Urban Renewal Bill, 1986: Second Stage (Resumed).

Thursday, 24 April 1986

Dáil Eireann Debate
Vol. 365 No. 9

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Question again proposed: “That the Bill be now read a Second Time.”

Mr. Kelly: Information on John M. Kelly  Zoom on John M. Kelly  When I moved the adjournment at 2.30 p.m. I had just described in probably fairly offensive terms — nothing less will draw the requisite attention — the general condition of the capital city which has been reached by a process taking place not just in my lifetime but with great rapidly and acceleration over the past 20 or 25 years. About a year ago we had a chance to discuss this matter in the House, I cannot remember on what Bill or Estimate, and I described the city in similar terms then. I said that it was the scruffiest capital in Europe. I repeat that now; and let me add that it is the scruffiest capital not by a nose or a head but by several lengths.

I was taken to task by a Deputy, a member of my party, outside the House, who either went spontaneously to one of the evening newspapers or was willing to discuss critically something one of his colleagues had said in reply to a telephone call. Because of the strictures I had employed in regard to Dublin he accused me of having and deploying in my criticisms an elitist attitude towards [1847] what a city should look like. He mentioned a couple of ancient universities that I had the privilege of attending and he said: “Deputy Kelly seems to think that everything should run according to the architectural standards of these European gems” or something like that. I think I am not substantially misquoting him.

I say to this Deputy — whom I will not name because I do not want to cause more trouble; I have not referred to it in the meantime and I never even remembered it until we started to discuss this Bill this morning — that he or any Deputy who feels that criticism of that kind or expressions of anguish uttered here or elsewhere about the dereliction, dirt and decay all around us in this city reflect an elitist point of view should ask himself whether he has ever walked from Butt Bridge to Kingsbridge along the south quays and from Kingsbridge back to Butt Bridge on the north quays. If not, let him spend some hour and a half — which is what it would take — doing so and instruct himself about what this city looks like at its heart and core. That is one of the areas designated — not under the Bill in front of us but under the Finance Bill — which the Minister proposes, if I understood his speech correctly, to bring under the umbrella of the Urban Renewal Bill which is before us.

I ask the same Deputy whether he has ever gone by train between Amiens Street Station and Westland Row — as they used to be called before we celebrated I have forgotten which anniversary of 1916 since we seem to be celebrating them at the drop of a hat these days — and looked at the backs of the houses, the streets and the buildings all around them. Let me start his journey a bit further out in Drumcondra and go as far as Lansdowne Road. He should then ask himself whether anything similar is to be seen in the heart of a capital city.

I recognise that you seldom see the most flattering aspect of any city from a raised railway line but I am not simply talking about the fact that the back of a house does not look as attractive as the [1848] front; it has to accommodate pipes, services and so on. I am just asking whether there is any other capital city in traversing the centre of which you see so many broken down, dilapidated buildings, so many roofs like colanders, so many houses, the demolition of which was begun but never finished or the construction of which was begun but never finished. There is so much rot and decay and any Deputy who thinks I am applying elitist standards by talking like that really ought to ask himself, particularly when he is a member of Dublin Corporation, if he is taking a serious and responsible view of his own duties.

We are much given in this country — I sometimes think so much given to it that probably in an inverted way it conceals an inferiority complex — to saying that this or that Irish item is “second to none” in the world. Irish food is “second to none” Irish music is “second to none”. Everything Irish, like everything French, Finnish or Japanese, has a character and value of its own, and there are some dimensions of it which may indeed be world beating, but I object to the automatic asumption — which is not sincerely held but affected, to apply an anaesthetic plaster to a deeply felt inferiority complex — that one is being an elitist, or a West Briton or, as Kevin Boland said, a belted earl or one of the gin and tonic brigade if one says we are not in the same league as other capital cities in western Europe. I do not want to go on about the differences between myself and a colleague as I am sure he was saying no more than many other members of Dublin Corporation would say, all of whom should hang their heads in shame, if they do not hang themselves, over the condition of the city which in a sense they are paid to preside over, not with a salary but with perquisites of all kinds.

I wonder how a Deputy or a councillor who feels that way about “elitist” critiques would be received in Florence or Amsterdam. Admittedly those two cities are world famous for their visual impact. In the case of Amsterdam it is not because of the immense array of magnificent individual public buildings, as its [1849] array in that regard is very small, but because of its very carefully preserved character and carefully maintained streets. It is the totality of Amsterdam which creates the impression, not because it has places, it is rather short on these things. The Dutch are frugal, simple and modest, at least that has been their traditional character, but they are also careful and clean and respect things, including themselves. They do not feel that anybody among them who says that somethings is dirty, broken or needs to be maintained, repaired or preserved is an elitist.

I wonder how certain Deputies and councillors would get on not just in Florence or Amsterdam but in the humblest Dutch towns or Italian towns for that matter. How much of the unsightliness which is not only presided over by Dublin Corporation, county council or any other local authority but actually promoted by section 4 directions, would be tolerated by anybody, even by the Communist Party who, to do them justice, are very much to the fore in these countries in trying to maintain the appearance and symbols of the past? You would not get by in Leningrad if you were to propose clearing away the symbols of the Russian imperial past on the grounds that you did not want to be reminded of them.

That point of view has been expressed about many institutions in this city. A Deputy here — he had left the House long before I was heard of — belonging to Clann na Poblachta thought that Trinity College should be turned into a car park because it stood for all he hated. I have no connection with Trinity good, bad or indifferent and I do not hold any brief for it and, even if I shared his feelings about the college, which I do not, I certainly would not take that line about it. It does not matter what its history is. It is part of our history too. We cannot escape or avoid it and we should be civilised enough to respect the environment which has been left to us in order, as Deputy Brady said in a fine speech earlier, to pass it on to those who come after us.

I have two main problems with the Bill. One is that in so far as anything except [1850] the Custom House Docks site is concerned, the Bill proposes, even with the extension of designated areas under section 6, to do no more than to provide rates remission. I hope I have not misunderstood the Minister in his speech or the explanatory memorandum to the Bill. That, of course, is no good to the residential parts of an area because they do not pay rates any longer anyway. I am not minimising the effect of this on city areas in which there are business premises and naturally the Custom House Docks site will benefit. I am not finding fault with that but the impact of the Bill in so far as it concerns the renewal of residential areas will be exceedingly slight. This city is not really an industrial one, at least the old core is not industrial to any conspicuous extent and, although the relief will benefit the city, it will come nowhere near meeting what it needs.

One thing must be said about the designated areas in the Finance Bill about which I am allowed to speak because it was referred to by the Minister in regard to several points. He specifically said that he intended to make orders which will extend the rates remission benefit to the areas specified in the Finance Bill; but in no other free city in Europe would things have been allowed to go so far. In other words, we are talking about renewal or renovation from a point which no other city in Europe would have let districts reach. What other capital city in Europe can show a gem like the quays to the visitor or indeed to its own people? Incidently, I resist the idea that the only reason for tarting up a city is to attract tourists. The city has a permanent population of its own people and they are entitled to live in decent conditions and to have the amenities which previous generations put there. I do not want to neglect the tourist potential of urban development or renewal but, if there was never a tourist in the country, we are entitled to it in our own right.

I cannot claim the same acquaintanceship with areas in Cork, Galway, Waterford or Limerick, but I do not think any of their areas would have been let go as far down hill as those in Dublin. The [1851] quays area, the north inner city area, the Gardiner Street and Mountjoy Square complex and Henrietta Street would not have been neglected in other cities. Henreitta Street was built around 1750 and it has been allowed to deteriorate to the point that it is nearly dangerous to walk along it for fear that some of the buildings might fall on you. In so far as the Minister is concerned we are starting this urban renewal scheme in the humble and not very exciting context of rates remission which will be no good to purely residential areas. We are starting that renewal from a very low point. We have a long way to come from the distance we have gone back and the lesson for us there is not that we may carp about the measures contained in the Bill but to avoid mistakes in the future.

The time to look at urban renewal in the case of districts which are only just beginning the journey downhill is now. They should be renewed now and not when they are like the south side of Mountjoy Square, when they are like an old man's jaw with about two or three teeth left in it and those that are left scruffy enough themselves. That is not what I understand by urban renewal. It may be cheaper and better all round just to bulldoze what is left and start from scratch.

Urban renewal should start from the very moment decay begins to appear in a widespread patterned form all over a district. There are huge areas in Dublin not envisaged in the Finance Bill, or the Bill before us, which are quite outside the Minister's present intentions. I am well aware of the financial dimensions of any sort of scheme for helping people, whether by tax remission, direct grants or anything else, on an enormously large scale, but I should like to draw attention to the alternative. The alternative is that we are going to allow other huge areas of Dublin, mostly residential, to keep running downhill until they are in the same state as Henrietta Street and the other districts which are designated or in mind.

[1852] One of the members of the category of buildings which should be renewed now are Government occupied offices throughout the city. That applies not merely to the Civil Service but to local authority or State occupied old-fashioned houses which are being used as offices. There is a phrase in a novel by John Le Carré — it does not matter where it comes from because it stands on its own — in which he describes the espionage or counter-espionage outfit in some distant dismal suburb of London as being housed in an old mansion which “showed that air of controlled dilapidation characteristic of Government buildings everywhere”. In other words, they do not quite let the roof fall in or the gutters fall off, the down pipes fall out, or the floors fall through.

The thing is to maintain them at a point below which it is not possible to maintain the building. Then, naturally, the cry goes up that new offices must be obtained, that the old ones are uncomfortable for the staff — I can see that. The building is abandoned and left derelict. Nobody wants to occupy it in that condition and very often it is not suitable any longer for anything except offices. Horrible partitions are put up, the tracks of strip-lighting remain and reconstructions of an interior-type which would be excessively costly to reverse are carried out.

Government offices are prime candidates for a review in this connection. They must represent a very large slice of housing in the inner part of this city between the canals — I am not speaking about the brand new ones — and in general they are only in a state of controlled dilapidation as far as a casual glance can show. Many of them are not much better. I do not know the northside suburbs so well although I have been able to observe fair slices of them. I do not know them as well as parts that were in a constituency I once had the honour to represent, like the Minister of State, Deputy O'Brien. The inner suburbs, those built in the early and middle of the 19th century running southwards from the canals, are in a state of uncontrolled dilapidation. In other words, there is not even a Government [1853] Department there making sure that the roof does not fall in or that any of the other features of decay do not gather.

If one took a wide angle green filtered Sunday supplement photographer's picture of the village of Ranelagh no doubt it could be presented photographically, with a bit of October mist hanging around, so as to appear quite attractive. It would awaken in me nostalgia for my early childhood which I spent living near it. However, if one walks up to the place, around it and on the roads near it one will find what I am talking about. Above all one will find the infallible signal of houses on the way down, the ten or 12 electric door bells which spell multiple occupancy in a house never intended for that purpose. I can recall canvassing two storey houses — I am sure Deputy O'Brien is still canvassing them — intended for a middle-class people in 1860 or so which now carry eight or ten doorbells.

One cannot treat an old house like that without signing its death warrant. Very often those houses produce huge rents on which, I have no doubt, frequently no tax is paid. The owners may not be well-off and the house may represent their only investment. The owners may not have the capital to renovate the house properly or be able to afford to reduce the number of occupants to keep it at a certain standard with the result that roads are beginning to sink quietly down. However, they are sinking at a faster rate than Venice is sinking under water. They sink at such a rate that there is quite a perceptible difference between the condition they were in when I was a student in the fifties and that which they are in now.

I should like to remind the House that there are areas such as Rathgar Road — I hope residents there will not be offended if I mention this because I think that is a lovely road——

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on John J. Ryan  Zoom on John J. Ryan  Is that area mentioned in the Bill?

Mr. Kelly: Information on John M. Kelly  Zoom on John M. Kelly  No, and I do not have any intention of going through the city. I am not going to go into my own constituency [1854] at all. I have enough trouble keeping peace there without getting angry post about disobliging references to this or that road from people whose vote I will be looking for. I am not making any special point about Rathgar Road. Many of the houses there were erected between 1840 and 1860 and are in multiple occupancy, let out in tiny flatlets. The roads nearby are in a bad condition. It is a long time since a suburb of that kind was the subject of a joke to the effect that it was a snobbish or elite neighbourhood. In “The Plough and the Stars” the Lady from Rathmines features briefly as a character who is endowed with a sort of west-British accent. The audience is supposed to understand that Rathmines is where the nibs live. No doubt there are nibs living in Rathmines but——

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on John J. Ryan  Zoom on John J. Ryan  I hope they are not in the House as well.

Mr. Kelly: Information on John M. Kelly  Zoom on John M. Kelly  A lot of people in Rathmines are living in houses which were not designed for the type of occupancy they have to endure. That whole suburb is sinking downhill. I consider that an early or mid-Victorian suburb is something that will in our children's or grandchildren's time be quite as much a rarity deserving preservation as a Georgian street is today. Even if I am wrong about the aesthetic perceptions of two generations hence, I do not think we have any right to be making the assumption that they will not give a damn if we turn it into something that one would see in Iowa, with fast food joints, a couple of petrol stations and a desert of dusty concrete in between. We do not have any right to make that assumption about our grandchildren.

The time to designate areas under the Minister's Bill and to extend the protection of the Finance Bill — we should not forget that this year's Finance Bill provides only a closed number of districts — is now. There is no statutory power under the Finance Bill to designate further districts. I can see that the revenue consequences of leaving a Minister free to designate off the top of his head [1855] indefinitely is more than the State can carry at the moment. All I am pleading for is an official perception in the Department of the Environment that the moment to think about urban renewal policy and designating areas for relief, whether of the kind under the Finance Bill or of the kind under the Urban Renewal Bill, is when they are beginning their way down, when they are beginning their descent the end is quite visible. That is the moment to think about it.

The areas for which we are now legislating — the Mountjoy Squares, the Gardiner Streets — went downhill in the very same way. They also went downhill through multiple occupancy, through non-resident owners who themselves were impoverished very often. That is the origin of the two pair back and O'Casey's Dublin — people who were not as well off as the people for whom the house was originally designed and built moving in in larger numbers than the house was originally intended to hold. That is the origin of every slum in the world. That is the way they all develop, except, I suppose, those towns made of petrol cans in which some of the wretched people in the Third World live, or even some of the people on the outskirts of cities like Rome, but on the far outskirts. The tourists do not see them and most of the inhabitants do not see them either. That is the way they start. That process is actually in train in a very large part of the areas between the canals in this city.

I want to pay tribute to the Government for grasping the problem even in its minimal form. Certainly I would not want to take credit from Deputies on the other side who seem also to have been thinking about it when they were in Government in 1982. This is only a start and a very late start.

I want to say also in regard to urban renewal that we will miss a point about Ireland, a very important point, entirely if we envisage urban renewal as something that one does or thinks about only in the bigger cities — only in Galway upwards, that kind of thing. I think personally — and I hope I will not incur [1856] criticisms from over my shoulder for talking like this — that one of the great charms of Ireland is the appearance of its small towns which perhaps have not had a chance to be completely spoiled yet, although some of them are doing their damnednest to head that way. Many of them perhaps have not had a chance to be spoiled, have not had enough money spent on them to ruin them. These are urban areas. They may be very tiny urban areas, villages with two or three thousand people. Most of these villages I think belong to the immediately post-Famine era. I am not an expert on Irish towns like Patrick Shaffrey. There are others but he is a very distinguished one who has written books about this subject. He might put me right but I guess that the core of most Irish provincial towns, big and small, belongs to about 1850 or so. I think, if one were to remove what was built within ten years of that date, one would be removing most of Castlebar, Carrick-on-Shannon and so on.

These towns also may be on the way down, not for the same reason of multiple occupancy, but because of completely uncontrolled development on the commercial front. As far as I can see there is no effective control over the aesthetic form of development permissible in these country towns any more than there is in the cities. If one feels for such things it would make one cry to see decent shop-fronts and timber fascias — which of course themselves need renewal because timber does not last for ever — being torn down or covered over with plastic abominations. I am not the first person to complain about that. Everybody complains about it but nobody does anything about it and, in particular, the councillors who are well able to swagger off to Peru, or anywhere else on skites; they do not seem to care about them either. I am still waiting to read in the paper about a section 4 direction to a county manager to apply an aesthetic standard in regard to the planning of a street.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on John J. Ryan  Zoom on John J. Ryan  The Deputy has gone to the country. I would [1857] prefer that he came back to the Bill before the House.

Mr. Barrett,: Information on Michael Barrett  Zoom on Michael Barrett  (Dublin North West): What about the 200 vandalised flats in Ballymun? The Corporation say they have no money to repair them. The Deputy might ask the Minister to have them repaired.

Mr. Kelly: Information on John M. Kelly  Zoom on John M. Kelly  The trouble with politics, being in or out of Government, is that no matter where one looks there are problems. I am not trying to minimise or make little of the problem Deputy Barrett has mentioned which, if we were talking about such a thing, would be a very severe one. The mode which the Government have selected, both in this Bill and in the Finance Bill, for encouraging urban renewal is not the provision of money direct from the Exchequer so much as the encouragement of private development through tax incentives and rates remission. I do not think that would solve the Ballymun problem. I admit I have no answer to it. I admit the validity of Deputy Barrett's interjection, but we are not really talking about that problem. We are talking here about an attempt, a belated but worthy attempt, on the part of the Government, to get people to do these things for themselves with the incentive of taxation or rates reliefs.

I do not want to labour the point but what I am saying about the small towns is to this extent in order, that we are talking about urban renewal in general. Neither the Bill before us nor the Finance Bill purports to define what the word “urban” means. A town planner or a statistician would be willing to describe as urban a built up street even in a village. He would be willing to describe that for his purposes as an urban area. I only want to say that if we are talking about urban conditions in the broadest sense of the word — where people on the whole do not make their living out of agriculture except at one or two removes, but live together in houses which are above or beside one another in streets and so on — these are urban conditions. They need renewal and respect and deserve thought [1858] and affection the very same as the big towns. As a matter of fact Dublin has gone so far — if I could be assured that small and middle sized towns in the Irish countryside would become the jewels which so many of them could be and really are, if we could brush away the things obscuring a proper view of them — I would nearly throw my hat at it as a city because it has almost gone beyond redemption or repair.

Let me say one more thing before leaving that subject. Some firms that are in business pursue their business interests without much concern for the aesthetic or social dimension of what they are at; they are in the money-making business and that is not a sin. There are other firms, more enlightened—with I suppose varying degrees of sincerity but certainly with varying degrees of effectiveness — that do seem to have an interest in the effect on the world of the business they are conducting.

I have to mention honourably here, in the latter connection, one of the largest firms in Ireland, Cement Roadstone, in which I am not a shareholder and have no interest. They have been responsible for a beautiful series of calendars in recent years in which they have tried to draw attention to that which is unremarkable, which passes unnoticed, to the attraction, to the very special charm, interest and individuality of Irish buildings of a kind which never will be the subject of a coffee table book — simple, unaffected, unpretentious Irish street scenes.

Some years ago they ran a seminar or a presentation about an architectural census they had carried out and which they had financed in the town of Ballinasloe. You may remember it, Sir — it is not very far from your constituency — it was intended to focus the minds of the people of that town on the wealth of attractiveness which they had in their own place. It aroused much interest at the time. I often pass through the town. I cannot say whether it had any concrete effect on halting decay or in encouraging preservation. I mentioned the firm with honour, so to speak, as one which has [1859] got some perception of the kind of thing I am trying to talk about here which undoubtedly belongs under the heading of urban renewal.

I agree strongly with Deputy R. Bruton whom I heard earlier say that he favoured restoration rather than replacement. That is a sound principle. If something can be fixed, or maintained so that its essence remains, with some patching or a bit of doing-up, that is a sound principle of frugality, a principle of respect for what is there and what former ages have created. As a principle that is correct. I hope that in whatever schemes the Minister may preside over hereafter, he will adopt the attitude outlined by Deputy R. Bruton. He spoke also about cosmetic operations. Certainly I think these ought not be undervalued. I suppose it is a cosmetic operation to tear down some horrible plastic fascia and try to restore a timber or stone fascia which may indeed still be lurking beneath in a condition in which it could be repaired, or replaced by something more in harmony or in style with the period of the rest of the house. That may not qualify description as urban renewal.

I hope the Minister will consider whether the Bill before us might not be adapted or applied to provide for the scaling down of rates remission in regard to a business premises. There would not have to be total rates remission if there was not total renovation or rebuilding, but if there were to be cosmetic reconstruction of a sort that the Department might be anxious to encourage, the Department might consider that the restoration of a shop front in harmony with the two or three storeys above and with the rest of the street should qualify for a degree of rates remission, if not total remission.

I have never succeeded in getting a reaction from any Minister to a proposal I have made many times that there should be a separate scheme which might be independent of local authorities altogether, whereby a local authority could become the owners of one or more old buildings with the specific direction to [1860] refurbish and re-sell them under a covenant which would bind the purchaser and subsequent purchasers to maintain the buildings for a range of purposes and only for such purposes.

I am suggesting a rolling fund, not in order to build up an empire of buildings owned by this or that local authority: I am suggesting a type of engine which would reconstruct to appropriate standards, including aesthetic standards, and resell to third parties, naturally at a higher price than the derelict buildings might have been acquired for, and with the profit margin to acquire more buildings, do the same to them and sell them as well — a rolling system of reconstruction to high aesthetic standards. This has been tried in some countries, with some success, I understand. I cannot understand why it has not been tried here and I urge the Minister to consider — he might consider it before Committee Stage — whether that dimension of urban renewal could be achieved, even if only experimentally and restricted to a single city or area. I do not wish to over-burden the Minister with inquiries, but I genuinely ask him and his officials to let me have a reasoned reply to that suggestion. If they would like to get, privately, chapter and verse of the towns or the countries abroad in which something of this kind has been tried, I will try to supply it.

Minister of State at the Department of the Environment (Mr. F. O'Brien): Information on Fergus O'Brien  Zoom on Fergus O'Brien  I thank all Deputies for their contributions and for the general welcome the Bill has received. I will respond to some of the points made.

Deputy Burke said that the provisions of the Bill in relation to the planning scheme for the Custom House Docks area are not as comprehensive as those in the 1982 Act. That is not correct. Section 12 of the Bill provides that the authority shall prepare a planning scheme for that area. The Bill specifies the form and the content of the scheme. It will have to consist of written statements and a plan indicating the manner in which the site can be redeveloped. The scheme will have to indicate the nature and extent of [1861] the proposal and the distribution of uses, the heights of buildings and the external finishes. The scheme will have to indicate the road layout and the provision of parking places.

All of this is far more specific than the 1982 Act. Section 6 of that Act provided only that the Urban Development Commission “may prepare a planning scheme”. It did not propose that they shall do it. If they made a plan they were obliged only to indicate the nature and extent of the proposed development. The provisions of this Bill are far more specific. In addition, the Government's package of incentives for the designated areas are clearly spelled out. There are generous tax incentives in the Finance Bill and the proposal for rates remission with full remission for ten years gives a clear indication of the intention of the Government to bring about movement in the designated areas.

The 1982 Act specified only two areas for special attention, the Custom House Docks and the old medieval walled city of Dublin. The present Bill provides for far more extensive areas in five major urban centres. Therefore, I cannot see how this Bill can be described as less comprehensive than the 1982 Act.

The clear proposal in the Bill is to eradicate dereliction in our major cities — we have included all five county boroughs. I have no doubt that the incentives will add impetus to movement in these areas. Local authorities have been instructed to appoint designated officers for liaison with various interested parties who want to develop, build or finance development.

Deputy Burke spoke about the value of sites. This follows established principles in regard to the valuation of land in cases of compulsory purchase. It will be taken as the open market value on the date of valuation, disregarding any designation of the land for any purpose. It is well known that the value of land varies from time to time in line with movements in the property market. Therefore, valuations made in the past, whether high or low, can lose their validity, and the valuation of a site will be determined by [1862] agreement between the parties involved. It would not be appropriate to discuss the value of a particular property across the House. I will say, though, that when the Bill was published, it did not receive any hostile reaction from the port authority of the kind that greeted the 1982 Bill. Unlike 1982, the Dublin Port and Docks Board were represented on the working party which reported to the Government on this occasion. They recommended the general approach now being adopted. That report was unanimous.

Deputy Burke and Deputy Ahern referred to a meeting in Brussels between the commission and Dublin representatives. They said the representatives reported that the Government had no proposals for an integrated scheme for Dublin. They implied that if one were prepared, more money would have been made available from the Regional Fund for development projects. That is not correct. I have been assured by the Department of Finance that more than sufficient projects have been submitted and that we have received our full allocation from that fund. There would not be any additional money given for any proposals for an integrated scheme for Dublin. It is important that this be understood.

Towards the end of his contribution, Deputy Kelly mentioned a revolving scheme and general refurbishment. A revolving scheme is available in Dublin Corporation for the refurbishing of houses in the inner city. An allocation of £750,000 was made to the corporation and to date they have taken up only £250,000. They say that they have difficulty in finding buyers for the refurbished property. The revolving scheme is a great one and I hope it will gather momentum.

Deputy Lyons suggested that much larger areas should have been designated in the Blackpool area of Cork in order to promote and support industrial activity. The new capital allowances being made available in the designated areas are to be extended to commercial properties. Those allowances are already available for industrial development. To use these allowances for commercial purposes was [1863] the right thing to do, to promote the physical redevelopment of our urban areas, which will come about.

Deputy Richard Bruton mentioned fears about section 12. He considers provision should be made for wider consultation. However, great care has been taken in striking a reasonable balance on this issue. According to Deputy Burke and the Fianna Fáil Party there should be many different local authorities involved for all the designated areas. We believe, on the other hand, that the port and docks site is a very particular and special site and should be treated in a special way and the local authorities do not disagree with this. Work in connection with the other designated areas can be done under the normal planning process and I agree with that.

There will be ample consultation with regard to the port and docks site. The special authority would have to consult with the local authority and interested bodies may make submissions. Eventually, the Minister can make changes if representations are made to him. That is a reasonable approach to consultation and I hope it receives approval.

Deputy Kelly was bemoaning the fact that it was too late, but I hold that it is never too late to start. I was surprised that that Deputy suggested tackling the problems of the provincial towns rather than those of Dublin. Dublin is still a great old city. It has its problems, we recognise that fact and are designating particular areas to counter these. I am satisfied that, given the kind of interest which has been shown, this Bill will be a great success. This is the first time a start has been made on the redevelopment of our inner cities. With regard to Dublin in particular, the last Coalition Government which came into power in 1973 took on board the idea of urban renewal when the then Minister, Deputy Tully, appointed a housing co-ordinator in Dublin Corporation with specific instructions on redevelopment and house building. The results are obvious to everybody.

With regard to this urban renewal [1864] programme. I hope we will get the private side interested and maintain the balance required for a better social fabric. I am confident that this will happen and that the port and docks site will be a great achievement. That site is a jewel in the northside inner city. It can be developed and polished and will shine. The north side inner city has been allowed to stay derelict because all the developers tended to go to the southside. With this redevelopment, the whole northside inner city will take off because we will have a proper balance between the two sides. The same could be said of Cork, Limerick, Waterford and Galway. The redevelopment of these inner cities will make a tremendous impact. It will uplift them, giving them more life and attracting new investment. There will be a knock-on effect. As the city lifts, more people will want to invest in it. We have seen in cities in other countries, for example, Boston and Baltimore, that when areas of dereliction are properly redeveloped there are great improvements both there and in the surrounding areas, bringing much needed economic and social advantages to these areas.

I am glad this Bill has been received with acclaim by both sides of the House. I thank the Opposition for the way in which they have accepted it. It is important that we get this Bill through the House as quickly as possible, so that we can get on with the real work of developing our inner cities and the port and docks site. I thank the House for the co-operation which I have received.

Question put and agreed to.

Committee Stage ordered for Tuesday, 29 April 1986.


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