Tuesday, 13 June 2000
Dáil Eireann Debate
Mr. Dukes: Before we adjourned I was reflecting on amendments which, if other things happen, will have to be made to the text of section 4, on which amendment No. 18 touches. The provisions of paragraphs (b), (c) and (d) will have to be changed. They relate to development by the council of a county in its functional area, exclusive of any borough or urban district; development by the corporation of a county or other borough in that borough; and development by the council of an urban district in that district. If the Minister has his way all those references will disappear and be replaced by the term “town council”. This will mean different things in different places as not all town councils will be same. Some – those now known as town commissioners – will have no planning functions, while others – those now known as urban district councils and boroughs which have corporations – will have exactly the same planning functions as they have now.
No matter what the Minister says, it is proposed to deprive the five boroughs of Kilkenny, which has been described as a city for several hundred years – the marble city – Clonmel, Wexford, Sligo and Drogheda of something they now have and which they regard as being rather important. No matter how much the Minister explains that he is not changing their functions, he still cannot get away from the fact that his reaction to the way in which people see this bureaucratic proposal to simplify the terminology that the Department has to use has turned it into a studied insult, particularly to the population of the city of Kilkenny.
We will not get to the Local Government Bill this session and it remains to be seen if we will get to it in this Dáil. The issue raised by Deputy Gilmore about the propriety of the procedures for planning will continue to be important for these five boroughs but we will have to remember that, if the Minister gets his way, they will have to be referred to in the same way which will mean different things in different places.
Minister for the Environment and Local Government (Mr. Dempsey): The Local Government Bill is one of the subjects selected for discussion on the Adjournment. Deputy Dukes is a man I greatly admire and respect.
Mr. Dempsey: —and spells out clearly what his position is. He would be highly offended if anybody took umbrage or was of the view that he was being insulting. I am a little surprised, therefore, that he said that my reaction—
Mr. Dempsey: There is nothing daft about bringing the language used in legislation up to date and using 21st rather than 16th, 17th or 18th century terms. We can resume the discussion when the Local Government Bill is introduced.
This is a repetition of the long debate on Committee Stage during which I said that I would not accept the amendments tabled by Deputy Gilmore. My position has not changed. Section 4(1) reads, “The following shall be exempted developments for the purposes of this Act..” The Deputy is making the case that planning permission will not be required in the case of paragraphs (a) to (l), but that is not the case. If paragraph (b) was deleted, as suggested, county councils would effectively be required to apply to themselves for planning permission. We discussed this matter previously and I do not propose to require local authorities to do this. The argument that this would be more democratic is nonsensi cal. As soon as one would apply the normal planning procedure and require a local authority to apply to itself for planning permission, somebody would claim that this was nonsense and that the local authority would be biased in considering its own planning application.
It is important always to bear in mind that the exemption to which we refer here as distinct from some of the other exemptions for local development, does not mean local authorities can do what they want. In the first place they cannot carry out works which would materially contravene the development plan and except for very small scale works, they must either undergo the public notification procedures set out in section 163, which to date were known as Part X procedure or they must make an environmental impact assessment subject to the approval of An Bord Pleanála under section 159. The Part X procedure is subject to the democratic control of the elected members. Those provisions mean that local authorities are prevented from materially contravening the development plan. I do not intend to accept that amendment.
Deputy Gilmore sought clarification of the meaning of paragraph (f) which he thought did not bring about a change of substance. My amendment No. 19 does not change the substance of the provisions because paragraph (f) is critical to our plans to introduce public private partnerships for local authority infrastructure. Those developments will be subject to the same local democratic controls as local authority own developments or if they are not undergoing the Part X or section 163 procedure, they will be subject to the approval of the board where an EIA is involved. For that reason I do not propose to accept amendment No. 20 either.
We had a long debate on this. Local authority development will be subject to democratic control even in the case of PPPs and will be subject to planning and the development plan. On that basis I do not intend to accept the amendments.
Mr. Browne: (Carlow-Kilkenny): Is the Minister dealing with reality in deciding to downgrade Kilkenny? It has been accepted as a city since I was a child when, having heard about the Confederation of Kilkenny, I presumed it was the capital of Ireland, and I suppose it was at the time. With its charters it has at all stages been regarded as a city.
The Minister's colleague, Deputy John McGuinness, wrote an open letter to him spelling out in detail what it meant in Kilkenny. If the Minister insists on this, I am sure the Deputy will vote against it. The Taoiseach is reported as saying there will not be a change in the status of Kilkenny. Is he playing with words or is the Minister out of touch with what is happening? Will he explain what is going on? Is the Taoiseach right in saying there will not be a change? Is Deputy McGuinness serious about not supporting the Minister in this measure? How can the Minister decide that he will change the status of Kilkenny  seeing that it has always been regarded as a city since the 1600s?
Mr. Browne: (Carlow-Kilkenny): It is related to the question of the boroughs. I may have wandered a little and I accept your ruling. I want the Minister to clarify the matter. Who is talking on behalf of the Government?
Mr. Gilmore: As I indicated earlier, I do not propose to press amendment No. 18, which deals with the exemption of local authorities because of the existence of the Part X procedure. The Minister stated that his amendment which replaces paragraph (f), amendment No. 19, does not change significantly the content of paragraph (f). I thought that was the case. I disagree with the Minister on this matter. The PPP arrangements should be subject to the planning process. There should be a requirement to apply for planning permission on the part of what will be private companies. I do not see the difficulty. I do not see how it is so critical to the concept of PPPs that they should be exempted development. Therefore, I intend to press amendment No. 20.
“(f)development carried out on behalf of, or jointly or in partnership with, a local authority that is a planning authority, pursuant to a contract entered into by the local authority concerned, whether in its capacity as a planning authority or in any other capacity;”.
In page 26, line 36, after “purpose” to insert “save that, in relation to works carried out by a statutory undertaker for the time being, the planning authority shall require that any land affected by the works shall be restored to a satisfactory condition on completion of the works, and the planning authority may, in the case of unsatisfactory completion, itself carry out the restoration and recover the cost thereof as a simple contract debt in a court of competent jurisdiction”.
Amendment No. 22 deals with a matter raised by Deputy Gilmore earlier on his own amendment. He referred to the multiplicity of undertakers and the various things they do in terms of digging up roads often, as I think he said, in series. This is true. We frequently find that the ESB digs up a road and restores it and then another authority digs up the same piece of road, etc. There are examples of this just across the road. Last year there was a hole in the road outside Setanta House which seemed to attract various undertakers like a honey pot attracts flies and it was open for a long time. There was a period where temporary coverings of thick steel plate were put on the road. One would expect to see them in rather undeveloped cities in Eastern Europe, but one sees them in Dublin and in some other parts. If these steel plates are not applied properly, they tend to be a little loose. One end of such a plate can be raised when a vehicle goes across the other end of it. They are a serious danger and I shudder to think what damage they might have done to cars and other vehicles going over them.
The purpose of the amendment is to provide some certainty for the general public. We have all come across cases where a statutory undertaker in the meaning of this legislation carries out work, fills up the hole, puts a little tar on the top and leaves a bump. They seem to feel that the passage of time, feet, vehicles, etc, will flatten down the bump and eventually it will be as good as it was before, and, of course it never is. Frequently there is a period during which there is a bump where the surface was to have been restored and after a while with the traffic passing by there is a depression because the job had not been properly finished. Local authorities seem to be extremely reluctant to take any real steps to get people to restore surfaces to the way they were before they carried out their work.
I propose that the local authorities shall require that the surfaces be restored satisfactorily and in the event that that is not possible, that the local authorities would carry out the job and be entitled to recover the cost from the statutory undertaker as a normal debt.
On Committee Stage the Minister seemed to have some sympathy with this but did not think the way I proposed to go about it was the most appropriate way. I have examined these amendments as carefully as I could, given the amount of time we have had for them, so far but have not found anything that indicates the Minister has  proposed anything. If I am wrong I will be delighted to hear it.
Mr. Dempsey: We discussed this in discussing an earlier amendment. I indicated at that time, as I did on Committee Stage, that this should be dealt with in separate legislation. That is what I intend to do. I repeated that undertaking in the House earlier this evening, in connection with an amendment on which Deputy Gilmore spoke. I stated that a planning and development Bill is not the place to deal comprehensively with the issue of road openings, though I accept the point that it is something that needs to be dealt with. The most effective way of doing that is through separate legislation.
As I also indicated earlier, the Department has contacted the Dublin Transportation Office to discuss and to assess, in consultation with the local authorities in the DTO area, to what extent the approach taken to the opening and reinstatement of roads and paths for the installation of telecommunications infrastructure could be better managed.
We are pursuing those contacts. I assure the Deputy that this matter will be dealt with by way of separate legislation. It is not appropriate to deal with it here nor could we do it adequately within the confines of this Bill.
Deputy Gilmore: I support the amendment tabled by Deputy Dukes. While I welcome the commitment the Minister has given here and which he previously gave on Committee Stage concerning the introduction of separate legislation to deal with the issue of road openings, the multiplicity of bodies involved, the problems associated with reinstatement and the traffic implications and so on, I stress again the urgency to deal with this.
This problem exists now. The road opening activity and the disruption to traffic is taking place now. We are spending and will continue to spend a fortune, attempting to deal with traffic problems, the provision of new roads, public transport, the Luas project and so on. A huge contributor to the disruption of traffic in this city is the frequency of road openings. It will get worse. There is an urgency about this.
I also welcome the fact that the Minister has directed his Department and presumably the local authorities to talk to the DTO concerning the situation in Dublin. However, in the absence of legislation, it will be difficult for the DTO to manage the problem, as the Minister said. The problem is that all that the statutory undertakers have to get for road opening is a road opening licence from the local authority. Advance planning is not required. They go to the local authority seeking a road opening licence and, except in very exceptional circumstances, they have to get it.
 There should be a requirement on the various bodies which plan such things well in advance. They know where they will lay cables and do such work. They should be required to make application to the local authority or the DTO or whatever, stating well in advance that they propose to lay cables or renew cabling etc. and will need to open a road or street. That would enable the local authority to co-ordinate the activities of a number of agencies so that if a certain number of agencies wished to undertake work within the same time frame they must co-operate and do the work simultaneously and conditions could be made stipulating the exact time the work would be carried out. It is absolute madness that statutory undertakers make savings for themselves on the cost of doing this work by not engaging contractors who will work at night or at weekends or other off-peak periods. They insist on working in the middle of the day, at the busiest times of the day when it causes the most traffic disruption. In most other cities in most other countries we see much of this work done at night and at off-peak times. Here, it seems that, in order to save on premium overtime rates, the work is done during the normal working day.
There is a significant amount of work to be done and it should be done soon. I support the amendment Deputy Dukes has submitted, which is in line with amendments I submitted earlier, because one of the problems with this is that it is excluded from the planning process. There is no obligation on the statutory undertakers to apply for planning permission. The only thing they need is the road opening licence and in normal circumstances that cannot be refused.
Deputy Dukes: I agree with Deputy Gilmore and, not to be churlish about it, it is welcome news that the Minister has taken the steps he has in relation to consulting the DTO. This is not, however, a problem that happens only in Dublin. This happens throughout the country.
I am not at all persuaded that the DTO has the necessary powers to ensure this. It can be done. To my recollection, if the plans have not been changed substantially since June 1997, it is specifically written into the Luas project that there will be a co-ordinated approach to the relocation of certain services along the Luas route. I gather they are all to be moved to one side of the road with the necessary separation between water, sewerage, electricity services and so on.
It can be done, if properly programmed, but not every project can be organised like the Luas and not every undertaker is in the situation that lends itself to that type of co-ordination. Somebody must do it. Deputy Gilmore is right in that it seems to be done most often in a way that is of convenience to the contractor or statutory undertaker doing the work and not for the convenience of the public.
Mr. Dempsey: I cannot indicate a time scale. As I said earlier this evening, when the discussion arose on Committee Stage and again tonight, a good case was made and I accepted it and made it clear that separate legislation was required. Following that, I have put matters in train in the Department to start work on a Bill but the Deputies, from their experience, will know that at this early stage of drafting legislation it would be difficult to predict when it might be complete.
I guarantee that it will be pursued, particularly in light of the comments made by Deputy Gilmore regarding the urgency of the matter. I understand that about 30 telecommunications companies operate in the country at this stage. It is urgent and it will be treated as such.
We are dealing in this section with exempted development and what is meant by that term. While it is useful to have the debate on the amendment, it would have the effect, notwithstanding the fact that the repair or renewal by statutory undertakers of underground pipelines and cables is exempted development, of making the planning authority require that roads be reinstated to a satisfactory condition. There is a non sequiter in that because local authorities generally do not have contact with this type of development from a planning perspective prior to the work being done.
Mr. Dukes: I am astonished by what the Minister has said. First, there is the approach to new legislation and not knowing when it can be done – a case of “live horse and get grass” in that we will continue to have this problem. Second, it is not enough to say that the Dublin Transportation Office is being asked to take certain action. I have doubts about the efficacy of the DTO in Dublin, although that is not to insult the people involved. It is just that it does not have the powers. Third, this is a problem which exists throughout the country.
This amendment is not a non sequiter. In making the amendment to the section, I do not create a contradiction in planning law nor do I interfere with the exempt status of these developments. Local authorities have a duty in the public interest to ensure that surfaces which are broken into are properly restored afterwards. That does not interfere with the status of exempted development, but it is a provision of common prudence. I am not happy with the Minister's reaction and I intend to press the amendment.
Browne, John (Carlow-Kilkenny).
| Higgins, Jim.
Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.
de Valera, Síle.
Ó Cuív, Éamon.
Wright, G. V.
(i)by reason of the size, nature or limited effect on its surroundings, of development belonging to that class, the carrying out of such development would not offend against principles of proper planning and sustainable development, or
(ii)the development is authorised, or is required to be authorised, by or under any enactment (whether the authoris ation takes the form of the grant of a licence, consent, approval or any other type of authorisation) where the enactment concerned requires there to be consultation (howsoever described) with members of the public in relation to the proposed development prior to the granting of the authorisation (howsoever described).
Section 4(2) provides the basic power for planning exemption regulations. As drafted, the Bill allowed exemptions to be granted only when a proposed development would have limited effect on its surroundings. However, some developments are authorised under other enactments – for example, the Fisheries Acts – and may already have gone through extensive consultation with the public and extensive consultation procedures generally, so there is no need to duplicate these procedures with the requirement to obtain planning permission. Therefore, I am providing that the Minister can, by regulations, declare such development to be exempt from the planning Acts.
As a result, the need to provide for a similar exemption in section 178(1)(a) for State development which must undergo other public consultation procedures is redundant. My amendment to that section, therefore, deletes the power to grant an exemption to State development under subsection (1)(a)(ii). This amendment has the same effect as Deputy Dukes's amendment to this section.
Mr. Dukes: Given the fate of my amendment No. 4 on turf development, I have no option but to accept the Minister's amendment because at least that gives him the possibility of rectifying what he would not rectify in relation to my amendment No. 4.
Mr. Gilmore: I am always concerned about exemptions. On Committee Stage I indicated I had reservations about giving the Minister power to exempt, by order, various classes of development. The original version of this provision would have allowed the Minister to exempt classes of development that had little impact on the environment. He proposes to give himself power to exempt developments which are already covered under other enactments and have been the subject of other consultation procedures. I would like to hear the Minister expand further on this.
Reception facilities for refugees and asylum seekers is an area where there would be public consultation. Do I take it that would be exempt from planning permission as it is covered under other enactments or could be regarded as the administration of justice or whatever? Development that might be carried out by a health board,  the provision of certain services, for example, that might be subject to a consultation procedure initiated by the health board could be exempted because the consultation procedure had been undertaken.
The purpose of one consultation procedure does not necessarily mean that the planning issues have been taken into account. The Minister mentioned fisheries. The consultation procedure might concentrate on that dimension. There might be an aqua-cultural development where it might concentrate on the impact on water and so on whereas different issues might arise with the physical development on land. I am concerned about this amendment.
Mr. Dempsey: As regards reception facilities for asylum seekers, the consultations and so on are not dealt with under the exemption but under separate legislation and an emergency order which gives the State the right to provide such facilities where an emergency arises.
A fisheries licence is required to develop a fish farm. Public notification must be given and submissions sought. The decision, which may be appealed, is made by the Department of the Marine and Natural Resources. That is, and will continue to be, the procedure following the passage of this Bill. It would be nonsensical to have two separate procedures.
A fisheries operation would go through this procedure under the licensing system. If the company wanted to process fish onshore, the building would be subject to the normal planning requirements. The amendment is not seeking to extend powers but merely recognises the position as it is and ensures we do not have conflict where a person goes through one procedure and gets a licence and then goes through the same procedure under this Bill.
Why does the Minister believe it is necessary or appropriate to make a charge for referring a question to a local authority as to what is or is not development? Section 5 provides that if there is any question in relation to a particular case as to whether works proposed to be carried out are or are not development the person concerned may apply to the planning authority for a ruling. The Minister proposes to charge a fee for this and my amendment is designed to delete that. It is not obvious that it is fair to make a charge for such a request. Unless I am mistaken, the approach in this section is not followed through in the Bill, nor am I suggesting that it should be.
 As regards the parts of the Bill that incorporate legislation we passed last year regarding architectural heritage, there is provision for persons who want to carry out work to a listed building to ask the planning authority if the work he or she proposes to carry out is allowable because of the status of the building. As far as I know, there is no fee for getting a ruling on that. Our concern is to ensure we preserve the character of such buildings. Is there any logic in taking that approach, which I support, to listed buildings and then making a charge for other development simply for the purpose of telling people if the work they carry out is development? A request of that kind is a proper request for information and is properly made to the planning authority. It should not carry a fee.
The Minister knows that, if anything, my record on encouraging local authorities to make charges is longer and more consistent than his and most other Members. It is not obvious to me that it is right to charge for information which an intending developer is entitled to ask. There is no persuasive case to be made for it and I do not see why the Minister should make a charge.
Mr. Dempsey: The amendment would delete the provision requiring a fee to be paid to the local authority for a declaration as to what is or is not exempted development. It is reasonable for a person to pay for this service. Under section 5, the fee is paid to the board and I do not propose to delete this requirement.
I examined the various requirements to pay a fee under this section and have tabled amendments Nos. 25, 27 and 28 which would require a fee to be paid by all parties seeking a declaration from the planning authority or a determination by the board. The obligation to pay a fee will apply equally to the planning authority as to an individual applicant. The fee will not be large but will go some way towards the local authority's or the board's administrative costs.
The section provides for a fee to be paid to the local authority. This procedure is not like asking a local authority to check one's driving licence or whatever. The local authority is providing a service on the basis that it is giving an interpretation of the law to the applicant. An applicant has the alternative of seeking a legal opinion from a solicitor or barrister as to whether a development is exempted. However, in most cases, the fee involved would be far higher than that intended by this section.
Mr. Dukes: I am not persuaded by the Minister's last argument. A person can obtain an opinion from a solicitor or barrister with all the risks that such opinions carry. I will not be too specific but I have seen legal opinions of provisions in this Bill which seem very doubtful but we will come to that later. The Minister knows what I am talking about and that I am not per suaded by legal opinions which do not have a leg on which to stand.
It is sometimes risky to consult lawyers. When doctors differ patients die, but the more lawyers differ the more money they make. I am not sure it is proper to ask people to pay a fee for a determination of the law by a planning authority. In any case, a determination obtained from a planning authority is not necessarily definitive and beyond challenge. I do not wish to open a vista of endless recourse to legal proceedings but the Bill sets out what is regarded as exempted development and there will be no doubt in most cases. However, if there is a doubt it is reasonable that the publicly constituted authority which has to rule, and that is what planning authorities do, should not charge a fee for someone to find out whether it is of the opinion that a development is exempted.
I am not consoled by the fact that, as I feared, when the Minister reflected on the issue he found a few more reasons for imposing charges, hence amendments Nos. 25 to 28. I have been on that side of the fence but at least I have the consolation of being able to say I did not provoke the Minister into this course of action. It is not reasonable to charge a fee for what should be public information.
This amendment clarifies the date from which the four week period to refer a decision of the planning authority to the board runs. The same phrase is used in paragraph (b). It is a tidying up exercise.
“(5) The Board shall issue a decision on the referral and the main reasons on which its decision is based within 4 weeks and shall forthwith communicate these to the person who made the request under subsection (1) and, where appropriate, to the owner and occupier of the land in question and to the planning authority.”.
The amendment seeks to insert a new subsection (5) to require the board to give a decision on referrals within four weeks. This is in line with the general dissatisfaction at the length of time it takes to get a decision from An Bord Pleanála. I do not wish to be offensive to anyone on the board but it is taking much longer for the board to give decisions on appeals than contemplated in legislation.
The issue regards a referral to the board for an opinion and a declaration. The board is not being asked to make a substantive decision on a planning matter but to simply outline the law and it is reasonable to require that it gives its decision within a period of four weeks. Is the Minister going to accept this amendment?
Mr. Dempsey: No. This amendment seeks to impose a four week limit on the time allowed for decisions by the board on referrals under section 5. Throughout the Bill we have tried to impose the same time limits and to synchronise time limits for decisions, referrals and appeals as much as possible. It is reasonable to do so.
I accept the Deputy's point that many referrals under this section would be relatively simple. However, other referrals may involve inspections and complex issues and four weeks is not sufficient for decisions in a minority of such cases. I would not like to tie the board to such a period. It has the overall aim of dealing with all referrals within 18 weeks and it will give priority to some of these issues. A four week limit might be sufficient in a majority of cases but not in all cases, and the board should be given the flexibility to take whatever time it needs to reach a proper decision. The Deputy can argue that we are catering for a minority of cases but it is important to cater for cases which are somewhat complex.
Mr. Dukes: I appreciate the Minister's concerns, but if we do not apply time limits to such decisions members of the board could take forever to make up their minds. The Minister referred to aligning provisions. Under subsection (2)(a) he proposes to require a planning authority to issue a declaration on a request within four weeks of its receipt. He will require planning  authorities to give their views within four weeks, but they have an opt out clause in that they can request additional information. Given that planning authorities are allowed to request additional information after four weeks, one could be forgiven for believing that if an authority receives a referral on, say, Monday, 26 June, it simply diaries it for the Friday almost four weeks later and then decides it is time to act on it. It checks through the file, notes some aspect is unclear and issues a request for further information. That is what is provided for in the section. A planning authority is required to issue the declaration within three weeks of receipt of further information. If the Minister is talking about aligning dates, periods and deadlines, I see nothing wrong with requiring An Bord Pleanála to issue within four weeks its decisions on what will be a much smaller number of referrals to the board compared to applications to planning authorities.
I invite the Minister to use his concern to ensure there is alignment to follow the logic of my amendment and to provide for the board to make a decision on a referral within four weeks. That is not an unreasonable request. What is being sought is not a decision on a planning application or an appeal but a declaration as to whether a proposed development is or is not exempt from development, which should be dealt with reasonably expeditiously. Four weeks is not an excessively short or overly constraining time to apply to a decision on a referral by An Bord Pleanála.
Mr. McCormack: I support the Deputy's amendment. Four weeks is a reasonable period for An Bord Pleanála to make a decision on a referral, particularly if an application is in line with the zoning or the designation of the area concerned, as in the case of a commercial development in a commercial area. It is reasonable that An Bord Pleanála should be obliged to make a decision on such a referral within four weeks. Unnecessary delay in a decision by An Bord Pleanála on the referral of an application for a proposed development can cause an applicant extreme financial hardship.
Mr. Dempsey: The Minister of the day has the power under section 124(4) and (5) to vary the timescale that applies to decisions on appeals or referrals to An Bord Pleanála. It is wise not to tie An Bord Pleanála to a four week timescale on such decisions at present. However, with the benefit of experience over time if the Minister of the day believes that reducing that timescale would be consistent with good decision making, it would be open to him or her, under the legislation and through regulations, to do that. I would not like to restrict the planning appeals board to having to make such decisions within four weeks. We do not know on what type of referrals the board will have to make decisions. It is reasonable to allow the board the same time to make such a decision as it has to make a decision on a  referral, which is 18 weeks. It can make a decision in a shorter period, but in some cases it requires that timescale.
Mr. McCormack: Is the Minister grouping referrals and appeals? Deputy Dukes's amendment relates to referrals, but the Minister referred to appeals and the statutory period within which the planning appeals board can deal with appeals. Referrals are a different matter. When the designation of the land concerned meets what is sought in the referral, the timescale for the decision should not exceed four weeks, as a referral cannot be compared to a planning application on appeal where every detail of the application must be examined. Will the Minister clarify—
On Committee Stage, Deputy Hayes raised the issue of ensuring that a copy of the record of referrals by the board should be supplied to each elected member on request. In general each elected member is entitled to request such information, but I am pleased to table a specific amendment on this point which provides that a copy of the record should be given to elected members by the authority at a member's request.
This amendment requires that the location on applications should be recorded under the appropriate place name referable to a six inch Ordnance Survey map. Two issues arose on this matter on Committee Stage. One was the need to standardise the maps used to identify the location of a planning application and the second was to  use the place names on the Ordnance Survey maps. There was considerable debate on the way in which place names change, the fact that place names in their new form are not automatically identifiable in terms of location and that there was a need to standardise matters by ensuring a simple basic reference is used for place names and the locations on planning applications.
I am not sure whether it was the Minister's wish to conclude the debate on the section or that he was greatly struck by the force of the argument I made on Committee Stage that prompted him to promise to reconsider this matter before Report Stage. What consideration has he given this issue? As there is not a ministerial amendment tabled on this matter, is he disposed to accept my amendment?
Mr. Dempsey: As the Deputy said, I agreed to reconsider the issue of addresses that must be used on planning applications when we discussed this amendment on Committee Stage. The Deputy will recall I pointed out that the name on a six inch map was not appropriate as many of the maps are out of date. Most of them have not been updated since the 1930s. I have established also that the Ordnance Survey Office does not intend to update them since it has moved to the metric system. Therefore, it would not be appropriate at this stage to introduce this type of amendment. While those maps may be suitable for rural areas they do not give sufficient detail for urban areas. The main problem is that Ireland does not have an unique address system, whereby every building has its own number and postal code, as in some other countries. In the absence of such a system there is no standard addressing system that could be applied in respect of planning applications save that it is up to planning authorities to satisfy themselves in regard to the accuracy of the address and to ensure the address on the application is not misleading. Having considered the matter further since Committee Stage I do not think the wording can be improved upon. For the reasons outlined, the amendment, if accepted, would probably give rise to even greater confusion. On that basis I ask the Deputy to withdraw the amendment.
This group of amendments relates to the way in which development is impacting on the Gaeltacht areas. A number of issues arise. Deputy Kelleher made the point on Committee Stage that one of the reasons the Gaeltacht areas survived in the  past was that they were remote. It is that very reason that is now putting the Gaeltacht areas at risk from development. Considerable development has taken place recently in Gaeltacht areas. Much of that development – for example, building luxury homes and holiday homes as well as the arrival of people in Gaeltacht areas who have no affinity with it and no particular knowledge of the Irish language – is diluting those areas. This is an issue on which national policy must be clear. The official national policy is to preserve parts of the country as areas in which the Irish language is the spoken language of the people.
We all know the degree to which Irish is spoken in those areas is eroding rapidly. For example, the Connemara Gaeltacht is being pushed further and further west. Any person who is familiar with the constituency boundaries for Údarás na Gaeltachta elections will know there are parts of Galway city and parts east of Galway city which are officially designated as Gaeltacht areas and where the only Irish spoken in those areas is that of the teacher in the primary school when the Irish class is in progress. That has been the case for a long time.
Many of the Gaeltacht areas, largely because of their remoteness and physical attraction as areas for development, house building and so on, are attracting much development. In these amendments I seek provision for a number of things: first, linguistic impact assessments and statements to be included in planning applications in Gaeltacht areas. This is done in other countries in areas where a language is to be preserved; second, that account of the linguistic impact of development is included in the making of development plans and in the making of regional planning guidelines; and, third, that the Minister for Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands be allowed make regulations governing language related matters which would have to be taken into account by planning authorities in making planning decisions in Gaeltacht areas.
We cannot be blind to the fact that the Gaeltacht areas are at risk. There is no point in pretending otherwise. It appears to me that within a decade, two at most, the Gaeltacht areas will no longer be Gaeltacht areas as we have known them and will no longer be areas in which the language is spoken as the everyday language of the people. This House will have to face that reality. While there is an official policy in regard to preserving the Gaeltacht areas for the Irish language, we all know they are being eroded rapidly. If we are not to keep Gaeltacht areas, we should say so and devise some other means of developing and protecting the language. If there are areas which are designated as the geographical locations in which the Irish language is to be the spoken language, it is not enough to provide deontaisí for bean an tí in respect of students attending Gaeltacht colleges in the summer, to have a separate industrial development authority and to give a nod in acknowledgment of their status as Gaeltacht areas. Steps have to be taken  in the planning legislation to ensure they are protected from the type of development which will inevitably erode those areas.
Arising from the Committee Stage debate I heard Úachtarán, Comhdháil Náisiúnta na Gaeilge, on the radio and I was left with the impression that the Minister would introduce some new amendments on Report Stage to address the issues I have raised now and on Committee Stage. However, I do not see any additional amendments other than those on Committee Stage. Perhaps I misunderstood the point being made. The Minister made some changes to the Bill as it was going through which strengthens the position somewhat but he has not gone far enough. I ask him to accept my amendments as they would strengthen enormously the provisions in the Bill to protect and preserve the Gaeltacht areas.
Mr. Dukes: I am a co-sponsor of the amendment and agree with what Deputy Gilmore has said. It is a long time since I first heard that it was virtually impossible for young people in the Connemara Gaeltacht to build a house there. They simply cannot afford to pay the site prices that have resulted from the kind of pressure on development there to which Deputy Gilmore referred and which we spoke about on Committee Stage. Similar problems can be seen in the Kerry Gaeltacht. As far as I know, there is not that particular kind of problem in the Ráth Cairn Gaeltacht, but I have a suspicion that it is being affected by development pressures in the same way as every other part of the country. While there may not be a specific Gaeltacht problem there, young people in that area certainly feel the same pressures concerning the affordability of housing as young people do in other parts of the country.
That is not the end of the matter, of course. With the arrival of the holiday home or second home comes the demand for many other services, perfectly naturally. As Deputy Gilmore said, the expansion of those other services in themselves puts extra pressure on the Gaeltacht. It changes the nature of the area and activities therein, and it means it is more and more difficult to cultivate or develop the essential nature of the cultural entity that is a Gaeltacht.
On Committee Stage, the Minister did come some of the way with us concerning a number of amendments and I congratulate him on doing so, but a good deal more could be done. I note that the Minister has tabled an amendment in the group we are discussing. Amendment No. 115 is a move by the Minister to recognise some of the concerns Deputy Gilmore and I have been articulating. Looking behind the rather opaque wording of that amendment in order to divine its intention, however, I think the Minister's heart is in the right place. It is not a measure that will make a huge difference to the quality of what goes on in respect of developments in Gaeltacht areas, however. It refers to regulations which may be  made in respect of developments of a particular class. It requires the Minister, before making those regulations, to consult with the Minister for Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands. That is a recognition of some of what we are saying but it does not go far enough.
In cultural terms, the point of requiring a linguistic impact statement is similar to what we hope to bring about in physical planning terms by having an environmental impact statement. It involves the same logic and the same concern with the effect of the development on a particular part of our environment – in this case on our cultural environment.
On Committee Stage, Deputy Gilmore and I tried to get the title of a Part of the Bill altered in order to make that point. We tabled a series of amendments but the Minister did not accept them. It is a great pity he has not found it possible in the meantime to change his view on that matter. We are discussing the physical development of Gaeltacht areas and we know that the type, quality and direction of physical development will inevitably have fundamental effects on the quality of life and cultural activity in those areas.
It is no different from any other area and, in fact, it would be fair to compare this to what has happened to the nature of leisure pursuits in Dublin, for example. In terms of leisure, Dublin is a very different place from what it was 30 years ago. It is awful that one feels in a position to say what it was like 30 years ago, but it is a very different place. The cultural life of the capital, in its broadest sense, is very different now and it has been much affected by the kind of development that has taken place since then. Even simple activities, such as going to the cinema, have a very different context and connotation from those of 30 years ago. It is a different kind of event and experience, and much of that difference has been shaped by the kind of development that has taken place.
Recently, we debated the Intoxicating Liquor Bill. Going out for a drink in much of Dublin these days is a very different activity to what it was 30 years ago. There is an enormous difference between going for a drink in one of the new so-called “super pubs” and having a drink in an old fashioned local. It is a different kind of activity and ambience, and much of that difference is due to the kind of development that has taken place.
The same thing has happened in the Gaeltacht areas. A great deal of what affects the life and vibrancy of the Irish language today results from the kind of developments that have taken place in the Gaeltachtaí. Deputy Gilmore and I have set out, at least, to try to know what the nature of that development is so that planning authorities can judge what the effects of given types of proposals will be on the cultural entities that are the Gaeltachtaí. That is the reason for moving an amendment of this kind to the Bill.
I recognise the fact that in one of the amend ments in this group the Minister is moving some distance towards the direction we have proposed, but it is not enough. The Minister would be thanked in years to come if he were to take a few further steps along the road by accepting this and other amendments in the group.
Mr. McCormack: I appreciate fully what Deputies Gilmore and Dukes are trying to achieve in moving these amendments. However, I do not know how we can achieve what is sought in the thinking behind those amendments. I would like a greater opportunity than that which is afforded to us on Report Stage to tease out this complex problem more fully. Deputy Gilmore referred to Galway city and the Connemara Gaeltacht and the situation is even more complex there. When I came to live in Galway city 25 years ago the population was 22,000, but at the last census that figure had risen to 66,000 and I am sure it is even higher now.
Galway city was built on a narrow neck of land between the Corrib and the sea and was completely surrounded by Gaeltacht areas, but it was impossible to stop every city development plan. In 1996 when we got county borough status in Galway and extended the city boundary out into the country, it was all extended into Gaeltacht areas because they completely surround the city, apart from a narrow neck of land on the Oranmore end. There are rural areas east of Galway city where the Irish language has been preserved, for example in Annach Dhún, Baile Claregalway, Castlegar agus Carnmore freisin. Those are real Gaeltacht areas where the native farming people still speak Irish.
As one goes west into Connemara, Irish is still the spoken language in most homes but the influx of new buildings there, housing people who have come from outside the Gaeltacht, has had an influence. I do not know how one could address the problem in Galway. For example, Tyrellan Heights, which is out the Headford Road, was built in the parish of Castlegar which was a Gaeltacht area. The vast housing estate of Knocknacarrow on the east side of the city was built in the Barna Gaeltacht area. I do not know how it could be arranged that the people who wish to live in those houses could only be from the Gaeltacht.
Tá a lán daoine as an Ghaeltacht ag obair i gCathair na Gaillimhe. There is a greater diversification of people and many of those from the Gaeltacht go to Galway to socialise and shop. Previously, emigration affected Gaeltacht areas and now immigration may affect them. Those from Gaeltacht areas and families of those who were raised there are returning to live there and are working in Galway city.
This is a complex problem. In the case of Galway, the sons and daughters of those raised in rural Gaeltacht areas, despite the fact they may now be working in Galway city, should be given the opportunity to build their houses in the Gaeltacht. This should be encouraged in the drawing  up of county development plans. Planning permission should be easier to obtain for those from Gaeltacht areas. This would sustain the native Irish speakers in the Gaeltacht areas where they have been born and raised and where they should now be able to settle and raise their families.
Ms Clune: I support the amendments tabled by Deputies Dukes and Gilmore which make a strong statement about our position on the Gaeltacht areas. Their remoteness has been their strength to date but it is now an attraction. These amendments propose the undertaking of a linguistic impact statement. It is important that any planning application or change in a Gaeltacht area should be looked at in terms of its impact on the Irish language and culture, which we are endeavouring to maintain. A strong statement of this nature should be included because the Gaeltacht areas are being diluted and eroded. Any measure weighted in favour of preserving the language is welcome, although anyone can teach a language and it can be learned from cassettes. However, it is the culture and identity that we are so proud of and which makes us unique in Europe. These unique areas should be maintained and anything which will dilute their strength should be assessed in terms of its impact. I support the amendments.
Mr. Higgins: (Dublin West): Ba mhaith liom mo thacaíocht láidir do na leasaithe a chur in iúl. Tá an Ghaeltacht faoi fíor-bhrú i láthair na huaire. Tá an brú sin ann ón taobh timpeallachta de, ó thaobh an chultúir maidir leis na meáin chumarsáide de agus ón taobh amuigh atá ag brú isteach i ngach tigh agus i ngach áit. Tá an bú ann chomh maith ó thaobh cúrsaí forbartha de. Measaim go gcaithfidh reachtaíocht a bheith ann chun caomhnú a chur sa reachtaíocht maidir le suíomh na Gaeltachta de ó thaobh cultúir agus teanga i láthair na huaire. Is oth liom a rá nach féidir é seo a fhágaint faoi na Comhairlí Contae. Caithfidh sé a bheith sa reachtaíocht i dtreo is go gcuirfear iachall ar na Comhairlí Contae cloígh leis an reachtaíocht úd chun an Ghaeltacht a chaomhnú nuair a thagann sé go cúrsaí pleanála.
Bhí sampla i gCorcha Dhuibhne i gCiarraí Thiar nuair a thug Comhairle Contae Chiarraí cead 50 nó 60 teach samhraidh a thógaint i bhFionntrá. Cinneadh tubaisteach a bhí ansin ó thaobh timpeallachta de ach go mór mhór ó thaobh cultúir agus teanga de. Chuir an Bord Pleanála deireadh leis an gcinneadh sin agus bhí daoine an-bhuíoch faoi sin ach caithfidh an Bille seo, agus tá seans anois ag an Aire agus ag an Rialtas, féachaint chuige go mbeidh sé sa reachtaíocht.
Tá turasóireacht an-thábhachtach do mhuintir na Gaeltachta agus tugann sé seans do dhaoine óga fanacht sa Ghaeltacht ach tá an-bhrú ag teacht chomh maith ón turasóireacht féin ar an nGaeltacht agus ar an dteanga go mór mhór. Bheadh an brú i bhfad níos mó, áfach, dá mbeadh forbairt, forbairt tithíocht go háirithe, sa Ghaeltacht a mheallfadh daoine isteach nach mbeadh  aon Ghaeilge acu. Chuirfeadh sin brú uafásach ar labhairt na teanga sna sráidbhailte. Bhí sampla le déanaí ar an gCoimín i gCorcha Dhuibhne – áit a bhfuil cead á lorg chun roinnt tithe, deich gcinn nó mar sin, a thógaint ann. Is ceist chonspóideach, deacair í seo mar is comharchumann atá ag iarraidh na tithe a chur suas. Teastaíonn uainn anseo gach cabhair a thabhairt do chomharchumainn ach is daoine nach mbeadh aon Ghaeilge acu furmhór na ndaoine a bheadh ag maireachtaint ins na tithe agus bheidís i gcearlár sráidbhaile Gaeltachta. Sé an fáth gur roghnaíodar an suíomh úd ná nach bhféadfaidís suíomh a cheannach cóngarach do bhaile an Daingin mar go raibh praghasanna talún ró-ard ansin. Mar sin, tá cúrsaí spéacláireachta ag cur isteach ar an nGaeltacht chomh maith le ceantair eile. Sin rud eile gur chóir don Aire a chur san áireamh maidir leis an reachtaíocht, sé sin go bhfuil spéacláireacht sa Ghaeltacht féin i láthair na huaire agus go bhfuil an-chuid de na daoine ón áit nach bhfuil an-chuid airgid acu, gnáth lucht oibre, nach féidir leo talamh a cheannach chun tithe a thógaint dóibh féin. Is féidir le daoine ón taobh amuigh, áfach, a bhfuil an-chuid airgid acu ach gan Ghaeilge, teacht isteach agus an talamh a cheannach.
Ar dheireadh thiar thall tá rud ann a ghlaoimse impiriúlacht teanga agus cultúir. Is féidir leis an impiriúlachas sin a chur ar mhullach mionlaigh ar nós muintir na Gaeltachta muna bhfuil caomhnu le fáil acu ón reachtaíocht pleanála. Tá seans anois ag an Aire é a chur isteach sa Bhille. Dheineas scrúdú ar na leasaithe atá anseo agus measaim gur leasaithe maithe iad. Ba cheart don Rialtas anois tacaíocht a thabhairt do na leasaithe úd i dtreo is go mbeadh an caomhnú ann atá ag teastáil ó fhurmhór muintir na tíre seo.
Mr. Dempsey: I thank Members for their contributions and the amendments they have tabled. We have had many discussions in the past few months on protecting the Irish language and the cultural and linguistic specialities of the Gaeltacht areas.
The original Bill contained provisions to protect Gaeltacht areas and ensure they were not overwhelmed by development. A very delicate balance must be maintained. This is a planning and development Bill which can only go so far in terms of trying to protect the special nature of the Gaeltacht areas. Deputy Higgins outlined an incident involving planning permissions for houses that were obviously going to have a significant impact on a Gaeltacht area. The houses were applied for by the co-op or the comharchumann in the area itself. I am sure the comharchumann—
Mr. Dempsey: Undoubtedly, it was a local agency. The argument about whether this is necessary for the survival of the Gaeltacht areas by generating income for the local economy  comes into it, obviously. However, as I said, I included provisions in this regard in the original Bill because of my concern to ensure we would, as far as practicable within a planning and development Bill, give special recognition and protection to the language, culture and heritage of Gaeltacht areas. It is fair to say that, as the Bill has gone through the various Stages in the Seanad and Dáil, particularly on Committee Stage in the select committee, my thinking has advanced on this and we have advanced the position on each occasion we have debated it.
On Committee Stage, I undertook to look at the linguistic impact statement and to consider if I could bring forward a suitable alternative amendment because many Deputies had tabled amendments which referred to linguistic impact statements. I had no problem with the concept and the proposed introduction of linguistic impact statements per se. My problem was that there was no clear idea of what a linguistic impact statement was. We discussed this in the House, with officials and so on. I had separate discussions with people in the Gaeltacht in Rathcairn to see if we could come up with a linguistic impact statement that would mean something and that we could incorporate in the Bill, but we did not succeed.
Following the debate on Committee Stage, I started to see if there was some other way of achieving what was sought in the call for the linguistic impact statements. My amendment to section 33 allows for permission regulations to be made requiring additional information to be submitted with planning applications for development in the Gaeltacht areas. This will assist the planning authorities in determining applications in accordance with their obligations under section 10 to protect the linguistic and cultural heritage of the Gaeltacht. As I said, we have changed the Bill as we have moved along. Section 10 gives a certain amount of protection, and what we are proposing in amendment No. 115 adds to that.
Those regulations, as Deputy Gilmore suggested in his amendment, will be made in consultation with the Minister for Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands. My amendment captures the essence of the linguistic impact statements and probably avoids some of the pitfalls and difficulties that might arise in referring to “linguistic impact statements” when we have no real, clear idea yet of what a linguistic impact statement might be. This amendment, taken in conjunction with the objective in section 10, should meet the Deputies' requirements.
Officials from my Department have met with Comhdháil Náisiúnta na Gaeilge which expressed itself satisfied with the approach I am now taking. It welcomed the move. Dúirt siad gur céim mór chun cinn ó thaobh cosaint na Gaeilge sa Gaeltacht iad na leasaithe atá cur síos agamsa.
I thank Deputies for acknowledging the fact that, while they are not satisfied I have gone as far as they would like, I have moved fairly sub stantially. We are all anxious to ensure we give the maximum amount of protection to the language and the ethos of Gaeltacht areas. My amendment and the overall objective of the development plan to protect and promote Irish in the Gaeltacht provide a package which will protect the Gaeltacht areas. That should be taken in conjunction with the commitment we have made and the terms of reference of the commission on Irish in the Gaeltacht areas which the Minister of State, Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív, is putting in place.
I have outlined that we should talk in terms of how we are going to give effect to the provisions of this Bill. Comhdháil Náisiúnta na Gaeilge, Údarás na Gaeltachta and various other Irish language organisations will undoubtedly be involved in that discussion. I think we will be able to offer protection. The aim of each of us in this House is to develop the Gaeltacht areas as much as possible, not just physically and industrially but also culturally.
I have given an undertaking that Údarás na Gaeltachta will be a prescribed body. I am not sure if any other Irish language organisation is interested in becoming a prescribed body, but if they are that can be considered.
A point was made about giving preference to local people and natives of particular areas in terms of development. That is done in some development plans at the moment. I know of at least one local authority that is in trouble about this because people feel it is an anti-foreigner or racist approach to planning. However, it is possible within the current planning laws to stipulate who can get planning permission, particularly for one-off houses in rural, Gaeltacht areas.
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