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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 Danny Healy-Rae: Information on Danny Healy-Rae Zoom on Danny Healy-Rae] When I was a county councillor on the southern health forum asking questions of the HSE, it would give answers to the effect that it would have to ask the Minister for Health for information. When I came up here and asked the Minister for Health, he stated that he had to ask the HSE. I do not know. When we have a possibility of county development plans being interfered with, changed or being the subject of other directions, it is very serious. The original intention of the Bill was just to appoint a regulator but now we are changing and adding in an awful lot of addendums that could affect local authorities and people in a very hurtful way. I am totally against it.

Deputy Damien English: Information on Damien English Zoom on Damien English To bring some clarity and put Deputy Danny Healy-Rae at ease, we are not bringing in loads of changes to give more powers to the regulator. This process has been going on for the past two years. I will not be able to satisfy the concerns Deputy Danny Healy-Rae has and those of the Sinn Féin Deputies because they want two different things.

Deputy Eoin Ó Broin: Information on Eoin Ó Broin Zoom on Eoin Ó Broin It seems the Minister of State is not going to satisfy any of us.

Deputy Damien English: Information on Damien English Zoom on Damien English The Deputies have other people who do that for them. At present, county development plans are put together by the councillors. It is their statutory right and most take it very seriously and put a lot of work into it. The Department recognises that. There are national policy guidelines that also have to be implemented in local development plans. Some councils choose not to follow the national planning guidelines. When that happens, the current role of the Minister in conjunction with our planning officials is to intervene and correct that and issue a direction to try to bring local development back within the national guidelines. While recognising that they have to have their own independence and do all that work on the local objectives, the plans must also comply with national planning policy in the context of telecommunications, energy and so on, things that go beyond just a local context. We try not to do that too often but, sadly, sometimes we must.

Responsibility in this regard currently falls to the Department and it is up to me, as Minister of State, to sign off on whatever is involved. I can do it in my office without consulting the House, hidden away in a non-transparent manner. Under the Bill, the office of the regulator will be given that job independent of politics, of me and of the Department. The office of the regulator will implement national planning policy guidelines and check development plans to ensure they are in order and that there is proper planning. If the regulator sees something that is not right, proper or in line with national planning policy, he or she will issue a notice to the county to change it. If that does not happen, the regulator will ask the Minister of the day - I am sure it will not be me for ever - to issue a direction. That is the process. It is independent in that the suggestion of the direction will come from the independent regulator to the Minister of the day who will then implement it. If the Minister does not implement that direction, he or she will be obliged to respond and clarify to this House why that is the case. It is a very transparent, clear process. Mahon wanted transparency and independence of planning and that is what we are doing with the office of the regulator.

It should satisfy Deputies Danny Healy-Rae and Mattie McGrath that there is accountability and that the Minister of the day cannot blame the regulator and say he or she cannot do anything because the Minister will have the final say after it goes through an independent office, and rightly so. It is a very clear and transparent method of doing planning, which is what the Mahon tribunal wanted us to achieve. I am of the view that the Bill will achieve it.

We have had this discussion a few times in the House during the past two years. Deputy Danny Healy-Rae might not have been here for it but it is not a new discussion. This amendment changes one aspect. In the past, local authorities could take sufficient notice of but not implement national planning policy. It was a grey area and did not lead to the best planning outcomes. That is what we are trying to correct. I apologise that there are amendments before the House that were brought in at a late stage. I acknowledge that. We teased this out at different points over the past two years in the context of both the majority of the work we have been doing and the main principles of the Bill. There are some changes here that were flagged in the Seanad. Members are complaining that they got short notice but they were watching the debate in the Seanad on the day and have had a couple of weeks to digest and analyse and so on. It is not the case that we produced something out of the sky tonight. I ask Deputies to be fair about that. They have had a couple of weeks. I am happy if people want to raise concerns. That is what we are here for. However, it is not the case that I produced the amendments yesterday or this morning. They were well flagged in the Seanad two or three weeks ago. Deputies are very well informed and watch everything that goes on. It would not be in our nature to surprise them with anything. That is not something we do.

Deputy Michael Collins: Information on Michael Collins Zoom on Michael Collins Who appoints the independent regulator?

Deputy Damien English: Information on Damien English Zoom on Damien English I will check that for the Deputy and come back to him. It is a fair point.

Deputy Danny Healy-Rae: Information on Danny Healy-Rae Zoom on Danny Healy-Rae We are being taken here. If the Minister of State does not know who is going to appoint him, who does know?

Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh: Information on Aengus Ó Snodaigh Zoom on Aengus Ó Snodaigh The Deputy might need to be taken.

Deputy Michael Fitzmaurice: Information on Michael Fitzmaurice Zoom on Michael Fitzmaurice It would be the Minister.

Deputy Damien English: Information on Damien English Zoom on Damien English There is a process to an appointment. It will not just be me. It is a good question, though.

  Seanad amendment agreed to.

  Seanad amendment No. 13:

Section 4: In page 23, to delete line 16 and substitute the following:

“(c) relevant guidelines for planning authorities made under section 28, including the consistency of development plans with any specific planning policy requirements specified in those guidelines;”.

  Seanad amendment agreed to.

  Seanad amendment No. 14:

Section 4: In page 25, lines 31 and 32, to delete “Department of Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government” and substitute “Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government”.

  Seanad amendment agreed to.

  Seanad amendment No. 15:

Section 4: In page 27, line 17, to delete “shall” and substitute “shall, subject to subsection (16)”.

  Seanad amendment agreed to.

  Seanad amendment No. 16:

Section 4: In page 27, to delete lines 23 to 25 and substitute the following:

“(11) From the adoption of a development plan—

(a) 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, and

(b) such provisions of the development plan as do not comply with a direction so issued shall be deemed not to be included in that development plan.”.

  Seanad amendment agreed to.

  Seanad amendment No. 17:

Section 4: In page 27, lines 37 and 38, to delete “Department of Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government” and substitute “Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government”.

  Seanad amendment agreed to.

 Seanad amendment No. 18:

Section 4: In page 27, between lines 38 and 39, to insert the following:

“(16) (a) Where the giving of a direction by the Minister in accordance with subsection (9) would require the making of a material alteration to a development plan, the Minister shall, not later than 3 weeks after the making of the recommendation by the Office under that subsection—

(i) publish a notice of the material alteration that would be so required in at least one newspaper circulating in the administrative area of the local authority that prepared the development plan, and

(ii) send a copy of that notice to the planning authority concerned, the regional assembly concerned, the Office, the Board and the prescribed authorities.

(b) The Minister shall, before giving a direction in accordance with subsection (9), determine—

(i) whether or not a strategic environmental assessment or an appropriate assessment is required to be carried out as respects a material alteration to a development plan that would be required in order to comply with the direction, and

(ii) where he or she determines that a strategic environmental assessment or an appropriate assessment is so required, the period that it would take to carry out such strategic environmental assessment or appropriate assessment.

(c) Where the Minister makes a determination under paragraph (b) that a strategic environmental assessment or an appropriate assessment is required to be carried out as respects a material alteration to a development plan that would be required in order to comply with the direction, he or she shall publish a notice of that determination in at least one newspaper circulating in the administrative area of the local authority that prepared the development plan concerned.

(d) A copy of the determination under paragraph (b) and a copy of the proposed material alteration to the development plan concerned shall, for a period of not less than 4 weeks from the date of the determination, be made available for inspection—

(i) by members of the public at such place and at such times as are specified in the notice referred to in paragraph (c), and

(ii) on the internet website of the Minister and the internet website of the planning authority concerned.

(e) A notice to which paragraph (c) applies shall—

(i) state that a determination under paragraph (b) has been made for the purposes of giving a direction in accordance with subsection (9),

(ii) specify the place at which and times during which copies of the determination under paragraph (b) and the proposed material alteration to the development plan concerned will be made available for inspection by members of the public,

(iii) state that such copies will be available for inspection on the internet website of the Minister and the internet website of the planning authority concerned,

(iv) invite written submissions or observations with respect to the proposed material alteration or a strategic environmental assessment or appropriate assessment required to be carried out by virtue of the said determination to be made to the Minister before the expiration of such period as specified in the notice,

and

(v) that any such submissions or observations shall be taken into account by the Minister in giving a direction in accordance with subsection (9).

(f) The Minister shall carry out a strategic environmental assessment, appropriate assessment, or both, of the proposed material alteration of the development plan within the period determined by the Minister in accordance with paragraph (b).

(g) The Minister shall, not later than 8 weeks after the publication of a notice under paragraph (c), prepare a report on any submissions or observations received in accordance with that notice.

(h) A report under paragraph (g) shall—

(i) specify the persons who made submissions or observations in accordance with the notice under paragraph (c),

(ii) provide a summary of those submissions and observations, and

(iii) set out the response of the Minister to those submissions and observations.

(i) The Minister shall, in setting out his or her response to submissions or observations in accordance with the notice under paragraph (c), take account of the following:

(i) the proper planning and sustainable development of the area to which the proposed development plan is intended to apply,

(ii) the duties under statute of the local authority within whose administrative area the proposed development plan is intended to apply,

(iii) the necessity of ensuring that the proposed development plan will be consistent with—

(I) the national and regional development objectives set out in the National Planning Framework and the regional spatial and economic strategy,

(II) specific planning policy requirements specified in guidelines under section 28(1), and

(III) policies or objectives for the time being of the Government or of any Minister of the Government.”.


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