Wednesday, 28 May 1986
Dáil Eireann Debate
Mr. R. Burke: This section states that the measure will be known as the Urban Renewal Act, 1986. I question the validity of the description in view of the very limited nature of the Bill. A later amendment to the title reads:
Bodies to be known as the Custom House Docks Development Authority and the Dublin Walled City Development Authority, respectively and to enable other bodies to be established. To assign to the bodies established by or under this Act their functions.
We want to make sure that this very limited Bill will have the possibility of extending into other areas that require special treatment and attention, as does the Custom House Docks site. I purposely put down the amendment with regard to the old walled city and the amendment has the potential for the development authorities at a later stage.
Mr. R. Burke: This section deals with designated areas. The Bill as it stands is too limited in scope because it is limited to the Custom House Docks area and any other area in relation to which an order under subsection (2) is in force. Following a change in the title we should be  taking the opportunity to designate a part of the County Borough of Dublin bounded by a line commencing at a point near Grattan Bridge which intersects the River Liffey Valley, in other words, taking in the old walled city of Dublin. This should be a designated area and we should have the possibility of establishing a development authority for this area.
Section 6 merely gives the Minister power to designate and use a development authority in the case of the Custom House Docks area, but he has no authority to appoint development authorities for any other area in the country. We consider this to be a very shortsighted approach. As well as the Custom House Docks site, we want other areas to be designated and power to be taken to establish urban authorities.
If I may give an example of the old walled city of Dublin. This area commences at the point where Grattan Bridge intersects the River Liffey; then continuing in a southerly direction along Grattan Bridge and Parliament Street to the point at which Parliament Street joins Cork Hill and Dame Street; then continuing in an easterly direction along Dame Street to the point where it joins Palace Street; then continuing in a southerly direction along Palace Street and the imaginary southerly projection of Palace Street to the point at which such projection intersects the imaginary easterly projection of Ship Street Little; then continuing, initially in a westerly direction, along the last-mentioned imaginary projection and Ship Street Little to the point where Ship Street Little joins Werburgh Street and Bride Street; then continuing in a southerly direction along Bride Street to the point where it joins Bride Road; then continuing in a westerly direction along Bride Road to the point where it joins Nicholas Street and Patrick Street; then continuing in a northerly direction along Nicholas Street to the point where it joins St. Nicholas Place; then continuing in a westerly direction along St. Nicholas Place to the point where it joins John Dillon Street; then continuing in a northwesterly direction along John Dillon Street and Lamb Alley to the point where  Lamb Alley joins Cornmarket; then continuing in a south-westerly direction along Cornmarket to the point where it joins St. Augustine Street and Thomas Street; then continuing, initially in a north-westerly direction, along St. Augustine Street and the imaginary northerly projection of St. Augustine Street to the point where such projection intersects the River Liffey; and finally continuing, initially in a south-easterly direction, along the River Liffey to the point first-mentioned.
That is the old walled city of Dublin, the Liberties. Places like the Cornmarket, Lamb Alley, St. Nicholas Place, Patrick Street, Ship Street Little, Werburgh Street and Bride Street are synonymous with old Dublin.
If there is one area that is crying out for the very special spotlight treatment of an urban development authority, this is it. There is great potential for the development of the old walled city into a region of small shopping arcades, art galleries, small restaurants and so on. This area is designated in the Bill but not with the opportunity of an urban development authority. In my view the Minister should take this opportunity to establish a development authority for this area. I ask him for a response to the points I have made.
Minister of State at the Department of the Environment (Mr. F. O'Brien): Deputy Burke charged that this is a limited Bill, but this is a very broad Bill encompassing all our cities. Nothing like this legislation has been introduced before. Although vague promises were made, nothing actually happened.
Most of the walled city is within the designated area of the quays and most of the remainder is in the hands of the local authority or the State. By and large, the question of dereliction in this area has been well taken care of in this Bill. We have not set up a specific authority to deal with this. We believe 27 acres is a very large site and no development of that nature has taken place before, particularly in an inner city area, and it was the Government's view that this area required a special authority.
 We felt the planning authority, the local authority, in the cities of Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Galway and Waterford, were the competent people to know their own areas. We believe they are best able to look after their own areas. In the walled city of Dublin the local authority have carried out a substantial amount of work — there is a lovely park at St. Audeon's and they refurbished the wall. A substantial portion of the walled city is within the designated area and, given the types of incentives that are there, I see great potential for development taking place. While I am not opposed to the setting up of authorities — we are setting one up here and I am not averse to considering particular authorities for one thing or another if I feel they are required — given that we have taken most of this walled site that the Deputy is talking about within the designated area, the Dublin area, that meets the need as I see it. I am quite happy that what we are doing here will meet the Deputy's wishes. I understand the case he is making. He is concerned for the walled city but it is taken on board generally within the designated area and being handled by the local authority who are the planning authority for that area. They are competent and have the ability and expertise to plan and to do a good job.
An Ceann Comhairle: Let the Chair direct the attention of the House to amendments Nos. 3, 18 and 19 which will be taken together. It would appear that that will be a more appropriate time for the discussion which is now taking place. These three amendments are in the name of Deputy Ray Burke. They are fairly elaborate and I am suggesting that the argument being put forward now could be reserved until we come to them.
An Ceann Comhairle: Let me clarify what I was suggesting. What is before the House now is that section 6 stand part of the Bill and the Chair was suggesting that the argument introduced by Deputy Burke might be reserved until we come to amendments Nos. 3, 18 and 19 which deal specifically with the matter under discussion now. Deputy Burke thought that we might——
Mr. G. Brady: I think you will find what I have to say is within that context. I regard it as a lost opportunity not to be addressing ourselves to the situation before the House. There is no point whatever in running away from the realism that our capital city is at present under serious threat to the point that the  destruction in vast areas cannot be repaired without the necessary archaeological investigation taking place at the same time. This is so important that it would be impractical to lay before the House, even within this Bill, an appropriate objection to the lack of co-ordinated effort at present. This city, the Minister will agree, needs a city archaeologist. That call has been made by this side of the House for many years now, yet——
Mr. G. Brady: This affords the Minister an ideal opportunity to make such an appointment. The mediaeval core of our capital city is very rich in archaeological treasure. A Bill before the Seanad at present relating to the use of amateur archaeological aids like metal detectors and so on indicates a deplorable lack of co-ordination in trying to come to grips with this problem in our capital city. The Urban Renewal Bill is an ideal focus for trying to repair the awsome damage that has been done to the city. The Minister may decide that the local authorities have the expertise and we can leave it to them, but that is not right or proper. I know the Minister does not intend in any way to mislead the House. He has a sincere commitment to this, but we must address ourselves to the facts.
We have not had a city architect in Dublin since 1965, 21 years ago. How can this city be planned and how can people profess themselves to be experts in city planning, renewal or development without even a city architect? An eminent expert from America who is at present surveying and looking over the city cannot understand it. We are moving against trends in other European cities where effort is being put into repairing damage rather than just compounding it, as we are by massive road widenings right through the ancient part of our city. We should not allow this opportunity to pass without making a very strong protest to the Minister in this regard.
With due respect to the Minister, the experts he is speaking about are just not  there. We have had such a degree of bureaucratic vandalism right across from Wood Quay that people have lost confidence in the commitment of officials whom he has named to produce this urban renewal activity he spoke about. My colleague, Deputy Ray Burke, very carefully pinpointed this whole subject which must be regarded as special at this stage in the development of our city.
I suppose in a way it is dreadful to say that the recession has been a mixed blessing in one sense. The lack of building activity has afforded an opportunity to do a survey of what is left of the mediaeval core of Dublin and then to address ourselves to the problem of rectifying damage with the appointment of key personnel who we lack within the city. We have no city architect or city archaeologist in key positions in Dublin. Compare Dublin with cities such as York where these appointments hold. The matter is spinning like a top at the moment and anyone who goes to planning meetings soon realises that it is a question of vested interests pulling against each other, rather than addressing ourselves to the betterment of our city and its protection for future generations and improvements rather than pulling down buildings all the time. Very serious mistakes have been made by our local authorities.
Unless corrective action is taken now, it is axiomatic that there will be continuing mistakes, compounded as a direct result of not putting people in who are sympathetic to the motive of the Bill, which is to renew the inner city. I know about the Custom House site but that is only a small part of it. The central core, as Deputy Burke said, is the medieval walled city of Dublin. Anyone who is familiar with it will see that building is going on there at present with vast areas needing archaeological investigation. Is the Minister aware that developers knock down buildings and redevelop without calling in authorities to see if there is a possibility that part of the city wall might be buried there? They do not and in the past, regrettably, the archaeologist was looked on as someone who impeded the  progress of development of buildings and so on. That should not be the prevailing spirit in relation to our ancient capital city. It is happening because we do not consult the experts. The Minister should appoint an architect to plan our city properly and there should also be an archaeologist employed on a permanent basis instead of employing them piecemeal through the National Museum and so on.
Sincere people like Friends of Medieval Dublin or personnel in An Taisce constantly come up against bureaucracy. I am sure that the Minister has attended seminars, as I have, on the preservation of the city and building it from its inner core. Given the amount of waste and the old buildings that can be refurbished and protected, this is our last opportunity to ensure that the capital city will not be lost forever. We will have a mid-Atlantic type city to which nobody will relate and we will be hankering for “Dublin in the rare old times” without commiting ourselves to doing something about it now. Many children who are taught civics at school are very conscious of the fact that the city is being vandalised because building is done on a piecemeal basis. I urge the Minister to take a strong stand in regard to this matter and to examine the points which my colleague made. He should make the key appointments to which I referred because a whole range of archaeologists are coming out of UCD and Trinity College who would be willing to do excavation work on a voluntary basis. That would show we are serious in our efforts to ensure that there is not another Wood Quay debacle. However, the Minister knows it will happen unless he takes a firm stand in the matter.
Yesterday at a seminar in Dublin Castle the subject we are speaking about was focused on. I welcome the Bill in its broad outline. It is very important legislation. We should not gloss over it but take the necessary steps now to preserve our city.
Mr. Kirk: On section 6 (2) I would like to express concern about the fact that Dundalk and Drogheda have not been  earmarked for assistance under this legislation. Over the last four or five years County Louth has suffered more economic deprivation than any other county. Dundalk has suffered because of its proximity to the Border, and the great fluctuation in trade and commerce in the area has effectively meant that urban decay has set in in Dundalk and Drogheda because of the irregular cash flow which businesses in those towns have had to endure. For three months of the year the balance of trade favours Dundalk but for the other nine months it favours Newry, Banbridge and other towns north of the Border. This has devastated business in Drogheda, Dundalk and smaller towns and villages in the Border area generally. The effect of this great variation in trade and commerce can be seen in the unemployment statistics for County Louth, which show in excess of 8,000 people unemployed, and all the indications are that the figure is spiralling.
This legislation is an ideal opportunity for the Government to recognise the special problems which exist in towns like Dundalk and Drogheda and to earmark them for special aid under the Bill. They should provide a package which will rejuvenate these towns. Commercial and industrial firms are boarded up in these towns and have fallen into a state of dereliction which is a terrible reflection on the Government's economic policies. Such policies are pursued because there is a single minded commitment to ensuring that certain levels of taxation must apply because they need finance to meet the ongoing demands for capital and current expenditure. However, that policy will leave towns like Dundalk and Drogheda in a state of advanced decay, socially and economically. I appeal to the Minister to take this opportunity to recognise the problems which exist in Dundalk and Drogheda and to include them in the areas which have been marked for special designation. Such a move would be much appreciated in the towns concerned and could provide a platform for their economies to take off again. Will the Minister seriously consider including the towns of  Drogheda and Dundalk for special designation?
Tomás Mac Giolla: I agree with many of the points made in regard to the old city of Dublin. However, we must ask what the purpose of this Bill is and what it will do. Perhaps there should be a separate authority for different areas. Basically I am very worried about the whole concept of separate authority in this Bill and its effect on the concept of democracy. The local authority for the city of Dublin is simply wiped out. Dublin Corporation spent a few years discussing this site at Custom House Docks and had many plans for it, but the Government just make their own decision, totally disregarding Dublin Corporation. Maybe it is a good thing, but the whole principle of democracy is being eroded. Maybe the dictatorial principle will get things done more efficiently, and that is the Minister's argument for this. He has to consult with Dublin Corporation but he does not have to get their consent. Dictatorships are in many cases more efficient; but they are doing what the dictator wants, not what the people want. That is precisely what is happening in this Bill. It is concerned with what the Minister wants done, not about the wishes of the people of Dublin.
The beginning of this is to wipe out the working class people from the inner city and put in a nouveau riche type with their marinas and boats, following the line of what has been done in London. That is the purpose of this and it worries me exceedingly. The headquarters of the Garda Síochána are to be in the same area to ensure that these people are protected from the marauders on the outside.
Under section 2 the Minister may, with the consent of the Minister for Finance, by order declare an area to be a designated area. There is no reference whatever to the local authority, to the councillors elected every five years to Dublin City Council. These city councillors are seen as a bit of a menace. The same attitude is adopted towards councillors in the country who are seen to be causing problems. Without them, the  managers could do a very good job. There may be problems with political pushing and pulling, but that is what democracy is all about. Do we want democracy or do we want dictatorship? We have to decide. Local councils are elected by local people; and, if they do not do the job for which they were elected, they will not be successful in the next election. Many councillors were not re-elected last year. That is what the system is about. They have to do what the people want done, whether the Minister likes it or not.
The Minister is now to have the power to designate any area he decides in any part of the country, without consulting the local authority. The local authority might well wish to have a particular area designated for the purposes of tax incentives and so on; but the Minister will make the decision, not the local authority, as to what area should be designated. Perhaps business and political lobbyists will be able to bring pressure on the Minister to give them tax incentives for an area they intend to develop anyway. If they had incentives for the development of the Dublin 4 area, would they not make a mint? We do not want the Minister making decisions at the behest of pressure groups who are seeking to line their own pockets. That is why the local authority should have some say, but they are not even referred to in this section. The only consent the Minister needs is that of the Minister for Finance. He can make any order he decides.
I omitted to ask the Minister to explain what section 4 is all about. There may be implications in it which we do not see. I would ask the Minister when replying on this section to explain the meaning of section 4. The Minister may make an order without any consultation and then amend that order. There is reference to consultation with another Minister of Government, but I do not know which Minister that is or the circumstances in which he would be consulted.
Deputy Brady talked about the importance of the city architect. His could be a very important role, but as far as the city of Dublin is concerned the city architect  has very little role to play because of the planning laws. All he can tell a planner or developer who is knocking down a whole street is that the new building must be so many feet back from the road and must not exceed a certain height. He has no say about the type of architectural frontage of the new building. Architects can put up buildings of concrete and glass and all sorts of messes, as they have done around St. Stephen's Green. The city architect mainly helps to design local authority housing, which is very well done. As regards the planning and designing of the city, it is architects in general who make these decisions. A visiting architect has been criticising Dublin Corporation for the dereliction in the city and many such criticisms can be made. He has not, however, referred to the architects and the monstrosities they have erected all over this city, as well as the developers who made the decisions to knock down existing buildings. He did not refer to the situation in St. Stephen's Green, in which Dublin Corporation had no hand, act or part. The Gallagher Group, who put £30 million down the drain, had something to do with it. The same situation existed in Earlsfort Terrace for years. I do not know whether this Bill can correct any of those things. The Minister may, however, make orders without reference to the local authority.
Tomás Mac Giolla: I referred to it in passing in order to ask the Minister to explain it. I am talking now about section 6 (2). The whole Bill represents an erosion of the powers of local authorities. The Minister should consult with the local authority and get their agreement and approval designating any area. There is an attitude of mind growing within the Department of the Environment that they should carry out the job because they are providing the money. Local democracy is becoming a joke. People  are being elected who have no power over anything. The Minister's attitude is evident throughout this Bill. He does not even think that there are elected local authorities who should have some say in this matter.
Mr. R. Burke: I want to support the case made by my colleague, Deputy Kirk, with regard to Dundalk and Drogheda. I am very familiar with the town of Drogheda. The connections between that town and the area I live in and represent — Fingal — are very close. Even our local paper comes from Drogheda and there is a special edition for the north county area. I fully support the case made by Deputy Kirk that if one town or district should be designated, the town of Drogheda is ideal. It is an historic area. Just as in Dublin some of the walls and some of the gates are left. The town goes right back into our history. There was the famous Cromwellian attack on Drogheda and the massacre of the people. It is an ideal area for designation.
Deputy Mac Giolla questioned the thrust of this Bill. I fully support it and do not find that it is anti-democratic. It supports the whole democratic procedure by giving extra powers to get jobs done which cannot be done using the present machinery and planning laws. We should take the opportunity to designate more areas and appoint more authorities. My only complaint with the Bill is that it does not go far enough. The Minister is tying his own hands in not allowing himself the opportunity to appoint more authorities.
Deputy Mac Giolla made many points in regard to developers and planners. But it is not only in the private sector that such things are happening. Many of the areas that are suffering the worst dereliction are in public ownership. There was a classic example only this week when the Minister himself signed a CPO to put forward a road plan which will dramatically affect the area of the walled city of Dublin and St. Patrick's Cathedral. In the light of the ring road and the southern cross route that have now been approved by the Government I question whether we need such a major cross-city route as  proposed and sanctioned by the Minister. There is a classic example of public authorities proposing things that will damage the core of the city.
In section 6 (2) it is provided that the Minister may, with the consent of the Minister for Finance, declare an area to be a designated area. If an area needs rejuvenation, regeneration, reconstruction, redesigning or replanning, it needs that. It does not need the dead hand of the Minister for Finance. It will be self-evident that it needs all these things. It should not be written into the Bill that the Minister for Finance should have to approve it. Within Government structures here, if an order is to be made, or if a Minister intends to make any proposition, he goes to his Cabinet and discusses it with them and secures their agreement. It should not be necessary to write it into the Bill that he has to get approval from the Minister for Finance. Putting financial constraints on what is necessary from a planning point of view is doing things the wrong way around.
In regard to the designation in the Cork area, I may be repeating what I said on Second Stage. I welcome the thrust of the Bill. The revitalisation of the inner cities is welcome. Anything that helps to put life and heart and soul back into our inner cities is very welcome. The Bill acknowledges what it would cost to refurbish and rejuvenate old buildings. It has been found much easier and less expensive to carry out green field development. To that extent the Bill is realistic and, like the other speakers I welcome it.
The designation of the 80 or so acres in the Cork area is welcome. But I cannot understand the leap-frogging over the Watercourse Road/Gerald Griffin Street area. I indicated on the Second Stage that I hoped the Minister would acknowledge the effort that has been made to refurbish the old Cork Distillery site on the Watercourse Road encompassing 17  acres. The downward trend in employment and economic wellbeing in Cork is world renowned. There have been closures of traditional industries together with closing off the supporting industries that went with those. Yet the Watercourse Road Industrial Estate has been an example of the self-aid we are hearing so much about. I fail to understand why the Department have not recognised that and included the old distillery area of old buildings as an encouragement to what has already been done out there. It contains 17 acres of industrial land on which there are old derelict buildings, some of which have been refurbished.
Up to £1 million has been spent on that area and the return on investment has declined. The cost of refurbishing old buildings has become more and more uneconomical, especially in view of the recession experienced in Cork. The remaining buildings are in such a dilapidated condition that they could not be developed or rebuilt without the aid of a scheme such as the urban renewal scheme. People could set out to do this development work at a cost of £500,000 approximately within the next few years. That is just what we need in Cork. I have to keep reminding the Minister of the need to acknowledge the efforts which are being and have been made by local people in this decimated area of our city. If this were included in the designated area, the 1,500 people employed would be trebled in number. It would become the largest employment centre in the north city Blackpool area, which has a tradition of a labour market, with skills available which could be utilised in this way. One can easily imagine the benefit to the Blackpool area and inner Cork city which have suffered so much in recent years.
If development of the site could be furthered in this way it would give an example and an impetus to areas where similar developments could be undertaken. This industrial area has not received or asked for any grants or assistance from Government or local authority. They are not looking for a grant  now for this industrial estate. The purpose of this Bill was to correct dereliction in Cork city and other towns and cities throughout the country and at the same time create jobs in the building industry, which are very badly needed, and other productive employment. There is no excuse for excluding the Watercourse Road Industrial Estate which has become the cradle for 40 new small business enterprises. In the light of the amount of State aid available through agencies such as the IDA, the least that would be expected would be an acknowledgment that an effort is being made and encouragement given by enlarging the area of the Blackpool section, as mentioned in the Finance Act, part IV of which sets out the designated areas. The Cork area designated is too limited for the practical purposes of urban renewal or development and the creation of employment. Why leapfrog over the area which would profit by being revitalised? I am sure I have the support of the Minister of State at the Department, who also represents that area. Perhaps later he will show his support in his contribution.
There is another derelict set of buildings across the road from the Watercourse Road area, the old Denny factory and efforts have been made to deal with the dereliction. The area already designated should be linked up as far as the centre of Shandon Street with the Watercourse Road and Gerald Griffin Street and out to the area at Commons Road and Dublin Street. That is all I am asking and it is not a lot. The Government should at least examine this idea. I am quite sure that they will be satisfied that that area would benefit by being included in the designated area, with the aid of the strategy and structures and commitment of the Urban Renewal Bill. Otherwise, the Bill will not have the effect for which we all wish.
This Bill represents a hope for the renewal of inner cities and towns. The buildings are falling down; but people would be prepared, with a little encouragement, to revitalise them. Under the  terms of the Bill, section 6 (2) the Minister may, with the consent of the Minister for Finance, for the purposes of this section, declare an area to be a designated area where he is satisfied that there is a special need to promote urban renewal therein and may by such order describe such area in whatever manner he thinks fit. I am quite confident that the criteria laid down in that subsection will be met. It will be one of the easiest functions of the Minister to be satisfied that what we are saying about the whole industrial area, mixed with some residential locations, would be following the thrust of the Bill.
Mr. F. O'Brien: Deputy Brady talked in particular about archaeological problems and fears that further damage would be done in the areas that he mentioned. We are all concerned that that should be done. I wish to inform the House that Dublin Corporation have asked the Friends of Mediaeval Dublin to make a submission regarding the old city area so that the corporation can take this into account when making the development plan by attaching the appropriate conditions to any planning permissions given in that area. It is important to say that the local planning authority are aware of the problems with regard to any despoiling of archaeological sites. That should help to allay the fears there. I reiterate again that we have included a vast area of the walled city in the designated area which will be the responsibility of the local authority in question.
Deputy Kirk spoke about Drogheda and Dundalk. Deputies from Kerry would talk about Tralee and Deputies from Mayo would talk about Castlebar, and rightly so. They are looking after the best interests of their areas. In drawing up this, first of all we looked at the three large cities, Dublin, Cork and Limerick. We then included Waterford and Galway. We included the five county borough areas in the designated areas for the purposes of designation. One can argue whether or not we should extend it further. Looking at the dereliction in many of our bigger cities it was important to  tackle that problem first and make these generous incentives available to these areas. I believe it will take off. It is not a question of turning one's back on any particular area. We have certain obligations to the large urban areas and, in particular, to our older cities.
Deputy Mac Giolla spoke about the lack of democracy. He more or less accused us of being dictators. We have to go before the people to be elected. This House makes decisions as an elected body. There is no question of dictatorship. In all of the designated areas there was full consultation with the planning authorities. It was their suggestions that we took on board. If one looks at the areas we have taken on board, one will see that they are areas of dereliction. Dublin Corporation were anxious to have the quays incorporated in part of the north inner city. We took those suggestions on board. That can easily be verified and checked out. One only has to walk these areas to see the kind of dereliction that exists.
Mr. F. O'Brien: I do not think it is necessary to put it in the Bill because that is done here. The proof is here. With regard to the Custom House docks site we consulted the planning authority. It was their view that it would be best served by having an authority do the work because of the magnitude, the size of the planning and so on. It has been lying derelict for many years and there has been no activity whatsoever.
Mr. R. Burke: The Minister sat on it for three years since he came into power. Why did he not take up the 1982 Act which was there for nearly four years? All he had to do was to re-establish the 1982 Act.
Mr. F. O'Brien: Let us not talk about the 1982 Act. The less we say about that, the better. I do not intend to become contentious. I do not want to discuss the 1982 Act because this is a totally different Bill in its approach and the type of incentives we have on offer to bring it forward quickly. I believe it will be brought forward quickly. The previous plan would never have got off the ground because of the type of development that was insisted upon by one Deputy in this House who called the shots. I want to make it clear that there was full consultation in regard to all designated areas.
Cork city is the largest area of the five county boroughs with reference to population. Those areas were selected on the basis of recommendations made by officials of the local authority and as many as possible of the problem areas indentified by them were included. We did not go around looking for every site in the area. What was decided was to take sizeable areas in all cities and to move on them pretty quickly. There is a three year time span on these. If we picked sites all over the place in any of the cities there would not have been any proper core to develop. We wanted to get it together and have it developed.
Mr. F. O'Brien: There are 81 acres designated in Cork city. I wrote to the Cork officials in April asking them to appoint an officer in charge because this requires special attention as everyone will agree. We set out a list of things that he should do. I had to write another letter asking what is happening. If everybody rolled up their sleeves and worked at promoting the idea there would be positive improvements in Cork and other areas. Let us get started on the areas that have been designated and see how the scheme operates in them. After the scheme has been in operation for a while we may have to have another look at the terms of it, but for the moment we should wait to get the response of local authorities. It is only fair to remark that the response of some local authorities was excellent and that they have their action plans drawn up.
The incentives for development are very generous. In areas in Cork there will be a 100 per cent write-off for commercial development, a ten year rate relief and a very generous double rental allowance.
Mr. F. O'Brien: It behoves the local authority to get things moving rapidly. Leap frogging was mentioned, but I should like to point out that local authority officials in Cork made a strong case for that. I did not make any case for it. Indeed, the Watercourse Road development was well down on the list of priorities. In making our selections we did not want developments dispersed all over the place, leaving the bad teeth. As expected, we received representations from people whose property runs adjacent to the designated areas, but we will have such problems no matter where the line is drawn. Our scheme was prepared in full consultation with and with the agreement of the authorities concerned. It is a matter for the authorities to get the development underway. They should give all developers the proper advice and  encouragement to get them working in the areas concerned. If we succeed in doing that we will have moved a good distance down the road towards eradicating a lot of the derelict sites we have in our old cities. That is our main concern in this.
The experience in other countries has been that when development work commenced adjacent areas prospered. It is important that we should concentrate our work in specific areas. Work along the quays in Dublin is long overdue. The line drawn along the quays for such development will remain. I hope that when development takes place there that adjoining areas will benefit. The development of the Port and Docks site will improve the north side of the city. If we can attract some prestigious development there I have no doubt that others will follow and set up business. It is my hope that something similar will happen in Cork. I have no doubt that once such areas are developed and become alive entrepreneurs will move in. I am confident that the schemes will work because the incentives are generous. Developers can build in such areas happy in the knowledge that they will have a package to sell to prospective tenants. Those setting up a business in those areas will be rent free for ten years.
Deputy Burke asked why the Minister for Finance was mentioned in the Bill. The reason is that if further designation is required it will be necessary to amend the Finance Act. The Minister for Finance has an important role to play in this. If tax incentives are to be extended to other areas, it will be a matter for the Minister for Finance to put through the appropriate legislation. The only relief the Department of the Environment can give is in regard to rates.
Mr. Lyons: I am a little disappointed at the response of the Minister. It is no harm to remind him that we are all at one in regard to the objectives of the Bill. Will the Minister give me an undertaking that he will at least look at the area I  mentioned? He referred on many occasions to what officials at local level indicated to him and said that the area mentioned by me was down their priority list. The Minister said he wanted to keep the designated areas close to each other, but how can he agree to leap frog from an area designated in Cork city over a huge area? Even the school children in the Public Gallery will accept that that is not a wise move.
Mr. Lyons: I will let the Minister in on some information that he may not be aware of—I missed the boat in trying to become a member of Cork Corporation. The election was held last June. I am a member of the county council; but, as a Deputy, I represent that area. I was born and reared in the area and can recall running around it in my bare feet. Members of the corporation or local officials cannot tell me anything about any stone in the Blackpool area. All I asked the Minister for was a commitment to examine the area or to get officials of Cork Corporation to look at the area of Gerald Griffin Street, Watercourse Road, the industrial estate and the site of the old bacon factory. People there are attempting to revitalise the area. All we want from the Minister of State in this Bill is for him to show good faith in the people who are attempting by their actions — not by words alone, because it is easy to have words — to do what this Bill hopes to do, which is to revitalise the inner areas of the city and to reactivate the industrial areas. I would be confident, if the Minister of State gives an undertaking to examine the position, that he cannot but be satisfied that Watercourse Road Industrial Estate, Watercourse Road and the area of the old bacon curing factory, which is surrounded on the north by O'Connell Street and on the west by Gerald Griffin Street, will be a close-knit designated area. He should do this rather  than leapfrogging over the industrial part of that area.
I could go on as to why the outer area was introduced. I will mention in passing for the record, even though it has nothing to do with the Bill, that Douglas Shopping Centre is very relevant and was relevant at that time. In view of the fact that the Minister would not indicate that he would have consideration given to that area it is necessary for me to give notice at this stage that I will put down an amendment on Report Stage. I am going to test the Cork Deputies in this House to see how in earnest they are about revitalising the run down industrial area of Blackpool and, in particular, the area I have mentioned. I refrained from putting down this amendment to that section. I agree with the Minister of State; I am not in here for confrontation. We accept and agree with the thrust of the Bill. We give it our full support. But the Minister of State would not even acknowledge the proposals and suggestions I had made other than to say that Cork officials are the cause of it — that is what he did say — and to go back to them. There is no point in going anywhere when the Bill has gone through the House, because the Minister can say that that is the Bill, even though in section 6 (2) allowance is made for the movement I am requesting. There should at least be an indication given that it would be looked at. That has not been done.
I repeat that I am not here for confrontation. There is no need for it. We are all committed to giving support and total commitment to the main thrust of this Bill, which is aimed at the renewal of urban areas, within the inner cities in particular. Such areas are falling down around us. We have been losing employment in industrial areas, and factories are closing down. We want to bring life back to the city. I want to give notice that, if I cannot get an indication from the Minister of State of some way of correcting this imbalance in regard to the area of Blackpool, I will have an amendment down on Report Stage.
Mr. F. O'Brien: I want to make one  brief point in regard to that. I am not going to go back over the ground again. The Deputy is aware that the Finance Bill has passed both Houses. It was the Finance Bill which gave power for the incentives. I am not saying that the Deputy should not put down his amendment on Report Stage but what I am saying is that an amendment on Report Stage will not change it because the designated areas are in the Schedules to the Finance Act. They are quite clearly designed for the incentives we are talking about.
Mr. Lyons: I am well aware of that. I have the Finance Act with me and I mentioned it earlier on. I also acknowledge that written into section 6 (2), which I have already read — if necessary I will read it out again, but there is no need for me to do so — is that the Minister for the Environment in consultation with the Minister for Finance may at any time make an order designating areas. If the Minister of State is saying that that cannot be done, I would like to hear it and have it written into the record. To me, it means that the Minister, in consultation with and with the consent of the Minister for Finance, may make an order designating areas which are not designated in this Act.
Mr. Lyons: The Finance Act will not do as a shield for running away from this aspect of the Urban Renewal Bill. I am not a lawyer, but perhaps I have enough northside common sense from Mainistir Thuaidh to read subsection (2). Let us get away from being tied up with the Finance Act.
Mr. R. Burke: It would carry the rates incentive which is written into this Bill. To include it with the other incentives in the Finance Act it would have to be included in next year's Finance Act. But by designating the area one would give it the incentives of the rates remission which is written into this Bill. For that alone it is worth designating an area. To say that one cannot change it until the Finance Act——
Mr. F. O'Brien: Yes, that is what I said. All we can do in this Bill by way of incentive is to give a rates incentive. If we decided to change the areas, they would not carry the financial incentives. To reiterate what I said earlier, there are 81 acres in Cork. I have written to the Cork officials asking them to do certain things. When I see some intent coming from Cork I will be very satisfied. There are 81 acres down there ready to be developed and I would like to see some action being taken.
Mr. Lyons: All I have been asking the Minister of State over the past hour is to acknowledge the effort which is being made in Cork. Yet the Minister of State asks us to show activity. I have indicated to the Minister of State——
Mr. Lyons: ——that the people in the area are doing what he asked them to do. All we want the Minister of State to do is to designate the area and give them the limited incentive of the rates relief. That  is not too much to ask. That would be an acknowledgment of the people who are getting up and doing something for the Cork area. It is not something which is hypothetical.
Mr. G. Brady: The Minister spoke about consultation with the parties concerned when areas are being designated for change and for development. Would the Minister address himself to the harsh reality that the system of consultation is not working and that this leads to direct confrontation? The Minister should have provided in this Bill for a more efficient system of consultation with local people. For instance, the Clanbrassil Street development involved a road widening project — it cuts through the Minister's constituency and mine — and it was lack of consultation that led to confrontation in that area. There may be potential damage to the old cathedral simply because there was not proper consultation.
Would the Minister consider a much more efficient system of consulting local people rather than just putting notices in the newspapers, which people do not see or read? Would it not be far more beneficial if the authorities concerned would write to the people in particular areas and consult directly with them? We appreciate that it is necessary to put notices in the newpapers, but people living in affected localities should be consulted at first hand. Such consultation does not occur. Consequently, very often people write letters of protest or find it necessary to build up pressure groups nobody wants to find himself involved with. That all occurs because of lack of consultation.
I would draw the Minister's attention to the fact that very often, particularly in Dublin inner city, pressure groups are set up simply because consultation did not take place. Would the Minister embody in the Bill a more efficient system of consultation with local people, locally and nationally? If nothing else, it would draw attention to some of the meritorious work the Minister is trying to do.
Mr. F. O'Brien: There are ample  means for the ordinary public to make cases against plans. A plan is put on public view in public libraries and city halls. People can look at it and object, and all these objections are taken into account. We are not talking about roads here this morning, but when we are dealing with roads a public inquiry is held which local people have the right to attend in order to make their cases. In reference to the road development the Deputy spoke about, the holding of the inquiry was published in the newspapers and there was plenty of publicity regarding the holding of the inquiry.
Mr. F. O'Brien: I am not. In case people might think these things are bludgeoned through, I have explained the position and that would be a wrong impression. I am not saying the Deputy is trying to do that. In regard to a development plan, plenty of time is given to the public and there is plenty of access to them at an inquiry, and they can look at the plans. They have their public representatives to keep them informed.
Mr. F. O'Brien: Local representatives sit on the local authorities. They are elected to represent people in their locality. They are there to communicate and represent the people who elect them, to keep them informed. Let us not confuse the issue. There is local participation.
Tomás Mac Giolla: I do not wish to contest the Chair's decision so I will speak on the section, which deals with the remission of rates in designated areas. My purpose in putting down the amendment was to try to ensure that local authorities would not be at a loss. A certain amount of rates are still paid in most designated areas — not much, but some. In the normal way in Dublin the corporation would get full rates from the developers, like Irish Life. The authorities designate the areas in which there would be rates remission but there is no reference in this section to local authorities. This may be because of an attitude of mind in the Department who apparently do not even consider that there are local authorities.
The Minister just decides that as an incentive to development there will be rates remission. Thereafter, it is the local authority concerned who will be at a loss, not the Department or the Minister,  because the Minister will not make up that loss to the local authority if it is not provided for in the Bill. He has been doing that for a number of years and consequently there is less and less money for local authorities. The Minister for the Environment tells managers they have not been doing things but, if they have not, it is because they did not have the wherewithal to do them. This Bill puts the local authorities in the same position. Developers are told to develop and to get rid of dereliction, but the Minister should make provision in this Bill to compensate local authorities for loss of rates. I do not understand how that will put an extra charge on revenue. In the Bill the Minister proposes to remit rates and that will be a loss of revenue. I am saying that remission of rates hits the local authority and they should be compensated for that loss. Otherwise, areas will be designated through the city and elsewhere, rates and taxes will be remitted and the Government and the local authority will be at a loss.
I am not against incentives. I realise they are necessary, but there should be more than incentives. There should be penal taxes on derelict sites to ensure that development takes place. We must use both the stick and carrot. I am not speaking against tax incentives or remission of rates for certain periods, but I am saying that the local authorities have not been taken into consideration. The Minister is making the decisions all the time and is leaving them with less power and now with less money. The Ceann Comhairle has ruled out the amendment on the basis that it constitutes a charge on revenue. I ask the Minister to keep the amendment in mind and to take into consideration the real loss to the local authorities. Whole areas of this and other cities could be designated by order of the Minister without consultation with them. In another section he has power to amend an order made and in that way he can deprive local authorities of commercial rates. I ask him to respond to that point.
Mr. F. O'Brien: The port and docks site has been derelict for at least 20 years.  After major development there will accrue to the local authority a tremendous rate revenue as a result of the total package of incentives. They have a role to play in the city and they have a contribution to make. That will be to forego the rate demand for ten years, but as a result of the total package they will get a considerable amount of revenue after ten years. That makes good sense. They are the authority for the area, and where they can they should make their contribution to any development. The remission of rates for ten years is their reasonable and good contribution but in the longer term it will benefit them considerably with additional revenue.
Mr. R. Burke: I support the case made by Deputy Mac Giolla. The Minister has not answered it adequately. He has said the local authority will receive a considerable boost to their revenue after ten years, but I ask him what happens in the ten years when they have to service the redeveloped area and when they have to provide public lighting, cleansing, water and sewerage and maintenance services as well as the other sundry services of a local authority? The Minister conveniently took the example of the Custom House Dock site which was probably the best case from his point of view——
Mr. R. Burke: What about the other designated areas in Dublin, Galway, Cork, Limerick and Waterford? There is a strong case to be made for compensating local authorities all of whom are currently in bad financial circumstances. Quite rightly, the Government are giving incentives to development and they should compensate local authorities from the national Exchequer. Otherwise the local authorities will find themselves increasingly unable to service the redeveloped areas.
Mr. F. O'Brien: Section 11 of the 1982 Bill provided the same incentives without any compensation to local authorities. They proposed many more commissions and statutory authorities. What we are doing now is the correct thing. The local authorities have a stake in the development of their areas. I took the example of the Port and Docks site and I accept that possibly that was the best example. However, when one considers parts of the north inner city one questions the kind of revenue the corporation are getting. Even along the quays so much of that area is derelict there must be no return from it. What we are proposing makes good monetary sense from the point of view of local authorities and they can claim they are playing a role in the development of their city by making a contribution. It is a reasonable approach and I see no conflict here. The local authority in Dublin have a vested interest in the development of the city and they have an obligation to make their contribution, which is by way of this kind of incentive over ten years.
Tomás Mac Giolla: That is an extraordinary statement from the Minister and I am convinced he does not believe it himself. He was a city councillor and he knows the problems of the area, which are shared by other local authorities. The financial constraints imposed on them has meant that local authorities have less power, and everyone now accepts that fact. They are on their knees, begging for bits and pieces to keep things running. The Minister for the Environment tells them they must clean up the litter, but neither funds nor staff are provided for the job. Now this Minister tells us it is only right that the local authority should make their little contribution, that they have a say in the development of the city.  The only say they have is to lose money, to put in their little penny.
Tomás Mac Giolla: The Minister is setting up a separate authority to deal with the site. Dublin Corporation will be told it is their job to get the land together and to make sure that the local development plan is suitably altered to be flexible enough for development. That is what the local authority are being asked to do. That is what the Minister is telling the local authority to do. That is their contribution to this great development. They will not have any say in the authority. They have no say in designating areas, which is the point we discussed in section 6. The Minister does not even consult with them before he designates an area.
Now the Minister can designate by order and he can tell the local authority that they will not get any money out of it for ten years because these people are being given rates remission. The Minister is not making up this money for the local authority, although he did not give them any say in the designation of the area. He says the fact that the local authority will lose money for ten years will be their contribution to this city. He says they should continue to provide all the services for that designated area for ten years because in ten years' time they will get a great return for their investment. But so will the Minister and the Exchequer if new jobs are created. Why must the local authority be at the loss of this money? Even if they do provide the necessary services for this area, it will be at the expense of some other area. There may be less public lighting in one area to give the Custom House Docks site the best service possible.
Under section 6 the local authority do  not have any say in the designation of an area. Now he has the gall to say the local authorities have a say in it. They do not. He says they must make their contribution to this scheme by not collecting any commercial rates for ten years. That is not acceptable. The Minister for the Environment is becoming more of a dictator. As far as local authorities and local government are concerned, he is taking back power into his own hands and giving orders by circulars to managers. That is how local government is run now, and that is the thinking in this Bill. The Minister does not seem to give a thought to the fact that he should consult with the local authority because they are elected representatives. He did not think that was even necessary. The Minister is the boss. He sends the orders to the local authorities through the managers and makes the designations, and in this section he says he will leave them short of money and that can be their contribution to the development of the area.
If the local authority do not have the money they will not be able to provide the necessary services. If the designated area is a success the local authority will have to provide better services — more water, more sewage treatment and so on. If there are more people in the city, new business, new houses and so on, the local authority must spend even more money but in this Bill the Minister is deciding to give them much less money. If this scheme goes ahead and the local authority are short of money the services they provide will be abysmal and the whole thing will be a disaster.
Mr. F. O'Brien: Deputy Mac Giolla is a prime example of that. This Bill proposes to eradicate derelict areas in our cities, to improve the general standard of the environment and Deputy Mac Giolla  begrudges it. The particular local authority we are talking about in the Dublin area cannot be without funding because they were able to abolish the service charges and still live within their budget. They cannot be as badly off as the Deputy says.
Mr. F. O'Brien: I am prepared to stand over that any time. Deputy Mac Giolla spoke about the quays. If any of the buildings in that area are refurbished the rates will remain to be paid to the local authority. All that will be remitted will be the additional development. It is not a question of no rates. When the port and docks site is developed it will have a tremendous impact on the revenue of this city in the long term. This site has been idle for ten years and longer.
Mr. F. O'Brien: Deputy Mac Giolla is happy if nothing is happening. We are injecting good finance into the local authority. Of course it will be long term but we have all seen these derelict sites. There was no development in certain areas and there was no remuneration from these areas for the local authorities. In this Bill we are ensuring that development will take place but Deputies are not happy. They still whinge.
The local authorities will benefit from this development in the longer term, despite the begrudging mentality in some quarters. This Bill is a success because we are getting complaints and there is a certain amount of cribbing from some quarters. I have no doubt this move will  have a tremendous impact on this city. For many years we have heard a great deal of talk about the derelict sites along the quays and now, for the first time, we are making it possible to bring forward incentives to encourage development in this area. The local authority should play their part in this development because this is their city. They have a role to play. They are the planning authority and they have a say in the development, planning, designing and so on of the area. To say they have no say in what happens is far from the reality.
Tomás Mac Giolla: The Minister's remarks were totally uncalled for. He said I am happy to see derelict sites in our city. How can anybody be happy with that? Many reasons were given for these derelict sites, and I could put forward my own views, but a number of them are Dublin Corporation's problems. Deputy Burke or Deputy Brady pointed to road schemes. These schemes were forced on the corporation because Governments refused to sanction schemes such as the CIE rapid transit system, a short range, six miles or less, underground system which would connect all the rapid transit systems and could reduce the number of cars in the city, thereby lessening the need for road schemes. The ring road scheme should also lessen it, etc. However, undoubtedly the corporation road schemes are a dereliction problem; and on one side of the quays they are a problem because the corporation want to step back and that is causing quite an amount of the dereliction there. I have taken part in many of the discussions and arguments about this, the need for it and so on; but it is there now. They are not solely responsible for the other side because most of the dereliction there is not as a result of corporation problems or planning. We want to see it developed. As I have pointed out on a number of occasions on this Bill, I agree with the tax incentives and so on, but there should also be a bit of stick to pressure them, and that should bring in some revenue. A derelict sites tax system would ensure that the people concerned would develop  their sites, or at least sell them off to somebody else so that the sites could be amalgamated and be ready for this type of development the Minister is talking about.
In this section we are discussing a simple matter of enabling the local authority to continue their job and not to erode their powers further. There is considerable erosion of the powers of local authorities in this Bill, and the Minister's attitude is clear throughout. He does not even think of the problems of local authorities. I emphasise to him the need for the Exchequer rather than the local authority to take the burden of the remission of rates. In that way the local authority would be in a far better position to push development. The corporation will have no incentive to promote new developments, if they are to get nothing out of them and are, indeed, at a loss as a result. There is nothing to increase revenue for the local authority in the new development areas when they will need increasing revenue. If the Minister was prepared to ensure that local authorities would be at no loss as a result of the passing of this Bill, then I would be quite happy.
I see no reason why the corporation or any of the local authorities concerned should be at a loss as a result of the Bill. The Minister should give the incentives. He is in consultation with the Government, and the Minister for Finance and knows the state of the revenue and the Exchequer. The Minister should take the loss, if there is a loss. The Minister will get the gain in ten years time as well. There is no reason why the Minister should not look forward to the great gains in ten years' time for recoupment to the Exchequer, but let the local authority not be at the loss for that period. I ask the Minister to consider the problems that local authorities will have over those ten years and to see if on Report Stage a suitable form of wording can be got into either this section or some other section of the Bill to ensure that a particular local authority would not be at a loss of revenue in view of this. We are all  hoping for this development, for expansion of business, offices, houses and facilities, and the local authority will need all the money they can get.
Mr. R. Burke: I do not want to delay the House on this section at this stage because it is obvious that the Minister has his mind made up and is not going to move on it. However, I ask him to consider this on Report Stage or in the Seanad, to listen to the points being made and not to feel that because there is a disagreement with him that it is a matter of disagreement in principle on the Bill. It is not. A reality that Deputy Mac Giolla and I have been echoing is that this financial problem exists in the local authorities and that in giving these benefits and incentives for redevelopment the Government rather than the already hard-pressed local authority should pick up the tab.
Mr. F. O'Brien: As I have indicated, when all of this was being discussed I had discussions with the local authority and they were very anxious that the quays and other areas would be considered before, say, the Port and Docks site. They were quite happy when they saw that the quays were being included with other areas of the city which as planners they would like to see developed. Knowing the packets that would be implemented, they made no great objection to the fact that they were playing their role in bringing this forward as well, and it was responsible of them to agree to work in this way. I understand the view of Deputy Mac Giolla and Deputy Burke on this. They say that the State should pick up the tab. I have a different view. I have said previously that it should be the local authority, because we consider the longer term, not just from year to year, and the greater good of the city. For future revenue in many of the designated areas I have spoken about the rates will be coming anyway from the existing structures and it is only in further development that rates will not accrue for ten years. I would be misleading the House if I gave  any other impression. I think that what we are doing represents a reasonable balance and on Report Stage I will not be bringing forward any change in that.
Tomás Mac Giolla: I have one brief question seeking information. Can the Minister tell me what is meant by section 5 which provides that a remission provided for in a scheme under this section shall not be granted more than once in respect of the same erection, enlargement or improvement of premises?
Mr. F. O'Brien: Section 7 (5) provides that a remission may not be granted more than once in respect of the same erection, enlargement or improvement of premises. In other words, we cannot give a double rate of remission on any building.
“8—(1) A tax to be called a Derelict Sites Tax shall be charged, levied, and paid annually upon the net market value of derelict sites within the designated areas, on the valuation date in every year of every assessable person and the rate of tax shall be 10 per cent of the gross market value.
I referred, when dealing with section 7 in regard to remission of rates, to the need  to impose some penalties as well as providing incentives. The Minister is well aware that many of the derelict sites have been derelict for many years. The question of a derelict sites tax has been discussed and put forward on a number of occasions. We in the Workers' Party have been putting it forward for a number of years in pre-budget submissions to the Minister for Finance. Many local authorities felt it would be an excellent idea to try to ensure the development of derelict sites.
Our amendment says that a tax to be called a derelict sites tax shall be charged, levied and paid annually upon the net market value of derelict sites within the designated areas, on the valuation date in every year of every assessable person and the rate of tax shall be 10 per cent of the gross market value. It is important to accept the need for a derelict sites tax. It could be imposed in a number of ways and I am sure the Minister has his own ideas in that regard. This tax should be used as a penalty to ensure development within a certain period of time, say ten years. Such tax could increase over that period to ensure that people who own, develop and dispose of the building to another developer or local authority within that time would be taxed in accordance with the length of time it was lying idle.
Derelict sites cause great problems for local authorities and they spend big sums trying to keep such sites tidy and clean. Dublin looks like a bombed out city and apparently is now the location for war films. I presume people keep sites derelict because they are hot properties which will rise in value when the recession is over. They are happy to keep these sites derelict but, if a penalty was imposed on this asset while it remained in that condition, it would go a long way towards solving the problem. However, if they built on these sites they should get tax incentives and rates remission which would ensure much more rapid progress in the development of an area like the city quays where there are so many derelict sites. There are many others around the city and in Limerick, Waterford and  Cork. The imposition of tax would bring about rapid movement in these areas.
Mr. R. Burke: I support the principle of a derelict sites tax. If we are striving for redevelopment and providing incentives to do so, it is fair and sensible that there should also be a tax on those who do not redevelop and leave these eyesores around our cities and urban areas.
However, I am not prepared to go along with the precise form of tax as set out in Deputy Mac Giolla's amendment because, as he said, there are a number of ways in which this could be imposed and I am not in a position to decide whether this is the best way of alleviating the problem. If someone owns property which is not maintained to a certain standard and allows it to deteriorate to such a degree that it is an eyesore, a tax should be imposed for allowing such a dereliction. I hope the Minister will agree with the principle of a derelict sites tax an I will be recommitting our party to that concept.
Mr. Skelly: I will make a brief contribution because I do not want to delay the passing of the Bill and I am anxious to hear Deputy Burke's ideas in regard to the walled city. His amendment in that regard is a major one which has been well thought out and we will need time to discuss it.
Everybody is concerned about derelict sites but, while we need drastic measures to clean them up, a tax does not seem to be the answer. That does not mean that I want to see a well heeled speculator, developer or bank exempted from such a tax, but there are not many hot properties around Dublin nowadays as a result of inflation over the years. Many of these sites may be owned by companies which have gone into liquidation, or on which money is owed to the banks. There are no buyers of these buildings which is part of the problem. One of the biggest perpetrators of the derelict site syndrome in Dublin for decades, has been the Corporation as a result of earmarking buildings  all over the city for long term road widening proposals designed to demolish the old city of Dublin and replace it with highways. It is a vote of confidence in the future of the motor car and they are prepared to sacrifice the quays, Bridgefoot Street and Clanbrassil Street in the interests of road widening. If they had pursued that policy we would have ended up with flyovers and spaghetti junctions all over the city which would have turned it into downtown Detroit.
Deputy Mac Giolla referred to solutions which he had in mind to solve the problem such as updating the public transport system and providing cheap accessible transport for the population of Dublin who do not have cars. However, by leaving sites vacant for decades, such as sections of Cork Street which it was intended to widen, the Corporation encouraged derelict sites. We thus lost part of our Georgian buildings. Many of the children present in the Gallery now will never have the opportunity to see the heritage that we had been left in this city. Dublin was one of the largest Georgian cities in the world.
In York £5 is charged to look at houses such as these and we did not know how to handle such a heritage. The ongoing UCD architectural study, which will last for a six months period, will bring this out. I agree with Deputy Burke's suggestion of an incentive, but would not agree with a penalty. This is not workable and will penalise people who are perhaps hanging on to a site, not because they want to but because they have no way out. Encouragement in the form of designation of areas is helpful, although one must give thought to the periphery of the designated areas. Who will purchase property or a site outside but adjacent to a designated area when one can get incentives, capital gains and tax breaks for buying within the designated area? That will create more problems, but this can be tackled in the long term.
I am pleased with the commitment of the Government in regard to the dockside, which is a long term prospect, and to the quay site. This has probably given  rise to Deputy Burke's suggestion about the walled city. At least we are concentrating our minds in what is left of a tattered Dublin. Dublin resembles a doughnut, the hole in the middle being our heritage which has gone down the drain. The city is crumbling and falling into the river. It might be worth while leaving a thought for the Members that there is a tremendous bonus to be got out of rebuilding our city. This bonus is in the nature of jobs. One could create tens of thousands of jobs by undertaking this rebuilding. If I have an opportunity later to do so, I might mention some examples. This has been done very successfully in smaller cities than Dublin throughout the world and has caused the creation of incredible numbers of jobs.
I do not want to delay the House on this section. I appreciate Deputy Mac Giolla's concept. This total neglect, boarding and shoring up of properties, not bothering to do anything more with them until they start falling down around us is a lingering sore which has been there for the last two decades at least. It is mainly the responsibility of our local authority, of which he has been a member. Perhaps this debate will give rise to a new impetus from that local authority and from Members. It might raise the standard of concern in Dublin Corporation with regard to their city. There are certain items that I would not like to see the Corporation getting their hands on, in view of their record to date in dealing with this most historic city. One matter I hear mooted is the handing over of the Phoenix Park to Dublin Corporation. I dread to think what would happen if that were the case.
Mr. F. O'Brien: I agree that we should tackle dereliction, not only in the designated areas but in all our urban areas. I also agree that some form of taxation for derelict sites should be considered. Land not required for immediate development, whether in private or public ownership, should be maintained in an environmentally acceptable fashion. All these issues are under active consideration in the Department. Proposals for  dealing with dereliction will be brought before the Oireachtas as soon as possible. It may even be possible to publish proposals during the present session. I hope that we can do something in that area.
There are still some difficulties to be ironed out. There are constitutional problems to be overcome and advice has already been sought in that area. There are also genuine problems of site assembly and of ownership. A good many of the derelict sites, particularly in Dublin, are in the ownership of statutory bodies, including Dublin Corporation. In many instances dereliction is caused by medium or long term planning objectives of these bodies. There are problems in connection with, for example, road planning. A great deal of thought is required to produce an equitable and effective answer to the whole problem of dereliction but I hope that we shall be able to give the answer in the very near future.
Tomás Mac Giolla: I thank Deputy Burke for his positive support on this and for the Minister's positive response. I am glad that the matter is under consideration and that the Minister made the point also that apart from the designated areas there will also be dereliction elsewhere which needs to be dealt with separately. I accept his assurance that this matter is being actively dealt with and that something will be done, probably before the end of the year?
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Amendment No. 3 is in the name of Deputy Ray Burke. Amendments Nos. 18 and 19 are  consequential. If the House agrees, we may debate these three amendments together. Agreed.
This is the heart of this Bill, in particular when one takes amendment 18 also into consideration. This Bill sets out, by a series of incentives and in association with incentives included in the Finance Bill, to make provision for regeneration of our urban areas. It sets out to designate specific areas and in one instance takes on to itself the power to establish a development authority. That is only in relation to the Custom House Dock site.
We on this side of the House feel very strongly that the concept of a development authority is such an excellent one that it should not be restricted to that one site. This Bill should be amended in such a way as to give the Minister of the day, whoever that may be, the power to establish development authorities for any other special urban area within the country where this spotlight treatment would be appropriate.
The urban development authority has very special planning powers, functions and controls which are not available to a local authority. Because of that, these powers should be used in very specific areas. The Minister has taken on to himself just the Custom House Dock site. My case today to him is that there is one area in this country, more than any other — probably even more than the Custom House Dock site — that deserves the special spotlight treatment of an urban development authority being established. That is the mediaeval walled city, or the old walled city of Dublin. It is within that walled city that our heritage as a nation  is. It is not just specific to the people of Dublin. It is a national treasure, a national responsibility. It is of national importance that that area be redeveloped and rejuvenated.
In amendment No. 18 I described the area to be covered by the proposed Dublin walled city development authority. It is a direct copy of the proposal included in the 1982 Bill which I introduced at the time. This area has such historic names as the Grattan Bridge, Parliament Street, Cork Street, Dame Street, Palace Street, Ship Street, Bride Street, Werburgh Street, Patrick Street, Nicholas Street, John Dillon Street, Lamb Alley, Cornmarket, Thomas Street, St. Augustine Street. These names are written in large print across the history of our city. That area deserves the very special treatment that an urban development authority could give. The Minister may say he has designated it and is leaving it under the local development authority. But Dublin Corporation have failed miserably over the years to give this area the consideration it deserves and we have no reason to believe that designating the area will give an injection of enthusiasm to Dublin Corporation.
The only way to come to grips with the potential for the development of this area is to set up an urban development authority as proposed in my amendment. This area is part of our heritage. It is the Liberties; it is the area of the Vikings; it is the area of St. Patrick's Cathedral. It is the very heart of our country, not just of our city. I appeal to the Minister not to restrict himself as he has done by appointing a development authority only for the Custom House Docks site which is very important, but the importance of the walled city cannot be over emphasised. Surely it is criminal to put this legislation through the House and exclude from it the heart of our capital city. I could go on at great length but we have already discussed it here this morning with excellent contributions from Deputy Brady and others. So I appeal to the Minister and I wait to hear his response.
Mr. F. O'Brien: First I should like to  point out that the south quays designated area contains within its boundaries virtually all of the mediaeval walled city. As I indicated this morning, anything that is not included is in the hands of Dublin Corporation or one of the statutory bodies. The mediaeval walled city will benefit from the package of taxation incentives and the rate incentives already announced. In addition, as soon as the Bill is enacted, Dublin Corporation will be putting forward a comprehensive and effective package based on the initiatives contained in this Bill which we hope will revitalise the mediaeval core of Dublin. Therefore I do not consider that a special commission, as advocated by Deputy Burke, is necessary.
It is not that I am necessarily against commissions but the mediaeval walled city is not a homogenous area like the Customs House Docks site which is an area of its own. It is like any other area in the city with a wide range of skills and resources and it is best to leave the responsibility for its redevelopment to the planning authority. As I indicated earlier this morning, Dublin Corporation have requested the mediaeval society to make suggestions to them for the draft development plan so that they can impose particular sanctions in any planning permission relating to the mediaeval core of Dublin. In the last number of years Dublin Corporation have done a good job around St. Audoen's Church, the park and the city wall there and I hope that will continue in that vein so that we will have a redevelopment and, as a result of the designation, we will see a new development, particularly around Taylor's Hall. Dublin Corporation have been trying to develop a site there for a number of years and I hope that will take off in a really good development in keeping with the general area.
I am not in tandem with Deputy Burke's view that a commission is necessary. The local authority can do the job just as well. They are the planning authority and we should leave it to them. Also they now have an obligation to ensure that they themselves bring forward plans  that are in keeping with the best traditions of our city both in the walled city and around it, because all of the quays area from O'Connell Street up are important. There should be a comprehensive plan by the local authority that will incorporate the mediaeval walled city Deputy Burke is talking about. The north side of the river is as important as the south side and we should try to get them developed in tandem, retaining the line of the quays. This would be of tremendous benefit to the core of the city and not just the narrow core of the old walled city. We should extend beyond that. The onus should be on the planning authorities and Dublin Corporation to bring suitable plans forward. I have no doubt they will do that. They have people within the authority who are capable of doing this and it is up to them, once this Bill is passed, to bring it forward as quickly as possible.
Mr. Skelly: I hope I have not taken the Minister up wrongly. I am a little disappointed because the first thought that came into my mind when Deputy Burke was talking about this was that what he was talking about was making the most out of the jewel of Dublin. Then I thought of Eamonn Mac Thomáis's book Me Jewel and Darlin' Dublin, which is really about the area described in the amendment. It is ludicrous to suggest that we leave that area to an authority which literally fought the people of Dublin in the courts when they sought to prevent the corporation from developing Wood Quay so that it could be properly excavated. The corporation went ahead in the face of protest marches and appeals from the ordinary populace, as well as people of stature in the State and the Old Dublin Society. It does not make sense to entrust the future development of this important part of the city to that authority. These are the people who are responsible in the main for the derelict state of a great part of Dublin and they do not have any plans to deal with that problem.
More than 20 years ago the British Institute of Architects sent a group of students to study Dublin. At the end of  their deliberations they decided that Dublin would be judged by how it treated its quays. We know that in the intervening years Dublin Corporation have done nothing with the quays. The PRO for Dublin Corporation was asked within the past few years what plans the corporation had for the quays. He replied that they had none and said it was up to people to make planning applications which would then be considered on their merits.
We have an ancient city dating back more than 1,000 years, yet we have no plans to develop its historic areas. The last thing that seems to be in anybody's mind is good redevelopment. The corporation have not used their compulsory purchase orders to good effect in the past, but they could decide to use them to pick out the lines of the old city walls. A 17th century map on the wall of this Chamber shows those ancient walls. Many continental cities which are not as old as Dublin have been divided into old and new parts. If one travels from Basel in Switzerland to Brittany in France one will pass through many towns and cities which have their old quarters. Such areas are a pleasure to walk through. It is shocking that we want money for designated areas to be spent on Dublin. Money should be poured into the old parts of Dublin to encourage certain types of development. There could be a “Latin quarter” type of development in areas like Francis Street. There are still institutions around the city which are referred to as being within the walls or without the walls. They will not last much longer because they are rapidly becoming derelict.
I do not believe the objective is literally to demolish the remaining old parts of Dublin, although this has been happening over the last few years, whether by accident or design. My experience in growing up in this city and living abroad leads me to believe that we have reached this sorry state by design and neglect. An architect who is visiting the city for the first time to see what it is like has spoken about the many derelict areas. One does not have to be too old to remember what High Street was like before it was turned into  a highway. There were cobbled twisted streets going up to the old St. Audoen's and the new St. Audoen's and the Tailors' Hall. It was a fascinating area full of character, but it was bulldozed 20 years ago because somebody who did not want to go into private practice went to work for Dublin Corporation and decided that Dublin needed to become a new Detroit. We started to copy cities which have only grown up during the last 50 or 100 years, although Dublin is in its second millenium.
We must emphasise the old city within the walls, as well as the Liberties outside the walls. We have a lot of documentation and literature available which would help us to develop it in the traditional way. We are not getting value for money on many short-term employment projects here and there throughout the country. It is appalling to think of the amount of money that is badly accounted for or not accounted for at all. Millions are being spent on projects such as cleaning up areas which are overgrown again a month later. We must devote our energies to saving the future of Dublin. Parts of the old walls still remain. It is not good enough to entrust the task to Dublin Corporation because they would not be able to give a good account of their stewardship over the past few years.
There is another aspect to developing an area like this which could be of enormous benefit to people. I would refer to an article in The Financial Times on Friday, 18 April about the town of Edmonton in Alberta which has a population of 650,000. They created a fantastic number of jobs and developed a fascinatingly attractive area of leisure, shopping and commercial facilities. The article stated that it ought to be a white elephant but it is not. Shoppers come there from Calgary, Vancouver, the prairies, the Arctic and the United States. They even charter planes for the trip. West Edmonton measures its trading area in thousands of miles and keeps shoppers for two to three days. It states that the fully fledged fantasy mall is like “dropping an atom bomb into the market place”. I keep  pointing out in this House that it is possible to do this in Dublin. If we rebuild Dublin in a properly organised manner we can make it the most attractive city in Britain or Ireland. We could have people coming in here by the planeload. There is nothing to see around the city at present except derelict areas. It has been pointed out that when coming from the airport one has to try to find a route which will not shock visitors. This is not being true to one's city.
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