Compulsory Purchase Orders (Extension of Time Limits) Bill 2010: Second and Subsequent Stages

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

I thank the House for taking this Bill at short notice. This is a small two section Bill with just one section of a substantive nature.

The amendment to section 217(6) of the Planning and Development Act 2000 proposed in this Bill was introduced on Committee Stage in the Dáil during discussions on the Planning and Development (Amendment) Bill 2009, which was initiated here in the Seanad. That Bill is due to return to the Seanad next week for report and conclusion.

Unfortunately a timing issue has arisen which has necessitated the introduction at short notice of this Compulsory Purchase Orders (Extension of Time limits) Bill 2010 to deal solely with the amendment to section 217(6) of the Planning and Development Act. Under section 217(6), once An Bord Pleanála confirms a compulsory purchase order, the local authority has 18 months in which to serve notices to treat on any landowner affected. If they fail to do so, the CPO lapses.

Where judicial review proceedings are taken the likely timeframe for reaching a conclusion means the CPO notices to treat may expire before the legal action concludes. The difficulty this presents is that the work undertaken and expense incurred by local authorities on schemes that go into judicial review but which are subsequently given the go-ahead, will then be redundant because the prescribed time period for the CPO has expired.

Such a situation may arise if this Bill is not enacted today. The project involved is the Galway city outer bypass where, as the result of a referral to the European Court of Justice arising from a challenge to the An Bord Pleanála approval for the road scheme, the CPO 18 months limit will expire at midnight tonight.

As the Bill providing for the amendment to section 217 of the Planning and Development Acts will not be enacted in time to deal with the lapse of the Galway CPO notices to treat, a Bill has been prepared which contains the relevant provision from the proposed Planning and Development (Amendment) Bill. This will resolve the situation where court proceedings lead to the expiry of local authority CPOs before a decision is reached. It will mean the CPOs in the case of the Galway outer bypass project will be extended until at least 30 days after the court decision is reached.

The European Court of Justice is not likely to rule on the referral for some time. Therefore the purpose of the Bill is to avoid the considerable expense and work associated with repeating the CPO process in the event of a positive decision by the European Court of Justice.

Section 1 of the Bill provides for the amendment of section 217 of the Planning and Development Act 2000. The effect of the proposed amendment is that where there are legal proceedings challenging a compulsory purchase or consents relating to a particular project, and a notice to treat is not served within 18 months, the time limit for serving the notice can be extended to the earlier of 30 days after the conclusion of the legal proceedings or 18 months after the expiry of the initial 18 month period. This section also provides that in the event that the legal proceedings are not concluded within the extended time limit provided for in section 1, the relevant local authority can apply to the High Court for a further extension and the High Court if it considers there is sufficient grounds for doing so can allow such a further extension as it considers reasonable and fair in the circumstances.

It should be noted that this Bill only deals with CPOs and notices to treat involving local authorities. No Government agency, such as the NRA or CIE, will be in a position to avail of the provisions of this Bill. This is a matter which should be reviewed at a later stage.

Section 2 of the Bill is merely the Short Title and collective citation and is a standard provision in all Bills placed before the Houses of the Oireachtas.

I thank the Minister of State who is welcome to the House.

I too welcome the Minister of State. However, it is unfortunate we are welcoming him in this circumstance. For the second time in a week, we are correcting legislation that has proven to be inadequate or not properly co-ordinated because of lack of communication between Departments. The House is being used to correct legislation that should have been properly debated and all loopholes closed. This is a lesson for us that legislation should not be rushed and should be given proper focus and attention by those who bring it before the Oireachtas. I do not know if this has been caused by a lack of communication. The Government seems to be in disarray at present. The Government's eye is off the ball with regard to fulfilling basic legislative duties. This is the second example of this disarray in a week. Last week we had rushed legislation to make provision for firearms certificates because people had been carrying firearms illegally because a Criminal Justice Act had not been implemented properly.

Nevertheless, this is important legislation. Compulsory purchase orders are an important power of the State and of local authorities. They are often required to ensure that large infrastructural projects, like the Galway city bypass, go ahead. It is important that such facilities are available to local authorities and State agencies.

I acknowledge that the Bill is being rushed through to save unnecessary expense and increase the time limits of compulsory purchase orders. However, it is unfortunate that legislation is being rushed through the House in the second last week of our sitting. This should not happen. It shows that the Government's eye is off the ball and that it is distracted at present.

I also welcome the Minister of State, even in an express role to deal with an urgent problem. Senator Coffey says the Government is at fault. The fault lies with the administrative staff of various organisations who do not do their job in time.

Who is in charge?

Which organisations?

Local authorities are to blame. We are all running into this problem. Compulsory purchase orders are issued and left lying so nothing is done for an age. On top of that, the authorities do not even fulfil the payment terms and everything ends up in a mess. Some local authorities, and the NRA, end up paying people years after roads have been completed. This is not acceptable.

This is emergency legislation to save the State money. That is the most important point. It is terrible to think we must have rushed legislation because someone did not do his or herjob.

We must also remember that the Bill we are amending is ten years old. We all know what can happen in the space of ten years. What is legally correct one day might, because of a judgment somewhere along the line, be totally turned on top of its head. This evening's work has to be done.

I am sure Senators Coffey and Hannigan will agree that if the State would save money by having this emergency legislation passed it should be done. No one wants to see the State spending money unnecessarily or having to pay legal costs because legislation was not passed in time. I commend the Bill to the House because we are doing the State some service and also saving it some money, which means we are saving the ordinary taxpayer money also.

I welcome the Minister of State at the Department of Finance, Deputy Calleary. However, I would prefer to be looking at the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Deputy John Gormley, because it is my belief, having examined the Bill, that it should be dealt with by his Department, not, with all due respect, by the Minister of State's Department. I would like to see the Minister take on this legislation.

I note Senator Ellis's comments about who was at fault on this rushed legislation. I have in my hand a letter from the Galway county manager who states very clearly that she brought this issue to the attention of the Minister of State, Deputy Ciarán Cuffe. It appears she is also of the view that it should be dealt with by the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. Therefore, I query why the Minister is not in the House today, as I would like to hear his views on the rights and wrongs of the matter. My view is that any legislation which is rushed is very dangerous.

I note Senator Ellis's point on the potential cost to the State. No one in this House wants to see the State incur additional costs, but, at the same time, we have a duty to make sure any legislation enacted is proper and fit for purpose. This legislation was only placed in my hands two hours ago and we have not had an opportunity to take legal advice on the matter. I have no problem with the Galway city outer bypass project in terms of the benefits for the people of Galway and beyond, but this is not about the rights and wrongs of the matter but of the Government's failure to get its act together. As a result, we face serious difficulties with this rushed legislation which should be dealt with by the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government rather than the Minister of State's Department. Therefore, we will be opposing the Bill.

The reason I am taking the legislation is that the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Deputy Gormley, has other engagements; that is the only issue. The reason it is being taken in this fashion is that it was due to be debated as part of the Planning and Development (Amendment) Bill which is being brought back to the House next week, but there are unique circumstances in regard to the CPO for the bypass project for which I am glad the Senator has been so definitive in his support. I believe this is the first time a Labour Party politician has been so definitive in his support for the project.

It is a personal view.

I will let Deputy Frank Fahey, the lead proposer of the project, know of the Senator's support.

This is a small Bill which, as Deputy Ellis said, will save the State, taxpayers and ratepayers considerable expense. We should see the matter through and then have a full discussion on the amendments made in the Dáil to the Planning and Development (Amendment) Bill. The House will have the chance to do this next week.

Question put.
The Seanad divided: Tá, 46; Níl, 5.

  • Boyle, Dan.
  • Brady, Martin.
  • Burke, Paddy.
  • Butler, Larry.
  • Buttimer, Jerry.
  • Carroll, James.
  • Carty, John.
  • Cassidy, Donie.
  • Coffey, Paudie.
  • Coghlan, Paul.
  • Corrigan, Maria.
  • Cummins, Maurice.
  • Daly, Mark.
  • Dearey, Mark.
  • Doherty, Pearse.
  • Donohoe, Paschal.
  • Ellis, John.
  • Feeney, Geraldine.
  • Fitzgerald, Frances.
  • Glynn, Camillus.
  • Hanafin, John.
  • Healy Eames, Fidelma.
  • Keaveney, Cecilia.
  • Leyden, Terry.
  • MacSharry, Marc.
  • McDonald, Lisa.
  • McFadden, Nicky.
  • Mooney, Paschal.
  • Mullen, Rónán.
  • Ó Brolcháin, Niall.
  • Ó Domhnaill, Brian.
  • Ó Murchú, Labhrás.
  • O'Brien, Francis.
  • O'Donovan, Denis.
  • O'Malley, Fiona.
  • O'Reilly, Joe.
  • O'Sullivan, Ned.
  • O'Toole, Joe.
  • Ormonde, Ann.
  • Phelan, John Paul.
  • Quinn, Feargal.
  • Regan, Eugene.
  • Ross, Shane.
  • Walsh, Jim.
  • White, Mary M.
  • Wilson, Diarmuid.

Níl

  • Bacik, Ivana.
  • Hannigan, Dominic.
  • Prendergast, Phil.
  • Ryan, Brendan.
  • White, Alex.
Tellers: Tá, Senators Niall Ó Brolcháin and Diarmuid Wilson; Níl, Senators Dominic Hannigan and Phil Prendergast.
Question declared carried.
Bill reported without amendment, received for final consideration and passed.