I move amendment No. 18:
In page 14, before section 12, to insert the following new section:
"12.—(1) When any council established by section 11 of this Act is, in the performance of its functions as a planning authority (within the meaning of the Local Government (Planning and Development) Act, 1963), making a development plan or any variation of any such plan, it shall be necessary for the passing of any proposal to include a provision, or to amend, the draft development plan or draft variation that the number of the members of the planning authority concerned voting in favour of the proposal or amendment is not less than three-quarters of the total number of the members of the planning authority (fractions being disregarded).
(2) Subsection (1) of this section applies only in relation to a proposal or amendment which seeks to alter existing development objectives for the use solely of primarily (as indicated in the development plan then in force) or particular areas for particular purposes.
(3) Subsection (1) of this section shall not apply in any vote unless the number of the members of the planning authority concerned voting against the proposal or amendment is not less than one-quarter of the total number of the members of the planning authority (fractions being disregarded).
(4) The requirement of subsection (1) of this section (when it applies) is in addition to and not in substitution to any other requirements which apply.
(5) The provisions of this section shall not apply where the Minister, in exercise of his powers under section 22 of the Local Government (Planning and Development) Act 1963, has required a planning authority to vary its development plan or to co-ordinate it with the development plan of another planning authority.".
This amendment arises from our concern about some rezoning decisions taken by Dublin County Council during its recent consideration of the development plan and our fear that there could be a repetition of that in the new councils. I emphasise "some" decisions taken by some councillors who appear to be immune to public criticism. The Minister of State, Deputy Eithne Fitzgerald, speaking on the Second Reading of this Bill on 18 November, referred to:
. . . the orgy of land rezoning which has taken place in County Dublin over the last number of months, most of which has more to do with rewarding land owners or development companies who have speculated in land than with orderly planning and development of our capital city.
I share her fear that the division of County Dublin "into three administrative counties would simply multiply the rezoning frenzy by three." I also note that the Minister yesterday repeated his previous concern about some of the rezonings and their possible affects. He implied that he would take action in reaction to some of the rezonings. This amendment is an attempt to ensure that what occurred at Dublin County Council will not happen again.
As the committee is aware, section 4 of the City and County Management (Amendment) Act, 1955, empowered elected members to direct the manager to perform a specific executive act and section 26 (3) of the 1963 Act enabled elected members to direct the manager in cases of material contravention. Due to the widespread abuse of these two provisions, especially by the Fianna Fáil controlled Dublin County Council between 1985 and 1991, these provisions were amended by the Local Government Act, 1991. Section 45 raised the proportion of members required for a material contravention to be passed from one-third to three-quarters. Section 44 applied the three-quarters rule to section 4 resolutions in relation to a planning function. It also required that such section 4 resolutions be signed by three-quarters of the members in the electoral area concerned. These amendments did not affect the procedures for drawing up a new development plan or variations in an existing plan.
The objective of this amendment is to extend the three-quarters rule to rezonings or proposals to alter the zoning in the existing development plan. As far as possible the wording is adopted from parts of the existing planning legislation. The wording of subsection (1) is adopted directly from sections 44 and 45 of the 1991 Act and from section 39 (d) of the 1976 Act.
Subsection (2) is designed to apply this procedure specifically and directly to changes in zoning and only that. Proposals to change the existing zoning would not be affected. Deputy Doyle and I are anxious not to have a situation arise where minor rezonings, which are not controversial, would be blocked simply because it is not possible to get three quarters of the councillors into the chamber at the time.
Subsection (3) is designed to ensure that the three quarters rule only applies when one quarter of the members positively indicate their opposition to a rezoning by voting against it. Subsection (4) is similar to the second part of section 26 (3) (b) of the 1963 Act as inserted by section 39 (d) of the 1976 Act relating to material contraventions. In addition, we would not wish the three quarters rule to apply to a variation of the development plan by the Minister or to the Minister's power to require that development plans be co-ordinated.
The amendment in the form Deputy Doyle and I have drafted and proposed it may not, of course, be the only answer. Our concern is to prevent in the future what Minister of State, Eithne Fitzgerald has described as an "orgy of rezoning". It is important to get the Government to accept the principle that some special procedure is needed for rezoning as it was accepted in 1991 that special procedures were needed for section 4 and material contravention. In particular we are flexible on the proportion of the total membership required as long as the weighted majority required underlines the necessity for special procedures and the importance of the decision being taken. If the Minister opposes the amendment I hope he will outline to the committee his alternative to prevent a recurrence of disgraceful decisions by some Dublin county councillors.