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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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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Michael Collins: Information on Michael Collins Zoom on Michael Collins] There should be more encouragement to build in such areas. Last week, Lisgriffin national school in Goleen, which is in my constituency of Cork South-West, closed forever. It had been open since the 1800s. When I was involved in local politics and county development and local area plans were being discussed, we tried to encourage villages to have a nucleus around schools such as that in Lisgriffin. We tried but nobody was listening. That is why rural Ireland has died.

The Minister of State, Deputy English, stated that there is no point in giving planning permission for housing if there is no employment in the area. Many people travel to Cork city every morning from my constituency, a distance of approximately 70 miles, and are happy to do so because they want to live in rural Ireland. The Minister of State referred to the 2040 plan but I wish to talk about planning in 2018. People are not receiving planning permission and we are not encouraging growth in rural Ireland. I hope that measures such as those I have suggested will turn that around.

I beg the indulgence of the Ceann Comhairle regarding the Minister of State's reply on kelp. It is a very important issue involving 1,860 acres. If there was 1,860 acres of destruction in the Ceann Comhairle's community, I would support any action he wished to take.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Deputy Collins is quite ingenious.

Deputy Michael Collins: Information on Michael Collins Zoom on Michael Collins I am almost finished my contribution. The Minister of State said he would sit down with the group. Will he do so next week? If he will, I will say no more about it tonight.

Deputy Damien English: Information on Damien English Zoom on Damien English I am happy to sit down with Deputy Collins. We pass each other in the corridor every day of the week. I cannot meet the group. I offered to do so previously-----

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Yes, the Minister may not meet it.

Deputy Damien English: Information on Damien English Zoom on Damien English -----but the matter is now before the courts. I had offered to meet the group.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl The Minister is debarred from dealing with planning matters.

Deputy Damien English: Information on Damien English Zoom on Damien English I have engaged with Deputies on this matter and had arranged to meet the group with them and with officials of my Department. I made that offer but could not fulfil it because the matter went before the courts.

Deputy Michael Collins: Information on Michael Collins Zoom on Michael Collins Sadly, the group had been asking the Minister of State to meet it for a year before the matter went before the courts.

Deputy Damien English: Information on Damien English Zoom on Damien English That is not the case.

Deputy Michael Collins: Information on Michael Collins Zoom on Michael Collins He is hiding behind the ditches while this issue continues to be of great importance.

Deputy Danny Healy-Rae: Information on Danny Healy-Rae Zoom on Danny Healy-Rae I am very concerned by the number of amendments that are being put before Members at this late stage. I am very worried about how the county development plans of local authorities would be affected by the measures proposed in the Bill and the effect on the national planning and development of our country. Amendment No. 16 states, "such provisions as (i) are required to be included in a development plan by virtue of a direction issued by the Minister under section 31, and (ii) are not so included, shall be deemed to be included in that development plan". If we know what is included in a plan, we can assess it and decide upon it. However, this amendment is like signing a blank cheque. We know the Minister of State and trust him, thus far. However, this amendment may open the gap for some lunatic of a Minister who would destroy a county such as Kerry------

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl It is unthinkable that we would have such a Minister.

Deputy Danny Healy-Rae: Information on Danny Healy-Rae Zoom on Danny Healy-Rae I could name one but I will not do so tonight as the Ceann Comhairle has asked me not to.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Good.

Deputy Danny Healy-Rae: Information on Danny Healy-Rae Zoom on Danny Healy-Rae This is a very serious matter. It reminds me of a man who, long ago, was sent out to deliver a message by his sister, a post mistress, at a time when telegrams were the norm. He went up a road and met-------

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Is the Deputy speaking to one of the amendments?

Deputy Danny Healy-Rae: Information on Danny Healy-Rae Zoom on Danny Healy-Rae It is the same thing. He asked my two uncles, who were young boys at the time, whether he had much further to go. They asked him where he was going. He told them to mind their own business and that he only wanted to know if he had much further to go. Amendment No. 16 is similar to that. We are being asked to agree to something but we do not know to what we are agreeing.

I know what is involved in county development plans having been involved in the creation of at least two or three of them. Given the effort that local authority members and management put into county development plans, I would not like some genius of a Minister to suggest something ridiculous which could damage a county or community. I will oppose the amendment and call a vote on it. I urge all Members to vote against it because it is ridiculous to give a Minister licence to supersede a county development plan put in place by local authority members elected by the people. I will not vote in favour of those amendments.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath I too have major concerns about some amendments in this grouping. Spatial plans, area plans, county development plans and town plans are very important. I served on Tipperary County Council and had many engagements on such plans, as did many community groups. Some of the plans were very successful. Many of the community groups were genuine contributors rather than serial objectors. They had concerns and wanted to work for the greater good of their community through the spatial strategy. A national spatial strategy some years ago abandoned my county and my town of Clonmel.

I have concerns about amendment No. 16 in regard to the provision that allows certain actions to be taken at the direction of a Minister. Statutory instruments have been brought in by Ministers over the years but often the civil servants behind the Minister are responsible for the statutory instrument and the Minister merely puts his or her name to it. County development plans and the making thereof is meant to be very transparent and involve engagement with the public, whether those directly affected by the plan or with a genuine interest in the greater good of the community. Some may wish for land to be rezoned. A significant amount of work goes into county development plans and area plans and they then become the bible for development in the area and specify what can be done where and when. Under the proposal, those plans could be amended, superseded or bypassed by a Minister who would have the power to grant or stop something or change the course of planning, in spite of the period of public consultation the plan will have undergone. What limitations would there be on that power? I am not satisfied by the amendment. I have previously dealt with Fianna Fáil Ministers for the environment who were in charge of planning - I could mention the former Minister Noel Dempsey in particular - and were not good listeners. The Minister of State, Deputy English, comes from the same county as Mr. Dempsey - An Mhí - and might catch the same bug. I am genuinely worried for the work on county development plans by officials who meaningfully engage with the public and hold workshops, public meetings and open days.

Many people have gone to consultations and briefings held by Transport Infrastructure Ireland, TII, in regard to the design of bypasses and other roads. Often, many of them feel very let down by the end result. They go to consultations and briefing but end up getting something very different from what they expected. I ask the Minister of State to explain in what area and for what reason a Minister may interfere or change a development plan. I have huge concerns and will not be voting for these amendments.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Deputy Danny Healy-Rae wishes to ask a question before we go to the Minister of State.

Deputy Danny Healy-Rae: Information on Danny Healy-Rae Zoom on Danny Healy-Rae Is the Minister of State or the Government involved in the drafting of the Bill? Is it written by civil servants? I want to know who put it together.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl The draftspersons in the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel are responsible for the drafting of legislation, under the direction of the Minister.

Deputy Danny Healy-Rae: Information on Danny Healy-Rae Zoom on Danny Healy-Rae Is the Minister of State happy with the Bill?


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