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Planning and Development (Amendment) Bill 2016: From the Seanad (Continued)

Thursday, 5 July 2018

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 971 No. 3

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An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl We will all be asleep if the Deputy does not get on with discussing this legislation.

Deputy Bríd Smith: Information on Bríd Smith Zoom on Bríd Smith I thank the Ceann Comhairle.

Deputy Fergus O'Dowd: Information on Fergus O'Dowd Zoom on Fergus O'Dowd Some of us would be going back to sleep.

Deputy Danny Healy-Rae: Information on Danny Healy-Rae Zoom on Danny Healy-Rae That is fine. I hope I do not fall asleep because there is a lot-----

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl I would fully trust the Deputy to keep going all night.

Deputy Danny Healy-Rae: Information on Danny Healy-Rae Zoom on Danny Healy-Rae Planning permission is important for people who just want to put a roof over their heads. They are not looking for money or handouts, they just want to be allowed to build houses for themselves. The Taoiseach, who was the Minister with responsibility for the environment in 2012, signed an order ensuring that the then National Roads Authority could not grant permission for new houses on national secondary roads. We accept that national primary roads are a no-no, but five families along the national secondary road from Killarney to Barraduff were stopped from building houses for themselves on sites with existing entrances all because of a document signed by the Taoiseach when he was Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government in 2012. One of the five families had to buy a house in Killarney town despite having a site. Four more are still in a quandary and denied planning permission. Why is that not-----

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl I do not want the Deputy to have to correct the record, but I do not believe that the current Taoiseach ever served as Minister for the environment.

Deputy Damien English: Information on Damien English Zoom on Damien English No.

Deputy Danny Healy-Rae: Information on Danny Healy-Rae Zoom on Danny Healy-Rae Whatever Minister he was,-----

Deputy Damien English: Information on Damien English Zoom on Damien English Transport.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl He was the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport.

Deputy Danny Healy-Rae: Information on Danny Healy-Rae Zoom on Danny Healy-Rae -----he signed it. I am sure about that. I am sorry.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl The Deputy is all right.

Deputy Danny Healy-Rae: Information on Danny Healy-Rae Zoom on Danny Healy-Rae He was the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport. I have been asking in many forums to have the order and the reasons behind it reviewed. It is the straightest road-----

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl I am sorry. I absolutely respect the Deputy's desire to talk about all of these very important matters for Kerry, but we are debating four Seanad amendments - Nos. 4, 61, 77 and 79 - and we have to focus our contributions on those. I do not want to be awkward, but it is on those matters that we need to focus our attention.

Deputy Danny Healy-Rae: Information on Danny Healy-Rae Zoom on Danny Healy-Rae All right. I will speak again later if I am allowed.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl The Deputy is very good. I thank him. Who is next?

Deputy Damien English: Information on Damien English Zoom on Damien English Does the Ceann Comhairle want me to bring some clarification to this?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl No, I do not. At least, not until we have heard everyone else. Otherwise, the Minister of State will not be able to contribute later.

Deputy Catherine Murphy: Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy It is only right that, instead of a fragmented approach, we take an approach where land use and transportation planning are linked. The lack of a connection previously led to considerable congestion that could have been planned for better. It is important that the national planning framework and the national development plan are to be related to each other.

I may not be a fan of the idea of the planning regulator being subservient to the Minister, but it is valid that the regulator be a notified party to strategic transport plans. I support the amendments from that point of view.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl I call Deputy Ó Broin.

Deputy Eoin Ó Broin: Information on Eoin Ó Broin Zoom on Eoin Ó Broin I am okay. The Ceann Comhairle made my point.

Deputy Michael Collins: Information on Michael Collins Zoom on Michael Collins I welcome the opportunity to contribute to the debate on the Bill. This amendment proposes to establish an office, to be known as the "Office of the Planning Regulator", which will have certain duties. We undoubtedly need more transparency and efficiency in our planning system. I am inundated with constituents in west Cork coming to me looking for help because they have been turned down for planning. They have been caught in a trap. Good, honest, hard-working couples cannot get planning permission and are failing to get into the property market. Many have applied for planning permission on their parents' land. One would think the Government would welcome the idea of people wanting to remain in rural Ireland, given the significant positive economic benefits it would have. Time and again, I have spoken about how we need to protect rural Ireland and the people who live there. The people who are raised in rural Ireland should be entitled to planning permission on their parents' land. We constantly discuss our ageing population, but we need to be realistic: if a son or daughter cannot obtain planning permission at his or her own home place, how are we going to protect our ageing population and those who wish to remain in their own homes? In fairness, many planners are co-operative, but the odd one here and there makes life difficult. We have found the main issue to be with getting a pre-planning meeting, where someone sits down with a young couple trying to start out in life to go through the process and reach agreement, before those young people start spending thousands of euro, which is only fair.

I know of a situation in west Cork involving a young man who got a farm from his family. After he had cattle on it and a tractor in his shed, he was told by the planner that he did not have cattle, a tractor or a shed. Who is giving that person that type of information? It was wrong. All the young man wanted was for the lady to sit into her car and drive to the farm so that he could show her all three. The tractor was in the shed and the cattle were in the field. When common sense goes out the window, it is easy to refuse and refuse, which makes it difficult for the senior officials - some of the ones we work with are extremely co-operative, fair and honest - who have to try to overturn such decisions.

This Bill promises to implement planning-related recommendations such as the national planning framework. During the negotiations on the programme for Government, I spoke at length about the regeneration programme for small rural towns and villages and the ability to rebuild those that have been decimated by emigration, for example, places in west Cork like Ballineen, Eyeries, Goleen, Kilcrohane, Kealkill, Timoleague, Durrus, Drimoleague, Ballydehob and Schull to name a few. Will we ever see a regeneration programme rolled out in west Cork?

While we are discussing planning, let me tell the Minister of State about kelp planning. The mechanical harvesting of kelp-----

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl The Lord God, the Deputy is-----

Deputy Michael Collins: Information on Michael Collins Zoom on Michael Collins Mother of God, give me one chance. The licence-----

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl -----really stretching it now.

Deputy Michael Collins: Information on Michael Collins Zoom on Michael Collins It is a planning issue. In 2009-----

Deputy Damien English: Information on Damien English Zoom on Damien English It is not.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl It is not a planning issue as it relates to the Bill.

Deputy Eoin Ó Broin: Information on Eoin Ó Broin Zoom on Eoin Ó Broin It is not in the legislation.

Deputy Michael Collins: Information on Michael Collins Zoom on Michael Collins I know, but-----

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl The Deputy's passion for that particular matter is well established in the House.

Deputy Michael Collins: Information on Michael Collins Zoom on Michael Collins The problem is-----

Deputy Danny Healy-Rae: Information on Danny Healy-Rae Zoom on Danny Healy-Rae There is no one listening.

Deputy Michael Collins: Information on Michael Collins Zoom on Michael Collins The mechanical harvesting is going to go ahead on 1,860 acres. The notice posted at the time was unfair to the public. The Minister could have revoked the licence. We need a planning regulator to ensure something can be done. What about all of the people with solar farms? There is no planning regulation in that regard. Anyone can set up a solar farm beside a next door neighbour.

Deputy Damien English: Information on Damien English Zoom on Damien English People have to get planning permission.

Deputy Michael Collins: Information on Michael Collins Zoom on Michael Collins But there is no regulation after they apply for permission.

Deputy Damien English: Information on Damien English Zoom on Damien English They have to get planning permission.

Deputy Michael Collins: Information on Michael Collins Zoom on Michael Collins Are there planning regulations for solar farms? I have asked Minister after Minister.

Deputy Danny Healy-Rae: Information on Danny Healy-Rae Zoom on Danny Healy-Rae No planning permission is needed for them.

Deputy Michael Collins: Information on Michael Collins Zoom on Michael Collins No. Drive on and build away beside the next door neighbour. People can cause whatever disruptions they want. There is no understanding whatsoever.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Will we go to the Minister of State to find out?

Deputy Michael Collins: Information on Michael Collins Zoom on Michael Collins Give me one chance to discuss the kelp, a Cheann Comhairle. The Minister can revoke the licence for the people of Bantry and the 1,860 acres. In the US, 4 July is Independence Day. God bless the people of America, but it was doomsday for the people of Bantry because the company in question will proceed. It has said that it does not care about court orders or any other order. It is a law unto itself. It is being backed behind the scenes, but the Minister can stop it and revoke the licence under condition 12.2.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl The Deputy has strayed away from the amendments that are before us. Can he-----

Deputy Michael Collins: Information on Michael Collins Zoom on Michael Collins Sorry. We must ensure that this Bill protects the people of rural Ireland and provides greater transparency and efficiency in planning matters. I thank the Ceann Comhairle for his indulgence.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Does Deputy Mattie McGrath feel compelled to contribute on this matter?

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath I do. I will be brief. My apologies for not being present for the start of the debate. The Bill is necessary if we are to tidy up the agencies and ensure they are aware of issues. There are too many agencies, they are not working in unison and they are not cognisant of what is happening elsewhere. For example, the amendment reads: " ... the National Transport Authority in accordance with section 12 of the Dublin Transport Authority Act 2008 and to issue a notice as provided for by subsection (10)". There are too many solo runs and not enough joined-up thinking from agencies. I welcome that an effort is being made through the establishment of a regulator, of whom the agencies will have to be cognisant. However, I have concerns about many regulators, given what is happening across a plethora of regulated agencies. ESB prices are increasing, leaving one to wonder once again where its regulator is. What teeth and powers will this regulator have and how effective will it be? I hope that it will be, given the importance of having a national transport strategy, necessary infrastructure and so on while also having regard to other planning issues.


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