Derelict Sites Bill, 1989: Second Stage (Resumed).

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

I was dealing with the question of the constitutionality of the Bill, particularly with reference to section 12 (3). I was suggesting that it might have been one of those principles of natural justice, that is, that no man can act as a judge in his own cause. It would appear that in the old Act there was a provision to appeal to the Minister when a notice of dereliction was served by the local authority. I find no provision in this Bill for that. I ask the Minister, therefore, to look carefully at this section to see if he could restore what was in the old Act.

All in all, this Bill is a tremendous step forward and is a serious attempt to eradicate dereliction. As such, I recommend it to the House.

I would like to welcome this legislation. It is a Bill which has been pending for some time and, indeed, a Bill the formulation and contents of which received much attention from John Boland, the former Minister for the Environment, and whose Private Members' Bill, I would like to suggest, indeed, prompted the introduction of this Bill.

The main purpose of this legislation is to provide for the most effective arrangements against urban blight, decay, dereliction and dilapidation. The Long Title of this Bill states that it seeks first, to make a provision with respect to land to prevent it being or becoming a derelict site; second, to enable local authorities to require the taking of measures on derelict sites by the owners or occupiers; third, to enable local authorities in certain circumstances to acquire derelict sites by compulsory acquisition; fourth, to enable local authorities to establish registers of derelict sites; fifth, to enable the Minister for the Environment to give directions in relation to derelict sites and sixth, to provide for a derelict sites levy.

It is, of course, true that one of the earliest, and indeed one of the most enduring, purposes and objectives of local government in Ireland has been to minimise and to control the impact of dereliction and dilapidation in urban areas, in our cities, towns and villages. However, the principal concern of the various town improvement Acts and public health legislation of the last century was with the physical and health dangers to the public arising from neglected buildings. With the passing of the Derelict Sites Act, 1940 and its successor, the Derelict Sites Act, 1961, the primary emphasis was focused on the amenity and visual aspects of land dereliction. However, these Acts had a number of serious limitations.

The 1940 Derelict Sites Act enabled local authorities to secure the clearance of derelict sites but only by acquisition or the threat of acquisition. On the other hand, the 1961 Act did not apply to dwellings, and could only be used when the sites had actually become dangerous, or indeed injurious to health or to the amenities of a particular neighbourhood. It would, of course, as the Minister has indicated be wrong and, indeed, counterproductive to build too much complexity into derelict sites' legislation. The basic purpose of such legislation must be, and should be, to prevent and to quickly remedy situations which are immediately and obviously offensive from an environmental point of view.

There is no doubt but that urban dereliction has become very extensive. It poses a serious problem in many of our cities, towns and villages. It takes away very much from the attractiveness of these places to our own people, to tourists and, indeed, to potential industrialists. So wide is the problem that the enactment of modern and efficient legislation is of paramount importance.

This Bill contains ten main provisions and they will be welcomed especially by those of use who are members of local authorities. I welcome them as a member of a local authority, Limerick Corporation, for the past 22 years and also as Chairman of the Limerick Inner City Urban Renewal Committee.

The first provision under section 3 of the Bill is designed to widen the definition of derelict site so as to include structures which are dwellings. The second provision under section 8 will require local authorities to maintain a register of all derelict sites. The third provision under section 9 places a general duty on owners and occupiers of land to prevent land from becoming or continuing to be a derelict site. The fourth provision under section 10 places a duty on local authorities to take all reasonable steps to ensure that land in their functional area does not become or continue to be a derelict site.

The fifth provision under section 11 improves the enforcement powers for local authorities against dereliction and dilapidation. The sixth provision under section 12 reserves powers to the Minister for the Environment to direct enforcement action by a local authority or remedial action in relation to land owned by a local authority. The seventh provision under section 13 enables the Minister for the Environment, after consultation with the appropriate Minister, to direct any statutory body to dispose of land in their possession which is derelict and which is not necessary for the performance of their statutory functions.

The eighth provision under sections 15 to 19 provides for improvement procedures in relation to the compulsory acquisition of derelict land by local authorities. The ninth provision under sections 21 to 26 provides for an annual levy based on the market value on certain derelict sites in urban areas. The tenth provision provides increased penalties in respect of the summary and indictable offences.

These are ten very worth-while, important aims and objectives in this legislation. However, on closer scrutiny I have a number of misgivings about this Bill. The definition of dereliction, as contained in the Bill, does not mean what the ordinary person thinks it means. Under this legislation dereliction can be avoided by somebody whe merely tarmacadams a piece of land in a priority area and leaves it there, clean and tidy. Under this legislation it appears to me that nobody is obliged to build on a site and this is one of the fundamental weaknesses of this Bill.

There are, perhaps, indeed legal and constitutional problems related to certain sections of the Bill and we will be able to discuss that in more detail on Committee Stage. I am pleased to note that section 24 of the Bill, as initiated, has been amended on its passage through the Dáil to take account of the view expressed by Mr. Michael McDowell when he as a Member of the other House that section 24 was constitutionally infirm. He rightly stressed that the method of imposing the levy seemed to be arbitrary and to delegate extraordinary powers to the Minister for the Environment, allowing him, at his discretion, to vary the amount of the levy as between one place and another. I hope the Bill is now legally and constitutionally safe although it may have to be looked at again.

We owe a considerable debt of gratitude to Mr. Michael McDowell for the way he advanced amendment of the Bill as it passed through the Dáil. However, I do not see any acknowledgment from the Minister or the Minister of State or any spokesman for the Government in this regard.

It would be wrong to give the impression that measures to deal with land dereliction and urban blight are the exclusive preserve of derelict sites legislation. Our physical planning system has, as one of its most important objectives, the preservation of amenities by local authorities and the renewal of obsolete areas. The special scheme of urban renewal introduced by the previous Government in the Urban Renewal Act of 1986 was also designed to make intensive provision for the renewal of designated areas in cities and towns. That scheme has now been in place for over three years and has achieved considerable success. It was in that context, and realising the need for overall national urban renewal as envisaged in the 1986 Act, that I, as Mayor of Limerick, stated on 5 May 1986:

The urban renewal momentum has been greatly encouraged by the package of tax incentives for inner city redevelopment and reconstruction announced by the Government on 23 October 1985 and applied to cities such as Limerick by John Boland when he was Minister for the Environment when on 25 March 1986 he designated a comprehensive and coherent zone of 39 acres in Limerick which qualified for the special programme of tax and rate incentives.

That package of financial measures to promote urban renewal and development of substantial areas of our city represented for us in Limerick a very exciting and challenging development.

The purpose of the 1986 Act was to bring new life to the run down areas at the core of cities so that these areas would again become attractive areas for living, working, shopping and leisure amenities. As the Chairman of the Limerick City Urban Renewal Committee since 1986, I am pleased to put on record that Limerick is now very much to the forefront of cities in this matter of urban renewal and has responded quickly and wholeheartedly to the Government initiatives on inner city redevelopment.

Limerick Corporation now see themselves as a development broker bringing together land owners, developers and potential investors and doing everything we can to facilitate development and redevelopment proposals. After an aggressive marketing programme and with the able and fantastic assistance of Shannon Free Airport Development Company, we now have an overall investment in excess of £50 million for the designated area. All this has been achieved in the short period of three years. This designated area in Limerick includes much improvement city areas as Arthur's Quay, Charlotte Quay, John's Gate and the important river front area from King John's Castle to Sarsfield House. The £15 million multi-use complex at Arthur's Quay which commenced two years ago has already opened and comprises retail amenity office and multistorey car parking. The new £6 million city centre at Merchants Quay which commenced approximately 12 months ago and which is situated on the river front will be ready for use by corporation officials and others in March 1990 and will comprise a mayoral chamber, a council chamber, administrative offices, sports facilities and a museum.

The 1986 legislation and the 1989 legislation which we are now about to pass should be read together. I also believe that an extension of the time limits and a judicious review of the geographic boundaries would further encourage the development and enhance the urban fabric.

I would like to welcome very strongly the main provisions of this Bill. If there are some legal and constitutional problems we can have them teased out at Committee Stage.

In February of this year I had the pleasure as a Member of Dáil Éireann of speaking on the Derelict Sites Bill 1989. On that occasion I welcomed the Bill and expressed the view that it was a sound legislative measure that was overdue. I am delighted to have this opportunity to speak further on it and to substantiate my contribution by update of references to matters related to the notion of dereliction.

I listened to the debate over the last week and I will mention one or two points that were made by some of the Senators. I was glad to hear Senator Hederman mention the impact that the Tidy Towns competition has had on the environment and in particular the role that competition has played in eliminating dereliction in towns throughout the country. I would like to say to the Minister and to the Minister of State that the Department of the Environment should have a role in that competition. It is one of the most important competitions in the country. I have been a member of the Malahide Tidy Towns Committee for the last seven years and former chairman and have been lucky enough to have been involved with some great people in that regard.

I know the role the competition plays throughout the country. I will come back to that later. I want to say, in the absence of the two Ministers that I hope they will take on board the idea that the Department of the Environment be involved in promoting funding for that competition. Bord Fáilte are heavily involved in it but the Department of the Environment should be, too.

I found it extraordinary that Senator Costello did not refer to the tax incentives that have been provided by the Government for areas of dereliction. Last Sunday's Business Post had a major article on inner city tax breaks and on what can be achieved. Last Saturday's Evening Press had a headline that about £500 million worth of investment in Dublin related to tax incentive schemes. It is extraordinary that in this regard Senator Costello's contribution was negative.

In fairness, a great deal has been done over the last two years to try to eliminate dereliction. Senator Costello also made the point and asked the Minister to answer it — I am sure he will have no problem next week when we come back to this Bill — as to the funding and personnel that would be involved in the establishment of a register of derelict sites.

Senator Eoin Ryan, speaking last week, mentioned that the corporation had already put in place a register of derelict sites. Dublin County Council, the local authority I am involved with, are already putting such a register in place too. I do not see any problem in regard to implementing this very important provision. Cost and personnel are not major problems.

Senator Naughten rightly said that thatched cottages were something that should be preserved to ensure that they remained part and parcel of rural and urban life. In north County Dublin we are very pleased that many property owners have thatched roofs and are very keen to keep them. As Senator B. O'Keeffe mentioned, Cork County Council have brought in a scheme. I am very pleased to say that Dublin County Council recently brought in a scheme to grant-aid the refurbishment of thatched cottages and so forth and to promote the idea that applicants for planning permission would be encouraged, where suitable, to provide thatched cottages. While the money this year is limited, I have no doubt that the concept of promoting and grant-aiding thatched cottages is worth while. I am delighted that the scheme was unanimously passed at a recent council meeting. These are important issues that are coming in place.

I wish to deal first with section 8 of the Bill as I believe the compilation of a register of derelict sites by local authorities in their respective functional areas is a key factor in dereliction control. The Bill broadens the definition of derelict site as it was understood in the Derelict Sites Act, 1961. It very wisely includes lands which already detract to a material degree from the amenity, character and appearance of land in the neighbourhood of the land in question as well as lands likely to detract in this manner. I am sorry that Senator Manning is not here because he would know in this area the old Baldoyle racecourse. That has been lying there for about ten years. We also have a position now where a major planning application is in front of us for the Phoenix Park racecourse. Without going into what might happen to that application, at least this Bill will make sure, if the decision were to be against the application, that we would not have the same situation that prevails in the racetrack in Baldoyle. Again, it is something very important. It will come into effect straightaway on an issue such as that.

This latter clause allows for the consideration of incipient dereliction as a proper focus for the attention of local authorities. This dovetails neatly with the provisions of section 8 concerning the compilation of a register of derelict sites. Such a register could consist of properties already derelict and as such would not take into account cases of incipient dereliction, where in the view of engineers or other appropriate professional persons, the state of lands in question would be likely to deteriorate further to an ultimate state of total dereliction. Owners of such properties could be advised of this and made aware of the penalties and restrictions to which they would be subjected in the event of further deterioration.

I have in mind the other side of the dereliction coin, which is preservation. Such a register could, or should, I suggest, advert to the significant features of any site and where necessary cite any other Act of the Legislature which would relate to their upkeep or preservation. In recent weeks we have had the unauthorised demolition of Talbot Lodge, Grove Avenue, Blackrock, which, unfortunately, was not yet listed but had been noted for listing in the Dublin County Development Plan. We had demolition of property of historic and architectural note on the public quays and we had the case of the recovery in Newry by the RUC of two 18th century fireplaces which had been taken from a listed building in Parnell Square.

I believe a register of derelict sites would be of value in the field of preservation just as much as the control of dereliction. The Bill does not lay down in minute detail how this register shall be compiled, nor does it essentially limit the extent and the exact detail it might usefully contain. This gives scope for an innovative, constructive approach by local authorities along the lines I have just mentioned. The Bill directs the local authorities to compile the register within one year after the commencement of this Act and thereaftr maintain it.

I hope that the notion of maintenance is sufficiently directed to ensure that each local authority would carry out an annual review of the register and that the maintenance of it would make it obligatory to keep it constantly open for new entries in the interim period. I would like to see this register as an instrument that would have a very public life so that the concept of dereliction prevention would be placed firmly centre stage in the public consciousness. This could be assisted in two ways. First, I would like to see a copy of the register readily accessible to the general public in each area, town or borough. The local public library might serve this purpose. On the occasion of a formal annual review of the register, inspection of the register for the purpose of new submissions, additions and deletions should be invited by way of public notice. While the Bill requires the local authority to inform the owner of a site prior to its inclusion in the register, it might be useful and give a spin-off benefit if through the public awareness measures I have mentioned, citizens could see there is a process in place to redress negligence of civic duty in this regard.

Major black spots of dereliction tend to get a lot of attention while we tend to ignore the lesser sites and sometimes these are even more hazardous or unsightly. It was good to read in the newspapers in recent days that Dublin City Manager, Frank Feely, said that £500 million would be spent over the next five years on derelict sites in Dublin. This large sum represents a huge investment in replacement works which will not only transform the sites visually and aesthetically but will mean that the replacement developments will provide employment during the period of construction and afterwards there will be sustainable employment in commerce, manufacture and specialist services.

The Dublin docklands transformation is a good example of innovative derelict sites use. I am aware that in towns and cities throughout the country there are sites of this nature that have had their initial purpose outpaced by the March of time and as a result, have been neglected. They are often disused railway yards and dock facilities or mills. The reasons for choosing them initially to fulfil a commercial or industrial role are as valid today as they were in the past. There is a greater opportunity today for such developments as we approach 1992. Location today is not so tied to factors like transport, market nearness, et cetera. We should exploit our great assets in our young, well-educated and highly skilled work-force. We should marry all these factors in attractive packages to lure overseas investors to come to us rather than have us export our expensively educated and trained brainpower to their home bases.

I quote all this to show the persuasive values which I see in this Bill. In addition to the large sites already adverted to, there are many substantial buildings which, despite the passage of time, the ravages and neglect, somehow managed to remain structurally sound and which would present opportunity to developers with an eye for the architecturally beautiful, cut stone, et cetera. It is a great pity that such fine premises should be allowed to fall into disrepair and irredeemable decay. Finally they reach the stage where the awful sentence of dereliction is pronounced. For the most part they are buildings of great and enduring character and it would be a pity if under the terms of this Bill there was an inconsidered rush to demolish them. Demolition is not the best remedy for derelict buildings and should be the remedy of the last resort. Rather than act hastily in this way, consideration should be given to the possibility of restoration and a continued life in another capacity.

Members of the House will remember the sad fate of the old Grammar School in Drogheda, which, like the Talbot Lodge already mentioned, was pulled down. Buildings like these are not easily replaced with modern structures of equal dignity. At a time when enterprise is central to all modern theories of economic advancement, we should seriously consider converting such buildings to enterprise centres in order to stimulate local manufacture and enterprise. An employment group in Malahide, of which I was a member, were able to convert an old school that was lying idle there, into a worthwhile community enterprise venture. There are many committees throughout the country involved in community enterprise. The IDA's project, Enterprise Space Limited, is probably a way where an old factory or mill could be restored. Senator O'Keeffe suggested the extension of the tax incentive in section 27 to this type of project. There are many buildings in different parts of the country which could be converted to enterprise centres. This would ensure the upkeep of the property and provide much needed enterprise space for the promotion of business and the creation of jobs. The scheme in Malahide that I have referred to has taken persons who may have been working from a garage or a house in the black economy, into the system. In my view, this is very much self-financing.

The Minister should discuss with the Minister for Finance the question of having section 27 extended to the type of promotion where an old building is developed by private investor, that he or she would get relief on the rents that accrue later. I would like this type of development to be encouraged by an extension of the provisions of section 27 so that the refurbishment of buildings such as old mills, warehouses and schools could be carried out at little or no cost to the Exchequer. Instead of wrecking or levelling of buildings with a one man JCB the owners could be encouraged to replace dereliction with development and thus provide valuable workspace units on such leasehold or rental terms as would allow the owner to recoup in time his or her outlay by writing off the capital cost against rents accruing from the development. That is something that might be looked at.

This does not represent such a big concession as it at first seems. For example, there are very attractive tax breaks available to encourage the revitalisation of inner cities within the designated areas. This means that a person on a particular rate of tax actually earns income by renting a premises within a designated area or alternatively a person willing to acquire and to redevelop old premises, may avail of capital allowances which can be offset against current income. These tax breaks apply to inner city zones in Dublin, Cork and Limerick and other areas as well as to a sizeable list of provincial centres. It applies even to buildings or restoration of dwellings in designated areas. My proposal is more simple. It is to ask that the concession of section 27 relief be extended to derelict sites in non-designated areas where the restoration and redevelopment works would be for the purpose of providing enterprise workspace.

If I could be parochial for two sentences. In my constituency, the town of Balbriggan, an area where there is very high unemployment, unfortunately, and a lack of investment both public and private, there are many old factories that with the right type of tax incentives would be redeveloped. This would have a major impact in improving the environment and more importantly or equally importantly would provide jobs. I hope to have an opportunity to come back to the Ministers on that, to see if that town can be helped.

I would like to make a few points about the city and the corporation. The present physical planning system envisages as a priority the preservation of amenities and the renewal of obsolete areas. However, over the past ten to 15 years we have seen the complete dereliction of Aston's Quay and Batchelor's Walk just yards from the centre of the capital city. This dereliction was a joint effort between Dublin Corporation and the property owners. It is not true or fair to theorise that if the development plans, planning enforcement and urban renewal incentives were doing the job, we would not have any dereliction. The ridiculous road planning schemes adopted by Dublin Corporation were the main contributory factor to this dereliction. Over the years owners of property were not permitted to redevelop pending the implementation of the new ring road systems proposed. This resulted in property being allowed to become derelict while awaiting compensation or compulsory purchase orders. It is for this reason that the problem in Dublin is extensive. I would like to suggest to the Minister that a more flexible approach should be adopted in the development plans at present under review in relation to derelict sites.

I genuinely believe that temporary permission should be encouraged even for non-conforming uses. These uses may from time to time be in conflict with the zoning of the area but would be of great social use to the community — scout dens and various other community uses could be allowed where there is this type of road lines. The idea of a temporary permission is worth pursuing. It is something that would possibly eliminate the situation we have had in the capital city over the years, while waiting for road lines to come on board. This dereliction has been spoken of by many Senators over the last couple of weeks.

I am pleased that the powers in this Bill will put an end to carelessness or neglect on the part of local authorities in dealing with their own derelict sites. Under section 11 the duty of reasonable action falls on the local authority. Section 12 goes on to outline the power of the local authority to take action directly or to make the owner take action. This is where the Bill is clearly a two-edged instrument. It would be very difficult for a local authority to apply the powers under this Bill against a third party if at the same time they were failing in their duty as the owner/occupier of lands. The powers conferred on the Minister in section 13 should prove an effective break on any local authority whose lands might fall short of the requirements.

Finally, if I might turn to the implications for the environmental aspect of tourism in so far as dereliction is a factor, one of the great annual events in Irish tourism, is the Bord Fáilte Tidy Towns Competition. Under the aegis of this competition, many derelict sites have been eradicated by the voluntary workers, who year after year by sheer persistency and unremitting effort have done incalculable work in the reduction of dereliction. Having attended the annual award winners press conference on six occasions when Malahide was awarded the accolade of the Tidiest Large Town, I am well aware of the views of tidy towns campaigners on the problem of dereliction. From Bord Fáilte personnel I am aware of the negative impact which derelict blackspots have on visitors. With those two perspectives very much in mind, I could never overstate what I perceive to be the value of this legislation.

This Bill will do great things for tourism and for Irelands clean, green image. The image of Ireland as a clean green island on the fringe of Western Europe is a key point in the marketing strategy of food exporters. Anything we do to boost this image greatly enhances the marketability of our food abroad. We must never forget that the IDA and other agencies and individuals are constantly seeking to woo foreign investment so as to create employment. Investing companies use personnel from the company base to oversee subsidiaries. These foreign managers will not choose to live in areas whose landscape is married by dereliction. When acts of vandalism occur we are very quick to lay blame usually on teenagers who very often are obliged to live out their young lives in the shadow of derelict buildings. They are surrounded by derelict sites and the physical evidence of decay and neglect. The owners of the buildings live elsewhere and find it easy to condemn these young people.

This Bill has as one of its ingredients environmental reform which is the forerunner of social reform. The Bill has both direct and indirect values which will in time realise to all of our advantage. It is a very important Bill and taken together with other legislation for the control of litter, it will bring us close to the ideal of a clean green country. I am very happy to congratulate the Minister on promoting this Bill. I sincerely hope it will pass through the Seanad as quickly as possible so that it can come into force.

Shíl mé go mbeinn ag cur fáilte roimh an Leas-Chathaoirleach, fear ón nGaeltacht, agus bhí Aire Stáit ón nGaeltacht i láthair beagáinín roimhe seo. Ní hé nach bhfuil fáilte roimh an Leas-Chathaoirleach agus roimh an Aire Stáit atá anois i láthair ach go ndealraítear domsa go bhfuil an Teach seo tréigthe, ar nós an Bhille atá os ár gcomhair. Tá sé tréigthe ó thaobh theanga de. Fáiltím go speisialta roimh an reachtaíocht. Is iontach an dul chun cinn i meoin an phobail agus an Rialtais a léirítear ann, d'ainneoin na lochtanna a ghabhann leis. Tá iarracht mhacánta á dhéanamh chun an talamh agus na foirgintí tréigthe a chur de láimh. Cúis ríméide domsa ab ea an tAcht um Urban Renewal/Athnuachan na gCathracha, 1987. Thug mé féin faoi deara an t-athrú mór chun feabhais a tháinig ar chathair na Gaillimhe i leith thithíochta, siopaí agus mar sin de, de bharr an Achta seo. Do fiafraíodh díom le déanaí agus mé ag dul trí Ghailleamh, ar son Chlár Gay Byrne, na cúig chuimhní ba mhó a bhí agam d'imeachtaí na ndeich mbliana atá caite, agus ba é an príomh cuimhne a bhí le lua agam ná an teabhas mór atá tagtha ar chathair na Gaillimhe. Feictear domsa go bhfuil an Bille seo ag cur barr feabhais ar an obair sin. Is dóigh liom, leis, go bhfuil aitheantas cuí á thabhairt do chomórtas na mBailte Shlachtmhara agus don tréan iarracht atá déanta aige lena chinntiú go rabhthas ag fáil réidh le ana-chuid seanithe agus foirgintí a bhí ag milleadh bóithre, bailte agus cathracha.

Ba mhaith liom, freisin, comhghairdeas a dhéanamh le Telecom Éireann, cé go gceapfaí nach raibh mórán ceangail idir Telecom Éireann agus tailte tréigthe. Cupla bliain ó shin, áfach, nuair a bhí mé féin ag obair ar oileán Árann tháinig plean chugainn ó Thelecom Éireann chun malartán beag a thógáil ar oileán ann. Mhol mé féin agus comharchumann beag eile ar Inis Meáin, arbh é Proinnsias Ó Dónaill an bainisteoir, do Thelecom Éireann, athsmaoineamh a dhéanamh ar an bplean agus díon ceann tuí a chur ar an bhfoirgneamh a bhí á thógáil. Mhol sé freisin go n-úsáidfí clocha de dhéanamh na háite ann in ionad na ngnáthclocha stroighin. D'athraigh siad a gcuid pleananna agus rinneadar amhlaidh. Tá malartán breá le feiceáil anois ar an oileán le clocha dúchasacha agus ceann tuí air. Murach Telecom Éireann dob fhéidir go mbeimís ag tagairt d'áit tréigthe nó d'fhoirgneamh tréigthe go gairid sa láithreán sin. Labhair an Seanadóir a ghabh romham faoi thithe tuí i dtuaisceart Bhaile Átha Cliath agus is eol dom go bhfuil scéim dá shórt i Loch Garman, ach ní miste a lua gurb é polasaí an Rialtais agus polasaí Roinn an Gaeltachta is cúis le ana-chuid laithreán tréigthe a bheith le feiscint thart fán dtír faoi rialacha tithíochta na Gaeltachta, toisc nárbh fhéidir deontas tithíochta a fháil gan an seanteach tuí a leagadh go talamh agus an díon a bhriseadh. Is doígh liom go ndearna an reachtaíocht Ghaeltachta sin níos mó dochair do radharcanna na Gaeltachta ná mar a rinne ní ar bith eile.

Ní foláir dúinn a bheith cúramach agus sinn ag labhairt faoi thithe agus thailte tréighte mar go bhfuil an oiread sin seantithe ann, go háirithe in iarthar na tíre ar a dtugtar "sráidbhailte tréigthe", agus b'shin a ghlaoití ar na háiteacha seo fadó. Bhíodh cúig no sé cinn de thithe le chéile in aon bhaile amháin agus tithe cheann tuí a bhíodh iontu uilig. Tá an-chuid de na tithe seo scriosta agus tréigthe ach fós féin tá conablach na mbailte beaga seo le feiceáil agus bheadh faitíos orm go mbreathnófaí ar na háiteacha sin mar áiteacha tréigthe faoi théarmaí an Bhille seo, agus go mbeadh an fhaill ann chun iad a leagadh. Tithe tréighte atá iontu gan amhras; cúig nó sé cinn de thithe inar mhair ár seacht sinsear de lúth agus d'fhuinneamh na Gaeltachta. Oidhreacht na hÉireann is ea iad. Níl fuinneog ná doras sna tithe seo; tá siad uilig titithe isteach ach mar sin féin, ba thrua dá gcuirfeadh Bille mar seo deireadh le iarsmaí, mar a thabharfaidh mé orthu, in ionad iad a chaomhnú agus a atógáil mar déanadh le roinnt tithe den chineál seo.

Fáiltím roimh an mBille sa mhéid is go bhfuil sé i gceist ann roinnt mhaith de na seanlaithreáin tréigthe atá le feiscint sa chathair seo agus i gcathracha eile a fheabhsú. Buíochas le Dia go bhfuil siad ag imeacht sciobtha go leor agus tá eiseamlár don tír ar fad le sonrú i gcathair na Gaillimhe. Molaim do Sheanadóirí cuairt a thabhairt ar lár na cathrach, an chéad uair eile a bhéas éinne acu i nGailleamh, agus feicfidh siad go bhfuil na laithreáin uilig a bhí tréigthe, athfhorbairte anois, agus go bhfuil siad beo anois le daoine, agus foirgintí nua ann.

Ábhar imní domsa i leith an Bhille seo — agus tá súil agam go bpléfear amach anseo é, ar an gcéad chéim eile — ná an chiall atá le "urban area" mar atá sé anseo. Tugann sé isteach an focal "contae" ach is é an tuiscint a bheadh agamsa agus ag go leor daoine eile maidir leis an mBille seo ná go mbaineann sé le baile nó le sráidbhaile nó le cathair agus gur beag baint atá aige le contae, leis na páirceanna agus leis an dtalamh atá lasmuigh de na bailte. Ba mhaith liom míniúchán sásúil a fháil ón Aire ar an gciall atá leis an bhfocal "baile" nó "urban area", ní faoi mar a chuimsítear sa Bhille é. Má chiallaíonn sé an rud a cheapaimse go gciallaíonn sé tá mé ag ceapadh go mbeimid i dtrioblóid leis an mBille seo.

Tá sé ráite in alt 4 go gciallaíonn "laithreán tréigthe" talamh ar bith. Ní deir sé go gciallaíonn sé teach nó foirgneamh ar bith. Is trua nach bhfuil an tuiscint iomlán agamsa faoin a bhfuil ráite ansin mar gheall ar thalamh tréigthe, mar go ndeir sé go mbaineann sé le talamh ar bith a bhaineann ó áilleacht na háite agus a chuireann drochchaoi ar thalamh timpeall air. I bhfo-alt (b) d'alt 4, tagraítear, ní do theach nó d'fhoirgneamh ach do thalamh. Deir sé, i leith aon talamh nach mbeadh ag breathnú go maith nó a bheadh tréigthe, go bhfeádfaí an tAcht a chur i bhfeidhm i leith na talún sin. Ciallaíonn sé, seo, dar liom, go bhfuil talamh nó foirgneamh i gceist ag an mBille agus más amhlaidh, creidim go mbeidh ar an Aire nó ar an Rialtas, an Bille seo a leasú.

I wish to thank the many Senators for their very interesting contributions to this debate. These reflect the complexity and the urgency of problems of land that decay. The concerns expressed by Senators bear out the timeliness and the relevance of the Bill and I hope we will see it implemented very shortly.

In his opening contribution the Minister cautioned that the present Bill would not provide all the solutions to the problems. As Senator Costello explained, of course the Bill is a limited but important measure, designed primarily to place a clear onus on individual property owners to keep their properties in a reasonable condition.

Senators Hederman and Norris in particular have dealt with the questions of urban decay and urban renewal against a very wide background. As Minister of State with special responsibility for urban renewal, I greatly appreciate the interest expressed by the Members of this House in the success of the urban renewal scheme. I was glad to hear Senator Ó Foighil speak about the great progress that has been made in Galway. I am very pleased with that. That is one of the success areas in regard to urban renewal. It has been a wonderful success in Galway and I would like to congratulate everyone concerned.

Senator Jackman rightly emphasised the need for a thorough and effective implementation of the Bill. In this regard, she mentioned first that regulations would have to be introduced by the Minister. It is true that the Bill provides in a number of instances for the making of regulations. However, it does not by any standards depend heavily on regulations. I would like to assure the House that this aspect will not hold up the implementation of the Bill.

Senator Jackman referred also to limitations on local authority staffing resources and argued that these might restrict the proper implementation of the Bill. Senators Naughten and Hederman also took up this point. I do not accept this argument. This Bill is principally about providing better powers for local authorities and in particular about encouraging them to take preventive action. This approach should prevent the emergence of further chronic problems and in future it should actually ease the burden of administration on local authorities in a number of other areas — for instance, that of dangerous buildings control.

I would like to confirm for Senator Jackman that the derelict sites levy will apply automatically to all existing urban areas, including Newcastle West. The Minister will have a further power to extend the scope of urban areas — for example, to smaller non-municipal towns — so that the levy can be applied within these also. I intend to consult all the county councils for their views as to areas within their jurisdiction to which the levy could usefully be applied.

Regarding the scheme of urban renewal grants which I mentioned during my contribution, I should clarify for Senator Jackman and others that the £2 million available in 1989 and again in 1990 is for complementary works by local authorities in designated areas. This is quite separate from the tax and the rates incentives designed for private developers. These tax incentives, under present law, will expire in May 1991. Might I say that the £2 million that has been allocated this year and next year — I think Senator Hederman will agree with me here — is being put to very good use in the Dublin area. I think Senator Wright will also agree with me here. I would instance the lovely pavement job that is being done by Dublin Corporation. I would like to congratulate everyone concerned in that. It was something I had very strong views on. I felt that, as well as the urban renewal programme and bringing in all these incentives, the paving and lighting would be brought up to a high standard so that we would have the capital city looking extremely well. I am glad to say that is being brought about now.

I am also glad to say that this year has seen an upsurge in development here in Dublin and throughout the country in general, because in Dublin now everything is going extremely well. In so far as I can ascertain, development now throughout the country, excluding the Custom House Dock, will be amounting to about £312 million.

There have been some comments in regard to the charging of the levy. Some would say that that should have been put into a special fund, but we cannot have it both ways. We are looking for powers for the members of local authorities and corporations. We want powers and we say that. If I or the Minister say that this levy should go into a special fund, I do not think members of local authorities would respect us for that. They are all intelligent people, as I know them. I would say that whatever money they collect in levies will be put to good use in all their areas. I would like to leave the powers with them.

Senator Ryan was concerned about the difficulty of establishing ownership of derelict sites. I would like to assure him that the Bill contains a number of devices to overcome this problem, as we will see on Committee Stage.

Senator Hederman spoke in detail about the historical causes of dereliction here in Dublin and about the need for a coherent urban renewal policy if the inner city is to be rid of dereliction. I have already indicated that we did not see the entire onus of this task resting on the present Bill. The Bill will make many worth-while improvements to the powers of the local authorities to deal with urban decay but it cannot on its own provide all of the solutions to the work of physically regenerating all our cities and towns.

The Bill is designed to apply to the whole country. While it will have a particular relevance to Dublin and other major urban areas, I would be reluctant to be drawn into a long response to the historical aspects highlighted by Senators Hederman and Norris in relation to the Dublin situation. The tendencies towards suburbanisation and relocation from Dublin inner city go back a very long way. These were necessitated in part by the huge increase in the overall Dublin population, which has trebled in the past century, as well as by the unacceptable housing conditions and population densities existing in some inner city areas in Dublin.

Whatever the misjudgments of the previous housing and planning policies in Dublin or elsewhere, we must face the present day problem of urban decay as we find it and seek to adopt the best solutions for its remedy. Increasing residential land use in inner city areas is a vital element in urban renewal. The major contributions to inner city housing in the past ten to 15 years has come from local authorities. Some 2,500 new houses have been provided under this programme, for the most part in Dublin. The IDA have also, over the past ten years, been providing specially designed industrial estates in Dublin and Cork with the specific purpose of encouraging urban renewal. As I stated earlier, this has been a great success. I am glad to say that especially this year all of the land in the designated areas in Dublin is being disposed of, or there is a commitment involved. Much of it now is in the planning process. I am delighted with that, because some had reservations in regard to whether it would go so well. Some had doubts but I am glad to say now that this has brought about wonderful development here and has created great employment.

I want to say that when we come to deal with Committee Stage I will be only too glad to go into the various aspects of the Bill in great detail with Senators, because I know you would like me to expand and explain all the relevant details and be as helpful as I possibly can. That will be my aim. In the meantime I want to express my sincere thanks to all the Senators for their excellent contributions to the Bill. Their contributions are very much appreciated.

Question put and agreed to.
Committee Stage ordered for Tuesday, 19 December 1989, subject to the agreement of the Whips.