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 Header Item International Protection Bill 2015 [Seanad]: Second Stage (Resumed) (Continued)
 Header Item Business of Dáil
 Header Item Planning and Development (Amendment) Bill 2015: Second Stage

Thursday, 10 December 2015

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 900 No. 2

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  3 o’clock

Business of Dáil

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl A technical amendment is required, as the order of the day calls for a sos now, but that would be ridiculous.

Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach (Deputy Paul Kehoe): Information on Paul Kehoe Zoom on Paul Kehoe It is proposed that, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, we proceed without a sos.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Is that agreed? Agreed.

Planning and Development (Amendment) Bill 2015: Second Stage

Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Paudie Coffey): Information on Paudie Coffey Zoom on Paudie Coffey I move: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

I am pleased to have the opportunity to introduce Second Stage of the Planning and Development (Amendment) Bill 2015 to the Dáil. It was introduced in the Seanad last week, where general support was expressed for its main provisions and purpose. The primary background to the Bill is the Government's recently approved package of measures to deal with the problems being observed in the housing market. The housing package, entitled Stabilising Rents, Boosting Supply, which followed on from extensive engagement between the Minister for Finance and the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Deputy Alan Kelly, as well as officials from our respective Departments, encompasses a comprehensive range of measures to improve the operation of the private rental sector, tackle increasing homelessness and support increased housing supply.

The package's rent stability measures, which are primarily intended to give greater protection to tenants in the private rental sector, are being separately progressed in the Residential Tenancies (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill 2012. This follows on from the unprecedented €4 billion package for the provision of social housing in the period to 2020 that I announced this year. While the provision of new social housing and enhancements to the operation of the private rental sector are essential to help counteract homelessness and provide tenants with greater certainty in terms of security of tenure and the level of rents applied, boosting housing supply is also critical in addressing our overall housing problems. The housing supply shortage is unquestionably one of the most pressing and challenging priorities facing the Government, being particularly acute in Dublin with demand for housing well outstripping supply. This shortage has consequential knock-on effects for house prices and rents and impacts negatively on thousands of households throughout the country.

The housing package announced last month contains some important measures to help address the housing supply shortage problem, including the introduction of a targeted development contribution rebate scheme to support and make more economically viable the delivery of affordable starter homes in Dublin and Cork, which will need to be completed and sold in 2016 and 2017, and the provision of financial support by the Ireland Strategic Infrastructure Fund, ISIF, for the provision of housing-related enabling infrastructure in large-scale priority development areas. These measures follow on from previous actions, for example, a 26% reduction in development contributions in the Dublin area, legislative changes via the Urban Regeneration and Housing Act, which was enacted last July and allows for these development contribution reductions to be applied to certain unactivated planning permissions, reductions via the same Act in the Part V obligations on developers in respect of the provision of social and affordable housing, which are estimated to reduce housing costs by up to €10,000 per housing unit, and the suite of actions already being implemented under the Government's Construction 2020 strategy, which is aimed at restoring and increasing activity in the wider construction sector.

Two further elements of the housing package announced last month that are designed to increase housing supply require legislative underpinning and are incorporated in this Bill. These relate to ensuring that planning authorities do not seek requirements above the national standards set out in ministerial planning guidelines issued under section 28 of the Planning and Development Act 2000, as amended, for example, in respect of apartment standards, and streamlining the arrangements for the making of modifications to strategic development zone, SDZ, planning schemes.

The Bill contains seven sections that propose to amend sections 28 and 34 and Part IX of the 2000 Act. Section 1 provides for the necessary definitions. Sections 2 and 3 provide for amendments in connection with ministerial planning guidelines issued to planning authorities. Section 2 amends section 28 of the planning Act relating to the issuing of ministerial planning guidelines to planning authorities. Currently, section 28 provides that planning authorities shall have regard to ministerial guidelines in the performance of their planning functions, such as in the determination of planning applications and the adoption of development plans. The amendment to this section elaborates on that by introducing a new power whereby the Minister may, within the section 28 guidelines, expressly state specific national planning policy requirements to be applied by An Bord Pleanála or planning authorities, as appropriate, in the exercise of their functions. Therefore, the content of guidelines will distinguish between advisory or general commentary on the one hand and, on the other, specific requirements that must be mandatorily applied by planning authorities.

This amendment is a critical underpinning to revisions that will shortly issue to replace the 2007 apartment standard guidelines. Those revisions will contain specific new requirements in respect of minimum apartment sizes, the number of lifts per number of apartments, car parking provision, floor-to-ceiling heights, the provision of dual aspect apartments, storage provision and so on with a view to ensuring their consistent application. Such revised guidelines would represent a change in national planning policy that should, on foot of this amendment, be implemented by planning authorities in the determination of planning applications and the adoption of development plans.

The amendment will also enable future revisions to any other current guideline, for example, on development management and sustainable residential development, as well as to new planning guidelines that may be developed to ensure that they are expressed and applied in a clearer manner. This will improve consistency and certainty in the planning process generally by distinguishing in policy terms between matters to be determined locally and by national policy.

Section 3 further underpins this approach by addressing a number of supplementary amendments required to section 34 of the 2000 Act relating to the granting of planning permissions by planning authorities. The first amendment in this section will require planning authorities to consider expressly any specific national planning policy requirements arising from section 28 guidelines issued by the Minister in the determination of planning applications. To avoid doubt, the second amendment provides that, where such guidelines and the standards or provisions of a local development plan differ, the national planning policy as reflected in ministerial guidelines takes precedence. This amendment will, for example, obviate the need for and preclude the adoption by planning authorities of their own local standards, thereby preventing a multiplicity of approaches throughout the country, effectively requiring planning authorities to comply with the national guidelines issued by the Minister of the time.

The third amendment in section 3 is aimed at streamlining the assessment of applications seeking modifications to existing planning permissions in respect of multi-unit housing developments - primarily apartment block and duplex-type developments - on foot of the issuing of new or revised apartment standard guidelines by the Minister of the time. The amendment will restrict the assessment of any such planning application to the modifications proposed for the purpose of complying with any new guideline and so that the whole previously granted permission and the question of the suitability of the development for housing as already determined are not reopened.


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