Urban Development Areas Bill, 1982: Second Stage.

Wednesday, 2 June 1982

Dáil Eireann Debate
Vol. 335 No. 4

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Minister of State at the Department of the Environment (Mr. Brady,: Information on Gerard Brady  Zoom on Gerard Brady  Dublin South-East): I move: “That the Bill be now read a Second Time.”

It has been clear for some time now that existing methods of dealing with the problems of redevelopment and urban renewal in inner urban areas have not been able to achieve the necessary results in area of special need. In these areas buildings have been allowed to decay and become derelict and the environment generally has become degraded. In addition, there are often high levels of unemployment, poor housing and other social conditions, high rates of crime and vandalism, poverty, factory closures and lack of job opportunities.

This situation has evolved despite the best efforts of the local authorities and the various other agencies who have worked over the years to try to stem the [885] tide; indeed, but for them, the situation today would be far worse. The problem is not simply an Irish one, nor does it concern Dublin only; cities throughout the world and the major urban areas in Ireland are experiencing similar problems. Much has been already written and spoken about the problems of inner urban areas and their causes and possible solutions and I have no wish to add unnecessarily at this stage to that mass of material. Two things are clear, however: first, that the present situation is far from satisfactory and, second, that what is now required is action rather than words.

The Fianna Fáil Government showed their concern in a concrete way for inner city problems when they established an interdepartmental committee in 1978 to report and make recommendations to deal with the particularly acute problems of the Dublin inner city area. Following completion of the committee's report, the Government set up the Dublin Inner City Group in May 1979 to further the work of the interdepartmental committee, to develop a programme of action by the various Departments and public agencies operating in the inner city and to co-ordinate the activities and policies of these bodies. More recently, it has been decided to establish a statutory Dublin Inner City Development Authority in order that the work begun by the group may be intensified and extended. I shall return to this aspect later.

The establishment of the Dublin Inner City Group in 1979 was a response to particular social and economic problems discussed in the report of the interdepartmental committee. There is, however, another dimension involved in that the special problems associated with much of Dublin's inner city area and with many of our other inner urban areas are characterised by the poor physical condition and sometimes widespread dereliction of many of their buildings. Because of this the Government have decided that it is necessary to give special attention also to the physical problems of development, redevelopment and renewal in inner urban areas. My own appointment as Minister of State in the Department of [886] the Environment with special responsibility for urban renewal is an indication of this.

The introduction of the Urban Development Areas Bill, 1982, represents another step towards getting to grips with the problems of urban renewal. While the Bill heralds a new approach designed to supplement existing efforts in areas of special need, it does not set out to replace existing systems or programmes. Indeed, one of my objectives as Minister of State will be to assist and encourage existing agencies, and particularly local authorities, in intensifying their efforts in the field of urban renewal.

Regretfully a misinterpretation has arisen and suggestions have been made that local authorities will have their powers usurped in some way. I should like to give an assurance to the House that nothing could be further from the truth. Local authorities will be in constant consultation with development committees. I will be examining conditions in urban areas throughout the country to see what steps might be appropriate to promote renewal and regeneration in their particular circumstances. In other words, not only Dublin is getting attention. I intend on a nationwide plan to examine all the cities, and as many towns as I can, with a view to compiling a statistical analysis of priority needs in respect of urban renewal.

I will also be examining the existing statutory provisions by which urban renewal objectives are defined and promoted by the local planning authorities and considering what steps might be taken to make them more effective. I wish to emphasise, therefore that the establishment of urban development commissions does not mean that the local authorities will not continue to have a key responsibility for promoting modernisation and improvement of their urban areas. On the contrary, it will be a central element in the Government's overall approach to this problem to provide these authorities with every possible support in this most important aspect of overall national development.

The essential purpose of the present Bill is to enable a new form of agency, an urban development commission, to be [887] created to undertake and promote schemes of redevelopment and renewal in designated parts of urban areas. The main powers and functions of the proposed commissions are set out in section 4 of the Bill. The basic provision is the imposition on a commission of a duty to secure the overall regeneration of its area and for this purpose the commission will have power to acquire, hold and manage land for development, either by itself or by others; to prepare and implement, or secure the implementation of, schemes for the development, redevelopment or renewal of land; to dispose of land as may be appropriate; to carry out amenity or environmental improvement works; and to assist, in accordance with a scheme approved by the Minister, persons or bodies concerned with the improvement of the area. Each commission will be expressly required under section 4(1)(b) to maintain as far as practicable a balance as between housing, industrial, commercial, social, amenity and other development within its area. This is an extremely important requirement for there is widespread acceptance that the problems of many of our urban areas have been contributed to, if not caused, by a failure to secure balanced development.

It might be said that the powers being given to urban development commissions are not very different to those already available to the local authorities. Basically this is correct. Local authorities, however, are multi-purpose bodies and their energies and resources have to be spread over the whole of their areas and among a wide range of functions. The establishment of specialist bodies in areas of special need is therefore fully justified. These bodies can be expected to develop substantial expertise in land and estate management and development and in the financing of development and redevelopment. They will be able to operate in a more flexible manner than could a local authority and to form appropriate joint arrangements with both public and private bodies. They will, I hope, be able to attract new housing, services and industry to their areas, as well as carrying out development directly themselves. The [888] proposed commissions will be ad hoc bodies, established to regenerate particular areas, and when they have completed their assignments, commissions will be dissolved and their assets and liabilities will be transferred to other statutory bodies. This is provided for in section 19 of the Bill.

Under section 3, an urban development commission will consist of a chairman and not more than six ordinary members. Neither the chairman nor an ordinary member of a commission may be a member of either House of the Oireachtas or of the Assembly of the European Communities. Establishment orders will be made under section 5 to provide for the method, terms and conditions of appointment of members and for all of the other basic matters which have to be covered when a statutory body is being established. This procedure is based on the Local Government Services (Corporate Bodies) Act, 1971, which has operated successfully. It is intended that the establishment orders will provide that the appointment of the chairman and the other members will be made by the Minister.

The success of each commission will depend to a large extent on the calibre of its membership and it must be the aim to secure the services of the best possible qualified persons. The membership will need to be representative of a range of disciplines, including people with experience in local government and public administration. The functions of the commissions will include the acquisition of land for development and the implementation of schemes of redevelopment, so that members who have a background in estate management and property development will also be an asset. In addition, people with a sound knowledge of commercial financial management could have an important contribution to make to the working of a commission.

Urban development commissions are not intended to become a major burden on the Exchequer and, accordingly, section 18 spells out appropriate financial obligations for them. In so far as property development activities are concerned, a commission will be required, taking one [889] year with another, to meet its operating expenditure from revenue and to be in a position to repay its borrowings. In addition, the Minister is being empowered to require any particular commission to generate sufficient revenue to meet some of its capital needs. This could be a reasonable requirement in some areas but it would obviously not be appropriate to impose it as a blanket requirement because the financial circumstances of commissions could vary widely. Depending on the nature of their area and its development potential, some commissions may have difficulty in complying with the requirements of section 18, while others may be able to generate more funds than they themselves require at a particular time. To cater for this latter possibility, an order under section 5 can make provision for the application of profits or other income or funds of a commission in such manner as the Minister may direct, including application for the benefit of the Exchequer.

Under section 15, an urban development commission will have power to borrow money at home or abroad for current or capital purposes. It is anticipated that commissions should be able to raise the bulk of their capital requirements by borrowing directly themselves or by other financial arrangements. To facilitate such borrowings section 17 allows the Minister for Finance to guarantee borrowings up to a limit of £50 million. Exchequer advances to urban development commissions, up to a limit of £50 million, are permitted by section 16, but it is envisaged that access to repayable advances of this kind will not be available to commissions except as a last resort.

It may not always be possible to meet the full expenses of urban development commissions from revenue. For example, expenditure arising from the making of grants for local improvement works, etc., under section 4, or in relation to a planning scheme under section 6, or certain overhead expenses, could require separate financing. For this reason section 14 of the Bill enables grants to be paid by the Minister to an urban development commission after consultation with the [890] commission in relation to its programme of expenditure.

Sections 6, 12 and 13 deal with the position of urban development commissions in relation to the physical planning system. In framing these provisions the Government were anxious to ensure that a reasonable balance was struck as between two sets of objectives. On the one hand, there was the need to preserve as far as possible the existing physical planning system, as operated by the planning authorities, and to avoid serious interference with the comprehensive nature of that system. On the other hand, it was considered that urban development commissions should have the power to exercise a major influence on the development and redevelopment of their areas and to initiate and carry out development with the absolute minimum of delay. I believe that sections 6, 12 and 13 provide an appropriate solution to this difficulty.

Under section 6, a commission may, and must if so directed by the Minister, prepare a planning scheme for its area. In preparing such a scheme a commission will be required to take account of the existing character and special features of the area, to consult with any local authority concerned and to make arrangements for the making and consideration of submissions by interested persons. When a scheme has been prepared a planning authority concerned will be obliged to have regard to the scheme in making a development plan, and in directly carrying out any development in the area of the commission. In addition, planning authorities and An Bord Pleanála will be required to take account of any relevant scheme in dealing with an application for permission or approval under section 26 or section 27 of the 1963 Planning and Development Act.

A planning scheme will set out the manner in which an urban development commission considers that the overall regeneration of its area should be secured and will specify the kinds of development which, in the opinion of the commission, should or should not be carried out in the area with that end in view. A planning scheme will not, however, take the place [891] of a development plan under the Local Government (Planning and Development) Act, 1963. Instead, it will be a matter for the planning authority, having regard to the scheme, to review their plan and to make any necessary variations in it.

I would hope that planning authorities would go further than this and make special development plans for any urban development areas for which planning schemes are prepared. A permissive power to make such partial plans is already provided by section 19(5) of the 1963 Act but has not been used to any significant extent. Accordingly, section 13 enables the Minister to intervene, where he considers it necessary to do so, and to direct that a partial plan should be made by the planning authority in relation to a specified part of their area. This provision has been stated in general terms, rather than being confined to urban development areas, because it seems desirable that a mechanism should be available to bring about increased use of the partial development plan procedure in different kinds of areas throughout the country, for example, areas of high amenity or areas where development pressure is severe, if this seems to be called for in particular cases.

Special provision is made in section 12 in relation to the carrying out of development by an urban development commission, or development which is approved of by such a commission. Essentially, the approach is to treat such development in much the same way as development by State authorities is now treated under section 84 of the 1963 Planning Act. This means that the normal planning control procedure will not apply and that a consultation procedure will be substituted. There are, however, a number of important changes in the section 84 procedure. First, the planning authority, when consulted, will have power to attach conditions in relation to the development; second, the Minister, when consulted in a case where the commission and the planning authority cannot resolve any differences, will have power to prohibit a development, where he thinks fit; [892] and third, provision is made for a form of public participation process which does not apply at present where development by State authorities is proposed. These arrangements should ensure that development in which urban development commissions are involved will not be unnecessarily delayed by reason of the application to them of a system designed primarily to regulate and control the activities of private developers rather than public authorities. At the same time, the proposed arrangements respect the position of the planning authority concerned and should provide them with a reasonable opportunity to influence development in which a commission is involved.

The regeneration of our inner urban areas will require concerted action by many agencies to radically improve the economic, social and physical condition of these areas. No single authority can provide all the answers and it will only be through increased co-operation between the different agencies involved and, in particular, between the public and private sectors, that viable solutions can be devised and implemented. The establishment of urban development commissions should not, therefore, be seen as a panacea for all the ills of rundown inner city urban areas. On the contrary, responsibility for the regeneration of inner urban areas will largely remain with the local authorities, especially in their capacity as planning authorities, and, as I have already indicated, I will be working with these authorities to give a new impetus to their work. It is only in cases of very special need that urban development areas and commissions will be established and section 2 of the Bill makes this clear.

I should emphasise that the section allows for the creation of urban development areas not only in Dublin but in any other county borough, borough or urban district in the country. That is not to say that the Government intend to extend the urban development commission widely in the initial stages. It may well be that part of Cork county borough and an area in Limerick city, to mention two examples, would be suitable for designation as urban development areas and [893] I will be looking at this possibility in the future. It has been decided, however, that it would be sensible and prudent to gain some experience of the new approach in two pilot areas before moving on to the designation of other areas, either in Dublin or elsewhere.

As pilot projects, sections 2 and 3 of the Bill designate the Custom House docks development area and the Dublin walled city development area, both of which are located in Dublin. As I said earlier, the problems of dereliction and decay are not peculiar to Dublin but there is no doubt that they are most acute there. Dublin is the nation's capital and its physical condition is, therefore, a matter of more than local concern; the Dublin problem has, in fact, a regional and national dimension too. It is for these reasons that the two pilot projects are located there. The two areas in question are interesting from the historical point of view and each has great and distinctive potential for development and redevelopment. While they are obvious candidates as the pilot development areas, it may be of assistance to the House to fill in some of the background and to elaborate somewhat on our hopes for these areas. Before doing so, I should mention that I have arranged to have maps of each of these areas placed in the Oireachtas Library for the information and assistance of Members.

The Custom House docks development area essentially consists of the large area, now in the ownership of the Dublin Port and Docks Board, which the board themselves have sought to redevelop. This unique site has been described in the board's 1980 planning application as a redundant port facility but which has potential in relation to a range of other activities because of its relationship to the city centre. Having regard to the location of the site and the exciting possibilities presented by its availability for redevelopment, the Fianna Fáil Government had been considering, before the June 1981 general election, what arrangements should be made to secure the redevelopment of the site in a fitting manner. The matter was also considered by the Coalition Government during their [894] period of office but no definite plans emerged. It has now been decided that the area should become an urban development area and, therefore, the responsibility of an urban development commission; sections 2 and 3 of the Bill provide accordingly.

The first Custom House Dock, directly east of the Custom House, was a project which involved John Beresford and James Gandon, the team responsible for the construction of the Custom House itself. This dock, of course, no longer exists. The remaining dock system, completed over 150 years ago, consists of the larger Inner Dock and the smaller and outer George's Dock, both connected to the river Liffey by a sea-lock.

The docks have now been reduced to a tidal state and no ship has entered them for some ten years. The docks' peak phase of activity had, in fact, ceased by the time the newly-established Dublin Port and Docks Board took over ownership of the site from the Revenue Commissioners in 1869 and the adequacy of the docks for the size of ship using the port, even then, was in question. Now, the main port area has moved to new positions down river and out into the bay itself, thus opening up a substantial gap between the site and the rest of the board's jurisdiction on the north side of the river.

Although the docks are no longer in use, warehouses on the site are still operated by the Port and Docks Board's Warehousing Department. Much of the total space dates from early in the last century and, according to the board's planning application, the warehouses are operated at a low level of use because they are not suited to modern goods handling techniques and are inconveniently located, cut off from other port activities. A significant number of men are employed in connection with these warehouses, but there is no question of putting these men out of work when the new commission are established.

Section 8 of the Bill enables land within the Custom House Docks Development Area to be transferred to the new commission on a phased basis, according as progress is made by the Port and Docks [895] Board with the relocation of essential warehousing facilities. It will be a matter in the first instance for the new commission and the Port and Docks Board to agree a programme for the handing over of the site to the commission. Ultimate responsibility will lie with the Minister who will have power under the legislation to make orders providing for the actual transfers of land. Under section 8 the consideration to be paid by the commission to the board is to be determined by agreement, or in default of agreement, the consideration will be determined by the Minister, with the consent of the Minister for Transport. The criteria on which such determination must be made are set out in the section: essentially what is proposed is that the consideration should be such as will enable the board to provide essential replacement facilities elsewhere.

The redevelopment in a balanced manner of the Custom House Docks site will be a challenging task for the new commission. There will be scope for housing and industrial development as well as offices and amenity development. Some of the existing structures have conservation potential and the commission will have to take this into account. I am confident, too, that they will endeavour to capitalise on the riverside location of the site. The redevelopment will have to be phased to fit in with the relocation of essential warehousing, but when it is completed I am confident that Dublin will have acquired a new neighbourhood of which we can all be proud.

The second pilot project for which provision is made in sections 2 and 3 of the Bill will be very different from the Custom House Docks development project. The Government were anxious to select an area on the southside of Dublin and which would involve a different approach and enable experience to be gained in an area where the land is partly in private and partly in public ownership.

The area of the medieval walled city was a rather obvious choice. This area properly can be described as the historic core of Dublin. It still contains the seat of city government as well as Dublin [896] Castle, Christchurch Cathedral and other structures of note. It is an area with very great potential. It has been the subject of much controversy in recent years. The fact is that, while Georgian Dublin has been singled out for special attention within the framework of the Planning Acts for quite some time, it is only in relatively recent times that the general public and the public authorities have become conscious of the importance of Dublin as a Viking town and of its significance in medieval times. Indeed, it was not until the excavations in the 1960s at High Street and Winetavern Street that interest in Dublin's medieval origins developed.

We need to appoint in Dublin, and indeed elsewhere in the country, a city architect who would be able to add immensely to redevelopment in areas of archaeological importance. He should be appointed by the local authority and work within the framework of the local authority so that we would not only have development but preservation. I will give the impression of one writer on the subject:

Medieval Dublin lies hidden from view, buried in the mists of time or beneath the present street level. Little that is genuinely medieval now greets the eye. Portions of the defences and of a few churches still survive, but most of these have been extensively refaced or altered in other ways. The basic street pattern laid down in the Middle Ages remains more or less intact, though many minor streets and alleyways have been obliterated and major streets have been widened during the last two centuries. Streets that once were full of colour and life present a grey, sombre appearance and an eerie, unnatural air of dereliction.

The rather depressing situation described in this extract from the note on medieval Dublin published by the Ordnance Survey in 1978, with their map of the medieval town in the modern city, has not come about overnight. Neither would it be realistic to suggest that the situation can be transformed overnight. I was speaking to an architect recently [897] who said that the decay of Dublin started more than 100 years ago but it is only recently that people began to realise it had reached such proportions.

I am confident, however, that the establishment of an urban development commission, with special responsibility for the regeneration of the area, will have a major impact and that with imagination and drive, the area can be restored. It can assume a new vitality and attractiveness for those who live and work in and adjoining it as well as for Dubliners in general and for visitors from elsewhere in the country, and from overseas. On Sunday I was in St. Audoen's Church, which dates back to 650 AD. It has been restored and at the moment it is being put forward as a main tourist attraction in the city. It will have a small adjoining park. That is the kind of restoration and renewal that can be carried out in an aggressive manner.

It will, of course, be a matter for the Urban Development Commission to decide in the first instance how best the regeneration of the area might be secured and the nature and extent of the development which should be carried out for that purpose. However, I would like to think that, where possible, the commission would attempt to recover and highlight and illuminate sections of the city wall and to bring back to the areas trades and crafts which have been shown by archaeological excavations to have been carried on extensively in the area in the past. These include bronzeworking, weaving, leatherworking and woodworking. In addition, one would hope that cultural facilities, including small museums and art galleries, might be attracted to the area, that small landscaped areas would be introduced and that appropriate shopping, restaurant and other facilities would be developed. Additional residential development to cater both for families and for single people would certainly be desirable, with the emphasis on achieving a balanced community. The possibilities, indeed, are very great and, for this reason, I expect that the commission will give priority to the preparation, under section 6 of the Bill, of an appropriate planning scheme, [898] taking account of the character and special features of the area and of consultations with Dublin Corporation, as well as submissions from interested persons. There are other agencies doing very fine work in the city, for example, An Taisce, Friends of Medieval Dublin and so on.

I should explain that the definition of the Dublin walled city development area used in the Bill is based on the 1978 Ordnance Survey publication entitled: “Dublin c840 to c1540: the Medieval Town in the Modern City”. The designated development area is essentially the area within the medieval walled city as represented on the Ordnance Survey map and as shown on various representations of Speed's Map of 1610. However, it has been necessary, in line with standard practice in defining local government areas, to proceed by reference to the centre lines of streets.

I am aware that there are other areas of historical and archaeological interest adjacent to the boundary of the development area and that there is also a need for the regeneration of these areas. However, the best approach seemed to be to define an identifiable central core area in the first instance, leaving it open to the Dublin Walled City Development Commission to make proposals to alter the boundary of the area, if this is shown to be desirable in the light of planning and other surveys which the commission will no doubt undertake. The Minister, under section 2(3) of the Bill, will be empowered, by order, to make such alterations. Apart from the central core area, as soon as work starts in this locality an increased awareness will develop relating to our archaeological treasures and past, and people will develop a more healthy respect for our ancient buildings and make an effort to do something about them. I believe that now financially it is a worth-while proposition to renew rather than demolish and build again, apart from the aesthetic aspect.

Provision is made in section 9 of the Bill for the transfer of land, by Ministerial order, from a statutory body to an urban development commission. Such a transfer can be made only where the land is not being used by, or is not required by, [899] the statutory body concerned and, as in the case of section 8, a special basis of compensation is being provided for. This section could be of some significance in relation to the Dublin walled city development area and other similar areas which may be designated in the future. It will provide a convenient mechanism for making expeditious transfers of land to urban development commissions to enable them to make progress with the regeneration of their areas. It will also enable firm action to be taken, where appropriate, to meet the allegation which is frequently heard, that a significant proportion of derelict and vacant sites are owned by statutory bodies.

Apart from the transfers of land which may be effected under section 9, an urban development commission in an area such as the Dublin walled city development area will have to acquire land for itself within the area, in so far as it considers this to be necessary for the purpose of securing the regeneration of its area. Provision for the compulsory purchase of land by urban development commissions is, therefore, included in section 7 of the Bill. In addition to directly acquiring land for development or redevelopment, I will be looking to commissions to explore various other ways and means of bringing about development, redevelopment and renewal by other agencies, whether public or private.

The Government believe that the initiation of development and redevelopment by urban development commissions within their areas will have a pump-priming effect. It should have a significant impact on the activities and investment programmes of private sector bodies and I hope that these bodies will be attracted to locate their own new developments in appropriate inner city locations, thereby making a significant contribution to the overall renewal of these areas. I am confident that section 11 of the Bill, which will enable rates remission to be provided on a selective basis in respect of premises in urban development areas, will prove to be an important additional incentive to development in these areas. Consideration will also be given to providing [900] additional incentives for the carrying out of development of appropriate kinds and for the establishment of suitable trades and business in urban development areas. In particular, it is intended to examine the question of providing for appropriate tax reliefs in respect of trades and business which might be particularly suited to these areas.

The Government are strongly committed to the development and revitalisation of inner urban areas and it is intended that public authorities generally should play their part in a new drive to meet this objective. In the last analysis, however, much will depend on the private sector. I have just mentioned the question of inducements and incentives but there is also another way of looking at this matter. Almost 150 years ago, Thomas Drummond — a Scotsman who was one of the most able and enlightened of those who held the post of Under-Secretary in Ireland — wrote to an Irish landlord to remind him that “property has its duties as well as its rights”. A statue of Drummond still stands, with the sculptured figures of Grattan and O'Connell, in Dublin's City Hall, within the area of the medieval walled city. It would not be inappropriate for me on this occasion to remind the owners of property within our urban areas generally, and in particular within urban development areas, that for them, too, property has its duties as well as its rights. For far too long a selfish attitude has prevailed in Dublin, which has been almost a scorched earth policy without concern for preserving the aesthetic beauty of our cities and towns. I wish to state emphatically that my responsibility will be to endeavour to safeguard against indiscriminate badly contrived plans which would mar the city. Properties in central urban areas are inherently valuable and it is wrong that they should be allowed to decay or to remain derelict, or vacant, or underused. I should like to mention an excellent exhibition which is on display at present and which I had the privilege of opening. It is by the Institute of Architects at No. 8 Merrion Square.

Property owners must face up to their [901] obligations to the community at large and, to ensure that they do so, the government propose to use persuasion as well as inducement. In particular, it is proposed to introduce a system of taxation of derelict sites so as to discourage the hoarding of property for profit and the resulting urban blight. It is galling to see some of the awful hoarded up sites in Dublin at present, not to mention other cities and towns, with indiscriminate flyposting going on without any consideration whatever for the appearance of our cities. This Bill, coupled with the stringent measures being taken in the Litter Bill, should go a long way towards improving the appearance of our cities and towns.

It is also intended to review the compulsory purchase system and the Derelict Sites Act with a view to facilitating and expediting the acquisition by public authorities of derelict and decaying property.

I referred earlier to the proposal to establish a statutory Dublin Inner City Development Authority. The preparation of the necessary legislation is at a very advanced stage and it is proposed to introduce the Bill this session. Both the Custom House docks development area and the Dublin walled city development area will fall within the area of the proposed authority. However, there will be no duplication of responsibilities or conflict of interests between the commissions and the authority. As I have already explained, the functions of the commissions will lie mainly in the acquisition of land for development and re-development and securing the implementation of schemes of physical re-development and renewal of various kinds. On the other hand, the proposed Dublin Inner City Development Authority will have responsibility for supplementing the work of a variety of agencies affecting the inner city and will play an active role in promoting co-ordination of investment and of relevant programmes and activities of public bodies. In addition, the proposed Authority will have its own special fund to enable it to make grants for economic and social development purposes.

[902] An explanatory memorandum detailing the various provisions in the Bill has already been circulated. I have, therefore, concentrated my remarks on the broad features of the new approach, for which the Bill provides, to the regeneration of designated urban areas of special need. I am confident that this special effort will be welcomed by the community as a whole and I have no hesitation, therefore, in commending the Bill to the House.

Mr. Keating: Information on Michael Keating  Zoom on Michael Keating  As this is the first opportunity I have had I should like to express my very belated congratulations to the Minister of State on his appointment and wish him well in that role. I might say that if the capacity and the enterprise he displayed in his career as a City Councillor in Dublin Corporation is any evidence on which to go I have no doubt that his career as Minister of State at the Department of the Environment will be a highly successful one and I wish him well. We wish him well also in carrying through the aspirations he has just expressed in his introductory remarks. Whether or not the provisions of the Bill are adequate to deal with those aspirations remains to be seen. But, in so far as the principle of the Bill clearly represents one step in heightening an awareness of urban problems and of introducing a structure seeking to tackle them, then it should be welcomed.

However, one must have major reservations about the Bill, particularly about its scope and the degree to which it will have real teeth in dealing with the enormous problems facing our city. I believe the Bill is very light in the area of real body and soul, real gut commitment to the problems and skirts easily around some of the fundamental issues. It was almost as an aside, towards the very end of the Minister's remarks, that he referred to some of the most crucial areas. For example, he referred to the need to deal with derelict sites, a review of the compulsory purchase order system and the Derelict Sites Act. Those are very close to the heart of some of the problems confronting our city. The act of the commission, which facilitates the designation of an area as an urban development [903] area, in itself will not resolve one area of the problem, it will not mean one derelict site less or one derelict building less per se. It is only the degree to which the commission is, first of all, statutorily empowered to act and, secondly, empowered financially to act that it will be successful. Indeed, the very concept of the commission itself warrants some examination. I know the Minister hinted at it in his speech but, quite frankly, it is not clear to me that the setting up of this commission, as proposed, is that powerful an innovation in itself. It seems to me to have grasped the concept that some form of authority was necessary but to have fallen short on how far that authority could have been given real power. The powers that this commission, or these commissions, will be carrying out are at present almost totally the powers and responsibilities of local authorities. Therefore, it would be reasonable to examine the degree to which local authorities have carried out their functions in this respect, to ascertain whether or not they have failed particularly with regard to the problems which are the kernal of concern in this Bill, to ascertain whether or not we could remedy that situation without the need to set up more levels of bureaucracy about whose real power and real teeth there is not great clarity at present.

However, I accept fully the essential goodwill of the Minister in this respect. There is a growing awareness right across the political spectrum, and I hope in our society, that the problems of our cities and of urban decay and degeneration constitute a very great challenge which, if allowed continue on their present course, will result in massive tracts of urban areas being blighted, unsightly and inhabited only by those who have not the strength, youth or resources to get out of them. That epitomises very largely the city centre of Dublin at present which is really a reflection on the lack of will there has been in this House over the years. The facility we have afforded people in positions of responsibility, whether in Government or as private property owners, to turn their backs on their responsibilities [904] and allow such a set of circumstances to arise is surely a shame and has created an environment in the centre of large urban areas which is inhospitable and inimical to family life, to proper schooling for young people, to jobs, decent housing and all of those values we hold dear.

This problem is not purely an Irish one. However, because we have now been witnessing for some decades the degeneration of urban areas in some other western democracies, we should have been able to learn from their mistakes. The challenge of the city is a very great one, one on which there is a vast amount of literature. One of the essential truths that comes through to me as least is that there is ideally an optimum size for cities, that above and beyond that optimum size — which, if I remember correctly professor Schumacher in his work Small is Beautiful put at about half a million people, but which is open to argument and discussion — there should be positive discouragement by Governments and State bodies towards the laissez faire development of that city.

We will not, obviously, in a democracy, ever get into a situation where you build a wall around a place and say that is the finish of the development of the city. We should be able to have a system of national planning which will ensure that our cities and our towns develop, in the context of a plan which has been worked out and which has a high aspiration, the quality of life of the citizens of those areas, which seeks to encourage planning and developing as far as those parameters are concerned and which positively discourages such developments once they go beyond those limits. If we do not do that we are like the boy trying to keep his finger in the dyke and ultimately the problems of urban areas will overwhelm us because of their integrated and very complex nature.

The real need in urban areas is for what presently is ostensibly carried on by local authorities, a form of local government, but that expression is really a misnomer as presently applied to local authorities whose role is not local in many cases, if we think of some of the larger authorities, [905] and is certainly not government and has been less so in recent years since the rating power was taken from them, although there are many good reasons for that. We have an increasing plethora of bodies, whose ostensible function is to govern areas, to impact on them quickly and right across a whole range of social and economic areas, with a view to achieving the desired ends with which I believe all of this House agree but who neither in the past nor in this Bill, if I correctly get the glimmer of the inner city authorities, are not being entrusted with the relevant powers.

I can give a simple graphic example. At the moment the Minister will be familiar with a Dublin Corporation plan for what is called the designated area. It is a housing plan and is no more than that. It cannot be more than a housing plan unless a local authority, an urban area commission or an inner city authority are empowered with the ability to ensure that the education environment, the traffic and transport environment, the jobs environment and the other areas of the environment along with the housing environment, can be organised and planned for in an integrated fashion.

Building houses per se is not the answer to the problem no more than it will be the answer to the problem to clear up some derelict sites, although I do not for a second decry the great advantage that would be in a city, where it is now almost impossible to walk any street without witnessing the hoardings to which the Minister referred. Those hoardings and those sites are a symptom of the way our society has developed and that is what we should be dealing with.

We should be dealing with the basic disease not just the symptoms. Those symptoms clearly reflect an attitude in our society and, in particular, in relation to the way we run our cities that says it is all right and acceptable for people to buy up property and allow it to become derelict over years while they amass a site; that it is acceptable for public agencies, including the Minister's Department, local authorities and the health boards to amass the same property and, on the basis of a calculation carried out by the [906] students in Bolton Street about three years ago, which was a fairly scientific study, to amass as much as one-third of such derelict sites in the hands of such public bodies. The scale of those sites and those buildings is very extensive. There are no figures which one can accept as scientifically the last word in this respect but estimates show that there are probably 2,000 and 2,500 acres of derelict land in Dublin alone within the city boundary. That is based on an extrapolation of a sample area which shows that 9 per cent of the land area of Dublin city is derelict. That is an incredible waste of resources and we are allowing it to happen.

This will not change by appointing a commission of people with all the goodwill in the world, who, I see, are to be self-financing, although the manner in which they are to raise their revenue is not spelled out, and by changing nothing else. Local authorities, for example, cannot develop their areas of responsibility because of the antiquated compulsory purchase order procedures. A one-line aspiration in a 20-page speech on such an important topic towards reviewing the present compulsory purchase order legislation is not adequate. That commission cannot function unless it can insist on speedy acquisition of land. That is not to say that the rights of people involved should in any way be kaleidoscoped or denigrated. It really means that the present infinite appeal to the courts, which can go on generation after generation, should be looked at. There is no reasonable acceptable excuse for discussion and negotiation over a small piece of land which a local authority want to acquire over a period of 25 years, which is presently going on. The Minister is probably aware of this himself but I can certainly give him details of it.

This commission, if we are not careful, may very well be like the exercise of, as somebody said on one occasion, rearranging the furniture on the Titanic, although I hope it is not. I wish the commission every success but I am afraid that we are dealing with symptoms rather than the basic disease here unless we give this commission the real teeth and the real [907] power which it should have. That begs a question in relation to local authorities which I will not go into in detail except to say that I am not convinced, despite being very dissatisfied with the way many of our local authorities perform in many respects, that an adjunct of a local authority or part of the local authority's operations could not have been streamlined to deal with this problem rather than another layer of bureaucracy which, by virtue of what the Minister says and by virtue of common sense, will have to consult regularly with the local authorities and there will be tension between them. The local authority will draw up the draft development plan, the commission will make a submission to the local authority and vice versa. I am not sure where the final responsibility will rest. I believe it will cloud the issue to some extent by getting progressive and smart development in areas.

The number of bodies involved is not the primary factor. It is the quality of their work and the ease with which they can work. I believe the outdated laws in those areas, the derelict sites area, the compulsory purchase order procedure area, the ludicrous fines for derelict sites, the 1963 Planning Act, which I am sure must be the bane of planners' lives, are the primary factors. I have spoken to unfortunate officials in local authorities who cannot get any action arising from this particular area because they are chasing an impossible arrangement which does not work.

There is no specific commitment in this document or in the Minister's speech to a positive change in the law in this area. Unless those laws are changed we are wasting our time. I suggest the commission, in particular, will be wasting their time. The urban challenge we speak of is not just about the infrastructure of a city, it is not just about the aesthetics of a streetscape, it is not just about the derelict sites on the corner. Why do those situations arise and what is the scale of the problem we are confronting?

The problems of Dublin city are possibly not fully appreciated and the projected figures in any area of social or [908] economic activity are truly daunting in the light of our ability at present to cope even with existing problems. The idea of an urban area commission and the idea of the two designated areas initially being in Dublin should not blind us to the reality of this being a national problem and that there are parts of almost all of our cities, particularly Cork, Limerick, Waterford and Galway, which could suitably be given this kind of treatment. Therefore I trust that the Minister will see fit to apply his attention in these respects also. I am aware that he visited Cork recently and, while I do not know what the outcome of that was, I appreciate that the Cork people are very hospitable, so I am sure they gave him a fine welcome. But other areas of other cities should be given similar attention. In recent times one might be forgiven for thinking that the country began and ended not just in Dublin but in certain parts of Dublin. We all know that is not the case.

Regarding the kinds of problems we are facing, I would point out that the input papers to the recent draft development plan for Dublin city give us an idea of population trends. We find that the growth of population in the Dublin region from 1966 to 1971 was 57,200 people compared with 37,100 for the rest of the country. We find too that, while the Dublin population in 1971 constituted almost 30 per cent of the population of the rest of the State, the increase in Dublin in the period 1966 to 1971 constituted 60 per cent of the total increase. That is multiplying as the years pass. This leads us to the conclusion that on this basis the population projection for 1991 would be 1,150,000 or an increase of 298 per cent in 20 years.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on James C. Tunney  Zoom on James C. Tunney  I am not sure that I have heard the Deputy give the title of the document from which he is quoting.

Mr. Keating: Information on Michael Keating  Zoom on Michael Keating  It is a Fine Gael urban affairs policy document.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on James C. Tunney  Zoom on James C. Tunney  That might not render it inappropriate for the Deputy to quote from.

[909]Mr. Keating: Information on Michael Keating  Zoom on Michael Keating  So far as I remember, it was published in March 1979. These figures basically are extracted from Dublin Corporation Planning Department's papers. We are talking about an enormous logistical and demographic problem in terms of ordinary matters like housing, jobs and so on.

Having regard, therefore, to the present unsatisfactory state of play, to the fact that by general admission we are unable to deal with the problems of urban decay, of urban blight and the challenge of urban renewal, by using these figures we can underline that the real challenge facing us between now and the end of the century is enormous and that consequently some radical and fundamental action is necessary. Though I hope I am wrong, I am not satisfied that the commission we are talking of will represent that sort of action. However, I suppose that, if one considers the commission as part of a full array of Government action and that if we got the other parts of the total spectrum, this commission might work. But I do not consider that, even with the terms of reference to acquire and develop land, without the necessities I have mentioned earlier they will solve the problem.

According to the same document the labour force projections for the same period, that is, 1971 to 1991, show a projected population based on natural increase of 1,150,000 or almost 300,000 more compared with the 1971 figures. The male labour force is estimated to grow in that 20-year period by 95,000 to 314,000. That is a huge increase and, no matter what index one has regard to, whether it be a pupil-teacher ratio, a ratio relating to school places or to housing or to jobs, we realise that the problem of this city and of others is enormous.

But how are we to tackle this situation? I am not suggesting that the Minister has tried to lead us to believe that the Urban Areas Development Bill is a panacea for all our ills. It is not, but we should not set up any body unless they are given a meaningful role. This brings us to the question of whether the body we are talking of have such a role. Instead of cities being allowed to grow too large, of being [910] sprawling or unplanned, or of there being a laissez-faire approach to them, would it not be better if we got down to the fundamental issues in the context of a national planning policy, a planned policy for the development of cities and towns which had as their criteria the highest quality of life for the citizens, which would lay down, for example, that beyond certain levels of traffic density, of housing density and of population density, a city became less than desirable in terms of that quality of life? We should discourage the growth of cities beyond that. Obviously, we could do this by establishing other towns and cities, by way of positive inducement of grant schemes and by discrimination in favour of new industries in areas that would fulfil that stated policy. I am talking about what is a major job, but one that has not been tackled to date. Something on those lines is likely to be necessary.

It seems that the Bill is concerned especially with the question of derelict property, with the issue of the acquisition and development of land. That is only one facet of a huge problem, but probably not the fundamental facet because people who believe that land could be better or more gainfully employed by developing it would not allow it to become derelict. When one is empowering a commission to acquire a piece of property that has become an eyesore one is dealing with the symptom but not with the basic problem. Therefore, we must look at other solutions which the commission or the local authority could be empowered to apply. One such solution that occurred to me recently in relation to the derelict sites problem is that these sites could be rated in the same way as other properties are rated, but apparently this is not possible because a derelict site does not have a rating value per se. But if there is no incentive for people to transform their property into some living, organic, useful social unit, or if there are no sanctions against not doing it, they will not do so. There may be a small minority who for very good reasons are unable to do so, though they would wish to be able to effect such development, but the majority of people owning [911] derelict land allow it to become derelict because it is easier and perhaps more profitable to do so, plus the fact that nobody really cares, that nobody will take the matter up with them and that their only problem will be the slight irritant of a local authority troubling them with pursuit under the Derelict Sites Act, 1963. That is trouble that can be shrugged off easily and the legislation can be evaded without much difficulty. I do not suppose that that Act was designed to tackle this problem.

It should be unrewarding for anyone to have derelict land or derelict properties, and one way of ensuring this would be to provide that the people concerned would pay the rated value annually and that that would be proportionate roughly to an aggregate assessment of what the land would return if used for some sensible purpose. I am not talking about reintroducing rates on domestic property, but if we can bring about a situation in which it will not be rewarding for land owners to leave property sit in the way in which so much of it is sitting, we will be beginning to do something on one aspect of the problem.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  What about the sacred constitutional rights?

Mr. Keating: Information on Michael Keating  Zoom on Michael Keating  The Minister dealt adequately with the question of constitutional rights when he referred to that well-known phrase enshrined, ironically enough, in City Hall, that is, that property has its duties as well as its rights. I look forward to the day when some enterprising person or group tests this timehonoured and regular excuse for inaction in our system, that the rights of private property are sacred and enshrined in our Constitution. So are many other things, including the duties of property in certain respects. I do not think that is a major problem and if it is I encourage the Minister to take it on in the sure knowledge that he will have full public support. No set of laws was designed to allow one group of people in our society — in this case people with property — to ride [912] roughshod over the rights of other people. I have no doubt that that was never the spirit of the Constitution.

The question of how to tackle derelict sites is an area we have to deal with. The only difficulty one would come up against is that apparently the position is that of the 100 per cent of derelict property in our State about one-third is clearly and evidently in the hands of private owners, where the owners are known and their ownership is admitted by them. Roughly one-third is owned by public agencies, State boards, health boards, local authorities and so on and the final one-third is of unknown ownership. Accordingly, one of the Minister's suggestions about the possibility of introducing a tax on derelict sites — my own proposal for a rated value is not dissimilar in content — might run into trouble in that respect because we do not know who to tax in respect of almost two-thirds of the derelict land. Such a proposal would not result in the desired remedical action. It is nonsensical, for example, that a local authority would tax themselves and it is not an answer if we do not know who the owners are. Ultimately, we will have to move quickly towards the continental solution which is that if land is not used within a reasonable time and if every effort has been made to encourage the owners of it to convert it to good public and social use, or if the land is of unknown ownership the State should exercise its responsibility to acquire, as it is proposed the new commission would do, and develop such land.

The example I saw in Belgium would be very helpful. There, instead of having local authorities spending much money in pursuing owners who are hidden behind phalanxes of legal advisers and solicitors in order to avoid detection, they are permitted to append a notice to the derelict site asking the owner to come forward within a specified period or otherwise it would be assumed that there was not an owner and the property would become public property. This may get a quick response from those who are shy to admit ownership of derelict land.

The Minister in the course of his speech referred to a number of problems. I am [913] pleased he is the first Minister of State with responsibility for urban affairs. Initially, that was a Fine Gael proposal and was referred to in the document I dealt with earlier. I am a little rueful about the fact that during our last session in Government we were too busy with the immediate priorities to get down to the important job of appointing such a Minister. I am pleased that the Government have made this appointment. It shows good faith on their part towards accepting that there is a problem in urban areas. I hope that we have sufficient courage as a society and as a Government to give the Minister the necessary powers. That power will disturb a lot of people. It will have to cut across various Government Departments and cut to the bone certain vested interests whose financial well being is based in some cases on seeing our cities being run down so that they can acquire sites and property. The Minister must face a big challenge in this regard and not all of it is outside the parliamentary system or his own party. The Minister has his hands full in that respect.

The Minister said that one of his objectives was to assist and encourage existing agencies, particularly local authorities, in intensifying their efforts in the field of urban renewal. The problem is that much of the area of debate in this regard is cluttered with such good wishes. We all have that but what does it mean? Does it mean that the law will be changed or that local authorities will get more power? Their intensification of effort in the field of urban renewal at present needs either better law and/or more resources. Neither of those things are committed in the Bill. Unless there is a commitment the Minister's hopes and good wishes in respect of local authorities will not yield fruit.

We got the same type of echo in the Minister's remarks when he said he wished to emphasise that the establishment of urban development commissions did not mean that local authorities would not continue to have a key responsibility for promoting modernisation and improvement of their urban areas. At face value the harmonisation of efforts between the commission and local [914] authorities seems a little unhappy. I can foresee problems unless that integrated approach is worked out comprehensively, clearly and in full consultation with local authorities. At present it looks a little unsettled and I am not sure how it will work out in practice. For example, the local authority of which I am a member do not know anything about this proposal. They are unsure of their ground. To what extent will their power be diminished, to what extent will they now have to consult and perhaps have their actions slowed down by either level of bureaucratic control? I am not that concerned whether or not a body such as a local authority have more or less power.

Mr. Brady: Information on Gerard Brady  Zoom on Gerard Brady  (Dublin South-East): On a point of information, I should like to tell the Deputy that I met with the city manager and gave him the assurance the Deputy is seeking.

Mr. Keating: Information on Michael Keating  Zoom on Michael Keating  That is helpful but I am not that concerned about whether a body have more or less power. The structure is purely the means to the end. If, tomorrow, giving less power to a local authority meant that a job would be done in a superior way I would heartily endorse it. Frankly, I do not think that is the case here. I am not hung up about the power of local authorities. We should pursue the best way of doing the job.

The Minister told the House that the essential purpose of the Bill was to enable a new form of agency to be created to undertake and promote schemes of redevelopment and renewal in designated parts of urban areas. I would like to think that the Minister had given full thought and concern to the reason for this new form of agency. My experience is that once a new agency is set up it is almost impossible to dismember it. I acknowledge that later in the Bill it is stated that once a commission has done its job it will cease. Political and public service development here over the years do not show that. Usually once a body is set up it will find some justification for being continued. I accept that that could be changed but I would have looked to the local authorities first to see if we could [915] get them to do the job rather than setting up this other level.

The Minister told the House that each commission will be expressly required to maintain as far as practicable a balance as between housing, industrial, commercial, social amenity and other developments in this area. He said that this was an extremely important requirement because there was a widespread acceptance that the problems of many of our urban areas have been contributed to if not caused by a failure to secure balanced development. That is the central point. However, the Bill, although it insists that the commission will be expressly charged with this responsibility, does not seem to give the power to the commission to do that. That is the kernel of the matter and could be the Achilles' heel of the Bill. I did not find anything in the Bill which empowered an agency to insist on a balanced housing, industrial, commercial, social and other development in an area. How can that be done? For example, if the IDA decide to put a factory in a location and the commission feel it is not in the interests of the plan for the area who has the superior right to decide? The integration of these authorities in line with the commission's work and based on goodwill all round will be a gargantuan task. I can see all types of tensions and rivalries arising with one body saying that they were in first and as their first priority was to create jobs they would not be told by any mickey mouse commission which would be extinct within a few years what to do. If we are going to charge a commission, or any other body, with the job of doing what the Minister said, the creation of a balanced environment, socially, economically and otherwise, we have to bite the bullet and give it the teeth. We must make sure that whatever the amalgam of interests somebody will have the power to say at the end of the day the way a certain thing would go.

We made an effort on our local authority to bring together in a special and permanent development committee those interests from those facets of the city's economic and social life. We did so out of desperation because we recognised [916] the problem the Minister dealt with in his speech. Because the input in these agencies and their ability to make a contribution is purely ad hoc and voluntary it does not work. It does not work if, for example, any time you want a decision the gentleman representing a semi-State body must go back to his authority who see things in a national light and do not have this local, regionally focused approach, and that gentleman is not empowered to make a decision in his own right without waiting months for a board to decide on many national criteria. Therefore, there is no point in asking us to endorse or the commission to give effect to an arrangement which cannot be achieved by the structure being set up. The commission as proposed cannot do the job being asked of them if they are being asked to maintain, and I quote from the Minister's speech: “a balance as between housing, industrial, commercial, social and other development in this area”. That is a governmental job which can be done only by a body to whom are entrusted powers right across the full range of social and economic areas placed regionally, a form of truly autonomous local government. That was the ideal which is supposed to have been embodied in the local authorities but that has not happened. That could be the essential weakness as regards this problem.

The Minister said that he hoped that these commissions would be able to attract new housing, services and industries to their areas as well as carrying out development directly themselves. I tell the Minister that this is not in the Bill. I cannot see any way whereby these bodies will have major grant-aiding functions and acquisition powers. The financial arrangements are interesting and I will refer to them in a moment but they would militate against bringing about the desired end expressed by the Minister. In passing I note that the chairman and members of the commission may not be members of either House of the Oireachtas or serve on the Assembly of European Communities but I am not sure that this is wise. I see no reason why people who might have long experience of urban development in, say, the European situation [917] or are perhaps members of the European Parliament should not be at least equal to other citizens. Nobody wants it cluttered up with TDs or Senators, but we should not be discriminated against as a body. However, I am not making a meal of that, I mention it in passing.

The financial arrangements are set out in section 18. The Minister in his speech said that urban development commissions are not intended to become a major burden on the Exchequer. That is reasonable. He went on to say that as far as property development activities are concerned the commission would be required to meet their operating expenditures from revenue and to be in a position to repay their borrowings. As far as I can gather, therefore, the commission are expected not to make demands for finances on the Exchequer to be able to dispense tax, grants or other financial inducements to regenerated areas and to do it all within their own compass and fund-raising capability. That in an ideal world would be nice, but I do not see how it will happen. Let us assume that the commission are to start work tomorrow morning at, say, Earlsfort Terrace where a site is available at the moment. The site will cost a lot of money. I do not know where the commission are to get the money tomorrow to enable them to enter into negotiations. Is it envisaged that grants would be made available to the commission, or at some stage will they be able initially to borrow and, having developed the site or encouraged its development, realise revenue from the sale of that regenerated site and thereby pay off their borrowings? How are they to function? I would like to see a little more spelled out in that area because it seems to militate against the successful operation of the commission. If we are to set up this kind of body then let us mean it and let us give them the powers, functions and finances they need.

The co-ordination or integration between the local authority and the commission was referred to by the Minister. He talked about the planning scheme drawn up by the commission who, he said, would set out the manner in which [918] an urban development commission consider that the overall regeneration of such areas should be secured and would specify the kind of development which, in the opinion of the commission, should or should not be carried out in the area. He went on to say that a planning scheme would not take the place of a development plan under the Local Government (Planning and Development) Act, 1963, that instead it would be a matter for the planning authority, having regard to the scheme, to review their plan and to make any necessary variations there. It would appear from that that the plan produced by the commission would have superior status and rights and that the local authority would be obliged to conform, as it were, to the intentions of the commission's plan. The Minister said that he hoped that planning authorities would go further than this in expressing development plans for any urban development areas for which planning schemes are prepared. That is commendable, but it is not clear from the Bill, the Explanatory Memorandum or the Minister's speech whether we are saying to local authorities — if we are saying it we should spell it out and the Minister said in parenthesis a few minutes ago that he gave assurances to the City Manager — that the Commission's plans have a status superior to a local authority's draft development plan. If that is the case, that is a major, significant change from the planning law arrangement. I am not saying whether one would support that, but if it is the case we should at least not do it by stealth even if that is not deliberate.

The Minister in his speech referred to the regeneration of our urban areas being based on concerted action by many agencies to improve radically the economic, social and physical condition of these areas. He said that no single authority could provide all the answers and that it would be only through increased co-operation between the different agencies involved and in particular between the public and private sectors that valuable solutions could be devised and implemented. Voluntary controls and well-intentioned appeals to people engaged in this area of commercial development [919] probably are a waste of time. The only two stimuli at work are on the one hand positive inducement, making it more profitable for people to do X rather than Y and, on the other hand, definite, clear and very telling sanctions. Neither of those exists at present. In any planned framework for urban regeneration we should have very strong reference to both, to the tax, financial and other possible inducements on the one hand and on the other hand to very clear, salutary sanctions.

Dereliction is only a form of vandalism. It is a very serious form of anti-social behaviour and, coming as it does from people of property and substance it is particularly reprehensible. If we are serious about it we will make sure that it stops. The only way that can happen is by encouraging in positive ways those who own their property to develop it and if they fail to do so, then by making it painfully clear to them that it does not pay. Unfortunately, at the moment it does pay.

That brings us to major issues affecting the control of, for example, the price of building land, some aspects of the Kenny Report and other areas that I do not wish to deal with now but where action is long overdue. Unless the commission are to act in the sure and certain knowledge that that kind of approach will be taken — a tough, meaningful approach that will have teeth — we are wasting our time here. It has not worked in the past, it is not working now and unless we take the proper approach it will not work in the future. The Minister says that he will be working with these authorities — the local authorities — to give a new impetus to their work. I should be greatful if the Minister would elaborate on that because I am not clear how it is to happen.

Two specific areas are referred to and I am very pleased to see that they are to be given priority attention. I am slightly suspicious about the reasons for the decision in relation to one of these areas north of the Liffey in the middle of my own constituency. This constituency is shared by four other Deputies, one of whom is very familiar to the Government [920] and with whom the Taoiseach had extensive negotiations. Presumably good will come from it for the people who live in the area and about that I am quite happy. I will be doing everything I can to see that every aspect of the agreement is implemented in full. However, I am not sure any more what an agreement is following the statement today by the Minister for Agriculture that commitments made a couple of weeks ago are not commitments any longer. Lest we tend to go down a side alley——

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on James C. Tunney  Zoom on James C. Tunney  Having already gone.

Mr. Keating: Information on Michael Keating  Zoom on Michael Keating  I could go further down.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on James C. Tunney  Zoom on James C. Tunney  And meet yourself coming back.

Mr. Keating: Information on Michael Keating  Zoom on Michael Keating  The site in the area of the Custom House presents a wonderful opportunity for an enterprising Government or Department since it consists of 27 acres and is probably the largest area available for redevelopment. Very good work has already been done by the Dublin Port and Docks Board in consultation with the local authority. If designation of that area as an urban area suitable for treatment by this commission will help, then I am very pleased, but I do not think that the declaration of it per se is adequate. At least it opens the door and I wish the venture good luck, as I do in respect of the old Viking area about which the Minister spoke very eloquently. I know he has long had an interest in this area.

It would be wonderful if the vision outlined in the Minister's speech were to come true. We would have a city truly revitalised where people could enjoy a high quality of life, where families would not be terrorised by crime and vandalism and by the ravages of traffic, noise, dirt and pollution. All this can be achieved if we have the will and that is my essential concern about the commission. It is a step in the right direction but I am not sure if the step is big enough or tough enough. We will suspend judgment and give the Minister every opportunity of showing us that he means business.

[921] Despite the Minister's assurance that there is no question of the men employed in these warehouses being thrown out of work, I know that there is concern and perhaps the Minister would give them more concrete assurances. People look to what they have and worry about the impact of any new development.

I welcome the thrust of the Minister's speech towards re-establishing small craft-type industries in some of the inner city enclaves. I have long felt that we should concentrate a great deal more of our industrial and commercial efforts on the skills we have or had in the recent past and on the small industries employing up to three people. That is the kind of development which is appropriate to a city. If we can recreate a working environment in which it is possible to reinvest and locate industry, without the place being burned down when one's back is turned, we will get life again in Dublin. By international standards Dublin is not an enormous city and it should be possible for us to deal successfully with its problems in an organised and comprehensive way.

The Minister mentioned the possibility of providing cultural facilities in these areas, including small museums and art galleries. I would support such a proposal and would ask him to consider discussing with his colleagues, particularly in the Department of Education, the possibility of taking the wraps off some of the possessions of the State and using them as a basis on which to establish small cultural exhibitions. Some of these items are in a disgraceful condition and some, having had public money spent on refurbishing them, are literally out in the rain. There is room within the Government's own resources to give real meaning to the Minister's good intentions. If a suitable location were obtained there would be a happy marriage of public enterprise and the private sector.

A central question for the commission relates to the transfer of land by ministerial order from a statutory body to an urban development commission. This is dealt with in section 9. The Minister said that such a transfer can be made only [922] where the land is not being used by or is not required by the statutory body concerned and that a special basis of compensation is being provided for. Perhaps the Minister would clarify that statement. I know of no land in the possession of any local authority or statutory body which on their own statement is not being used or is not required by them. If the local authority or statutory body are simply asked whether the land is required by them and we accept their response, seciton 9 will not have any effect because nobody will admit to not requiring the land either now or in the future. We should be slightly tougher and give them a certain period in which to develop the land, telling them that if they fail to do so the commission will take it over and do the job.

A tough approach to land, land prices and development would, I have no doubt, elicit a massive response from the public. The average citizen is thoroughly fed up with the state of our city. If the Minister takes the necessary measures he will find that it will be rewarding not only in that the city will become a better place in which to live but also it will be politically rewarding. At present people are on the verge of giving up.

The Minister mentioned bill posting. Under existing legislation, despite the fact that on every street corner these obnoxious posters appear, it is theoretically impossible to convict the people who are making money from this because allegedly they may not be posted by them or by people acting on their behalf. Such nonsense should not be tolerated. On one occassion I tried to pursue this issue in relation to a particular individual but that person swore in court that he had nothing to do with it and it was up to the person bringing the prosecution to prove that he or somebody acting on his behalf was responsible. A law which allows for that kind of weakness——

Mr. Sherlock: Information on Joe Sherlock  Zoom on Joe Sherlock  To hear that trash from the spokesman for the Opposition after he has been speaking for over an hour——

[923]An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on James C. Tunney  Zoom on James C. Tunney  Will you please resume your seat, Deputy?

Mr. Sherlock: Information on Joe Sherlock  Zoom on Joe Sherlock  I want an opportunity to speak and to make some points which I feel the Minister would wish to hear.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on James C. Tunney  Zoom on James C. Tunney  On Second Stage there is no limit provided the speaker is giving to the House the benefit of his thoughts which are relevant to the Bill. Deputy Keating is perfectly in order and Deputy Sherlock can rely on me to keep him so.

Mr. Sherlock: Information on Joe Sherlock  Zoom on Joe Sherlock  I remember the Deputy saying he would not discuss it outside the local branch——

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on James C. Tunney  Zoom on James C. Tunney  The Deputy is not entitled to interrupt any Deputy who is speaking.

Mr. Sherlock: Information on Joe Sherlock  Zoom on Joe Sherlock  I am concerned about the time factor. He has been speaking now for nearly——

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on James C. Tunney  Zoom on James C. Tunney  The Deputy has registered his protest, but he is completely out of order in doing so. I am calling on Deputy Keating to continue without interruption.

Mr. Sherlock: Information on Joe Sherlock  Zoom on Joe Sherlock  I want to speak for ten minutes on this issue. I am asking if I will get an opportunity to speak.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on James C. Tunney  Zoom on James C. Tunney  As I said, there is no time limit. Debate on this may carry on for several days and I am sure the Deputy will get ample opportunity of making his contribution.

Mr. Sherlock: Information on Joe Sherlock  Zoom on Joe Sherlock  I hoped to make my contribution this evening——

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on James C. Tunney  Zoom on James C. Tunney  Deputy Keating without interruption.

Mr. Keating: Information on Michael Keating  Zoom on Michael Keating  Deputy Sherlock and some of his colleagues may be unfamiliar with the tolerance allowed to people in a democracy but that is the way it operates. The Minister mentioned bill posting or fly posting and I am rejoining on that [924] and, if I may say so, we are in order. We are not going to go on at length about it but we are——

Mr. Sherlock: Information on Joe Sherlock  Zoom on Joe Sherlock  The Deputy is accepting the Bill as it is because——

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on James C. Tunney  Zoom on James C. Tunney  Deputy Keating to proceed.

Mr. Keating: Information on Michael Keating  Zoom on Michael Keating  The Minister said that properties in central urban areas are inherently valuable and it is wrong that they should be allowed to decay or to remain derelict or vacant or underused. He goes on to say that it is proposed to introduce a system of taxation of derelict sites to discourage the hoarding of property for profit with the resulting urban blight. I would like the Minister to elaborate on this. We had this statement first of all in a document prior to the vote on the nomination of the Taoiseach recently. It was reiterated in that same form in the budget speech by the Minister, Deputy MacSharry, and it is here again. I would like to know to what extent that proposal has been developed and whether or not we can expect action on that soon. If there is some positive action to deal with this question along the lines of a tough sanction then there is some hope of the commissions actually doing good work.

Finally I would like to wish the Bill and the commissions every success. I hope they will be successful. The reservations I have expressed come from a long-time interest and concern in the policy activity in my own party in this area. If there is any doubt at all in my mind about these commissions being effective it relates essentially to the question of whether or not the commissions are going to have sufficient authority and sufficient power to do the job. Secondary to that is the question of co-ordination with the work of local authorities. If the Minister could deal with both of those issues I would be very grateful.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  I would like to respond to this Bill in a constructive and, I hope, relevant manner. I would like, without in any way denigrating the commitment of [925] the Minister of State for urban affairs to attack what I consider to be the central weakness of this Bill which seems to be something peculiar to Fianna Fáil. I would describe it as embodying yet again central government elitism. The Minister says that the membership of the commissions will not be ordinary people who manage to get themselves elected. That is far too dangerous a thing to undertake. On the contrary — and I quote the Minister —“membership will need to be representative of a wide range of disciplines including people with experience in local government and public administration.” A nod is as good as a wink to a blind person and we are going to have former Departmental officials prominent on these commissions.

Why am I attacking what I have described as Fianna Fáil's obsession with central government elitism? I am attacking it because its record in local government has been universally disastrous. Fianna Fáil introduced the City and County Managers Acts back in the thirties. Section 4, which is the sole saving grace of it, was brought in in 1955 or 1956 by the Coalition Government of that day. Already in this administration we have heard the Minister say that that is going to disappear. In every sphere that Fianna Fáil can get their hands on in relation to local government they take more and more power away from the local authority and vest it in the Custom House in the extraordinary belief that the people in the Custom House know best. We have heard it in relation to finance with the abolition of rates with the consequent destruction of local authority autonomy throughout the country, and every member of a local authority realises that and the Minister realises it. We have had it in relation to the way in which local authorities are confined in what they can do and in what they cannot do. But in this instance we are now having central government yet again with its elitist, know-all attitude sticking its head into areas of local development on the basis that it knows best.

I would like to remind the House about the last time a Fianna Fáil Minister for Local Government or urban affairs drastically [926] altered the balance between central and local government and interfered in the basis of the housing problem of the day and demonstrated that central government knew best and that the local authorities did not know best. I refer to that golden wonder that was going to be the jewel in the crown of the administration of the time which is known today as Ballymun. The Ballymun complex, the system of building, the form of building and the planning organisation was rammed down the throats of the elected members of Dublin Corporation and the officials against the advice of the housing committee and against the advice of the housing manager of the time, the now retired Jim Molloy. Who knew best in the end, the local authority or the elitist people in the Custom House? Having done that ignominious deed in relation to the expertise that had been acquired and accumulated over the years on housing, they made the situation worse by then changing the way in which housing was procured generally and enforced upon local authorities the system of the guaranteed order scheme. This again was another brain child from central government overriding the collective experience and wisdom of the local authorities to the extent that we had the scandal of housing estates throughout the country but most spectacularly in Finglas South and in Cork where disaster occurred and where ultimately the unfortunate tennants or the public taxpayers had to pick up the bill.

Therefore, I am opening my remarks, I hope, in a constructively critical manner, by saying there is no reason for this House, to believe that there is deposited in the Custom House, particularly when Fianna Fáil are in Government, some unique form of knowledge that is implicitly better than that of the local authorities on the ground. That is the first marker I want to put down in relation to this Bill, because this Bill starts to go down the same path and it should be checked and identified and the Minister should very clearly respond to it. Let us have no doubt about this whatsoever. We are not just talking about the Gregory deal in relation to the Port and Docks [927] Board site or some kind of consciencesaving measure for the damage that was done to Wood Quay. That section of the Bill empowers the Minister to designate any other site that he feels is required. We are opening a Pandora's box here in which we are not only going to throw out the baby of local democracy which is essential to this country but we are going to have central government elitism with its known track record in relation to Ballymun and the guaranteed housing scheme operating again in an area where the local authority is being consistently bypassed.

The second point I want to make — and it is an extension of my first — is that Fianna Fáil in occupation in the Custom House seem to have a most extraordinary disgust for local democracy or for an independent voice outside either the Cabinet or the permanent government or the civil service, because embodied in this legislation is the return of a beast that we thought we had killed in 1976. Indeed, we were talking about it in the House earlier today. In 1976 we finally killed the corrupting abuse of ministerial appeals in relation to planning authorities and planning decisions. In this legislation we have the possibility for ministerial appeal. That is a retrograde step. I am referring specifically to the section which proposes that where a commission and a planning authority cannot agree on the nature and form of the development that should take place, instead of appealing to An Bord Pleanála, the final authority, they are obliged to appeal to the Minister. That is a backward step which we will certainly oppose.

The House should pause before going into the detail of the comprehensive speech given by the Minister and the substantial comments made by Deputy Keating and go into the origin of this legislation. With the agreement of the House it might be far easier for us to enable the Fianna Fáil minority Government to deliver on their deal to Deputy Gregory-Independent and not complicate matters by bringing in superflous legislation which has a very dangerous [928] tendency to undermine the last remaining props of local democracy.

The memory of the Minister for Agriculture might not be very sound in this regard but I am quoting from Volume 333 of the Official Report, 9 March 1982, when Deputy Gregory-Independent told the House how he had finally come to decide for which candidate he would vote. At column 26 he said:

Specifically, my decision is based on a clear difference in response from Deputy Haughey and Deputy FitzGerald. Given the commitment by Deputy Haughey, witnessed and signed by the General Secretary of Irish Transport and General Workers Union, I had no alternative but to support a Fianna Fáil Taoiseach.

Among the many things signed into that commitment, and witnessed, was the subject of the legislation we were discussing today, the National Community Development Agency. At column 27 Deputy Gregory-Independent said:

The controversial and disruptive motorway plan will not now be proceeded with. The vital 27 acres on the Port and Docks Board site will be nationalised and developed along lines geared to the needs of centre city communities.

That is the godfather to this legislation. As I said on numerous occasions, given half an opportunity to introduce legislation relating to local government, irrespective of motivation, there seems to be this extraordinary pressure in the Custom House to strip away further powers and autonomy from local authorities and to take them back into the Custom House. It might be far easier and more effective to bring in a very short Bill enabling the Minister for the Environment, with the agreement of the Minister for Transport, to get from the Dublin Port and Docks Board the 27 acres in question and allocate them to Irish Life in consultation with Deputy Gregory-Independent and his team of advisers and proceed forth-with with that development. Why clutter up the Order Paper of this House and pretend that this Bill is more than that? [929] This is a delivery on a political deal. It is a dangerous delivery because it sets a dangerous precedent and local authorities will be under severe attack.

The Minister, in attempting to suggest that this legislation addressed itself to a wider scale, talked about the problems in Dublin generally. I have no doubt, because I have known the man since 1974 when we were both elected at the same time to Dublin Corporation, that he is very sincere in his concern, but this Bill in its present form will not go very far to deal with the problems we all recognise are in Dublin. Let us put on record, as the Minister and Deputy Keating did, the extent of those problems because, with respect to other Members of this House, this Bill is designed to meet not only the political deal made between Deputy Gregory-Independent and the then Deputy Haughey, but to deal with the problems in Dublin.

What is the situation in Dublin? First, we should recognise the time frame in which we are operating. The city is effectively 1,200 years old and has been growing slowly over that period, but in the next 20 years we will see the most extraordinary explosion of growth for which we are not geared in any shape or form. The year 2,000 is closer to us than 1950. In 1950 half the people alive in Ireland today were not even born. There is a greater proportion of young people under 25 in Dublin than in the rest of the country. In 1950 Dublin had an edge, a boundary, a line where the city ended and the fields began. It was a clean edge not far from the canals which ring the city. In the old days the drinking laws allowed some public houses beyond the green fields to serve travellers from Dublin after city closing hours. Today those pubs are in the city, in the suburbs, surrounded by housing estates and factories. The city has grown quickly since 1950. Today Dublin has just under one million people; by the year 2,000 it will be close to 1.5 million. Most people dream of growing old gracefully. Dublin's problem and our nightmare, is that between now and the year 2,000 we will have to accommodate at least another 300,000 people who want to be [930] Dubliners, who are the children of Dubliners and who need to come to Dublin.

The last full census, 1971, gave a figure of 852,000 for the population of Dublin, which has grown steadily and gradually over a period of 200 to 300 years, from an earlier population of 100,000. In many cases it was able, in the twenties, thirties, and forties, to use the buildings, streets and facilities which were over 100 years old to accommodate that growth. Allowing for that slow growth, Dublin failed as a city. Let us dispel some of the nostalgia we sometimes indulge in in relation to the good old times in Dublin.

Dublin was a living city, a compact city, but it was not a just city. It was truly a strumpet city, imprisoning far too many people in tenements and hovels instead of homes and denying both work and health to thousands. Between 1946 and 1961, which some people look back on as a golden era in Dublin, when there was a population increase in the country generally, 100,000 Dubliners were forced out of their own city to cities like Boston, Birmingham or Brisbane in search of work denied them at home. They were workers — mostly the children of Dublin working people — who, denied education and opportunity, could not get a share of the new office jobs or a start in the small, traditional Dublin industries which were either being rationalised or were simply declining. Many of those industries have now disappeared altogether. Some city dwellers, particularly in the inner city, who can claim to be fourth and fifth generation Dubliners, are effectively closed out from the city and today the Bostons of the world are full.

In 1971 the Dublin workforce was 330,000. By 1991 the available workforce will be approximately 460,000. We will need at least 200,000 new jobs in Dublin by the year 2000 and present estimates show that by 1991 alone we will have something in the region of 50,000 to 60,000 Dubliners unemployed. The statistics go on and, indeed, are familiar to many of us; but the problem, in fact, gets worse. We are running out of time in relation to how we handle it. The Minister, with all sincerity, has suggested that this Bill is a concrete way in which we can [931] resolve that problem. I beg to differ. I do not doubt the Minister's sincerity or commitment, but totally and fundamentally reject the ability of this Bill to deal significantly with some of the problems the solution to which is embodied in the promise I have made and which is available to the Minister in his capacity as a member of Dublin City Council. All the planning documents from which those figures were taken were presented in 1976 and 1977.

Why do I make that criticism? It is because the present proposal will not deal with two of the fundamental problems which need to be solved to get the kind of invigoration we need. Firstly, the proposal will not deal with the problem of controlling the price of building land, with the sole exception of the way in which the Port and Docks Board are having their land extracted from them. I would like to acknowledge the cleverness and skill with which that legislation was drafted. I also would like to put on record that the Dublin Port and Docks Board will scream, and scream loudly, that a source of capital which they had anticipated becoming available to them and which is essential to the development of Dublin Port down river, will now be denied to them if this land is extracted from them by agreement between the Minister for Urban Affairs — I presume the Minister for the Environment, but effectively the present occupant of the Government bench and the Minister for Transport.

The Dublin Port and Docks Board have a statutory obligation to operate within their own revenue and resources as a commercial, non loss-making body. The Port and Docks Board are representative of various sectors, including the working force — indeed, the vice-chairman of the Irish Transport and General Workers' Union either is chairman or was former chairman of this board. I would like at some stage in the debate to find out precisely what consultations took place between the Department and the Port and Docks Board in relation to this proposal.

Getting back to the central question of [932] land, control of land price is unique to the first site to which the Minister's Bill refers. There are no such provisions in relation to medieval Dublin and we are back to the old problem of compulsory legislation. Instead of producing this kind of Bill — and which could have been done largely by agreement in the form I have earlier suggested — the Department would have been far better employed in bringing in a Bill to reform and improve the procedures for compulsory legislation. As the Minister well knows from his own experience, that legislation simply does not work and will not enable the Viking Commission for Dublin — to give it a tentative name — to acquire the land which it is tentatively suggested in this Bill it can acquire. That is the first reason I do not think this Bill will work.

The second fundamental reason is that at the end of the day this is another well-meaning, well-intentioned agency, commission, body, institute, group, which is full of intentions, with its own office and permanent staff, either transferred from another Department or people who will acquire permanency very quickly upon being hired. They do not have the economic leverage or muscle to direct the revenue generating activities into the areas which we wish to revitalise.

It is very significant that the Minister did not suggest during his speech that one of the most potent forces in urban renewal and development in this country, and in this city at the moment, is the commercial development of office space. The Department and the Minister himself are aware that the majority occupant of office space in this State — and about 90 per cent of office development throughout the State occurs within the Dublin area — is the State itself. Even a rudimentary knowledge of economics would clearly demonstrate that if you control 70 per cent of the market you effectively can dominate the market, lead it and dictate to it, which we have seen in relation to other sectors of our economy. There was no suggestion in the Minister's speech that the State would play a productive role in relocating some of its own office use into areas which the commission might develop in order to guarantee [933] the economic success of the redevelopment proposals which will flow from any plans which such a commission might make. Instead, we have recourse to another unspecified form of guarantee of borrowing up to the extent of £50 million, either at home or abroad.

There is no suggestion, for example, that, instead of borrowing at home and abroad, we utilise the enormous resources of our own pension funds, most of which are the product of the Labour movement's gains in getting pensions for people over the last 40 or 50 years. The most successful development company, and the dominant market leader, is a State-owned company — Irish Life. It is significant that the Minister did not refer to it. It would not be appropriate for it to have been embodied in a Bill, but if there is an economic force in the present economic climate which has the economic muscle to do the type of development which the Minister speaks about it is pension funds such as those of Irish Life, Aer Lingus and others acting in consort with the State itself to use community demand and community money to revitalise urban areas. Having established that economic productive base within the urban areas, then the less economically productive or revenue-generating activities would flow from that. This is the alternative approach to urban renewal. It is, in essence, a socialist alternative to the kind of laissez-faire, dream management upon which the Minister has been somewhat engaged. We have yet again another aspiration that something good will come from this, like all the plans and documents produced by Deputy O'Donoghue when Minister for Economic Planning and Development — document after document, six months on six months, setting targets, objectives, aims, but never saying “We have the resources, we own Irish Life, we can control the price of building land, we have workers' pension funds which they need for themselves and their children. We will direct, plan and control.” It has never gone that far because, fundamentally, Fianna Fáil, as a pragmatic party, are so linked into the capitalist system that they are not prepared to take that extra step until such time as [934] they may be forced to in order to stay in power.

I am not trying to make petty party-political points. There is an alternative and nowhere is that alternative more readily available to the State than in the area of urban renewal and urban redevelopment. The Minister for Finance owns 97 per cent of the issued share capital of Irish Life, and Irish Life are responsible for 70 per cent of the development of offices in Dublin city. The State is the tenant for 75 per cent of the footage let. What more do the Government want? They have all the power they need to redevelop any part of Dublin city, if they have the political will to do so. I hope this will surface in the Minister's reply or on Committee Stage. The State has far more power than it realises, or perhaps more ominously, than it is prepared to utilise to achieve the objectives the Government say they are committed to. That is the economic question.

Let us forget about unsecured borrowing and State guarantees of another £50 million with an inflation rate of around 20 per cent, although I gather Coopers and Lybrand are now saying it will be down to 17 per cent by the end of the year. At a Fianna Fáil Party meeting recently a former Minister for Finance took the view that inflation would still be over 20 per cent at the end of the year, and the currency will be devalued. If that is the case, I earnestly request the Government not to let this agency borrow money overseas. This would compound the difficulties for this group which we saw nationally when we borrowed foreign currency. The socialist alternative indicates clearly that the Government already have the levers of power in their grasp and in their ownership. All that is required is the political will to use them.

Another fundamental objection to the Bill to which there is a socialist alternative is on the question of the structure of the agency the Government propose to create to implement whatever proposal emerges after consultation. It is inherently undemocratic. The commission are to be appointed by the Minister who must have due regard to the hidden commitments [935] in the Gregory deal or to the members of the Minister's party who have to be looked after, compensated, reassured or placated. None has to be elected. All have to be satisfied. It is inherently undemocratic, and worse, it has the potential to be under the dominance, or the influence, or the thumb of the Department because of the insidious phrase that they should have experience in local government administration or public service. Membership will need to be representative of a wide range of disciplines including people with experience in local government and public administration. That is the phrase. When that type of clause is added to a sentence in the Custom House I know precisely what they mean.

Let me give an example. When a previous senior incumbent of the Custom House wearing the Fianna Fáil colours decided in a fit of pique to abolish or suspend the elected members of Dublin Corporation and to appoint a commission, it was not coincidental or accidental that the commissioner who was appointed was a retired former secretary of that Department. If you are appointing a gamekeeper it is essential that you know him well in advance, and more to the point, that he knows you. That tendency will continue. There is no evidence to suggest that it will not.

What is so wrong about elected people? What is so wrong with the ordinary individual who manages to get sufficient popular support having a role to play on a commission? What is the distrust of these people being appointed to it? The Minister has been forced into that position. The other great political scandal in the Custom House — I am not having a cut at individual civil servants who are not politically responsible for what emanates from that august building — is that buried in the vaults of the Custom House is the failure to do anything about the reform of local government.

If the Molloy White Paper, or the Tully discussion document, or many of the proposals received from various local authorities, had been dealt with adequately, this problem would not arise. [936] The balance between Dublin and the rest of the country is totally wrong in relation to local government representation. The Minister proposes to by-pass the democratic procedures we have built up over the years. This is consistent for Fianna Fáil. There is an alternative embodied in our own document which I regard as essentially a socialist proposal to restructure local government in the Dublin area.

Let me give the House a description of what I mean. It is essential to consider what the Minister said against the background of the problem in Dublin and the need for a clear structure to deal not just with the Custom House site which has the good fortune to be in tentative public ownership by the Port and Docks Board and to be in the constituency of Deputy Gregory. Our alternative is the medieval site which is there for historic reasons. There is no clear indication what the Minister would like to see happening to it. The Bill indicated that the Minister can designate other areas for development.

Let me put the following scenario to the Minister to show how dangerous the power is which he is now asking the House to give him. Deputy Keating referred to the Earlsfort centre site. Under the terms of this Bill the following situation could arise. The eventual owners of that site could argue that the planning constraints and planning permissions are too onerous. In other words, that they cannot make money from it. That is what developers mean when they say planning permissions are too onerous. Therefore, it has to be left lying derelict and vacant. Somebody was nearly killed on part of that site in November. I put down a Private Notice Question about the provision of a telephone service for the dangerous buildings section of Dublin Corporation.

Influential developers with links to benign charitable organisations based in the Burlington Hotel or in Mount Street could make a persuasive case to the effect that they needed to get out from under the onerous conditions of the planning permission. There is nothing in this Bill to prevent the Minister from designating the Earlsfort centre site as an area for development, establishing a commission, [937] and empowering them to draw up a development proposal. The local authority would be consulted. Let us assume they attach the same condition to any development as they have in their development plans, that is, 40 per cent maximum office use and the balance to be commercial or residential.

The commission would say they did not agree with these proposals and conditions. Instead of the matter being decided by An Bord Pleanála under the normal process we won from successive central Governments, it would be decided by the Minister. The circle would be nicely rounded off, and there would be a potential charter for private developers because of the absence of democracy in the way in which the commission can be set up. I am making an extreme argument.

I do not think the Minister would do that. He might not always be Minister for Urban Affairs and there will be others who may not be as sensitive or as touchy and perhaps might be politically pushed into doing it in order to maintain the high cost of elections or whatever other politically expedient reason is given. That is part of the power embodied in this Bill and part of the power we are asking the Minister to give. I believe there is an alternative and it is the radical restructuring of the way in which local government works in Dublin. I believe it should be on the following lines.

The Minister should move as soon as possible to establish a Dublin metropolitan council. The Dublin urban region, which extends from the city out to the county and in some cases over into neighbouring counties to include towns like Bray and Leixlip, should have a single unified metropolitan council. This would involve a change in the county boundaries and the merging of Dublin County Council with Dublin City Council. The council would have a membership of approximately 85 based upon a ratio of 1 member to 10,000 population. The combined total of council and corporation representatives at present — it is more now — is approximately the same.

The major areas of responsibility of such a council would be as follows: (1) [938] structure planning — this unit would have overall physical planning control for the region including economic and land use planning; (2) services — this unit would contain major water and drainage schemes, roads and related engineering services including refuse disposal; (3) housing — this unit would have overall housing policy for the region, acquisition of land for housing, providing research and assistance throughout the region for the provision and allocation of housing; (4) health — this unit would have the present function and activities of the Eastern Health Board which covers all of the area involved and would be integrated into the structure of the metropolitan council; (5) education — this unit would have the present function of the vocational education committee which would be taken under this category and pending the reform and organisation of second-and third-level education would come under the aegis of the metropolitan council. Council activities to which the Minister earlier referred would be contained within this unit; (6) transportation — transport is not catered for at present. A new transportation board embracing the various elements involved in transport would be established under the aegis of the metropolitan council. It would have a specific role in relation to public transport in conjunction with CIE and in fact would include the Dublin metropolitan transportation authority which is promised or which is on the way.

Finally, environment would cover parks and recreation. The last category would be finance. The metropolitan council would provide the first level of local regional government in the Dublin area. It would emcompass — this is the important part of it — one-third of the entire population of the State. Left on its own it could not claim to be a system of local government and for that reason a second level of local government would occur below the metropolitan council. There is a precedent for this already in the relationship of urban district councils to county councils and more especially in the relationship of Dun Laoghaire Borough to Dublin County Council. Taking the Dun Laoghaire position as a guide, [939] the second tier of local government would be a number of local boroughs. The size and boundaries of the various boroughs would vary somewhat but efforts should be made to consolidate existing community ties and tradition. Dun Laoghaire, for example, would remain intact, possibly extending its boundary inland or out towards Bray. The old urban district council areas of Pembroke and Rathmines including their symbolic townhalls would similarly serve to establish or suggest boundaries. The final shape and size would have perhaps particular regard to a balance between local democracy and administrative efficiency.

If we take a typical borough as having a population of 100,000, we would have nine or ten such boroughs under the framework of the metropolitan council and each borough like Dun Laoghaire would have its own elected council as well as elected members on the metropolitan council. It would have direct responsibility and autonomy regarding matters of local concern, A typical borough, I believe, would have the following kind of profile: the size would be 100,000 population; the council would have 25 local borough councillors. The representative ratio would be one councillor for 4,000 people; elections would be every five years and the quotas to be elected to such a council would range between 1,000 and 1,500, based on a system of five five-seater wards. The structure of such an authority would be similar to that which operates in Dun Laoghaire at present.

It is significant that we are talking about these commissions in the context of Dublin city which is the one part of the entire local government system that has actually broken down. Dublin Corporation as a political and administrative system in contrast with any other local authority simply does not work and cannot work because of the scale and magnitude of its functional area and the problems it has to deal with. It is further complicated by the fact that the senior executive staff in Dublin Corporation have to maintain a condition of permanent [940] schizophrenia between their responsibilities to Dublin County Council and Dublin City Council, leaving aside the unfortunate position of Dun Laoghaire which is frequently squeezed in the middle. I have seen correspondence in which an engineer employed by the people of Dublin wrote in the morning in his capacity as Dublin County Engineer to himself in his capacity as Dublin City Engineer and received the letter in the afternoon, considered it and refused the request it contained. He wrote back and told himself so. That is the kind of nonsense, the Gilbert and Sullivan nonsense that actually has happened and does exist. The Minister is aware of it.

He may well recall the time when we tried to reduce the cost of local authority housing by improving density ratios in areas of Dublin County Council only to be told time and again that the provisions of the Dublin County Council development plan were such that we could not do this even though the manager and all the officials agreed with it.

I suggest that the Minister would be far better employed in seriously dealing with the problems of local government reform and introducing in the inner city area some form of local authority that can actually function, is actually democratic and will have its ear to the ground and will be able to do the job which the Minister believes these commissions might possibly be able to do. I criticise the Bill in that context because I do not think the commissions will be democratic. They will certainly not have members who will be representative of all sides of the community. Fianna Fáil do not play the political game that way at all; we know that if one happens to be a member of Limerick County Council or in any area where Fianna Fáil have a majority. Concerns of proportionality and the other niceties such as the Minister has experienced in Dublin Corporation just do not exist. It is a winner-take-all system with a vengeance, nicely presented and pleasantly packaged but if you are not in the moral community, as a noted columnist has described it, you are not in there at all. There may be the odd trade unionist or tame community worker as a kind of fifth [941] columnist to suggest that it is representative. These commissions will be composed of members of Fianna Fáil, sympathisers or not. If the Minister suggests that he personally would not be disposed to do that, as perhaps would be his personal wish, then I think if the orders do not come from the top floor of the Customs House they will certainly come from Merrion Street as regards the membership of these commissions.

We are not talking of commissions representative of the community but about political appointees or alternatively safe people who know how the mind and heart of the Custom House really work. The system is inherently undemocratic and it will rely on the simple expertise of the Custom House, which was displayed in Ballymun and with the guaranteed order scheme against the specific advice and expertise of local authority members. I did not hear in the Minister's opening speech or in any of the comments made any justification for providing that these should not be elected members, why there should not be a local authority that can do this. There is no suggestion that Dun Laoghaire Borough needs this kind of organisation. There is no suggestion clearly identified in the public mind that smaller towns like Waterford and Limerick need these commissions.

What Waterford and Limerick need is the money to proceed with CPO acquisitions. Waterford and Limerick have very clearly defined the areas within their own local authority development plan in regard to precisely what they want. All they need is the money from the Department to enable them to do it, not a commission to complicate the matter. Yet we are not getting that kind of response from the Minister. The Minister would be far more productively engaged if he were to give power to local authorities to borrow up to £50 million at home and abroad on a guaranteed basis. That would get some areas out of their straitjackets. Authorities like Waterford, Drogheda and Dundalk, who have the kind of medieval core which the Minister has identified in this Bill, would have the power to borrow the moneys they need [942] to do the kind of things he thinks the commission will do.

This Bill is part of a package and the Minister has loosely referred to the inner city authority which is to be established later on. The Minister in his speech referred to the proposal to establish a statutory Dublin inner city development authority and said that the preparation of the necessary legislation was at an advanced stage. He said it was proposed to introduce the Bill this session and that both the Custom House docks development area and the Dublin walled city development area would fall within the area of the proposed authority. However, he said there will be no duplication of responsibility or conflict of interests between the commission and the authority.

I should like to compliment the Minister on his ability to produce in such a short time from his Department such a myriad range of legislation. It is unique to produce so much so quickly. One wonders whether it has not been thought out very clearly or, alternatively, that it had been there for some time and was not acted upon. I recognise that the intricate departmental committee formed the basis for much of the kind of thinking that seems to be embodied in what the Minister has been saying. I read that report and there was nowhere, to my satisfaction, a clear identification of the kind of economic leverage which is available to the Government being utilised by either the authority or the commission. The Minister has an obligation to tell us why we are debating this Bill in the absence of the inner city development authority. It is not at all clear what the inner-connections are going to be. The Minister has assured us that there will be no duplication.

As the Minister well knows from his period in opposition, assurances are not really much use. The courts do not have due regard to them and the operation of the law ignores all the fine assurances which are put on the record of this House. We need and we want to have assurances replaced by facts. The Bill for the establishment of this inner city develoment authority should be published so that it [943] can be compared in the context of these two development commissions. What is going to be the function of this inner city developoment authority? Will it be able to borrow money to the tune of £50 million? Is it going to be democratically elected or will it be another Fianna Fáil array of appointees? What will its specific relationship be with Dublin Corporation? Is it not yet again part and parcel of the central Government elitism that permeates the entire range of legislation?

Lest the Minister think I am obsessive about the kind of elitism I am denouncing, the genesis of the Port and Docks controversy, which resulted in the opposition to it locally and in one sense brought Deputy Gregory to prominence, is in this document published by the Port and Docks Board themselves. It is a document expensively produced and prepared by a team of consultant planners and architects. Because the planning permission process has been democratised, procedures exist for third party appeals and it was only when third party appeal objections were made that the enormity of what this proposal was going to do to the area became apparent to the public at large in that immediate vicinity who raised it as an issue to the extent that it formed part and parcel of the Gregory deal. This is the product of the kind of elitism and consultation between professionals on the one hand, public servants in the Port and Docks Board on the other and officials negotiating and talking privately in Dublin Corporation. Yet this Bill is going to eliminate from the planning process a fundamental part of it, third party appeals. It is the very process of third party appeals that made the Port and Docks Board site a public issue in the first place.

That is the kind of ordinary, commonsense wisdom shown by the people when the Government went to the housing committee and suggested the idea of high rise flats in 1962 and 1963 after the collapse of houses in Fenian Street. The ordinary elected members of Dublin Corporation from all walks of life and all parties said it would not work in Dublin. Yet the central Government elitism dictated and [944] directed that it would and could work. We all know the tragedy of that venture. We are being asked to accept that there has been some miraculous transformation between then and now under the control of Fianna Fáil and that the same mistakes will not be made again. There is no such assurance in the Bill. There are no such powers to allow of third party intervention — consultations certainly, that is a new phrase in the eighties. You can consider and consult but at the end of the day the Minister, not An Bord Pleanála, will decide. These are retrospective, anti-democratic steps that push back gains which were made over the last ten years.

If the Minister thinks I am being unduly party partisan in this matter, let me remind him of what we would both regard as the most extreme abuse in recent times of ministerial appeal. I refer to what has now become known in Donnybrook as “Tully's Tower” on the Dodder Bridge, a building which I understand the present Minister gave a commitment that he would revoke if he came back to power. Perhaps I am misinformed.

Mr. Brady: Information on Gerard Brady  Zoom on Gerard Brady  (Dublin South-East): That is grossly inaccurate.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  I am sure the House will be pleased to learn of that correction. That is a good example of the kind of abuse I am talking about. Although it is not a Fianna Fáil example, it is the kind of product that central government elitism and ministerial appeal in its worst form can produce. We are being asked again, with the record of the Custom House in the area of planning and development, to transfer powers from local authorities and elected members to the Custom House and to Fianna Fáil Ministers — to any Minister who, under pressure for any reason, is capable of making the sort of decisions which result in either “Tully's Tower” or Ballymun.

I do not accept that and I do not think the House should accept it. The Labour Party certainly do not accept it and we will be opposing that section. We will be putting down a range and a raft of amendments to this legislation. While the intent is good the content is seriously defective.

[945] I ask the Minister to seriously consider the question of how he sees the integration of the current economic power which the State has, especially in relation to Irish Life, the pension funds controlled by the public sector and also in relation to the office use which the State has by way of its market demand. How does he see all that being used in concert with the commission? Can he see it being embodied in this legislation in any shape or form? If he does not, it will be another Údarás na Gaeltachta, another body without any real teeth or economic leverage and not being able to function.

There are a number of other points which could be usefully made in relation to it on Second Stage.

Debate adjourned.


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