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Adjournment Debate. - Artane (Dublin) Housing Development.

Tuesday, 7 June 1966

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 223 No. 1

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Mr. Larkin: Information on Denis Larkin Zoom on Denis Larkin At Question Time to-day, I gave notice of my intention to raise the subject matter of Question No. 21, standing in my name. It concerns a matter affecting some 400 or 500 families who live on the Maryfield Estate, Coolock, North Dublin. This House, the Minister and his Department should long ago have taken steps to protect the interests of those families in the context in which I speak.

A group of developers, known as the Gallagher group, should not be allowed to contravene planning legislation and to avoid their admitted responsibilities as developers. Repeated applications for sanction for development, and appeals, should not be tolerated in respect of an area already earmarked by Dublin Corporation for playing fields and for public recreation purposes. In their efforts to obtain sanction for development of the land in question, this group are acting purely out of consideration for their own profit. Their action can only prejudice some ordered and reasoned development in housing estates and, if successful, would deprive the children of some 400 or 500 families of the amenities in the Maryfield Estate in North Dublin to which they are fully entitled. To deprive these children of playing fields in that area could have serious consequences. The nearest suitable large space for recreation is at Coolock-Harmonstown which is across the Malahide Road and near a dangerous roundabout at which a child was killed some months ago.

[183] This is a situation in which a group who are interested purely in their own profit are neglectful of their manifest duty to the people living on the Maryfield Estate. I trust that the Parliamentary Secretary will examine the situation in the light of the fact that the people on this estate have provided themselves with their own homes in which to rear their families. Hardly a month goes by that some spokesman of the Government or of a local authority or even a Deputy does not praise the prudence of these families who, since 1954, have gradually been occupying houses on the estate in question, paying their rates and their taxes and bringing up their families but, all during that period, the commitment of the developers to clear the site and provide proper recreational facilities in this area has not merely not been carried out but repeated appeals have been made by them in an effort to avoid leaving the playing space there.

As far back as 1955, an appeal was submitted to the then Minister against the decision of the local authority requiring the developer to leave the space, to fence it and dedicate it to the residents in the area. That appeal was dismissed by the Minister of the day. I understand that the developer has suggested that the open space has been used as a dump. In fact, the developer ploughed up fields that could have been used, at least in a primitive way, for recreation purposes. Not satisfied with casting that reflection on the citizens of the area, the developer has sought sanction for the erection of a further 30 dwellings on this land which would further enhance his financial position without regard to the obligation on him to leave a playing space in accordance with the Planning Acts.

In September, 1965, some 11 months after his previous appeal was dismissed by the Minister, the developer again attempted to get past legislation. Possibly the developer thinks that, as there is now a different Minister in the Department, his application might receive some further consideration. In practically every case where a family on this estate entered [184] into a contract for a dwelling, they were assured by the developer that there would be ample space for recreation purposes. They were shown a sketch plan which indicated that the north-east corner of the area was reserved for playing fields. Consequently the house purchasers, conscious of the danger to their children if they were permitted to cross the Malahide Road to get to the nearest convenient playing space, understood they were getting an assurance that this space would be reserved for playing fields.

We were told in the reply today that on 8th September, 1965, application was made to the Corporation to build 30 houses on the portion of the site designated as a playing field in the plans already approved. A previous appeal by the developers against the conditions laid down by the local authority requiring them to develop this space as a playing field was dismissed by the Department of Local Government. This is a peculiar Planning Act. The developers can wait a few years, do nothing, avoid the obligations of the Planning Act and then submit a new application to build houses on a place that has been designated as playing fields. We are aware the Minister has some judicial authority in these matters, but in ordinary consequences, it should be made clear to the developer that this kind of activity will not be countenanced. Or is this Minister going to change his mind? Is there some reason?

So far the only comfort given by the Department is that the Corporation have refused permission to the builder to build houses in an area designated as a playing field. An appeal by the developer against that was dismissed. Yet the developer comes along and makes another appeal in respect of the same plot of ground. Again there is a refusal by the local authority. That shows that at least in this instance they have some regard for their responsibility to the families in this area. The appeal comes again to the Minister. The only cold comfort he has for the residents' association is that it will be open to both parties to be represented [185] at an oral hearing in the near future. The Minister has a responsibility to give something more than that reply. All these families are taxpayers and ratepayers. They are trying to educate their children to be decent citizens. Surely they are entitled to more from the Minister than a reply that they can be represented at an oral hearing? The matter should have been disposed of ten years ago.

We are told a number of objections have been lodged. That is certainly true. Out of 400 families here, at least 320 have written personally to the Minister appealing for his help and protection. But the public at large should be aware of this attempt being made by the developer. It is not the first time developers in the city have failed to live up to their obligations. Some of them act as if they are doing the community a service. They are getting very well paid for it. If they buy the land and lease it, they get the ground rent. If they develop it and build houses, they get the profits from the building. In addition, in most cases the houses are built with assistance from public funds. I want to impress on the Parliamentary Secretary that something more than the assurances and information given today should be forthcoming from his Department. I shall conclude now because I promised Deputy Byrne a few minutes.

Mr. P. Byrne: Information on Patrick Byrne Zoom on Patrick Byrne I am obliged to Deputy Larkin. In the few minutes remaining I had better be quite brutal and forthright in what I have to say. We know who the developer is. His name has been mentioned here—the Gallagher group. We want no dirty work at the crossroads in North-East Dublin in this matter. We have had one or two questionable and “dicey” planning decisions by the Minister for Local Government in areas adjacent to Maryfield some years ago. We do not want them repeated. There is a solemn obligation in justice to these people, who were promised in glossy brochures when they bought these houses that they would be located in a garden estate with playing fields and playgrounds. An exactly similar undertaking was given in a nearby area and [186] the Minister connived at the breach of that undertaking. We do not want that repeated. If it is repeated, I can assure the Parliamentary Secretary—and I would ask him to pass it on to his Minister—this is a marginal constituency and we will see to it, Deputy Larkin, Deputy Belton and myself, that two Fianna Fáil Ministers will pay for it at the next election. That is as much as I have to say. We want no dirty work at the crossroads from Minister Blaney.

Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Local Government (Mr. P. Brennan): Information on Patrick Brennan Zoom on Patrick Brennan I suppose if Deputy Byrne thought he could succeed in making one or two Ministers pay for it, that is the way he would like it. We gave a very full reply today to the question put down by Deputy Larkin and Deputy Byrne, particularly in view of the fact that this estate or part of it is the subject of appeal before the Department at the moment. Why is it on appeal? It is on appeal because Dublin Corporation, of which Deputy Larkin is a member, failed to do their job for ten years. Particularly since 1963, when the Planning and Development Act came in, Deputy Larkin, who was not alone a member of the Corporation but Chairman of the Housing Committee, did not insist that the conditions laid down in granting planning approval were carried out. Therefore, there is no use in trying to blame the Minister for Local Government. It is Dublin Corporation and Deputy Larkin who have failed in their job. If he had insisted on the conditions being carried out, there would be no question of any group being able to make an application to the Corporation for the building of houses.

Mr. Larkin: Information on Denis Larkin Zoom on Denis Larkin The last houses were only completed a year or so ago.

Mr. P. Brennan: Information on Patrick Brennan Zoom on Patrick Brennan It does not matter when the last houses were completed. There were certain conditions laid down and Dublin Corporation did nothing about them. The developer is still in possession of it.

Mr. Larkin: Information on Denis Larkin Zoom on Denis Larkin They were still in possession until they completed the last houses on the estate.

[187]Mr. P. Brennan: Information on Patrick Brennan Zoom on Patrick Brennan Who was still in possession?

Mr. Larkin: Information on Denis Larkin Zoom on Denis Larkin The developer.

Mr. P. Brennan: Information on Patrick Brennan Zoom on Patrick Brennan And when did he finish the last houses?

Mr. Larkin: Information on Denis Larkin Zoom on Denis Larkin They were hardly finished 12 months ago.

Mr. P. Brennan: Information on Patrick Brennan Zoom on Patrick Brennan What did the Deputy do within the past 12 months?

Mr. Larkin: Information on Denis Larkin Zoom on Denis Larkin There was an appeal in.

Mr. P. Brennan: Information on Patrick Brennan Zoom on Patrick Brennan He did nothing whatever about it. As I say, the matter is on appeal to the Department. There [188] is nothing more we can add to what was said in the reply today. As far as the Department of Local Government is concerned, there were no complaints, and I understand as far as the Corporation are concerned, there were no complaints from the residents in this area until the matter came to the notice of the Department last week. That does not get away from the fact that the responsibility for this position rests entirely with the Corporation who failed to exercise the power they had under section 31 of the Act.

The Dáil adjourned at 10.55 p.m. until 10.30 a.m. on Wednesday, 8th June, 1966.

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