Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees
Tuesday, 13 May 2014
Joint Oireachtas Committee on Environment, Culture and the Gaeltacht
General Scheme of Dublin Docklands Development Authority (Dissolution) Bill 2014: Discussion
I welcome our visitors from the Dublin Docklands Development Authority, Mr. Paul Clegg and Mr. John Crawley, and from Dublin City Council, Mr. Owen Keegan, Dublin city manager; Mr. Jim Keogan and Mr. Philip Maguire.
By virtue of section 17(2)(l) of the Defamation Act 2009, witnesses are protected by absolute privilege in respect of their evidence to the joint committee. If they are directed by it to cease giving evidence on a particular matter and continue to so do, they are entitled thereafter only to qualified privilege in respect of their evidence. They are directed that only evidence connected with the subject matter of these proceedings is to be given and asked to respect the parliamentary practice to the effect that, where possible, they should not criticise or make charges against a person or an entity by name or in such a way as to make him, her or it identifiable. Members are reminded of the long-standing ruling of the Chair to the effect that they should not comment on, criticise or make charges against a person outside the Houses or an official by name or in such a way as to make him or her identifiable. I advise delegates that the opening statements and any other documentation submitted to the committee may be published on its website at the conclusion of business.
The business of the meeting is to examine the general scheme of the Dublin Docklands Development Authority (Dissolution) Bill 2014. We have invited a wide range of delegates to discuss the proposed legislation and the implications for the Dublin docklands and the communities living and businesses operating in the area. This is very important legislation for them and we are very interested in hearing their views. The legislation is important for the future development and sustainability of the Dublin docklands. I invite the representatives of the Dublin Docklands Development Authority to make an opening statement.
Mr. Paul Clegg:
I am pleased to attend the joint committee in my capacity as acting chief executive officer of the Dublin Docklands Development Authority. I was appointed to my position on 27 March on secondment from Dublin City Council. I am accompanied by Mr. John Crawley, financial adviser to the authority. We will address the committee on the general scheme of the Dublin Docklands Development Authority (Dissolution) Bill 2014 which the authority welcomes. Last week we submitted to the committee our opening statement to which I will make a very brief reference.
On 31 May 2012, when the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, announced the Government's intention to dissolve the authority, he envisaged that it would remain in place for a transitional period in order to wind up its existing operations, prepare the transition to new arrangements and make recommendations to him on appropriate structures for the future. My remit as acting chief executive officer is to complete the winding up and transition process. As outlined in the written submission, matters in this regard are well advanced and on track. Issues are being addressed prior to finalisation of the winding up of the authority. They include completion of a small number of remaining asset sales, including interest in subsidiaries and joint ventures; discharging the authority's remaining liabilities; dealing with and resolving, where possible, current litigation matters involving the authority; the formal transfer of infrastructure and certain assets to Dublin City Council; completion of final statutory accounts and the transfer of books and records intrastate. I am satisfied that substantial progress has been made in all of the areas listed and that the remaining issues can be addressed in the coming weeks.
As part of its remit, the authority has made recommendations to the Minister regarding the creation of a strategic development zone, SDZ, by Dublin City Council and this matter is awaiting a determination by An Bord Pleanála. The authority also mandated the Docklands Council to consider an appropriate consultative structure to be formed following the dissolution of the authority. The council's recommended structure for such a consultative framework is supported by the authority. This structure is proposed in head 6 of the draft Bill.
The Docklands Council also submitted a report to Dublin City Council in October 2013, outlining its priorities from the authority's 2008 master plan which the city council might consider for inclusion in any future policy framework for the wider 520 ha docklands area. The authority understands Dublin City Council is proceeding to prepare a separate dedicated chapter in the current city development plan specifically centred on the docklands area.
I thank the committee for the invitation to attend the meeting to discuss the general scheme of the Bill. Mr. Crawley and I will be happy to answer members' questions.
Mr. Owen Keegan:
I thank the joint committee for giving us the opportunity to comment on the general scheme of the Bill. I am accompanied by Mr. Philip Maguire, deputy city manager, and Mr. Jim Keogan, executive manager in the planning department.
In mid-2012 the Government announced its intention to wind up the Dublin Docklands Development Authority, DDDA, and replace the section 25 fast-track planning process with a section 34 strategic development zone, SDZ, planning scheme, with Dublin City Council as the nominated development agency. Dublin City Council responded with alacrity, mobilising an intensive public consultation process involving the local community, local businesses, local landowners and relevant State agencies. Following public display of a number of interactions on the draft SDZ plan, the city council adopted a final amended plan in November 2013. The draft SDZ plan was appealed to An Bord Pleanála. An oral hearing was held in March 2014 and a decision is expected shortly.
The publication of the general scheme of the Bill is timely and welcome. The Bill covers the essential matters of the winding up of the DDDA and transferring its powers, functions, assets and liabilities to Dublin City Council. It also makes necessary provision for the city council to operate the SDZ and a transition between the section 25 planning arrangements and the new section 34 SDZ planning scheme.
Dublin City Council is committed to ensuring the continued success of the social, economic, physical and environmental regeneration of the docklands and will work with relevant local and State parties to achieve this outcome. The provisions included in the Bill for establishing a formal docklands forum as a committee of Dublin City Council representing all local interests, will, no doubt, streamline and facilitate this primary objective. We thoroughly welcome the contents of the Bill and support its speedy enactment.
I wish to deal with head 6 of the Bill. I presume Dublin City Council has had discussions with the Department. How will head 6 be implemented? Is there a need for more clarity regarding the establishment of the forum?
Mr. Philip Maguire:
Head 6 is written as suggested by the DDDA. A number of options were considered by the DDDA and its council. The employment of a mix of people representing the residents, those engaged in economic activity, education, statutory bodies, the city council and its officials was recommended and submitted, with the agreement of the council, to the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government. This is set out in the Bill exactly as it was submitted. Dublin City Council will have to make arrangements for nominations and the selection of individuals-----
Those are the details, but there needs to be a clear perception of how the legislation will be implemented, otherwise it may need to be tightened. For example, with regard to the appointment of members of fora, there are two distinct area committees in the docklands. I do not want to put words in his mouth, but is it Mr. Maguire's interpretation that the two area committees will be the primary initiators of nominations?
Will there be a confirmation of an area committee's decision or will it be a decision of the full city council? For example, somebody in Ballymun would not have detailed knowledge of who was involved in the docklands. If it is referred to a full city council meeting, it may not result in a true representation of the north-south dockland areas.
I am sure the delegates have studied these proposals at length and in detail. I simply want to ensure their interpretation is the same as mine in regard to the establishment of the community forum, namely, that it would go to the area committees for consideration first, before subsequently being confirmed by the city council.
Mr. Philip Maguire:
The normal practice is that matters such as this would not come "raw" to the city council but would first be fed to the area committees. It is also likely, because it is a planning issue, that the planning and economic development strategic policy committee, SPC, would wish to examine it.
Mr. Philip Maguire:
We would issue a public advertisement, in addition to local canvassing of organisations in the area seeking expressions of interest. Before that, it would be up to the council to draw up a set of criteria for selection. A sub-group would then be established to go through the applications, and we might wish to meet applicants to see what they have to say. We would then draft a provisional recommendation to be considered by the area committees and the SPC, with the proposal finally going to city council for decision. As it would be a committee of the city council, the function of appointing its members is a reserved function of the council.
Mr. Philip Maguire:
I cannot comment at this time on the relative populations of the two areas; that is something we might need to revisit. Off the top of my head, there seems to be quite an equal spread between north side and south side. The comparative populations of the two areas is an issue we might consider in order to ensure we are being even-handed. The forum will comprise community representatives, four councillors and representatives of five nominated organisations engaged in business and economic activity. We have to devise a scheme that will ensure there is objective selection not just in respect of the community representatives, but all the other members as well.
My next question is for the delegates from the Dublin Docklands Development Authority. Head 13 of the general scheme deals with the transfer of the authority's pension liabilities on its dissolution. What are those pension liabilities and to whom will they transfer?
Mr. John Crawley:
The pension liabilities of the authority relate predominantly to the deferred pensions for past service of the 60 or so people who worked there over the course of its life. They are a relatively young population and the liability is therefore deferred. At the time of last valuation, the liability was somewhere between €7.5 million and €8 million. That is the amount the State will need to pay out over a period of time.
Would there not be a sum remaining, however, if the liabilities were transferred to the Department or the city council? Specifically, would the authority not be left with a net sum of some €5 million if it were not taking on the pension liabilities? Most of the staff concerned have been on secondment from different agencies.
Mr. John Crawley:
In fact, the majority of the pension fund liability relates to staff who worked only in the docklands authority and were not transferred from elsewhere. At this point in time, the administration and funding arrangements in regard to the deferred pensions have not been decided. That is an issue for the Department to address. From the State's point of view, these are people who have built up credits, and so a liability arises. In round numbers, we are looking at €7.5 million. There are moving parts in our numbers at this time, but we expect that the authority as a stand-alone entity will have some €5 million available to distribute to its shareholder, that is, the Department. The Department has already assumed responsibility for the €7.5 million liability, but in net terms that liability will be €2.5 million. There is a practical process issue as to how that liability will be funded into the future, which rests with the Department.
What I am getting at here is whether there might be any remaining funds which could be ring-fenced for social regeneration purposes within the docklands strategic development zone, SDZ. There have been some very good outcomes in the docklands in terms of social housing programmes and the educational programmes that were run through the schools. However, to operate a proper social regeneration programmes requires cash. My question is whether there might be a surplus following the wind-up of the authority which could be ring-fenced for this purpose were the pension liabilities not to fall to the authority itself. I assume most of the liability relates to younger people, as Mr. Crawley suggested, which means it will probably fall in ten years time or so.
If that liability were taken on by another agency, whether the city council or the Department, and taking it that the majority of the liability would not fall for several years, those moneys might then be ring-fenced for social regeneration within the docklands. The legislation in regard to SDZs allows only for capital investment and much of the funding going into communities on both the north and south sides of the docklands relates to educational programmes, youth programmes and employment and training initiatives, which does not fall down. I am wondering whether there is some wriggle room there.
NAMA is a substantial property holder in the docklands area. I am sure it would be interested in participating in what might be called Rolls Royce developments to show what can be done to kick-start development in the area. Have Mr. Crawley and his colleagues had any discussions with NAMA on the possibly making a sum of money available that could be ring-fenced for social regeneration, in order to give the indigenous community a dividend from the development happening in the area through the various programmes?
Mr. John Crawley:
NAMA is one of the bodies to which we owe money, so we are engaged in discussions with it. We have a liability to NAMA in respect of some old debts from previous years. We are at an early stage of discussing the resolution of those debts with the authority. Taking all of the moving parts together, the thing does not quite balance at the moment. To say that we have talked to NAMA about putting a badge on it is not true at this point in time.
We have just considered the totality of our liabilities. In that context, there are liabilities both inside and outside of NAMA. We have opened discussions with NAMA in order to discover whether anything can be done about the matter.
The two liabilities that were discharged against the interests of communities were the site for the school on the north side and plot 8 on the south side. These were supposed to be part of the social dividend for the communities in question. There is a very strong case for NAMA to step up to the mark in this matter. As far as I am concerned, the sites in question, which had already been allocated when all of this began, were taken away from the communities. I ask that before we conclude the process relating to the proposed legislation before us, Mr. Crawley should correspond further with the clerk to the committee to explore whether some wriggle room exists with regard to the pension fund issue. In the context of the site for the school and plot 8, I am sure those involved would like to kick-start development. Given that is already a trust within the docklands area which operates very successfully, I am of the view that, particularly as there is no money available, we should consider establishing a trust model in this instance.
I do not intend to embarrass Mr. Clegg, the acting CEO, but will Mr. Keegan indicate whether he will hold a position such as assistant city manager when the DDDA is subsumed into Dublin City Council? If the docklands area falls down the pecking order and if whoever has responsibility for it does not have sufficient authority, the drive that is required for progress to be made will not be forthcoming. What position will the person responsible for managing the docklands area hold within the city council?
Mr. Owen Keegan:
There is an implication in what the Deputy is saying that there is going to be a docklands authority within Dublin City Council. The Dublin Docklands Development Authority is being abolished and Dublin City Council will be assuming its responsibilities. Overall, I will be the manager with responsibility for the docklands. It will be within the existing management structure of the city council. I will be allocating staff to it. As an interim arrangement, we have assigned an executive manager and other professional and administrative staff will be allocated. There will not be a distinct and separate entity within the city council with responsibility for the docklands, just as there are no longer such entities for Ballymun or Temple Bar. It will be part of the city council.
Mr. Keegan's reply gives rise to a degree of concern on my part. In my opinion, the docklands area is probably going to drive development within the city during the next five years. There must be a structure put in place to deal with the part of the area on the north side and those on the south side. The current structure involves two distinct area committees. What structure does the city council intend to put in place? Will it be a one-stop-shop? There is going to be a strategic development zone, SDZ, in respect of the docklands area and this will straddle the River Liffey. How will this fit into the structures of the city council? There is a great deal of money to be invested in infrastructure within the docklands and there will be levies. Will the money obtained via those levies disappear into Dublin City Council's general pot? I am not stating that the docklands should gain at the expense of the remainder of the city. At present, however, FDI companies are looking to establish operations in that area. I am seeking from Mr. Keegan some form of reassurance to the effect that Dublin City Council has the drive and ambition necessary in respect of the docklands in the context of FDI companies and local communities. I am of the view that social generation, in the true sense, must happen within the city. I would be worried if the docklands area is just going to be treated in the same way as Temple Bar and other areas.
Mr. Owen Keegan:
As stated earlier, we are absolutely committed to continuing the social, economic and environmental regeneration of the area. There will be a dedicated unit which will be responsible for the docklands. We would need this in any event as a development agency under the SDZ and in terms of the wider docklands agenda we want to advance. Staff have already been appointed to the unit and more will be allocated. There will not be a chief executive, as such, but somebody will be placed in charge of the unit. I have not made a decision yet as to the nature of the grade that the individual will hold. For the moment we have assigned an executive manager to handle the transition. That person is likely to remain in place for the next six to 12 months. At that point, I will be obliged to take a view on the matter. I will ask Mr. Maguire to comment on levies.
Mr. Philip Maguire:
In the context of levies, we estimate that there are approximately 305,000 sq. m of commercial development space and 2,600 residential development units and these will yield approximately €45 million in development levies. If one takes it that Irish Water will finance the investment it needs to make and that the NTA will pay for things such as bridges and other items of infrastructure, then the actual spend required in respect of flood prevent measures, the public realm, parks, etc., is €55 million. This means there is a net deficit of €10 million between what is required to be spent and what will be yielded up from levies. Obviously, that money will be collected over a period. However, the intention is that much of the infrastructural spending required would be front-loaded. In other words, it would have to be done early in order to facilitate the roll-out of the agreement. Rather than the docklands subsidising the remainder of the city, it will - at least in the short term - be obliged to subsidise the docklands.
I welcome our guests. The docklands is a prime area of Dublin and we must ensure that its potential is exploited for the benefit of the entire city. It is taking quite some time to dissolve the Dublin Docklands Development Authority. Its dissolution was first mooted in 2012 and I would have thought that it would have been signed, sealed and delivered by this point. There are probably good reasons that this has not proven to be the case but will our guests indicate whether there are any barriers to dissolution? I thought that when Professor Niamh Brennan took over, the authority would be wound up quite quickly.
I am of the view that great potential exists with regard to joined-up thinking involving local enterprise offices, LEOs, and Dublin City Council in respect of the docklands, particularly in the context of enterprise, the residential side and inward investment. Will Mr. Keegan comment on how he sees the link between the LEOs and the council developing?
The proposed Bill will ensure that ordinary people will be represented on the community forum. This must be set in stone in order that members of local communities will be able to attend meetings of the forum, as of right. Community representatives must be made aware of when meetings will be held, the structures that will be put in place and so on. How much progress has been made in respect of this matter to date?
Obviously, some of the assets have already been realised. Deputy Kevin Humphreys inquired about those which have yet to be realised and also about development levies. I was a member of South Dublin County Council for almost 20 years and I am aware that it is extremely difficult to ring-fence development levies in respect of a particular area.
The docklands area is hopefully going to be the jewel in the city's crown in the coming years. It was the subject of a great deal of bad news as well as good in the past and, of course, a great deal of money was wasted there.
We do not want to see anything like that happen again. Hopefully, it is now under the control of the city council. I know where Deputy Humphreys is coming from when he asked who will be in charge and where will the buck stop. It will be an arm of Dublin City Council. I do not see there being a role for another semi-authority. This Bill is about dissolving an authority and we do not want to set up anything like another authority. It must be all-arching and pull the strands together, but there must be somebody who is responsible. I know the city manager is very busy and the buck will stop with him but there must be a person responsible, whatever title they hold and it will not be that of a CEO. We do not want an agency or furniture, so to speak; we want people who are responsible, in a named manner, in respect of whom we can say the buck stops with them. That relates to some of the questions Deputy Humphreys asked.
Regarding the progress update given in the report, I welcome that the strategic development zones, SDZs, have worked well. The first one I worked on was the SDZ in Lucan with South Dublin County Council. It was a fantastic opportunity to work on that and to see how it could operate, and it worked very well. I am not sure if it was the first one in Ireland but it was one of the best. That should work very well.
I would like to see a print-out from the council, similar to what we got from Irish Water today, detailing the projects, what it has in line and its assets and liabilities - a balance sheet as it were. It has given us the report but I would like to have more detail so that if one were to walk around the docklands site, one would be able to know from a report which building is which - what is being proposed for one building or that a building is going to be sold through NAMA and all of that. It is not my area, although in the Seanad all of Ireland is my area, but not having served on Dublin City Council, I would not be as au faitwith the buildings on the site and what is proposed for where as Deputy Humphreys would be. I wish the council well. I hope it is in operation very soon and I wish it good luck with it all.
Mr. Philip Maguire:
I will reply to those points. I will answer the Deputy's final point first. Neither Dublin City Council nor the Dublin Docklands Development Authority has landholdings in the area. Private individuals own lands and NAMA owns the loans on certain lands which are subject to receivership and, obviously with regard to the law of receivership, it has to maximise the value. That deals with that point.
We, as either a city council or an SDZ agency, will not be developing office blocks. We will market, provide infrastructure and work with other State agencies to facilitate that.
That is a problem we must address in any planning proposals. The council is the planning agent for the area. Projects should be planning-led, not developer-led, as the latter is what caused us to go down the Swanee previously. In that context, I am not saying it applies to us or even to the council, but throughout Ireland we saw many developer-led projects. This must be project-led and that is what the council is there for.
Mr. Philip Maguire:
Absolutely. There is a most comprehensive document in this respect. I will answer this point in context of the comment the Senator made about the delay. It was just before Christmas 2012 that we got the actual direction from Government to proceed with the SDZ. We had jumped the gun in anticipation of that and for the previous three or four months we had been engaged in public consultation, particularly with the communities, the business people and the State agencies and that process has been running and that continued. We had the first iteration of the SDZ plan on public display in March and it went through public consultation. We got submissions and they were circulated with the manager's report. All that happened. There were motions in from the council and the plan we put on display was changed as a result of those motions. It went out, I think in June or July, for further public consultation. It went around the mulberry bush again and we adopted the plan at the end of November 2013. The best estimate most planning consultants had put on it was that it would be the end of this year before we could possibly have a plan ready for adoption. We were more than pleased to get it done so rigorously and yet so efficiently. It is in no small measure due to Dick Gleeson, John O'Hara and the chief planners and their team.
Everybody goes through that process. The question I asked related to the dissolution of the authority. There is still an interim authority there holding the hand of Dublin City Council. Every SDZ goes through, and that one would have gone through without a board because it is statutorily laid down how the SDZs are done and that procedure would have been followed. The question I was asking is why is the hand of the council being held all the time.
Mr. Philip Maguire:
It is not being held in that the SDZ is done by Dublin City Council quite independently, separate from the board. The DDDA has no function in regard to the SDZ. What is happening is that the Bill will do two things, and the Senator is correct in that respect. First, as it says on the lid, it will wind up the DDDA. Second, it will establish the final pieces of the SDZ for Dublin City Council. It is a matter for Government and for the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government, which will appear before the committee to deal with the legislation. We processed the SDZ in as tight a frame as was possible and An Bord Pleanála responded and held its oral hearing in March. It was seven days of an oral hearing and all the people here got a chance to go in and say what they had to say to the inspector. Our understanding is that he has completed his report and submitted it to the board. It is now a matter for the board and consequently I will say no more about the SDZ because it is sub judice. The processing of the legislation is a matter for Government and for the Oireachtas to proceed with. We have gone through the detail of the legislation on a number of occasions and it covers all the bases as far as we are concerned. We would be happy to see it enacted as quickly as possible.
I thank all our guests for attending this afternoon. I am interested in the position with regard to any outstanding litigation that is in train. Is there an end in sight in that respect or what is the position? Also, what will our guests do differently in terms of learning from the past and the types of losses to which the State was exposed with regard to the Irish Glass Bottle site? What will they do differently to make sure something like that never happens again?
Mr. John Crawley:
I can give the Deputy an account of where we are at with the current legislation. The authority has substantially resolved all significant litigation. It had a very significant piece of litigation running for a number of years, taken by one of the joint venture partners, Bernard McNamara, who was involved in the Irish Glass Bottle site development. That litigation was successfully concluded in early 2013. It was a cashless win unfortunately for the State, because although we successfully concluded the case and were awarded costs, unfortunately, the joint venture partner is bankrupt. Therefore, the State will not have an opportunity to recover those costs.
At any point in time there will be a number of litigation or threatened litigation cases against anybody and the docklands authority is no different. We have provided against all of those in our accounts to the extent that we consider that it is reasonable to assume that liability will arise. We have not made any class of a significant provision in relation to those cases.
We have a number of disputes with various people which are ongoing because of projects in which we were previously involved. We believe they will be successfully resolved. There will be a number of cases that will remain outstanding on the wind-up of the authority, if we assume it is wound up in the foreseeable future. We are working with the law department of Dublin City Council, DCC, and with the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government to assess those cases to make sure that Dublin City Council is the logical place to transfer those cases, to the extent that they relate to local authority-type issues. We also wish to ensure there is sufficient briefing in place and sufficient funding in the event that a liability will arise. As we speak – touch wood – we are in reasonable shape in terms of outstanding liabilities.
Mr. Owen Keegan:
In terms of what we would do differently, I do not think we will have to engage in significant land acquisitions. I do not see those difficulties arising again. We have been through a very difficult period. We met all our liabilities. As a city council we have not had to be rescued or bailed out by anybody. We bought a lot of land for social housing purposes and had to fund it. Those schemes are not going ahead. We have some major capital projects with which some members will be familiar that have not been realised but we have managed to do that without any recourse to external support. I am very confident that we can look forward to our stewardship of the docklands area with the same prudent management approach, with no risk to outside parties.
How is Dublin City Council communicating with the communities in the docklands to ensure their views are taken on board? Is there a liaison person in place? I refer in particular to the older community that has been there for generations.
Mr. Philip Maguire:
We have a community liaison officer as part of the team in the docklands area in the roll-out of the strategic development zone, SDZ. A most comprehensive schedule of public consultation took place. I can supply the details to the Deputy if she wishes. We had half-day workshops, dozens of meetings and street conversations with people who were either working or living in the area. We went through a most comprehensive public consultation process. That will continue as required.
I wish to ask a couple of questions. The Dublin Docklands Authority, DDA, came up with the 20% social and affordable housing from the community forum. There was a housing strategy in the master plan. Dublin City Council’s housing strategy was not that successful, in that it took off-site provision, where on-site provision was made in the docklands area and we were able to keep communities intact. Could Mr. Maguire outline his intention on the housing strategy in terms of 20% social and affordable housing?
Mr. Philip Maguire:
The legislation provides for only one Part 5 scheme. It is not possible through either planning legislation or SDZ legislation to amend a Part 5 scheme. It is a reserved function of the city council. In the next couple of weeks we will have a new council. My understanding is that the city council intends to review existing Part 5 schemes. At the moment we have a single Part 5 scheme. That is the only scheme we can operate throughout the city.
On retention of jobs and employment in the area, an SDZ is quite advantageous for development reasons. Has the council considered a reserve of local employment? There was a 20% clause originally in the DDA plan. I would like to see long-term job guarantees. Mr. Maguire said a community liaison officer has been appointed. It is one thing to talk to communities but delivering for them is another matter. Employment and housing are two areas that are badly needed in the north docks and south docks area for the indigenous communities.
Mr. Philip Maguire:
Yes, this is a matter that has been discussed in significant detail in consultation with the local community. As we own little or no land in the area we will not develop projects and we will not be the employing contractor. We are not able to affect contracts as we cannot put into planning permissions anything other than planning conditions. However, we recognise that while we will deliver for the area some 25,000 jobs it is important for the local community that there is education and training and that we work with contractors to facilitate the delivery of benefits to the communities. As the agency responsible, when developments are being carried out it is our intention to work with developers and contractors to try to maximise local employment.
I have had conversations with Mr. Crawley on complications with affordable housing in terms of family break-ups. Reference was also made to a very complicated clawback scheme. Does he have suggestions on how we could tidy that up through legislation or would he enter into discussions with the Department to develop recommendations on the matter?
Mr. John Crawley:
We have briefed the Department. In terms of the context, the docklands area has an affordable housing scheme under the legislation governing it. A number of people have bought affordable homes, some of whom have clawback arrangements as part of their purchase. The clawback arrangements arose because people bought properties at discounts. The objective of the scheme in the first place was to discourage people from flipping properties and to benefit people who were long-stay in the area, which is why the clawback reduces over a 20-year period to encourage locals.
When the scheme was developed, in truth, nobody thought of a scenario where house prices would fall, more importantly, they thought they would continue to rise. Therefore, an issue arises where property values have fallen, although interestingly in the docklands area we are seeing them rise back up again, and we are not seeing as much pressure from people in affordable schemes. None the less, a situation can arise where the properties can fall in value and there could be a clawback that has still to come back to the authority. That is a legal requirement. It gets the authority into difficulty to try to forgive that although we have put in place arrangements to allow people to rent their properties in the event that the situation arises.
The scheme is at variance with the rest of the affordable housing elsewhere in the country. We have brought that to the attention of the Department. It is not currently dealt with in the heads of the Bill. It is probably something one would need to raise with the Department when the officials are before the committee next week. We have identified the issues. We have identified some cases where it manifests itself in a financial difficulty, slightly less so now because the market has moved on but at the same time it also recognises that people have entered into legal agreements. To be fair to other people who live in the same accommodation and possibly did not buy at affordable prices we cannot seem to benefit one buyer over the other but it is a bit of a minefield area and we have given a full brief to the Department. Deputy Humphreys could possibly take up the matter with the Department next week.
Would Dublin City Council or the docklands authority have an objection to going to the national scheme that operates under local authorities? It is a complicated issue. The vast majority of residents in affordable housing have no intention of flipping, as Mr. Crawley put it.
Unfortunately, as time passes families grow and marriages break down. A small number of people are in great difficulty because of the particular model. Nobody expected that property prices would drop to such an extent, and renting is a short-term, not a long-term, option. I know a family on the north side with three children who are living in a one-bedroom apartment and cannot move because of the clawback arrangement.
Acting Chairman (Deputy Kevin Humphreys):
There is a need for infrastructural investment by Irish Water in both water supply and sewage treatment facilities. Irish Water made an announcement this morning about an infrastructure investment plan. Where sits the docklands authority in that investment plan?
Mr. Philip Maguire:
I did not get an opportunity to study any announcement this morning but both Irish Water and the National Transport Authority, NTA, gave comprehensive evidence - I believe over two days - to the oral hearing. The inspector went in to be satisfied that there was adequate provision for the financing and implementation of plans for infrastructure to underpin this development, and there was a whole commitment to such an investment plan by both Irish Water and the NTA.
Acting Chairman (Deputy Kevin Humphreys):
When making his submission Mr. Maguire mentioned that the NTA would fund any bridges needed. In the two planning permission applications granted for the Irish Glass Bottle, IGB, site there was a levy to fund the bridge over the Dodder. Is he saying such a bridge would no longer be dealt with through planning levies but rather through the NTA? That would be a fundamental shift.
Mr. Philip Maguire:
The NTA is dependent on the State. The indications were of what was immediately needed for implementation. If other needs emerge, obviously the NTA will come back either to us or to the Government - probably both - to discuss it, but both it and Irish Water indicated that they would take care of it.
Acting Chairman (Deputy Kevin Humphreys):
I will conclude on this question in case the Deputy wants to come back in. I am not clear about the drive for the development within the Docklands area, for social regeneration and also for foreign direct investment. From where does Mr. Keegan see the drive in the social regeneration coming with regard to the city council? From where does he see the drive for further investment coming? Will there be a sales office with people responsible for sales? Will there be a one-stop shop? If I come in with a proposal for a new IT company and I want a particular building designed in a certain fashion, will I have to go to Mr. Keegan's sub-section or the planning section?
Mr. Owen Keegan:
I am not giving a commitment. There will not be a separate docklands agency. The agency is being abolished. It will be an integral part of the city council. There will be a dedicated unit, but the issue of the grade of the chief executive does not arise because there will not be a separate agency.
I welcome the delegates, many of whom are familiar to me. I certainly know the representatives from the Dublin Port Company. I also welcome Mr. John Treacy, Mr. Ciaran Flanagan, Mr. Nicholas Cloake and Mr. Alan Robinson who are representing the Docklands Business Forum. The meeting is informal and there will be no interrogation as the delegates are not appearing before the Committee of Public Accounts or anything like it. Their attendance is welcome. They have a keen interest in the docklands area in which their businesses are located and they work strongly with the community. Certainly, the festival initiated in the docklands by the Docklands Business Forum has been highly successful and gone from strength to strength.
I draw attention the fact that, by virtue of section 17(2)(l) of the Defamation Act 2009, witnesses are protected by absolute privilege in respect of their evidence to the joint committee.
If they are directed by the committee to cease giving evidence on a particular matter and they continue to so do, they are entitled thereafter only to qualified privilege in respect of their evidence. They are directed that only evidence connected with the subject matter of these proceedings is to be given. They are asked to respect the parliamentary practice to the effect that, where possible, they should not criticise or make charges against any person or persons or entity by name or in such a way as to make him, her or it identifiable. I also advise witnesses that the opening statements and any other documentation submitted to the committee may be published on the committee website on the conclusion of this afternoon's business.
Members are reminded of the long-standing ruling of the Chair to the effect that they should not comment on, criticise or make charges against a person outside the Houses or any official by name or in such a way as to make him or her identifiable.
The witnesses may wish to make a submission.
Mr. Alan Robinson:
If the Chairman or members of the committee are interested in seeing a microcosm of what inward direct investment can achieve, I would suggest they go down to Barrow Street and have a cup of coffee outside Insomnia at 4 o'clock in the afternoon just when the changeover is taking place for Google. At that time, one will see hundreds of young, well qualified, well paid workers stepping out of the Google offices, getting into taxis and paying for their fares, getting onto the DART and paying for their fares, going to local apartments which they are renting or on which they are paying a mortgage, or going to the local shops and buying produce. It is a real microcosm of what is happening all over the docklands with these companies having arrived. Beyond that, there are hundreds of small and medium-sized enterprises that have set up because of the existence of these companies and they are supplying the companies with products and services. Docklands is an important place, particularly from a commercial point of view.
We are a voluntary association of business people. We have neither an office nor an executive, but we do have a great deal of passion about the docklands and what it can achieve. We promote enterprise positively and all the positive things that enterprise can do with our docklands business awards. We also have created a list of the 500 plus businesses that exist within the docklands. Believe it or not, before we started there was no such list. We thank the Dublin City Enterprise Board for supporting us on that.
We also promote the docklands as a place to visit and enjoy. It is an oft ignored area of the city. Many who have been resident in the city for decades are not familiar with what the docklands has and can offer. We have taken over from the Dublin Docklands Development Authority, DDDA, in terms of those promotions. The authority asked us to do it.
Now we have two festivals. The first is title-sponsored by Waterways Ireland and at our third event last year, there were more than 80,000 in attendance. The second, title-sponsored by the Dublin Port Company, is the Dublin Port Riverfest. Last year, we held our first event on a derelict area of North Wall Quay at which there were 38,500 in attendance. That gives an idea of the remarkable things that can be done in docklands with the existing infrastructure.
Mr. John Treacy:
Dublin docklands is known internationally as "Silicon Docks" and we host some of the most innovative companies in the world. As we sit here, the next Twitter, Google or Facebook is in Dublin docklands trying to grow and, from our perspective and our experience from chatting to our members, we could be doing so much more to help that.
According to our research and analysis, the docklands can hold another 25,000 to 35,000 jobs. While it will do that, the question is whether that will be in two years or 20 years time. This employment will add millions of euro in PAYE, PRSI, rates, VAT and corporation tax and that all will help speed up national recovery. From our perspective, however, we need to be doing so much more.
There are incredible incubators and accelerators, such as Wayra, Dogpatch and HealthXL, and we have star companies crying out to grow, such as Realex Payments, Ancestry.com, Ultimate Rugby, Nurse Buddy and Logentries, but we are just missing some of the old resources that were there previously. The DDDA, which, as we all will be aware, made some mistakes, in fairness, had fantastic resources to be that catalyst in the docklands to join small companies with big companies, connect supply and demand, and facilitate growth.
From the dissolution Bill, the consultative forum will need more specific powers and more specific budget influence, and it needs to be representative of large companies, small companies, traditional industry, the Internet companies but also these start-up hubs. We would welcome the committee's thoughts on that.
Mr. Nicholas Cloake:
We see the docklands as being one of the most important business zones on this island. It has provided many jobs over the past number of years and generates significant revenues for the State.
We estimate that there are over 500 businesses, from Fortune 500 companies to small SMEs, many employees of which work, live and socialise in the area. As Mr. Treacy stated, it recently has become synonymous with technology start-ups and the phrase "Silicon Docks" has been coined and has been discussed at many meetings I have held on commercial projects in the past year.
In reality, what we have in the docklands is a business brand. It is a brand that requires nurturing, promoting and managing and we see ourselves as managers, custodians and promoters of this docklands brand. We believe that we hold the position of being the voice of business within Dublin's docklands and we have been doing that successfully for five years.
Mr. Ciarán Flanagan:
As Mr. Robinson highlighted at the beginning, the Docklands Business Forum has developed and hosted two festivals attracting more than 120,000 visitors a year. It has developed engagement with the docklands for employees and corporations, and represents a bridge between the local population and the business community in many different ways.
We have the willingness, the intention and the enthusiasm to continue to build, not only bridges but project successes. We are engaging with Dublin Port, Waterways Ireland, Dublin City Council and various Departments to activate many significant projects.
One of those projects, for example, is the opening of the Camden Lock, which has been closed for generations but which, if opened, will allow large vessels and yachts to enter the basin. This, in turn, allow more wealthy international visitors and tourist opportunities. We believe this will attract an additional 150,000 visitors from overseas into the basin each year and additional revenue of at least €12 million per annum. This is merely one of a wide number of projects which we have discussed, are progressing and are committed to, but all of this work is being done on a voluntary basis. Support for a full-time office would mean a stronger business, Government and local relationship, and a fast-track for important job creation projects.
Mr. Pat Ward:
Dublin Port Company broadly welcomes the draft dissolution Bill. Our particular focus is in the areas of heads 5 and 6 and we have made our submission on that basis.
Focusing momentarily on head 5, it is in keeping with Dublin Port Company's strategic and the vision that Dublin Port will have the capacity to service the needs of its customers and the wider economy efficiently, sustainably and safely, in the future.
In the context of head 6, our master plan is the 30 year vision for the port. As the cornerstone of our master plan, we focus on integration with the city. We have had an involvement with the DDDA. We have had two members from Dublin Port Company sitting on the board and the chief executive sat on the council. From Dublin Port's perspective, that level of interaction, engagement and consultation is critically important in future.
Mr. John Treacy:
The DDDA council, which is being replaced by this consultative forum, was in a position to work closely with the board and to understand the context of decisions. It had a much more specific consultation process - everything from agenda writing to seeing the minutes from the board.
There needs to be a little more substance regarding what that will look like. The new representative structure is being renewed. While there will be more representatives from business and employers, we are a little worried about how this will feed into Dublin City Council representation regarding the north side and south side. It is still a little unclear, so we would like to have a greater understanding. With regard to powers, the influence on the budget and the mix of expenditure across the areas of jobs, education and culture must be borne in mind.
This is a discussion more so than questions and answers. With regard to the strategic development zone, its capital funding and infrastructure, there is no clarity at this stage. I would welcome the delegation's views on this. The authority has been very much involved in the social regeneration of the docklands, as it has shown in its slides. This requires funding. Mr. Treacy referred to a specific office, but this requires funding also. Have the delegates views on how that funding would be put in place?
Mr. John Treacy:
We have examined the bids system and some of the other available models. There is a funding model in Dublin city centre that seems to work. Currently, our preference is to examine that. Through our research, we are so deeply immersed in determining what activities help to promote networking, job creation and micro-economy business that it is probably the better way for us to go. It is a question of scaling up what we have before considering a bids system.
Mr. Alan Robinson:
The bids arrangement was set up for very specific problems and difficulties that were very much peculiar to the city centre, as far as I am aware. The docklands does not face those challenges. I refer to the level of antisocial behaviour, for instance, and the amount of graffiti that featured in the city centre.
The other model to be borne in mind - that of promoting Temple Bar as a cultural centre - does not exactly fit with the docklands. What we are trying to do is to come up with our own organically grown system that is most effective in responding to the challenges faced by the docklands.
There is flexibility in both models. There is flexibility within the bid system in that one can design one's own bid with the local community. It boils down to what would be covered; it involves a very detailed contract with the local authority, the city council. There is no grey area. I am sure the delegates examined the contract that was signed by the city centre businesses and the city council. It is so detailed that it refers to how often road signs should be washed. One would not get into this level of detail regarding the docklands. A different model for investment within the community might be involved.
Mr. John Treacy:
A very good example of the unique nature of the docklands is that it has some fantastic international brands. I refer to employers that have very significant corporate social responsibility objectives, strategies and budgets. A unique entity is required to build the necessary relationships and think about bite-sized projects that will work for both the brand and the local area. This is a unique opportunity and challenge but it would be fantastic for the docklands to be at a stage at which the entity could get to the office-and-staff stage and approach the interested parties on a more systematic basis.
Mr. Charlie Murphy:
I have been a member of the council since 1997 and have been on the board representing the port and community - both sides - at various stages of the project. One of the things that worked very well in the docklands development was the social regeneration package, which resulted in community gain. It fast-tracked the emphasis on planning and getting things moving very sensibly and quickly within the docklands.
The master plan is still in place. I have not tried to delve into the question of powers, but I cannot ascertain what real powers the committee will have as a sub-committee of Dublin City Council; it may have no powers at all. It may be that we will just talk, on foot of which some advice may be taken on board. I am not too sure. To me, it has no powers as it stands. However, the docklands council had power in that it passed and agreed a master plan for how the whole area would grow.
The other problem I have with the committee in question is that its term does not seem to be defined. It is not stated that I should serve for five years or ten years. I could be a member for the rest of my life, for all I know. Since the master plan represents a good concept, why not keep it in place? Why not have a master plan for the area that could be endorsed by the committee and reviewed every five years? This would allow for renewal of the committee every five years. Continuity could be ensured by having some members stay on, while others would step down.
The master plan was a good concept and worked well for the area, especially in the area of social regeneration. We were told at the very beginning that businesses would not move into the area if we were too prescriptive in imposing levies on businesses. We could not stop people from moving in; people wanted to develop. While developers have a bad name at present, the point is that the developer-driven economy grew the local economy at the time. However, we need to examine a new concept for developers coming in and whether there is a development levy that will assist in the development of the social infrastructure. The committee should have power regarding the master plan and its enforcement over the five-year period. Since the master plan concept is in place, let us keep it.
To clarify, most sub-committees of councils stand for five years and are dissolved at the end of the council's term of office. Any committee that will be set up by the council will, therefore, have a lifespan of only five years. This period is tied to the period between local elections.
What we have are heads of a Bill, but the principle stands in local authority legislation. A committee established by a local authority falls at the same time as the local authority itself. Even the councillors on the former docklands council had a term of five years. The appointments made by the city council last only for the lifetime of that council. The membership is reformulated after every five-year period. I would imagine this would be in the detail of the Bill.
With regard to the Dublin Port aspect, an interesting additional submission might require a policy statement every five years by the new council, which statement would serve as a guiding influence over the five-year term. Bearing in mind both community and business interests, it would be expected that the council would adhere as closely as possible to the policy statement over the five-year term. Perhaps it could be provided for in the legislation.
Mr. Alan Robinson:
To follow on from Mr. Murphy's point, even if the term of a specific council is limited to five years, the reality is that some of the same people will be reappointed.
The reality is that some of the same people will be reappointed, in which case why have a new council after five years? It is in effect the same thing, as the people are the same. In our opening statement, we suggested a term limit for individuals of five to ten years to ensure that we keep renewing a level of energy, enthusiasm and ideas.
From experience, I expect the detail of the legislation to include a provision for five years. That is what ties in with the local authority. Normally, a local authority is not allowed to appoint a person who exceeds its term of office. The new council will have a life of five years and the next council has the right to appoint. The structure of appointments will involve the same mechanism. The same people may very well be appointed, or the same groups will be the source of appointments while the individuals change. It is a good thing to bring in new blood every five years, but not a total change. There should be some continuity, especially on a body that will last for ten, 15 or 20 years. It will be a matter for the nominating groups to provide for that continuity rather than the local authority.
Mr. Alan Robinson:
We also said in our opening statement that we had a concern that when one looked at the docklands consultative forum as outlined in the heads of the Bill, it could be the doctrines of 1900 or the doctrines of 2014. It is very vague. It is important that some guidance be given to Dublin City Council in a number of areas. The Bill sets out that the four councillors to be appointed must be from wards within the docklands area in full or in part. It does not make the same stipulation for residents' groups and business people. It does not make the stipulation that a residents' group must be located in or have an interest in the docklands. It does not state that a business person must have a location or interest in the docklands. In consequence, the default box-ticking stakeholders will come in who are appointed from national or even city-wide groups and associations. As a result, while a senior person will attend the first meeting, a junior person will attend every meeting after that. Business representatives from certain organisations will just sit there with little knowledge of what is going on and what the interactions are about. It will be the same with residents' groups where they do not have a local interest. It is very important that a little more effort, thought and reflection goes into where these people are going to be coming from.
I suggest to Mr. Robinson that he put a little more thought into that and send his views and thoughts to the clerk of the committee. They can then form part of the information and evidence we provide to the Department. I was on the docklands council and had the experience that while there were some very good business people who were very involved and proactive, there were also passive members. Speaking as a docklander who grew up in Ringsend, we want people who have a keen interest. It is important to have people who are really interested in the development of the docklands community as an entity and in ensuring the vibrancy is retained. That vibrancy involves both the business and residential communities.
On future development, it has been as if someone pressed pause for the last two or three years. I am on Barrow Street most days of the week, where one can see the vibrancy that is happening in Grand Canal Dock. From a business perspective, how does one get that same vibrancy back into the indigenous community? Mr. Robinson's group has already played a very substantial role in that. How does the forum think that can be done better, and can the legislation be transformative in making sure there is a better, proactive contribution from the business community to the indigenous community?
Mr. John Treacy:
The calendar we put together every year includes a mix of networking events, voluntary clean-up events and large-scale family events. It is a mixture of employees and local residents and it is about getting the economy moving. The calendar was owned and delivered by the DDDA back in the day when it had the resources. We have seen that decrease every year, but people have stepped in and done that. If we could get steady, safe and certain resources, we could do four if not five times as much. That is how it starts. It is small coffee events with big-budget executives and small start-up companies. It is ideas for creative training which takes place in big companies and with the NCI. It is those events where these things happen, at which smart people speak to smart people. It is about entrepreneurs taking risks and community gain.
We have had some people come to us with suggestions for community gain, but there is no specific mechanism there. It is very hard for volunteers who have their own businesses and staff and rents to pay. We have to carve out time to go and do this but we believe in it and see the growth that results. More of those events are necessary. If there was four or five times what used to be there, it would be fantastic.
Mr. Alan Robinson:
I must be cautious, as it is easy to get into hyperbole. However, there are huge possibilities and opportunities for the docklands. One project involves Grand Canal Basin and the graving docks at its eastern end. The basin and the docks were built in 1796 and they are magnificent elements of Dublin's Georgian heritage. If one walks by Grand Canal Basin on an average day or even at the weekend, it is empty. If one sold that for €100 million to a private contractor, one might think it was worth it, but I guarantee that next summer they would have yachts pouring into the place. I do not suggest privatising it and selling it off. I am suggesting, however, that we wake up to this remarkable infrastructure.
The European Commission has identified marine tourism as one of the significant growth areas for the European Union over the next ten years. We have an unused basin that was built for 600 ships under sail. We have fantastic Georgian graving docks. While they are smaller than the ones in Belfast, they are ours and they can be used for all sorts of things. One can be used as a graving dock again, as there is none in Leinster, according to the Inland Waterways Association of Ireland. Another can be used as a swimming pool and the other as an outdoor music venue. A park can go around it. If one got 100 ships in, the average spend, according to a recent Dutch survey, would be €1,000 per ship. That is investment that could go into the docklands every day which would facilitate the creation of small and medium enterprises in the area, create a great many jobs and make the docklands an even more attractive location for international businesses as a place full of life and vibrancy. That is just one possibility. Imagine if a city did not have the basin and the graving docks. How much would it spend to get them? It is madness that they are not used.
Mr. Ciarán Flanagan:
We have known this for a long time. Waterways Ireland has known it, as has Dublin Port. There are other areas on the Liffey where there has been discussion of trying to bring yachts and pontoons onto the river. These are things that are difficult for organisations to do alone. Businesses are flexible and can join up the nesting between one group and another, garner support on the ground and create a positive movement through connecting locals and all the bits that are difficult to do from a political and structural point of view within organisations. That is where an organisation like ours plays a key part. We can sew that together. We are the friendly guys who can talk to communities and between authorities to make this happen. We can attract capital from private enterprise if that is needed. However, we are also small business owners with our own jobs. This is where some type of ongoing entity we can nurture and manage for the State comes in to help us make amazing things happen in the docklands.
Mr. Charlie Murphy:
From way back, many small community groups have got involved in the Grand Canal Basin to try to kick-start it.
I remember breaking into the Grand Canal Basin and squatting there for a few years when nobody wanted to do it. It opened up employment and many training programmes so that idea has always been there pre-DDDA and pre-1997. Things were pushed through there and I know the Irish Nautical Trust is still trying to push things through there.
Looking to the future and the new Bill, I know Dublin Port Company, Waterways Ireland, whatever the new entity will be if it is introduced and Dublin City Council want to work together in the regeneration and re-animation of the basin and river. What one cannot forget is that many of the local communities have got involved in this as well, are passionate about what is there and have a lot of expertise and knowledge that we need to tap into. We have got involved in it. I do not know if we know a lot but the resources that the DDDA had were huge and could do a lot of good things. If I was to go back, I would probably be banging the table looking for a lot more from that than I did at the time but let us not be greedy about it. Everyone talks about the strategic development zone, SDZ, which is a way of fast tracking planning but there is an area that was ring-fenced around docklands in which people are trying to pinpoint the resources. There are a number of organisations in the area - Waterways Ireland, Dublin City Council, ourselves and others.
Mr. Charlie Murphy:
All of these groups are willing to get involved in a partnership basis but whatever the new entity is, it is needs to be resourced financially and to have that vision of social and economic regeneration. When the legislation was first introduced, everyone was taken aback by the idea of social regeneration being first. It even went against the alphabet. The social regeneration was there. Dublin Port Company is fully behind that type of concept and has a policy within its master plan, as Mr. Ward said, and its strategic plan. We review that strategic plan every five years. The master plan is a 30-year programme. We are willing to work with all bodies around it. The new entity needs to have some teeth and needs to be able to make decisions for the area. Let us ring-fence that area and pinpoint what it is. At the moment, we are being drawn to different places. It could be here today and somewhere else tomorrow.
People talk about an independent share. Who is that independent share and where does he or she come from? What is the relationship? There are many things to be looked at. We should look back at the master plan and the legislation that went through the DDDA at the time and not take all of it away. Perhaps some of it has to go but a lot of it was good.
Mr. Murphy talked about boundaries and the old boundaries of the DDDA. The hinterland was an interesting concept within that. There are two conversations from today's hearings. One related to Dublin City Council talking about the SDZ and the boundaries there while the other involved the group here talking about the docklands. We should be talking more about the docklands than purely a simple SDZ boundary.
Mr. Charlie Murphy:
Through the Chair, the SDZ is a planning area. That is all it is. The docklands as a community both north and south is totally different. There were section 25 planning areas within the docklands but the money that came from those areas is spread right through. The same concept can be dealt with.
Mr. John Treacy:
What we are hearing from our members is that there is so much risk in business, particularly in recent years. It involves external, global and credit risks; trying to get financing; and HR risk. One thing we can control is the pace of clarifying what is going to be done in this local area. There are so many unknowns at the moment and we need to speed that up. We had a deadline of November for the dissolution which has now passed. Our members are asking the following questions. Could someone specify what is going to happen? What is our relationship going to be? What is that area? How will Dublin City Council, the new entity and the new councillors interact? The more quickly this is resolved, the more quickly we can get people to volunteer for this consultative forum and get some good people in there. We can control the speed.
Mr. Alan Robinson:
The committee has to be fit for purpose. We need a specific raison d'êtrefor the committee because this area is nationally important and can provide huge job potential for the area. It is important that the committee and the business and community representatives on it contribute in a proper way. It is a wake-up call. Realex Payments is an indigenous Irish company located on Sir John Rogerson's Quay that is taking on PayPal. It is doing remarkable things and moving a chunk of its operations to London. It is doing that because its legal fees are €70,000 while in London, it is said that the company will not need anything more than €5,000. Realex gets a lease this size from NAMA - I am not joking - while the lease in London is a few pages. That is one of the reasons why we need effective, real businesspeople on this committee and not the usual stakeholder brigade because it is only real businesspeople who might tell one that one does not want to hear. If a situation arises in the docklands where one, two or three of these medium-sized companies pull out, one is then talking about a game changer in the wrong direction.
Mr. Alan Robinson:
I suggest that the committee broadens the consultation process. All the people and organisations that are attending this committee deserve to be here. The committee could ask itself how many multinational corporations it will hear from. How many of the innovators will it hear from? These are the young boys and girls who get up at six in the morning to create the next Google or Twitter? What about the tens of thousands of people who have moved into the docklands over the past ten or 15 years? How many of these voices will the committee hear? I do not wish to cause controversy or exclude anybody but a more inclusive process involving other voices could make a real and meaningful contribution to the committee's consultation process.
Mr. John Treacy:
For example, the IFSC broke the mould on an international basis. The internet clusters around Grand Canal Dock are a fantastic international success. We all know North Lotts will be fantastic. It is just a question of when this will happen. We need to speed it up and get going. We know from our experience that it needs some central catalyst - resources and people - to own that and make it happen in two years rather than 20.
Mr. Pat Ward:
From the perspective of Dublin Port Company, we obviously have a vested interest in the regeneration and success of the docklands area. In 2013, 100 cruise ships came into Dublin Port Company. This generates revenue for the local economy. We very much look forward to working with the new entity and playing a central role in the continued good work along with our colleagues in that entity.
I thank everybody who attended here today and made their contributions. I found them very interesting. I am from the docklands, have served on the docklands council and am quite aware of some of the problems and the many successes.
While Irish people are often very good at looking back and looking at mistakes, when one displays the slides, one can see the many successes. The energy within the area is fantastic and one only needs to visit Barrow Street to see this. While previously it was dead, it now has nearly 3,000 employees working on it, all of whom pay tax. The docklands area will be a driver for both the city and the country and one will see the effect spread from it. It is important to get it right and this process will help in doing so, although it is very much just the first step. We must push off from there and there must be respect for the indigenous community. One must ensure they are involved and have opportunities, in addition to the opportunity to attract further direct investment into the area. I live within the community and one can clearly see that people now live, work and play within the docklands area, which is the way it was many ways ago. It is great to see such vibrancy and essential to keep that correct balance. I am delighted by the role the Docklands Business Forum has played in the past five years and certainly look forward to working with it to expand on it. I thank the forum, while also acknowledging the role Dublin Port has played for many decades.