Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees

Tuesday, 16 February 2021

Joint Oireachtas Committee on Housing, Planning and Local Government

Draft Planning and Development Act 2000 (Exempted Development) Regulations 2021 and Planning and Development Act 2000 (Exempted Development) (No. 2) Regulations 2021: Minister of State at the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage

Steven Matthews (Wicklow, Green Party)
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The committee is meeting to consider the Planning and Development Act 2000 (Exempted Development) Regulations 2021 relating to school buildings and electric vehicle, EV, charging points. We will then resume pre-legislative scrutiny of the affordable housing Bill after which we will suspend to reconvene in private session.

We are joined remotely by the Minister of State with responsibility for planning and local government, Deputy Burke, who is accompanied by Mr. Eamonn Murtagh, Mr. Terry Sheridan, Mr. Brian Loughlin, Ms Fiona O'Mahony and Mr. Conor Madden. The relevant papers and briefing documents on these exempted developments have been circulated to members.

For witnesses attending remotely there are some limitations on parliamentary privilege and as such they may not benefit from the same level of immunity to legal proceedings as a person who is physically present.

I invite the Minister of State, Deputy Burke, to briefly describe the purpose of these regulations.

Photo of Peter BurkePeter Burke (Longford-Westmeath, Fine Gael)
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I thank the Chairman for affording me the opportunity to present to the committee on these two sets of proposed planning and development exempted development regulations.

The two sets of regulations consist of the Planning and Development Act 2000 (Exempted Development) Regulations 2021, which concern planning exemptions for certain school related works and the provision of temporary accommodation for education purposes, and the Planning and Development Act 2000 (Exempted Development) (No. 2) Regulations 2021, which relates to updating the existing planning exemptions for electric vehicle charging points.

Each of the proposed regulations is aimed at amending provisions in the principal Planning and Development Act Regulations 2001 to 2021 concerning development that is exempt from the requirement to obtain planning permission, with each of the proposed regulations dealing with a specific type of development.

Under section 262(4) of the Planning and Development Act 2000, as amended, each House of the Oireachtas is required to approve draft planning regulations relating to exempted development by way of a positive resolution before they can be made and brought into effect by me, as Minister of State at the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage. This is a form of checks and balances that was incorporated in the Planning and Development Act 2000 to ensure that any exempted development proposals would be subject to scrutiny and approval by both Houses before they could be signed into law.

The consideration of the draft regulations will facilitate the delivery of electric vehicle charging infrastructure, and they will assist schools in facilitating the continued delivery of education in the context of ongoing Covid-19 measures and pupil number demographic changes.

I thank the Chairman for the opportunity to present both of the regulations to the committee. If both these draft regulations are subsequently approved by positive resolution of both Houses of the Oireachtas, they will come into force as soon as they are signed by me, as Minister of State at the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage. In this regard, it is my intention to sign these regulations into law at the earliest possible date. I thank members for their time and attention.

Steven Matthews (Wicklow, Green Party)
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I thank the Minister of State. We have had an opportunity to consider the draft regulations and the explanatory memorandum which were circulated last week. Two members are indicating. I would appreciate it if they could be brief because of the nature of the meeting. I will call Senator Boyhan first and then Deputy Ó'Broin.

Photo of Victor BoyhanVictor Boyhan (Independent)
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I thank the Minister of State for the overview. I want to get some understanding of the mechanism. When we approve these today, with which I do not have a difficulty, will they then got to both Houses of the Oireachtas? My understanding is that they would normally go to them. The motions are usually taken without debate in the Seanad. Could the Minister of State clarify that because it is an important aspect and I would like to understand how it will work?

Steven Matthews (Wicklow, Green Party)
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Deputy Ó'Broin might ask his question and then the Minister of State can address both questions.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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I thank the Minister of State for the presentation. I have no difficulty whatsoever with the EV regulations. I have one question with regard to the temporary school buildings, however. If I am right, the regulations talk about a period of five years. I am keen to understand why that period of five years is locked into the regulations. Obviously, none of us wants to stand in the way of the provision of much-needed educational facilities. However, we also know that there are long-standing problems with temporary buildings lasting much longer than the temporary emergency they were originally put there for. Perhaps the Minister of State could give us some reassurance that these are indeed temporary structures and explain why the five-year limit is there.

Photo of Peter BurkePeter Burke (Longford-Westmeath, Fine Gael)
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A belt and braces approach is taken under the Act in that they must go to the committee. Obviously, there will be motions in both the Houses requiring approval. Once that takes place, I will be able to sign the regulations. It is deemed a temporary measure, which Deputy Ó'Broin will see from the different aspects. I will ask one of my officials, Mr. Sheridan, to elaborate on the five-year limit.

Mr. Terry Sheridan:

I thank the Minister of State. We felt the period of time was reasonable in the circumstances, having regard to the fact that when school buildings are being constructed, there can be considerable delays in terms of planning, design, etc. It is a time-limited measure that is specifically limited to five years. There is no intention that these structures would ever become permanent. Basically, we felt five years was reasonable, proportionate and balanced in the circumstances.

Steven Matthews (Wicklow, Green Party)
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I thank Mr. Sheridan and the two members for raising those important points. Deputy Higgins is indicating.

Emer Higgins (Dublin Mid West, Fine Gael)
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I was going to ask about the duration but the question has been asked and answered. I thank the Minister of State, Deputy Burke, and his officials for the regulations. They are really progressive and it is great to see them moving along as they are a significant part of the climate change action programme. I thank them for all they are doing.