I propose to take Questions Nos. 160, 167, 209 and 488 together.
The development contribution system was significantly revised when the Oireachtas, with cross-party support, brought in a new, transparent system in the Planning and Development Act 2000. Under section 48 of the 2000 Act, planning authorities must draw up a development contribution scheme in respect of public infrastructure and facilities provided by, or on behalf of, the local authority that benefit development in the area. These schemes are intended to ensure that the long-standing practice of levying development contributions to fund local authority infrastructure is implemented in a more transparent and consistent way across the country than has been the case in the past. It is not proposed to make any further changes to this system at present.
It is not anticipated that the contributions levied will unduly affect the price of houses, new industrial and commercial development ornew agricultural developments. While the development contribution system has been reformed, local authorities have been levying contributions since the implementation of the 1963 Act and the new system continues that. In addition, by way of circular letter issued on 27 June 2003, planning authorities were advised that while it is expected that the planning authority should ensure that developers make an appropriate contribution towards the costs of public infrastructure and facilities, the local authority should take care to avoid development contributions that are excessively high.
It should be noted that where a domestic extension is under 40 sq. m., it is normally exempt from planning permission and development contributions will not apply. Where development does come within the planning system, the level of contributions charged and the types of development to which they will apply is ultimately a decision for the elected members of each planning authority.
The Government is committed to significantly increased levels of funding for infrastructure provided by local authorities with estimated expenditure on all infrastructure, including national roads, approaching €2.8 billion for 2004. Development contributions are not intended to substitute for Exchequer funding. Instead they are intended to pay the capital cost of local authority infrastructure and facilities for which funding may not be available from the Exchequer, for example, local road improvements, community facilities, playgrounds, traffic calming measures and park facilities.