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.