down of any specified forest, wood or tree, and the provisions of Section 58 of the Act of 1934 in regard to the enforcement of special prohibitions as extended by Section 11 of the Bill will apply.

Where a planning authority passes a resolution deciding to make a planning scheme for a named area and later finds that the area might be extended with advantage, the present position is that the planning authority must pass a new resolution for the added area and must make two planning schemes—one for the original area and one for the added area. This will prove inconvenient, especially where a contiguous area is added to a planning district after a planning resolution has been passed for that district. It is proposed in Section 7 of this Bill to empower a planning authority, which has passed two or more resolutions relating to separate but adjoining areas, to make one planning scheme for the whole area. The relevant date in any part of the whole area will depend on the resolution relating to that part.

It is proposed by Section 15 of the Bill to give the Minister power to dispense with the giving of any notice or the publication of any advertisement where he is satisfied that reasonable grounds exist for such dispensation. A similar provision exists in the housing code. Section 16 of the Bill provides that in deciding appeals the Minister may direct the planning authority or the responsible authority, from whose decision the appeal is made, to pay to the appellant a reasonable sum in respect of the expense occasioned in relation to the appeal.

During the discussion on this Bill in the Dáil, a Deputy raised a point which, so far as I could see, failed to arouse the slightest interest, but about which certain paragraphs have since then appeared in the newspapers which encourages me to refer to it. It is the condition of our villages. As probably every Senator knows, innumerable houses in all our villages in County Dublin and County Wicklow are in a state of slow decomposition. I think the plan is that when a house is condemned, that is, finally condemned, because, as we all know, until the housing schemes got under way, people continued to live in houses for ten and 12 years after they had been condemned as unfit for human habitation, the house is evacuated and a hole torn in the roof so that nobody else can go into it and it is left to stay there as long as weather and time will permit it to remain. The occupant is provided with a house some distance out in the country and, notwithstanding the fact that the Department has always expressed a desire that houses should not be built along main roads, they continue to be built there. There is one case I know of where there is a very narrow road on which there is enormous traffic of large lorries and hundreds of motor cars over the weekend and on which there is no footpath. Motors have difficulty in passing the lorries and houses have been built so close to the road on one side, which is a high side, the other side being a precipice, that when eventually the road will have to be widened to save life and to make the increasing traffic possible, the bank will have to be cut away and the people will only be able to get into their houses by going up ladders. That is a positive fact.

The other thing I object to is that houses are sometimes built on beauty spots. The houses may not be so bad, though I think a great many of them could be vastly improved—I see a big difference between some houses on the Navan Road and in our district—but, at the same time, they are not so bad. Quite frequently, however, the occupant immediately proceeds to build a tin shack in which to house a goat, a donkey or fowl. If he is lucky and has a bit of money, he buys new corrugated iron, which is hideous enough; but if he has not got money, he collects remains and scraps of rusty corrugated iron and if he is lucky enough to have road work in the neighbourhood, he reinforces that with black tar. In a great beauty spot on the road between Roundwood and Annamoe there is a labourer's cottage. The occupant, who I do not think is actually the person entitled to live in it was a woman who married a farmer in the immediate neighbourhood, who had 30 acres almost beside this nice cottage. He moved into the cottage and demolished his farm buildings in so far as they were roofed with corrugated iron and built himself a very large tin shack stretching about ten yards from the road and another ten yards in length. Lest that beauty spot should not have been sufficiently destroyed, our local board of health has sanctioned two more cottages so that there may be a nice row of houses along the road to destroy utterly this beauty spot. No doubt, they will also build shacks in time and complete the destruction. It is a place which is very largely patronised by people from all over the world, but mostly from Dublin, who visit that neighbourhood and have picnics there. There is a long bend in the river with a great bank of trees rising up where people fish.

The scheme was sanctioned two years ago, and one year ago I went to the board of health and protested against houses being built there. One of my reasons for protesting was that this farm was very small and already had two houses on it, and it seemed unfair that four houses should be built on the one farm. I protested principally, however, because it was a beauty spot. I understood that my protest was of some avail but, to my astonishment, three weeks ago, the foundations were dug. I made another protest to the Department hoping that they might be able to do something at once, and in the belief that if they gave people any chance the walls would be up in no time, and then nothing could be done. I pointed out that the people for whom the houses were built had been already supplied with houses, and that so keen is the Government on housing, that at least two of the people, one of whom lives there and the other of whom they intend to put in, have had the satisfaction of having their housing arrangements made for them both by the Department of Local Government and the Department of Justice. One gentleman has had his housing provided for him by the Department of Justice on two occasions, and another gentleman on one occasion. I do not think they are very suitable people.

Where a scheme has been sanctioned so far back as two years ago, there should be some way of looking into the matter with a view to ascertaining whether the houses are really needed after a delay of two years, or whether they have been provided for elsewhere. I know that the Department objects strongly to the building of houses in rows along main roads and always tries to stop it. I am quite sure they object to the spoiling of beauty spots, but I understand that by the Labourers Acts, nothing can be done about it, that the local authority can take land anywhere it likes, except demesne land. With regard to the villages, the population decreases, the social amenities decline and the shopkeepers lose their business, and the village is left, as Robert Service would say, "deserted, damned and despairful." Village life, as such, seems to me to be coming to an end. Houses are being scattered all over the countryside. I do not know if there is any Act under which a Department of State has any power to force people who own sites in villages either to remove the debris of their cottages or to rebuild, but if there is not, it would be a great help if one were introduced. I do not know whether the new tourist committee will do something about it, but at the present time the worst thing that could happen to the tourist industry would be a decree by the State for a reduction of the speed of motor cars passing through a rural built-up area. Our only hope is that they will dash through at break-neck speed without looking about them.

The Minister is not asking for the remaining stages of this Bill to-day?

With regard to the point spoken of by Senator Robinson in reference to what is called ribbon building, I personally like as little Government butting in as possible in the life of the people, but it does seem to me—and I speak subject to correction because it is a matter with which I am not very conversant—that this ribbon building which we see around Dublin is definitely almost imposed by law. If one is going to develop a new area, if one builds a house within a certain distance of the road, the public authority is bound by law to provide water, sewerage arrangements and so on. As long as that law is that way, if it is that way, and I am not too sure of my ground here; if it is a fact that if you build your house directly on the road, a method which is universally recognised as undesirable, you impose on the corporation or local governing body the duty, under law, of providing water and sanitary supplies, you can hardly wonder that the builders do it that way instead of moving 100 yards or 200 yards off the road.

I am not too sure of my facts, but if it is true that building within a certain distance of a road saves a builder a great deal of expense, and puts certain duties on the corporation, then it seems to me, if the Minister is anxious, as I know he is, to improve conditions, and to direct building operations in the path that will be most desirable, before you get on you must change the law, if such be the law, which, in effect, directs builders to build in the ribbon way along the sides of roads. I would go further into the matter only that I am on uncertain ground. I have seen ribbon building around Dublin which has destroyed the amenities of this beautiful county, both for the inhabitants of the county and the city, and the explanation I got was that builders work alongside the roads, because that imposes by law a duty on the public authorities, which would not be imposed if they built further off the roads. The Minister can correct me if I am wrong there.

According to the Regional Town Planning Act of 1934 urban areas, where the boundaries are jagged, could include in the map of a regional planning scheme an area the size of the urban area. I should like to be informed whether it is intended to have an area outside the urban area included so that it might be used for the purposes of a plan for the added area to build houses or roads in the county. As far as I know the matter has not been made clear. There are urban areas, such as the one I live in, which are very small with jagged boundaries sticking out all over the place, and in order to make anything like a decent planning scheme, and to straighten out the boundaries, they would require to take in odd fields. There is a provision dealing with the matter in the Act of 1934, but I want to know if the added boundaries can be used for the building of houses, roads and sewers.

Ba mhaith liom cupla focal a rá i dtaobh rudaí a dubhairt Seanadóirí a labhair romhaim. I do not think some of the previous speakers are aware of the fact that a town planning scheme for Dublin has not yet been prepared. It is in course of preparation. I can assure Senator Fitzgerald that every effort is made by the town planning committee to deal with any undesirable type of building. The plans for building have to be submitted, and the town planning committee goes carefully into them. In that way no undesirable class of building is allowed at present. With reference to derelict sites, I have been arguing that steps should be taken to deal with them. In my opinion these sites give an appearance of decay to the city. We have certain powers to deal with them in Dublin under what is called the Derelict Sites Order, provided that they have been unoccupied for a certain length of time. I was impressed with the point made by the Minister, that during the interim period an owner might develop a site, but if that development is contrary to future plans, the owner may be compelled to take down a building without compensation. While I am sure that the Minister has given the matter close consideration, in my opinion it would be better to prohibit an owner undergoing expense in the first instance, rather than have to make him go and pull down a building afterwards.

I think this would be an appropriate occasion to ask the Minister what areas within the country have drawn up planning schemes. I know that by passing a resolution under the Act of 1934, the local authorities get power, but if they merely pass a resolution, parties concerned may not be aware that there is a planning scheme. In certain areas some parties are a bit frightened and are awaiting the publication of schemes. I am not aware that any planning scheme has yet been put into operation. I should like to deal with the power of appeal in particular instances. It is not easy for a layman to deal with an amendment to an Act made up of eight parts and 57 sections, but I should like the Minister to explain the position of a person who may be notified by the responsible authority to refrain from altering some building or prevented from erecting one. In that case there is an appeal to the Minister if a person is aggrieved by the decision. I should like the Minister to accept an amendment so that a person with a grievance could go before the district justice. The Minister, I expect, will have a report from his inspector or from some responsible person, but he will not have an opportunity of going into the pros and cons of the case, and the individual concerned may not be satisfied, because the decision was arrived at in camera. He has no opportunity of knowing the grounds on which the decision was arrived at. If an amendment to the effect I suggest was inserted in the Bill it would not interfere with the principles enshrined in it. Section 45 of the original Act allows an appeal by any person aggrieved where the responsible authority served notice in connection with the colours or the materials used. In a case like that the matter can go before the district justice, and I submit that a similar procedure should be allowed here under Section 59. Under Section 52 of the original Act an application may be made to the District Court to quash a notice that has been served. I ask the Minister to satisfy people in local areas by allowing cases to be brought and decided by a district justice. If he is capable of deciding on colours and on materials, I submit he would be a suitable authority to act where a person was served with a notice to refrain from constructing a building. I understand that in Dublin no planning scheme has been approved or completed.

I am glad that Senator Robinson has called attention to the conditions in many of the smaller towns. The approaches to some of these towns are really appalling. A demolition order can be obtained against the owner of house property if it has been condemned by the sanitary authorities, but in the majority of urban towns some houses were deserted years ago and these wretched places have been left there. The result is that the impression created on tourists must be very unfavourable. It would be well if some effort could be made to have these sites cleared. The local authorities will not do it as they say it is not their business. The Board of Health say that they have enough to do to deal with the houses condemned under Acts in which they are concerned, without encroaching on private property. I do not want the Department to get away on this occasion, and I want to point out that there are derelict public buildings here and there throughout the country, some of them being convenient to some of the nicest towns in Ireland. I refer to abandoned workhouses and abandoned hospitals that have been in a ruinous condition for the past ten years, and that are getting worse and that are now dangerous. I have in mind one building at the entrance to one of the prettiest little towns in Ireland. People coming from the railway station have to pass the ruins and they are most unsightly.

There are many deserted public buildings which are, I believe, in the possession of public health authorities, that are in the same condition as some of the wretched shacks at the entrance to some towns. An effort was made some time ago to get some of these buildings cleared away under minor relief schemes by the Board of Works, but apparently they could not encroach as the property belongs to the public health authorities, who will not take them down. The Board of Works say that they would do so if allowed. Between the two parties these buildings are left in a ruinous and disgraceful condition. I wish the Department would look into the matter and endeavour to have these unsightly buildings cleared away.

I feel it my duty as a member of a public board, and a board of health, to say that if there is one Minister in the Government who, whenever he retires, will leave behind him work that has won the esteem and appreciation of public bodies, and particularly of the poorer classes, for the amount of initiative, energy and success that has crowned his efforts on the question of housing, it is the present Minister.

I trust that the Minister will not be impressed by some of the remarks made by Senator Robinson. In my county, my board of health, I believe, are almost unique in what they have achieved with the co-operation of the Minister's Department. In the short space of a couple of years, we have built nearly 1,000 cottages for rural workers. Senator Robinson says that we are destroying the amenities and beauty spots of our country in placing these cottages unreasonably and uncomfortably near the roadside. I respectfully disagree with him. I think the whole country is a beauty spot and that we are adding to the amenities of the beauty spots by putting these lovely, cheerful, bright homes in them and by taking our rustic peasantry, which is the nation's pride, out of the conditions in which foreign governmental control placed them— unhygienic, antediluvian and appalling conditions, conditions which would not be suitable for pigs. The Minister has changed all that. I disagree with the Senator again when he says that when the tenants leave these houses there are holes through the roof and the houses are as festering sores to the civic eye. In the case of all the hovels which were cleared away in our county, under an order by the Minister, all the debris had to be removed and a certificate had to be obtained from the Department's engineering inspector bearing testimony to that before the county council got the grants which are given as an encouragement to our housing activities. In my county, we have the same conditions that obtain in other villages but, with the encouragement and inspiration of the Department and, particularly, of the Minister, who did us the honour of coming down to look at what we were doing, we have made an inspection of every town and village in the county. As a result of that inspection we are inviting tenders for the building, in addition to the 1,000 rural houses to which I have referred, of 500 houses in these villages and towns to meet the necessities of the poor and the working classes who previously had to exist in these hovels.

While I am on my feet, I take the opportunity of making a point to the Minister which I made previously at my own board. I understand it was the result of very considerable discussion between the Department and my board. While I praise him for the great work he has done, I ask him to remember one thing. In the towns and villages of rural Ireland, the work of the unskilled men who have occupied these bad houses is irregular and their payment is scant. Many of those living under these conditions have to depend largely for subsistence on what they get by way of home help from the board of health. One might consider that the rents are really economic. They do not look high but, in the case of one scheme which the Minister opened in my town about 12 months ago, the rent and rates amount to 3/10 per week. That would appear to be a reasonably economic rent——

What has the question of rent to do with regional and town planning?

I am taking advantage of the opportunity to put before the Minister a point that affects our workers. We are considering a scheme of houses and the rent might be regarded as reasonably economic at 3/10, but many of these unskilled workers have to subsist on 4/- a week home help. If you have a family receiving 4/- and they have to pay 3/10 for one of these houses, there is not much left for maintenance afterwards. I did put the matter before the Minister and he has provided for a smaller type of house—a three-room house, on the ground floor, the rent of which will be about 2/6 per week. I may have been guilty of digression but I wanted to put that point before the Minister because, if it is overcome, he will have done a great deal to brighten the homes and cheer the hearts of the working classes, in addition to what he has already successfully achieved.

I raised a matter on the Central Fund Bill which the Minister for Finance was kind enough to inform me I should more appropriately have raised on this measure. That is: whether there is any means of getting these plans advised upon by recognised authorities on design and æsthetics and people with a knowledge of and taste in architecture. It does seem strange that when we are putting up a new building we allow a local authority to act on the design of a local engineer. I know in some cases that the design is by the county surveyor. It may be quite suitable to prosaic needs but, as an ornament to the countryside, it leaves much to be desired. Senator Robinson, in one of his somewhat rare but very welcome speeches in this House, referred to this important matter of preserving the amenities of our countryside. It is a terrible problem. In England, where they had a great deal to preserve, it has been a matter of great difficulty. Oxford, with its almost sacred buildings, as one might describe them, has been practically spoiled in its surroundings by the speculative builder. A society has been started for the preservation of rural England and it has done a certain amount of work but, here, there never has been any high standard of architecture in the country villages. I do not know whose fault it has been. In England, the conditions in these villages are largely due to the taste of individual proprietors who have spent a very large portion of their income in preserving the amenities of the countryside. The very fine buildings in the Cotswolds and elsewhere are still preserved but it is a matter of increasing difficulty to secure the preservation of many buildings. I do not know what can be done here short of setting up some body to advise local authorities and the Minister on the question of new buildings. It may be slow work but we should at least make a beginning.

A building is to be put up in Kildare Street by the Board of Works. I am not making any suggestion that the Board of Works would not put up a good building, but I should have much more confidence in the project if there were a body of architects and artists of repute whose duty it would be to advise on the design of all new buildings, especially public buildings. I am sometimes a bit depressed about the official attitude on this matter. I had occasion once to criticise a housing scheme for one of those migrant colonies in Meath —people brought in from the Gaeltacht. I commented on the fact that there was such a variety of material and colour in these new cottages. I suggested that there was a unique opportunity of striking a new note in domestic architecture and trying to preserve what was very fine in the old domestic architecture of the country— the low whitewashed cottage with thatched roof. You could not expect a thatched roof now but you could preserve the other characteristics. The only place you see these cottages now is in a seaside village and the only villages which are attractive are the seaside villages. The Minister in charge of that Department at the time took the trouble to convey to me that he was very much hurt by my remarks because he had taken a lot of trouble in connection with this scheme and had aimed at a great variety and contrast of colour. That violates the whole canon—I believe the recognised canon—of country architecture. There should be uniformity, not of design, but of material and colour. In practice, uniformity of material means uniformity of colour. It is an offence against all accepted canons to mix up concrete-block houses with brick houses and to have one house slated and another tiled, as was done on this occasion. I hope the Minister will tell us that, if he has not already sufficient powers, he will seek powers to obtain the very best advice on this question of domestic architecture. We can only make a very small beginning because we have not much to work upon at present, but we should do what we can for the future. The local authorities are not the worst offenders. The corporation schemes and some of the county council schemes do, at least, have uniformity of material, but these speculative builders and private owners come along and have their houses covered by tiles, in some cases, and by slates in others. They use concrete in some instances and they pebble-dash the houses in other cases, with indiscriminate confusion, thus spoiling the whole of our countryside.

While I agree with most of what Senator Sir John Keane has said, I cannot agree with his remarks about the possibility of disaster coming to the various building schemes as a result of the assistance of what he described as local engineers and county surveyors. I have seen a good many houses built all over the country with the assistance of such people and I find that, so far as my opinion goes, they are fully capable of planning and building houses, especially in the rural areas.

I should like to remind Senator Sir John Keane that many, and in fact most, of the people who hold positions as county surveyors have qualified also as architects, and that it is not at all right to class them all as—well, under the category of what one might call handymen.

I did not suggest that.

I think that they are all first-class men and that their services should be availed of as far as possible. Senator Sir John Keane says that there never has been any high standard of architecture in this country as far as the building of houses is concerned, but I suggest that more architectural beauty has been displayed in some of the very old thatched houses than in most of the modern houses that we have standing by the roadsides in the country. I particularly remember a house somewhere between here and Naas—a very old thatched house, that was built probably 200 or 300 years ago—in which there was more architecture and artistry displayed in the building of that house than you will find in the erection of many of the new houses that we see all over the country. Of course, the same would apply to every other area, but I just happen to remember the case of that particular house. Even in the mountainy districts we find that those old thatched houses were built with obvious thought as to their appearance, their comfort and everything else—much more thought, in my opinion, than has been devoted to the building of the new houses that we see being run up all over the country under a sort of mass production. I would advocate rather a departure from the new style of building and a return to the old system, and that instead of drifting away from the old system and drifting on to something that was imported from Oxford, or whatever place Senator Sir John Keane referred to, or from California or anywhere else, we should get back to the style of house we built in this country a good many years ago. From an æsthetic point of view, or taking into consideration the appearance of the countryside as a finished article, so to speak, I would even recommend going back to the thatched house. Some time ago I advocated that—I think it was here in this House, but, if not, it was in some other public place—and the people thought I was losing my mind. Now, I do not suggest that we should go back to thatched houses in the streets of Dublin or in the larger provincial towns, but I suggest that in connection with building sites outside the provincial towns or in local villages the thatched house has a good deal to recommend it.

At a time when the question of self-sufficiency is being stressed so much, and rightly so, I believe that that also should be taken into account. In connection with the building of most of the modern houses practically everything which goes into the house is an imported article. Of course, I realise that we have to import certain commodities, because we probably cannot manufacture everything here, but in the building of these modern houses, whether they are to be roofed with tiles, slates or anything else, it means the importation of an enormous amount of foreign timber. If we were to get back to the thatched house, a lot of that importation could be eliminated, and that would mean the elimination of the export of capital out of this country. With regard to the thatched house the same necessity does not arise, as I am sure Senators know, for elaborate requirements in the shape of timber. The rafters and everything else could be got locally, and fresh timber, in my opinion, would do for the holding up of a thatched house, which I suggest is not the case in connection with the other type of houses. Arguments have been put up, and I am sure will be put up, that the thatched house is dangerous, and that it is not safe to live in. Well, I have gone to the trouble of inquiring from various insurance agents with regard to that matter, and they tell me that the number of thatched houses that have been burned over a number of years is not any larger than the number of the other types of houses.

I think they charge higher premiums.

They may, and if they can get them I do not blame them, but I am not talking from the point of view of insurance at all; I am only giving that case as one example of the sort of argument that will be put up. Another argument is that if one thatched house catches fire the next one does, and so on. I grant that that is so in the case of a town or a street in the city, although in fact in certain towns we have streets of practically all thatched houses, and I must say they look very well.

However, I am not in favour of streets of thatched houses, but in connection with the new schemes there is no argument, so far as that is concerned, against the introduction of thatched houses. Secondly, we have the argument against them that they are unhealthy, that they make room for microbes and the Lord knows what else. That might be argued if we say that we will go back and have nothing under the thatch but just rushes and straw, but in all modern houses a regular ceiling is put up—perhaps not as elaborate as the ceiling in this House, but an ordinary ceiling of lath and plaster and so on. As far as I can make out, that should eliminate the danger of the holding of germs and so on. I believe that an effort should be made to get back to the ancient architecture of this country and, thereby, to the use of the native product, and I would suggest to the Minister that he should go as far as he can to make it more—I cannot think of the exact word, but let us say more enticing, if you like, for people to build thatched houses. I do not say that there should be any legislation to insist that houses should be thatched, but I do say that in connection with the giving of these grants, preference should be given to the building of thatched houses, and that would give an impetus to the policy of the Government in increasing tillage here, because it would create a market for the farmers' straw and give employment to a number of people in one of the oldest crafts in the country, the thatchers. We will be told, of course, that we have not any thatchers here. I believe that there is any number of them, or at least that there is a sufficient number to teach the young men now growing up what practically all their fathers knew how to do not so many years ago.

As I say, I welcome the Bill because I believe it will go a long way to make the life in provincial towns and rural villages more attractive than it has been in the past, and I believe that anything that can be done in that way will add to the drive which is being made, and which is approved by everybody, to prevent the drift from the rural areas to the cities.

If we intend to stop that drift, I believe that further steps should be taken and I say that the only way it can be successfully stopped will be by moving out, if you like, or extending to the provincial towns and rural villages the amenities of the city. In a previous debate here I advocated the extension of electricity. I believe that if electric light could be supplied to the rural villages all over the country it would brighten up the life of these villages very considerably. Any of us who has had experience of going into a rural village on a winter's evening at about 7 o'clock, say, in November or December, will recollect that you could not see your hand in the place, and I am sure you have often asked yourselves how do the people there stick that night after night, week after week, and year after year. The supply of electricity in these places would go a considerable way towards brightening up life in these towns and would also add to the possibility of future developments in such places.

I would also suggest, in connection with any planning scheme, the further development of telephone communications. I believe that that would also go a long way towards solving the problem. I do not know whether it is in order to discuss it under this Bill, but I think that something should be done with regard to derelict sites, not so much in the towns and villages, but along the country roads. Anybody who has been travelling the country roads, will remember that anywhere a camp of gipsies has been, if you go along the road on the following day you will find rags, old shoes, bottles, tin cans and so on, scattered all around.

I do not know whether that is an offence here or not, but it certainly is an offence in other countries, and I believe that it is something to which immediate attention should be given in this country. I myself noticed, particularly in the last couple of weeks, now that the season is coming along and people are camping out, that all kinds of rubbish and scrap are thrown around the roads. I do not know whether or not anything can be done under this Bill in regard to that matter.

There is another matter to which I should like to refer, although I am quite sure that it is completely out of place for me to refer to it rather than anybody else, and that is in connection with the City of Dublin. Great progress has been made all over the country, in the towns and villages and on the country roads, with regard to facilitating traffic, but one thing that strikes me, with regard to the City of Dublin, is that drastic action is necessary with regard to traffic facilities at College Green. Anybody who comes up along there once in a while must realise that the traffic is held up there more than in any part of the city. It is held up as far as Grafton Street and also as far as O'Connell Bridge. The particular place I refer to is around the railings outside Trinity College. If it were possible to remove the footpath around that bend and allow the traffic to have more of a straight run, I believe that would solve a very serious traffic problem in the city here. Now, the question of what to do with the pedestrians immediately arises on that. I am not an architect or an engineer, but having thought over it very seriously on my way up here to-day, it struck me that at the present time anybody is quite free to walk in on the front gate of Trinity College and it is not regarded as interfering with the amenities of the place to do so. If that is so, I do not see why a passageway, by means of a turnstile or something else, could not be arranged for, to let the people pass through at the front of the College there and out at the other end. I do not know how the Governors of Trinity College would receive such a suggestion, and neither do I know how the Minister would receive it, but I am merely putting it forward.

I know that I have already spoken, Sir, but would I be in order in answering Senator Quirke?

It was not relevant, in any case.

I am asking the Cathaoirleach.

The Senator would not be in order in replying now, but he may ask a question.

I am simply asking you, Sir, as Cathaoirleach, would I be in order in answering Senator Quirke's criticism with regard to Dublin traffic congestion?

It would not be in order now.

I join with the plea made by Senator Sir John Keane for the establishment of some advisory board of artists and architects with a view to preserving the amenities of certain country towns. I have specially in mind the City of Galway, which is a city of a very particular character, but unfortunately the building around Galway is an example of unlimited individualism and, as a result, we find all sorts of horrible excrescences springing up around the beautiful old streets while the houses of 16th and 17th century architecture are being allowed to go into decay. If there were such an advisory board I am perfectly certain that the Corporation would be glad to consult with them. We can see already what can be done by an enlightened body such as that when we look at what has been done in connection with the restoration of Lynch's Castle by the Munster and Leinster Bank.

That is a case of reconstruction being done with perfect taste and perfect knowledge of contemporary architecture, and it has made it one of the most beautiful Irish buildings that could be imagined, of beautiful old Irish domestic architecture and with a fine display of the beautiful marbles for which Galway is famous. What has been done there could be done in other cases. For instances, instead of building some of the new houses there, many of the old buildings could have been turned into flats, and then, of course, a women should be put in charge to see that they are well looked after, and women should be represented on the proposed advisory board. I think that is an idea for the Minister. The Minister knows Galway very well and knows what a beautiful city it was and what a beautiful city it still is, and I am sure he will realise what a dreadful city it may become if we make no change in our plans at the present time. I had not intended to intervene, but Senator Sir John Keane's remarks put that idea in my mind.

I had not intended intervening in this debate but for the fact that Senator Quirke raised two points in one of which I am extremely interested. When the original Town Planning Bill was before the House I put the point to Senator Johnson, who was responsible for its introduction, that some attention should be paid to derelict sites and buildings all over the country. Senator Johnson assured me that such provision was made in the original Bill. We find, however, many years after that the number of buildings which have been deserted and left without roofs is just as great as the number that was there before that measure was introduced. I want to support Senator Quirke's appeal to the Minister to take power in this Bill to make it mandatory on county councils or urban bodies to order the removal of these things in the interests of the tidiness and decency in the country which these town-planning measures are attempting to promote.

The other point that Senator Quirke raised had relation to the thatched house. There is no doubt but that these thatched houses are the most attractive things you can see in the country. You see them in great numbers in other countries where you have wheat-growing areas. The moment you get outside a wheat-growing area, the question of the provision of straw for making the thatch is a very difficult matter. I agree with Senator Quirke that, in the case of the thatched house, you can use very light material. In fact, in the County Kerry they can thatch houses as long as they have a supply of straw and scollops. There is this point to be remembered, that nowadays the wheat crop is cut with a reaper and binder, and in the process of tying the straw it very frequently gets broken. When you come to do thatching with straw of that kind, even the most skilful thatcher will throw it away and say that it is not fit for use. In the part of the country that I come from, in order to overcome that difficulty, they still grow patches of wheat and cut it with a scythe in order to make sure that there is no breakage in the straw.

I doubt very much whether we have in the country the number of thatchers that Senator Quirke says we have. I think we have very few of them. I have heard again and again around my home place that the number of people able to do thatching is gradually growing less and less. There is a further reason which, I think, operates against the thatched house. It is that when a man builds a house he gets a grant, and he hopes that the house is going to last him during his lifetime, and during his son's lifetime, and will not cost anything for repairs. In the case of thatching, no matter how well done it is or how good the straw may be, it will require constant replacement, particularly in the more rainy districts, and that is a charge that always falls on the occupier. Much as I would like to see a great many more thatched houses, in actual fact I do not think that to increase the number would be of advantage to the country.

With regard to the roofing of houses, I would like to have some information from the Minister as regards the supply of slates. It may be that this is a question which should be addressed to the Minister for Industry and Commerce rather than to the Minister for Local Government, but at any rate I am seeking some information. It is well known that the geological surveys show that there are large areas of slate in the country. You have one in the South of Ireland stretching for almost 60 miles over slate hills from Dunmanway.

Attempts have been made at development in patches. They have been carried out on a small scale for the reason that the individuals concerned had not sufficient capital to undertake big development work in Dunmanway and other districts. There appears to be a magnificent slate hill at Court-macsherry in the County Cork. It is almost beside the railway line, but apparently there is no one to develop the production of slates there. People in the country who require supplies of slates find it difficult to get them. The slates they are getting are of a very small size. The quality is all right. I understand that, up to a few years ago, some of the best slates produced here were shipped to Glasgow for use there, while the people at home had to be content with a slate of inferior quality, or with manufactured tiles. It is a matter of grave concern to people engaged in the building of houses that the life of these tiles is an uncertain quantity. It is certain at any rate that the tiles used on houses some years ago, while they may have passed whatever tests they were subjected to, after a short time in use were found to be porous. They admitted the rain and the roofs had to be repaired. One thing at any rate is certain, that a good slate roof is practically everlasting. I have known English and Bangor slates to be taken down after being in use for 100 years, and to be put up again after they had been redressed. The same can be said of the quality of the old Irish slate. I hope the Minister will be able to give me some information on this matter, bearing in mind the amount of large scale building that is going on throughout the country.

I also rise for the purpose of getting some information. I understand that we are discussing a Town Planning Bill.

Yes. That is the business before the House.

I want to suggest to the Minister that it is about time the Government erected a model village, or created what in their opinion would represent one, so as to give a headline to the local authorities throughout the country. It is regrettable, I think, that that has not been done already. If a model, a well-thought-out plan was created by the Government it would be an example for the authorities, and we would be spared the chaotic conditions that prevail in the matter of building throughout the country. The point raised by Senator Robinson could be applied to many areas around the County Dublin. I am sure the Minister knows the situation that exists at Portmarnock. There appears to be a tendency to allow things to go on in that haphazard irregular way that undoubtedly will create trouble in the end.

I agree with all that has been said about the thatched cottage. It is very ornamental and suits the atmosphere of the country. But for various reasons we may not be able to undertake the erection of any more thatched cottages. I am asking for a model village. Would the Minister tell me if there is any central authority for dealing with town planning. So far as I know, there is not, but I think there ought to be. Town planning should not be left to the individual whim of county surveyors or city architects. I know one city architect—I think the Minister knows him too—who has rather crude ideas on architecture, and he occupies a very important position in a city in this country. There, again, the thing is allowed to go on without any directing or central authority to intervene. The Minister is going to a lot of trouble about town planning. I think this Bill is rather late, and that the time is past when we are going to have any development in town planning or in any other class of building work in the country. The matter that I am going to refer to has a direct bearing on town planning. The Dublin Corporation made an appeal for a large loan, but notwithstanding the interest of the Minister and of everybody else the conditions imposed on the corporation will make it impossible for any development in building to take place in the future. Therefore, I think we have got to make the best use of what we have. It is rather late, I think, to come forward with this Bill. Certain powers in the original Act were not put into operation. I hope the Minister, when replying, will deal with the points I have raised.

I am glad that Senator Foran reminded the House that there was a Bill before it, because up to that point I think Senators had been discussing almost every problem that could be said to have any relation to house building. Senator Quirke occupied a good deal of time in putting up arguments against the case which he said Senator Sir John Keane had made, but which, I think, everyone will agree, the Senator did not make.

Hear, hear!

Senator Quirke did not seem to get the point that Senator Sir John Keane was driving at, but what he did say, when taken in conjunction with what Senator Sir John Keane said, was, in my opinion, the strongest argument that could be made for Senator Sir John Keane's point, namely, the establishment of some body which could be looked upon as a directing authority in the matter of housing in the country. I am largely in agreement with what Senator Foran said, that this Bill has probably been brought forward at too late a date. In a short time we ought to have enough houses for all the people. I agree that whatever planning remains to be done ought to have some relation to, and be in harmony with, surrounding conditions as far as possible. Senator Sir John Keane drew attention to the conditions in what he termed a Gaeltacht village. Senator Quirke apparently had no fault to find with the conditions there. They did not offend his eye, but yet his plea that the old style of architecture should be perpetuated as much as possible was, I think, an indication that he is not satisfied with what we are doing in the matter of building. I agree with Senator The McGillycuddy that to put Senator Quirke's idea into operation would not be just as simple as it looks.

I think the main trouble in getting back to the thatched roof and so satisfying our æsthetic sense, is that not alone is there difficulty in getting reapers and binders and in getting thatchers, who are becoming fewer, but the fact that we have no men to wield flails in the country so that to get material for thatched roofs is a practical impossibility. If it were possible to return to the thatched roof certainly it would be a very great improvement on some of the roofs that we see on new structures in rural Ireland.

The bare structures that one sees dotting the landscape as one passes along the roads of our country are all the greater offence to the eye because they are new. It is because these structures are visible to everybody who travels through the country that I think there is some substance in the point made by Senator Sir John Keane. I cannot see how you are going to have a scheme each part of which will contribute towards a harmonious whole, unless you have one directing mind able to look over the country as a whole, directing all your housing plans. If you have the Land Commission segregated from local government, doing its planning for a scheme of houses on a new estate, which is a mile or so outside a country town where an entirely different scheme has been adopted, there is something in the result that is not pleasing, something that is not giving the picture of the country, that would be produced it all our schemes were treated as of a piece. Apart from what the Land Commission may do, or apart from the housing schemes carried out in country towns by the local authorities, you have houses erected by individuals who obtained grants under the housing policy at present operated by the Department, which are most unsightly. If you contrast many of the new buildings with the older thatched houses which they are supposed to replace, from the æsthetic point of view all the advantage lies with the older structure.

It does seem as if we were looking the stable after the steed has been stolen. Notwithstanding the energy that the Minister has put into the housing drive, for which he was paid such high tributes by Senator Madden and others, it is doubtful if this Bill means anything more than that you are going to plan after all your houses have been built. You may go on building more houses in your cities and towns and throughout the countryside, but you are not improving the picture in the countryside, whoever is responsible for the housing schemes. If you are going to have any harmony in building schemes in cities and towns it can only be achieved by having one group of people who will look at the problem as a whole in the country and who will have the same architect or the same artist to plan for the country as a whole. The country is small, and the number of new houses we shall require for the future will not run into many hundreds of thousands, judging by the drift in population. The solution of our housing problem, from that point of view, is not going to be so terrifying as it is sometimes made out to be; but whatever we are going to do about it, there should be some attempt at a common plan. I do not think that Senator Quirke's desire is possible of achievement in the conditions of to-day. If it were the old style of architecture and the old method of roofing houses would be a great improvement on the systems adopted in housing to-day. It is mainly with a view to making the appearance of our housing schemes less displeasing that I urge there is some substance in the point made by Senator Sir John Keane.

We have had a very interesting discussion on this Bill, a very wide and all-embracing debate. I am interested in everything that has been said and the suggestions that have been made for improvement. With regard to the operation of town-planning legislation, there was practically no town-planning legislation, as such, in existence until I introduced the 1934 Act, which we are now proposing to amend. There was power given to local authorities under various Acts, Public Health Acts and Housing Acts, to control in certain limited ways, development of roads, streets and housing but,qua town planning, there was no power in legislation in this country enabling local authorities to make plans for cities and towns and to control development. As I say, the first effort was made in the legislation introduced by me in 1934.

Senator Conlon asked what plans had been adopted by local authorities since 1934. The answer is none. No plans have been actually adopted by any local authority. Of course, one should not leave the answer in that way because a plan takes a considerable time to formulate. The time depends on the size of the area to be planned. The Dublin Corporation have had, for some years now, a number of town-planning experts drawing up a plan for the City of Dublin. It will be some years more before that plan is completed. I do not know, nor do I think anybody knows, how long that plan will take but it is generally expected that it will take some years to complete it. One of the reasons for the legislation we are dealing with to-day is to give to the local authority, the Dublin Corporation, certain additional powers to control developments in the interim, powers which they had not had, even under the 1934 Act. Experience of the working of the 1934 Act has shown that certain additional powers are necessary for the interim period and these powers are being dealt with in the Act now before us.

I should like members of local authorities, and particularly members of the Dáil and Seanad, to discuss the Town Planning Act, more particularly at meetings of the local authorities to which they belong. There are members of the Dáil and members of the Seanad of all Parties who, so far as I know, have not suggested at meetings of their local authorities—county councils, corporations and boards of health—that these local authorities ought to make use of the powers provided by the Dáil and the Seanad to control developments. They have not urged on these authorities, I say with all respect, as much as they should, the necessity for using the powers that are in existence. Many of the evils that were complained of, rightly complained of, with regard to unsightly buildings and other matters, could be dealt with under the legislation that exists if local authorities would avail of that legislation.

With regard to certain types of derelict sites and derelict buildings, there is no power even under the Town Planning Act to deal with them at present. There is a gap there that needs to be filled, and that gap I hope will be filled in the next few months. We have a Bill, which deals with that amongst other matters, in the draftsman's hands at present, and when it is introduced, I hope we shall be able to provide local authorities with all the power that is necessary and that they will have sufficient power to enable them to deal with all the problems that were raised by Senators with regard to derelict sites in town and country.

Senator Sir John Keane suggested a central authority to control development. I have heard that idea put forward by others besides Senator Keane in regard to matters other than town planning. Senator Baxter, Senator The McGillycuddy and others, backed up that idea. I do not know if I was right in interpreting Senator Foran as supporting the same idea. I doubt if he would, though I have a suspicion he did, because I think what these Senators urged the Minister to adopt is a totalitarian idea. What, then, is to become of democratic control of our local authorities? What is to happen if the Minister gets mandatory power and writes down to a local authority saying: "You must to-morrow abolish all the derelict buildings within your district"? Imagine the noise that would be made if the Minister were to send such an order down to our local authorities.

We very seldom issue orders. We issue advice and recommendations and, no matter how mild the language in which the advice is termed, it is usually described as a "ukase" or by some other foreign word, half-understood by the person who uses it. That is the description that is applied to advice or to recommendations sent down by the Minister. If that type of legislation is required, we shall have completely to alter the system of democratic control that has existed in this country and adopt a system that I do not think Senator Foran would welcome very warmly.

May I point out to the Minister that most of the activities of his Department are at present centralised, and why not this one?

We very seldom issue orders.

I do not suggest that you should issue orders. To centralise a Department does not mean that you would have to issue orders.

Local authorities, as a rule, object very strongly to advice from the Minister. In any case, there is nothing in the world to prevent local authorities at present employing professional men such as architects and town planners to give them advice. Of course, they will have to pay for them. In a number of cases, not as many as I would like, they have employed architects who are experts in town planning to advise them. Every local authority is empowered under the Act to operate town planning and has the same power and the same right to seek technical advice, where it is available, provided they pay for it.

Another subject which was developed at length was the type of roofing used in our houses. That has a bearing on town planning, on the æsthetic appearance of the country and the improvement of our housing. Thatching was strongly recommended by several of the Senators, led by Senator Quirke. I understand that the Senator recently went into a new home and I expect that the next time I visit that area he will have half-a-dozen thatchers engaged in replacing whatever may be on the roof with thatch. If he does not do that after his speech to-day, he is very inconsistent. Senator Sir John Keane was not so anxious for it, as far as I recollect, but Senator McGillycuddy will have to follow the example of Senator Quirke if he is to keep the æsthetic conditions which he knows in the country.

As I say, it is only in recent years that anything like town planning has been possible because the legislation did not exist. We were late when we started our Town Planning Bill, because it was only passed in 1934. What Senator Baxter says is quite correct—we were late, but better late than never. There is still development going to go on, and this country, with God's help, is going to grow and build more houses—as many houses as have been built. There have been a good many built since 1923. The last Government started, and we continued at a much greater rate. Thousands have been built, and there will be as many more required before the housing situation is as it should be. There will be a necessity, if we are to develop on proper lines, for the use, and not in the sparing fashion the powers of the town planning legislation have been used up to the present, but to the fullest extent, by the local authorities of the future, if they are allowed to continue to exist and to control development in their own areas, despite what some of our Senators recommend in the way of totalitarian ideas.

Or banking ideas.

Or banking ideas. I quite agree. Ribbon-building of which Senator Fitzgerald spoke was one of the things that the Town Planning Act was intended to control.

Is it not a fact that the law as it stands directs towards ribbon-building? Am I right in thinking that the builders tend to build in ribbon fashion because, by doing so, they impose a certain duty on the local governing bodies?

The Senator is right to a large extent, in this way, that a local authority is bound to provide water and sewerage arrangements. The person who builds a house, or a row of houses, has to connect them with the water and sewerage schemes if there is such. If there is not, the local authority can be made by law to supply water and sewerage arrangements. The cheapest way for the builder is to build his houses in a row. He is not obliged to build them in a row, and the town planning authority in the area can refuse permission to build in a straight row and can compel a builder to build whatever way they decide, but the most economical way is to build in a row. It saves so much per house if the houses are side by side in the attaching of the house to the water and sewerage services. The Senator is quite right there. They are not compelled by law to do it, but it amounts to practically the same thing. The local planning authority, however, has power to make them build otherwise, if it so decides.

And it is being used.

What I feel is that while the local governing bodies have that power, it is very hard to use it and to say to people who own a certain amount of land: "You are not to build in such a way as will make you eligible to receive these amenities provided by the local governing body and we are going to insist on your adding enormously to your cost by building otherwise." It seems to me that so long as that law exists that way, you are necessarily directing towards ribbon-building. I am in this difficulty, that the amendment I should like to propose in this regard would be the changing of a totally different law, or maybe, bye-law. It seems to me that I have to appeal to the Minister to try to change the law in such a way that that inducement to an undesirable action, ribbon-building, will be removed.

As Senator Healy reminds me, one local authority has used already this power to prevent ribbon-building in and around the City of Dublin. It can be done.

It can, but you have to allow for human nature.

You have, but they have imposed very heavy additional costs on private builders in and around the City of Dublin in the last two or three years in order to provide against ribbon-building. Senator Honan referred to urban authorities and the necessity for controlling development in their neighbourhood. They have a certain amount of power under the Town Planning Act to control development in their neighbourhood. It would be better still if the urban council could induce the county council to adopt the Act and to work in concert with them in the drafting of a scheme for the whole area, rather than to have limited schemes drafted for urban areas, no matter how big, without reference to the other and greater local authority which controls the whole area. It would be well in all cases if we could get local authorities to act together—Dublin City and County in conjunction with Kildare and Meath, say. If they could, and would, act together, it would be for the benefit of all, but, so far, these local authorities have not arrived at that stage of understanding of town planning as to show themselves willing to act in that way in all cases.

Senator Mrs. Concannon spoke of Galway. Galway is a city I know since my childhood, when I used to go there to learn Irish. I have watched it grow and develop, and there could not be a greater example of ugly development anywhere than is to be seen in the City of Galway. It is a disgrace to everybody concerned—to the last urban council and the officials, all of whom were responsible in part. It is shocking to see the way that city has been allowed to grow higgledy-piggledy, with any kind of old house built anywhere, without any relation to the city, to its neighbour, or to the surrounding amenities. I hope to God the new local authority and its officials will show greater respect for themselves, for their city, and for their country than that late local authority and its officials showed.

Question put and agreed to.
Committee Stage ordered for Wednesday, 3rd May.