Wednesday, 11 February 2004

Ceisteanna (229, 230, 231)

Enda Kenny

Ceist:

291 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he intends to scrap all county development plans as part of the Government's strategy to provide more one-off housing in the countryside; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4082/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government)

Overall Government policy on one-off rural housing is set out in the national spatial strategy, NSS, which was published in November 2002. The rural settlement policy framework contained in the NSS aims to sustain and renew established rural communities, while strengthening the structure of villages and smaller settlements to support local economies, ensuring that key assets in rural areas are protected to support quality of life and ensuring also that rural settlement policies are responsive to the differing local circumstances in different areas.

It is vital that there is certainty and consistency in the implementation by planning authorities of Government policy in this matter through their development plans and in the operation of the development control system under planning legislation. This is the purpose of the guidelines under the Planning and Development Act, which I intend to bring forward to deal with this issue. These are at an advanced stage of preparation and I hope to issue them as soon as possible. The guidelines should not entail that existing development plans will become obsolete. Planning authorities will need, however, to review their development plans to ensure that they fully reflect the provisions of the forthcoming guidelines.

Enda Kenny

Ceist:

292 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he proposes to enable members of the indigenous population to access the planning process with fewer restrictions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4083/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

I assume the question relates to the issue of facilitating, where possible, planning permissions for housing in rural areas for applicants who have roots in or links to the area.

Overall Government policy on rural housing is set out in the national spatial strategy, NSS, which was published in November 2002. The rural settlement policy framework contained in the NSS aims to sustain and renew established rural communities, while strengthening the structure of villages and smaller settlements to support local economies, ensuring that key assets in rural areas are protected to support quality of life and ensuring also that rural settlement policies are responsive to the differing local circumstances in different areas. While it has been a traditional feature of many local authority development plans that provision is made for accommodating the housing requirements of the rural community, there is a need for national guidance on this issue, working within the framework set out in the NSS.

Furthermore, it is vital that there is certainty and consistency in the implementation by planning authorities of Government policy in this matter through their development plans and in the operation of the development control system under planning legislation. This is the purpose of the guidelines under the Planning and Development Act which I intend to bring forward. These are at an advanced stage of preparation and I hope to issue them as soon as possible.

Enda Kenny

Ceist:

293 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the way in which he intends to co-ordinate/synchronise a planning process at national, regional and local level; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4084/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

The Planning and Development Act 2000 provides for a structured hierarchy of plans at national, regional and local levels and these are now actively being put in place. A range of measures is under way to advance the implementation the national spatial strategy, NSS, which was published by the Government in November 2002.

At national level, my Department is co-ordinating a process for the integration of NSS considerations into the programmes and activities of Government Departments and agencies. At regional level, to support NSS implementation, regional planning guidelines are currently being prepared by all regional authorities, with the objective of having guidelines adopted in all regions by May 2004. Regulations made by me already provide that regional authorities must take account of the NSS in making regional planning guidelines.

At planning authority level, section 10 of the 2000 Act requires a development plan to set out an overall strategy for the proper planning and sustainable development of the relevant local authority functional area. Section 27 of the Act further provides that in making and adopting a development plan, a planning authority must have regard to any regional planning guidelines in force for its area. In terms of NSS implementation at local level, planning authorities are putting in place development frameworks and plans, at the gateway and hub level, that will support the achievement of a critical mass of development at strategic locations. These are already established in a number of locations, for example, Cork area strategic plan, Galway transportation and planning strategy, and are well advanced in others.

The Planning and Development Act also provides for statutory local area plans. Local area plans are mandatory for areas designated as towns in the most recent census of population, which have a population in excess of 2,000 and which are situated within the functional area of a county council. In addition, a planning authority may prepare a local area plan for any area within its jurisdiction which it considers suitable, in particular for those areas that require economic, physical and social renewal and for those likely to be subject to large scale development within the lifetime of the plan. The Act requires that a local area plan must be consistent with the objectives of the relevant development plan.

Section 28 of the Act provides that the Minister may, at any time, issue guidelines to planning authorities regarding any of their functions under the Act and requires planning authorities and An Bord Pleanála to have regard to such guidelines in the performance of their functions. Such guidelines have been issued to date with regard to a variety of specific planning matters, for example, residential density, retail planning, telecommunication masts and so forth, to ensure the handling of such types of development by the planning system in a standardised manner that is fully aligned with national policy. Work is underway in my Department on the preparation of a number of further guidelines which I propose to issue during 2004.