Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees

Tuesday, 26 March 2024

Select Committee on Housing, Planning and Local Government

Planning and Development Bill 2023: Committee Stage (Resumed)

SECTION 50

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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I move amendment No. 425:

In page 110, between lines 34 and 35, to insert the following: “(x) any Gaeltacht Language Planning Area, Gaeltacht Service Town or Irish Language Network.”.

Amendment put:

The Committee divided: Tá, 2; Níl, 4.



Amendment declared lost.

Amendments Nos. 426 and 427 not moved.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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I move amendment No. 428:

In page 110, between lines 38 and 39, to insert the following:
“(b) any part of the city which is designated as within a Gaeltacht Language Planning Area or an Irish Language Network,”.

Amendment put:

The Committee divided: Tá, 2; Níl, 5.



Amendment declared lost.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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I move amendment No. 429:

In page 111, line 10, after "cultural" to insert ", linguistic".

Amendment put:

The Committee divided: Tá, 2; Níl, 6.



Amendment declared lost.

Question proposed: "That section 50 stand part of the Bill."

Photo of Steven MatthewsSteven Matthews (Wicklow, Green Party)
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Deputy Ó Broin wishes to ask for a small clarification on section 50. We will wait for the Department officials to come back in. Which part of section 50 does he wish to ask about?

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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I wish to establish what, if anything, is new in this section.

Photo of Steven MatthewsSteven Matthews (Wicklow, Green Party)
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That is fine.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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For the sake of clarity, can the Minister of State outline whether section 50 is a direct transposition from the existing Act or whether any new elements are introduced here?

Photo of Ossian SmythOssian Smyth (Dún Laoghaire, Green Party)
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Effectively, this is a new section. It brings in the concept of a collection of objectives for a settlement. Settlements are defined in Central Statistics Office reports as being collections of more than 1,500 people. It is a collection of objectives. We are used to SLOs in development plans, so that gives the Deputy an idea. It is a collection of objectives that fit together. Part of the reason for bringing in this section is to deal with the consequence of the concept that there could only be zoning at one level within planning in order that there is not a conflict between the zoning that might exist in an LAP and the zoning that exists in a county development plan.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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On the last point, which is probably the most important bit of what the Minister of State said, I ask him to explain in practical terms what that means for the development plan process. Is it that zoning will now happen at the settlement level? What will be the relationship between those settlements and larger zoning patterns?

Photo of Ossian SmythOssian Smyth (Dún Laoghaire, Green Party)
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The consequence is that zoning will only happen at the development plan. Zoning will not happen in local area plan and there is no zoning in the settlement objectives either.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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I have a final question. In the most recent round of development plans, for example, when we were doing ours in South Dublin, a settlement strategy was agreed between the local authority and the Department prior to the development plan process beginning. Is this in some sense to formalise some of that and set down in primary legislation what that settlement plan and core settlement strategy is, or is this unrelated to that?

Photo of Ossian SmythOssian Smyth (Dún Laoghaire, Green Party)
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It is related. The idea is that the overall settlement strategy and the development plan align with each of the settlement strategies for each individual settlement.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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Okay. Perfect.

Question put and agreed to.

SECTION 51

Photo of Cian O'CallaghanCian O'Callaghan (Dublin Bay North, Social Democrats)
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I move amendment No. 430:

In page 112, between lines 23 and 24, to insert the following: “(v) (I) where the functional area to which the development plan relates includes a Limistéar Pleanála Teanga Gaeltachta or a Baile Seirbhíse Gaeltachta within the Gaeltacht, any relevant Language Plan agreed pursuant to Acht na Gaeltachta 2012,

(II) where the functional area to which the development plan relates includes a Baile Seirbhíse Gaeltachta outside the Gaeltacht or a Líonra Gaeilge, any relevant Language Plan agreed pursuant to Acht na Gaeltachta 2012,”.

Amendment put and declared lost.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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I move amendment No. 431:

In page 112, between lines 23 and 24, to insert the following: “(v) any language plans agreed in accordance with the Gaeltacht Act 2012 relevant to a Gaeltacht Language Planning Area, Gaeltacht Service Town or Irish Language Network within the functional area to which the development plan relates,”.

Amendment put:

The Committee divided: Tá, 2; Níl, 6.



Amendment declared lost.

Photo of Steven MatthewsSteven Matthews (Wicklow, Green Party)
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I thank the Minister of State, Deputy Ossian Smyth, for his attendance this morning and welcome the Minister of State, Deputy Malcolm Noonan, to the meeting.

Amendment No. 432 not moved.

Photo of Cian O'CallaghanCian O'Callaghan (Dublin Bay North, Social Democrats)
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I move amendment No. 433:

In page 112, between lines 37 and 38, to insert the following: “(v) (I) where the functional area to which the development plan relates includes a Limistéar Pleanála Teanga Gaeltachta or a Baile Seirbhíse Gaeltachta within the Gaeltacht, any relevant Language Plan agreed pursuant to Acht na Gaeltachta 2012,

(II) where the functional area to which the development plan relates includes a Baile Seirbhíse Gaeltachta outside the Gaeltacht or a Líonra Gaeilge, any relevant Language Plan agreed pursuant to Acht na Gaeltachta 2012,”.

Amendment put and declared lost.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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I move amendment No. 434:

In page 112, between lines 37 and 38, to insert the following: “(v) any language plans agreed in accordance with the Gaeltacht Act 2012 relevant to a Gaeltacht Language Planning Area, Gaeltacht Service Town or Irish Language Network within the functional area to which the development plan relates,”.

Photo of Steven MatthewsSteven Matthews (Wicklow, Green Party)
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As a vótáil has been called and all members of the committee are not present, we shall have to ring the bells for eight minutes, although I think we are pretty sure that all members of the committee will not be present. I ask members again to consider that every vote that is called for adds approximately ten minutes to our time, which is probably time that could be more appropriately spent discussing amendments than sitting listening to bells. I ask members to consider that before calling for votes.

Amendment put:

The Committee divided: Tá, 2; Níl, 6.



Amendment declared lost.

Amendment No. 435 not moved.

Photo of Cian O'CallaghanCian O'Callaghan (Dublin Bay North, Social Democrats)
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I move amendment No. 436:

In page 113, between lines 6 and 7, to insert the following: “(3) The chief executive of a planning authority shall, in preparing a development plan review report under subsection (2), consult with the elected members and prescribed bodies and shall reflect the matters raised in the consultations in such report and give the input due consideration in any conclusions and recommendations made.”.

Amendment put and declared lost.

Photo of Steven MatthewsSteven Matthews (Wicklow, Green Party)
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Amendment No. 437 has been ruled out of order.

Amendment No. 437 not moved.

Photo of Steven MatthewsSteven Matthews (Wicklow, Green Party)
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We now come to a group of amendments starting with amendment No. 438 in the name of the Minister. Amendments Nos. 438, 439, 458, 720, 730, 733 1007, 1077, 1141, 1149 and 1150 are related and may be discussed together.

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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I move amendment No. 438:

In page 113, lines 19 and 20, to delete “which shall take due account of the matters referred to in paragraphs (a) to (d) of subsection (1)”.

These amendments are of a minor technical and drafting nature. As mentioned earlier, there has been a process of continual refinement applied to the Bill by officials at my Department working intensively with the Bills Office and the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel, both of which I commend on their sterling efforts over recent months. Due to the highly technical nature of the planning processes, more than 500 sections of the Bill are densely cross-referenced, with many sections having multiple cross-references to either other subsections in the section or to other sections and Parts of the Bill. The amendments identify instances where these references can be improved to bring the user more directly to the relevant counterpoint within the Bill's text, by removing a duplicate reference or bringing the reader to a more specific area of the text. None of these changes the policy intent of the process. They are focused merely on optimising user experience.

Amendment agreed to.

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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I move amendment No. 439:

In page 113, line 30, to delete “paragraph (a)” and substitute “paragraph (b)”.

Amendment agreed to.

Question put: "That section 51, as amended, stand part of the Bill."

The Committee divided: Tá, 6; Níl, 2.



Question declared carried.

SECTION 52

Photo of Cian O'CallaghanCian O'Callaghan (Dublin Bay North, Social Democrats)
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I move amendment No. 440:

In page 114, to delete lines 35 and 36, and substitute the following:
“(f) (i) where the functional area to which the development plan relates includes a Limistéar Pleanála Teanga Gaeltachta or a Baile Seirbhíse Gaeltachta within the Gaeltacht, Roinn na Gaeltachta and Údarás na Gaeltachta,

(ii) where the functional area to which the development plan relates includes a Baile Seirbhíse Gaeltachta outside the Gaeltacht or a Líonra Gaeilge, Roinn na Gaeltachta and Foras na Gaeilge,”.

Amendment put and declared lost.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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I move amendment No. 441:

In page 114, line 36, after “Gaeltachta,” to insert “Foras na Gaeilge, the Minister responsible for the Gaeltacht, Oifig an Choimisinéara Teanga, and any relevant Language Planning Officer,”.

Amendment put and declared lost.

Photo of Cian O'CallaghanCian O'Callaghan (Dublin Bay North, Social Democrats)
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I move amendment No. 442:

In page 115, line 3, after “prescribed” to insert “, any states where transboundary impacts may arise and the public in such states”.

Amendment put and declared lost.

Amendment No. 443 not moved.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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I move amendment No. 444:

In page 115, line 6, after “authority” to insert the following: “and where another adjoining authority or Transboundary State is consulted, in a newspaper circulating in that area, and all such newspaper notifications shall be repeated in at least 2 non-consecutive issues of the relevant newspaper”.

Amendment put and declared lost.

Amendments Nos. 445 to 448, inclusive, not moved.

Photo of Steven MatthewsSteven Matthews (Wicklow, Green Party)
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How stands amendment No. 449? It has already been discussed with amendment No. 30.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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Has amendment No. 449 not been ruled out of order?

Photo of Steven MatthewsSteven Matthews (Wicklow, Green Party)
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I have not been asked to put the question on this amendment.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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I have it marked as being ruled out of order.

Photo of Steven MatthewsSteven Matthews (Wicklow, Green Party)
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That is quite possibly the case. Amendment No. 447 was ruled out of order.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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I noted that amendments Nos. 447 and 449 were ruled out of order.

Photo of Steven MatthewsSteven Matthews (Wicklow, Green Party)
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I am not asked to put the question on amendment No. 449. It has already been discussed with amendment No. 30.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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It has been ruled out of order so the question cannot be put.

Photo of Steven MatthewsSteven Matthews (Wicklow, Green Party)
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I will check that.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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A number of the following amendments have been ruled out of order as well.

Photo of Steven MatthewsSteven Matthews (Wicklow, Green Party)
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There is no note in my brief about amendment No. 449 being out of order. The point in the brief at which I am directed to put the question is blank. This leads me to believe there is a question mark over it.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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To save time, I could move and withdraw it and reserve the right to reintroduce on Report Stage.

Photo of Steven MatthewsSteven Matthews (Wicklow, Green Party)
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Let me check to see whether it was discussed with amendment No. 30. I just want to ensure that we are in order.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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Generally, amendments that place a charge on the State are ruled out of order. This is one of those.

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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It was discussed with amendment No. 30.

Photo of Steven MatthewsSteven Matthews (Wicklow, Green Party)
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If Deputy Ó Broin wishes to move and withdraw it with the right to reintroduce on Report Stage, that will satisfy everything. I thank members for their assistance.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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I move amendment No. 449:

In page 118, line 28, after “it” to insert “in both official languages”.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Photo of Steven MatthewsSteven Matthews (Wicklow, Green Party)
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I understand that the Minister of State is going to consult the OPC on potential issues relating to amendment No. 450, which is in my name. On that basis, I will withdraw the amendment and retain the right to reintroduce it on Report Stage.

Amendment No. 450 not moved.

Question proposed: "That section 52 stand part of the Bill."

Photo of Cian O'CallaghanCian O'Callaghan (Dublin Bay North, Social Democrats)
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To a degree, my question also relates to section 53, but I will ask it now. Section 52 deals with the notice of intention to review development plans and the preparation of draft development plans. The Irish Planning Institute, which represents planners across the private and public sectors, raised a concern about the Bill allowing insufficient time for the preparation of development plans. The institute has cited the example of how getting a finalised development plan translated into Gaeilge, if it is written in English first, can take up to six months and says that is not manageable within the timeframes under the Bill. The Minister of State might explain the practicalities. Is it his view that the timeframes in sections 52 and 53 are manageable? Where is there time for translating into Irish? How will that happen?

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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I have three questions for clarification. Section 52(9) reads:

For the purposes of preparing a draft development plan, the planning authority shall disregard any part of a submission received by it that comprises a request or proposal that a particular zoning objective be applied to any particular land in the functional area to which the plan relates.

Is this a new provision or is it in the existing Act? If it is new, will the Minister of State explain the rationale for it? If people wanted to make a case for rezoning, I would not prohibit them from doing it so long as-----

Photo of Steven MatthewsSteven Matthews (Wicklow, Green Party)
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There can be many submissions to a development plan.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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That is what I am querying. Section 52(10)(e) reads:

Following consideration of a report submitted to them under paragraph (d), the members of the planning authority or of the committee, as the case may be, may, by resolution, issue no more than one direction to the chief executive regarding the overall strategic approach to be adopted in respect of the preparation of each of the following elements of the draft development plan ...

Why only one direction across these seven areas? Is it one for each of the seven or one from within? There could be an issue of strategic importance to elected members in one area of a county while a group of members representing a different area might have another view. This provision seems restrictive.

Is it new or existing? Will the Minister of State explain the rationale for it?

Section 52(10)(g) states, "The chief executive of the planning authority shall not be obliged to comply with any part of a direction made under paragraph (e)which relates to the zoning objective to be applied to any particular land in the functional area... ". Is that an existing or new provision? Will the Minister of State explain it? I am not suggesting I have any issues with any of the three. It is just for clarity, if that is okay.

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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On Deputy O'Callaghan's question, we have consulted with the planners in local authorities and have allowed an extra three months for the preparation of the plan.

Photo of Cian O'CallaghanCian O'Callaghan (Dublin Bay North, Social Democrats)
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Is the Minister of State satisfied enough time is allowed for translation into Irish?

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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Yes, the translation has to be done separately under the Irish language Act.

Photo of Cian O'CallaghanCian O'Callaghan (Dublin Bay North, Social Democrats)
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Does that three months allow time for that to be done?

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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It does. That allows for the translation at the very end of the process when the plan is completed.

Photo of Cian O'CallaghanCian O'Callaghan (Dublin Bay North, Social Democrats)
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How much time is there at the very end of the process? This might relate to section 53 but we are better off dealing with this all in one go for the sake of time.

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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The plan is functional from when it is adopted. While the translation process obviously has to be done, it is separate from that.

Photo of Cian O'CallaghanCian O'Callaghan (Dublin Bay North, Social Democrats)
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Once the plan is adopted, and is functional and published, the notice goes up and then the time-----

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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The translation is taking place in tandem.

Photo of Cian O'CallaghanCian O'Callaghan (Dublin Bay North, Social Democrats)
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-----starts. Is it legally fine that the development plan is not accessible as Gaeilge to a section of the population that-----

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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It is.

Photo of Cian O'CallaghanCian O'Callaghan (Dublin Bay North, Social Democrats)
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On what basis is that?

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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It is under the languages Act.

Photo of Cian O'CallaghanCian O'Callaghan (Dublin Bay North, Social Democrats)
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Under the languages Act-----

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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It is, yes.

Photo of Cian O'CallaghanCian O'Callaghan (Dublin Bay North, Social Democrats)
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-----that is allowed for.

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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Once the plan is adopted, it is adopted. However, within the languages Act, there is an allowance for that translation period because translation can obviously vary from plan to plan and from document to document.

Photo of Cian O'CallaghanCian O'Callaghan (Dublin Bay North, Social Democrats)
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Does the Minister of State feel the additional three months will, overall, address concerns that will be raised by planners? Is that his view?

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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Yes.

Photo of Cian O'CallaghanCian O'Callaghan (Dublin Bay North, Social Democrats)
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I may come back on this on Report Stage.

Photo of Steven MatthewsSteven Matthews (Wicklow, Green Party)
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That is fine.

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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On Deputy Ó Broin's questions, the answer in respect of section 52(9) is "No". It is not a new-----

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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It is an existing provision.

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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Yes, it is existing. In relation to-----

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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On that, just so I am clear, at what point in the process does that take place? Is it at that early stage that submissions around zoning will not be taken but, as the Chair indicated, it will be permitted at a later stage? What is the-----

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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It will be when the draft plan is published. It will be at an early stage, yes.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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When the draft plan is published, at that point people can, if they so wish-----

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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Exactly.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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Perfect.

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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On section 52(10)(e), the issue of no more than one direction is about giving specific focus. It will be one direction for each of the six areas.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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Just so I am clear on this, again, is that a new provision or the existing provision?

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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It is a new provision.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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It is about the development plan, which is countywide, and councillors who are elected for each local electoral area. Obviously, their view of what is strategically important will vary. Why is it one direction for each of those seven subheadings? What happens if groups of councillors from different ends of the county have separate requests for the direction? One seems very restrictive.

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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It is not. It is for the overall functioning of the strategic area and to give councillors a focus on one specific item of strategy in the six areas.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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Is it almost to avoid councillors taking, at that point, a very localised view and trying to insist they just take that overarching-----

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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That is it. We are talking about an overarching strategic vision.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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None of that would preclude them at later stages-----

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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No, it would not.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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I am not arguing against that; I am trying to get my head around it. Is the section deliberately designed with getting councillors to think at an early stage at the wider strategic level in mind?

Is there a view that the process is focusing at too early a stage just on the very localised? What are the origins of this proposition?

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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Yes, it is. The objective is to get councillors focused on high-level strategic objectives rather than getting into the nitty-gritty detail of small localised issues. They absolutely have roles there but it is to get that overarching strategic vision embedded into the process.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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Okay. That is clear. I thank the Minister of State for that.

Photo of Steven MatthewsSteven Matthews (Wicklow, Green Party)
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There was a question on section 52(10)(g).

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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Yes.

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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What is the question there?

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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In section 52(10)(g), we talked about the line "The chief executive of the planning authority shall not be obliged to comply with any part of a direction made under paragraph (e) which relates to the zoning objective to be applied to any particular land". I presume the answer is similar to section 52(9) regarding those zoning requests.

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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Yes.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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Again, is that an existing or a new provision?

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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We will check that and come back on that.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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Perfect. It is just for clarity. If the Minister of State will come back on the record, that is fine.

Question put and agreed to.

SECTION 53

Photo of Cian O'CallaghanCian O'Callaghan (Dublin Bay North, Social Democrats)
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I move amendment No. 451:

In page 119, to delete lines 16 and 17 and substitute the following: “(vi) (I) where the functional area to which the development plan relates includes a Limistéar Pleanála Teanga Gaeltachta or a Baile Seirbhíse Gaeltachta within the Gaeltacht, Roinn na Gaeltachta and Údarás na Gaeltachta,
(II) where the functional area to which the development plan relates includes a Baile Seirbhíse Gaeltachta outside the Gaeltacht or a Líonra Gaeilge, Roinn na Gaeltachta and Foras na Gaeilge,”.

Amendment put and declared lost.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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I move amendment No. 452:

In page 119, line 17, after “Gaeltachta,” to insert “Oifig an Choimisinéara Teanga, and any relevant Language Planning Officer,”.

Amendment put and declared lost.

Photo of Steven MatthewsSteven Matthews (Wicklow, Green Party)
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Amendment No. 453 is in my name. I will withdraw it.

Amendment No. 453 not moved.

Photo of Steven MatthewsSteven Matthews (Wicklow, Green Party)
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Amendments Nos. 454 and 455 are ruled out of order.

Amendments Nos. 454 and 455 not moved.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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I move amendment No. 456:

In page 120, line 9, after “Regulator” to insert “and the relevant Regional Assembly”.

Amendment put and declared lost.

Photo of Steven MatthewsSteven Matthews (Wicklow, Green Party)
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Amendment No. 457 is in the name of the Minister and is grouped with amendments Nos. 980, 982, 984, 985, 987 to 997, inclusive, and 1004. There is a total of 17 amendments in this group in various Deputy's names.

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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I move amendment No. 457:

In page 120, to delete lines 21 to 23 and substitute the following: “the planning authority shall—
(I) serve a notice on each person who is the owner or occupier of, and any person appearing to the authority to have an interest in, the proposed protected structure or the protected structure, as the case may be, of the proposed addition, deletion or amendment, including the particulars of the proposed addition, deletion or amendment,

(II) send particulars of the proposed addition, deletion or amendment to the Minister and to any prescribed body, and

(III) cause notice of the proposed addition, deletion or amendment, including the particulars of the proposed addition, deletion or amendment, to be published in at least one newspaper circulating in its functional area.”.

This amendment relates to section 53 regarding the making of development plans, specifically regarding the notification of the addition to, or deletion from, the record of protected structures as part of the process for making a development plan. Currently, section 53(4)(a) provides that where such an addition or deletion is proposed, the planning authority shall notify the owner or occupier of the protected structure. This differs from procedures in section 279 relating to additions or deletions from the record of protected structure outside of the development plan process, whereby the proposal, in addition to being notified to the owner or occupier, shall also be notified to the Minister and subject to public newspaper publication. This amendment proposes to amend section 53(4) to ensure that if the record is amended as part of the development plan process, the Minister and the public are also notified.

This ensures that there is consistency in the notification arrangements where changes are made to the record of protected structures when it is done as part of the making of a development plan or outside of that process.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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Just to be clear, provisions that exist elsewhere with respect to protected structures are being added. This is to ensure consistency and to have a better formulation. It informs the Minister and the public.

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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Yes.

Photo of Steven MatthewsSteven Matthews (Wicklow, Green Party)
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I suggest that we take amendment No. 980 in the names of Deputies Cian O'Callaghan, Ó Broin and Ó Snodaigh now. If they think there is a logical grouping of any of those amendments, I ask them to cover them all.

Photo of Cian O'CallaghanCian O'Callaghan (Dublin Bay North, Social Democrats)
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I am happy to talk to amendments Nos. 980, 987, 992, 994, 995 and 997 together because they are related. Amendment No. 980 proposes the insertion of the following into section 275:

“other relevant person for the purposes of notice of endangerment for the property” shall include the following:

(a) legal representative, professional, or management firms or individuals managing or responsible for the property registered in an offshore company;

(b) a financial institution or fund which has taken title to the property as a result of a loan;

(c) administrators, liquidators or receivers responsible for the property after a loan, default or repossession; and

(d) parties responsible for the maintenance of a building site or structure which is causing endangerment to an adjoining Protected Structure.

Amendment Nos. 987, 992, 994, 995 and 997 also contain the term "other relevant person" because this would effectively be defined to in the Bill if amendment No. 980 is accepted. This is to address significant issues that have arisen regarding protected structures and their endangerment over the years. The 2000 Act has not been effective regarding a significant number of important protected structures and buildings, including in architectural conservation areas. I am aware of particular issues in Cork, Fingal, Longford, Mayo, Tipperary and Waterford. There have been issues in respect of rural vernacular buildings, grain stores, industrial buildings and vacant religious institutional buildings such as convents where significant issues have arisen, particularly in Cork city and county. Many of these issues arise because the persons, entities or agencies that have a legal interest in or responsibility for the maintenance and management of protected structure are not properly listed in the existing legislation. There have been some significant issues, with legal disputes where the deeds of a property may default to a financial institution, where liquidation arises or where a building or land is part of a distressed asset portfolio that might be traded individually or in a bundle between financial institutions. Issues have also arisen with an offshore entity holding legal ownership and not being contactable. Issues have also arisen in the context of incapacity whereby the owner of a property could be unwell, in a nursing home or resident overseas.

There are also issues in urban areas, including Dublin, with protected structures impacted and left exposed. If these structures are left empty, they can be exposed to arson attacks. This can happen when banks hold deeds and claim that while they do hold them, they have no responsibility for the protection or maintenance of the structure in question and do not take action. The narrow definition relating to the occupier of a structure in the existing legislation and in the Bill is problematic. It needs to be changed.

There are also issues around neglect of adjoining buildings and how that can lead to dry rot or structural issues in protected structures. These amendments - amendment No. 980 is the foundational one - seek to address this issue and put in comprehensive wording in order that there are no situations in the future in which entities or people with direct responsibility evade that responsibility by being offshore, a bank holding the deeds or whatever.

I urge the Minister of State to accept these amendments.

Photo of Aengus Ó SnodaighAengus Ó Snodaigh (Dublin South Central, Sinn Fein)
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I concur with what Deputy O'Callaghan has outlined. We know from our this city and elsewhere the history of protected structures. In some cases, the State has intervened and addressed protected structures that were demolished and had to be rebuilt. Archer's Garage, which is close to Leinster House, is a classic example. While it was rebuilt, it is not the original structure. There are also hotels in this vicinity that were protected structures and fire damaged them to such an extent that they had to be stripped of their original features. In some cases, all that was left was the facade. There has to be an onus on those who have possession or control of a protected structure to protect them. That is the intention, which nobody can deny. That is why we seek to ensure that nobody, through not being named within the legislation, can evade their responsibilities towards those protected structures. We seek to ensure the entire legal profession and all financial institutions clearly understand they have a duty, so they do not end up in situations where a protected structure on a site is left go to wrack and ruin because it does not suit the agenda of that company. There are planning permissions for extensions of facilities, and the protected structure is to the side. It is in the way of the company's intention and it is allowed fall into such a state of disrepair that it becomes an dangerous building and has to be pulled down. There is a duty on those who have protected structures to protect them.

I received a response from the Minister of State in the past about Moatville in Charleville or Ráth Luirc, County Cork. I think Kerry Ingredients has it. I am not asking him to comment on it because he has given me the answer in the Dáil. However, it is derelict. The company has to take some action before it get its planning permission intact. It can wait until the last minute and another five years of damage could be done to that structure in that instance. That may not be the intention, but that is the way it is looked at. That is often what we perceive when we see protected structures going into dereliction. We know the case of the Iveagh Markets in Dublin. That is another one. If it is left derelict by a financial institution or whatever, it is convenient that more damage be done to that structure, because they can fix it up with a modern approach or building. A protected structure can often be a hindrance and the same could be said of the approach to Moore Street over the years. It was allowed go to wrack and ruin. Those with protected structures in their care, whether they own them or received them as liquidators, still have a duty. That is the message from this part. It does not matter who has it, they have to protect it.

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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I will address amendments Nos. 980, 987, 992, 994, 995 and 997 as jointly tabled by Deputies Cian O'Callaghan, Ó Broin, Gould, Ó Snodaigh, Boyd Barrett, Bríd Smith and Gino Kenny.

These amendments seek to amend sections 281 to 283, inclusive, to provide that other relevant persons, as well as owners and occupiers, shall take all reasonable steps to ensure that a protected structure is not endangered and that notices to require works to be carried out relating to the endangerment of protected structures and proposed protected structures can be served on relevant persons as well as owners and occupiers.

The amendments also include a definition of "other relevant person for the purposes of notice of endangerment for the property" in the interpretation of section 275 of Part 10, which deals with architectural heritage. The proposed definition of "other relevant person" is very broad and includes representatives managing or responsible for the property, a financial institution that has taken title to a property as a result of a loan and administrators responsible for a property after a loan, as well as those responsible for building sites or structures adjacent to a protected structure where the building site is causing endangerment. The definitions of "owner" and "occupier" in the Bill are suitably broad to cover most of the proposed definition and, as such, there is no need to define "other relevant person" or include such a reference in sections 281 or 283. "Owner" includes a person who in his or her own right, or as an agent, is entitled to receive a rack rent for the land. "Occupier" includes a person who is in occupation of the land or is entitled to use or control the land. In addition, to define "other relevant person" in a non-exhaustive manner may indeed form a hindrance to the process. The proposal to include those responsible for building sites or structures adjacent to a protected structure where the building site is causing endangerment is not required as there is already a provision that any person who endangers a protected structure or proposed protected structure shall be guilty of an offence. This would cover anyone undertaking works adjacent to a protected structure who does not take measures to ensure they are not endangering the protected structure.

I point members to the definitions in section 2, which contains a definition of "occupier". That definition is:

(a) in relation to land, a person who— (i) is in occupation of the land,

(ii) is entitled to the immediate use, enjoyment or control of the land, or

(iii) is in control of the land,"

That is well covered in the Bill.

Photo of Cian O'CallaghanCian O'Callaghan (Dublin Bay North, Social Democrats)
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The Minister of State has said that the definition clearly covers all of the cases I raised.

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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Yes.

Photo of Cian O'CallaghanCian O'Callaghan (Dublin Bay North, Social Democrats)
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That means administrators, liquidators, receivers and financial institutions that have the deeds are all covered.

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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We are satisfied that it covers the people who are required to be covered in respect of protected structures and their duties towards them.

Photo of Cian O'CallaghanCian O'Callaghan (Dublin Bay North, Social Democrats)
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I am sorry, but "required to be covered" gives me no assurance at all. "Required to be covered" is simply the Minister of State's interpretation of who is required to be covered. Are the different categories I raised, including offshore entities, covered under the definition?

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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We do not consider that those categories are required to be included here.

Photo of Cian O'CallaghanCian O'Callaghan (Dublin Bay North, Social Democrats)
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It is not required for offshore entities that own a protected structure to be covered under the legislation. Is that the position?

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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It would have to be the owner or occupier.

Photo of Cian O'CallaghanCian O'Callaghan (Dublin Bay North, Social Democrats)
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I also raised the issue of legal disputes. How are legal disputes over ownership involving different parties to be covered under the existing wording of the legislation?

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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Someone is always the occupier even in the event of a dispute. There is, therefore, still a responsibility there.

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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Is that the case if no one is occupying the site or the protected structure?

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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Yes. The definition of "occupier" in section 2(a)(ii) is a person who "is entitled to the immediate use, enjoyment or control of the land". The person does not actually have to be physically occupying it.

Photo of Cian O'CallaghanCian O'Callaghan (Dublin Bay North, Social Democrats)
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Yes, but when it is under legal dispute as to who that is, where is the responsibility-----

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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There will always be an occupier, even in a legal dispute.

Photo of Cian O'CallaghanCian O'Callaghan (Dublin Bay North, Social Democrats)
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If two different parties have a dispute over who has the right to occupy the protected structure, who has the responsibility for maintaining that protected structure? Are both parties required to claim that right?

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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As I understand it, even under the circumstances where there is a dispute, both parties would still be served with a notice. The key component is regarding the registered owner.

Photo of Cian O'CallaghanCian O'Callaghan (Dublin Bay North, Social Democrats)
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Yes, but what if that is in dispute?

Can the Minister of State also say how this section of the Bill protects against a situation where an administrator, liquidator or receiver claims not to have any financial resources to protect the building or protected structure, as well as not to have the resources to put in security, to protect against theft and vandalism, or to carry out the repairs that are required? In a number of cases, a situation has arisen where liquidators, receivers and financial institutions have said they do not have the resources and capacity to deal with these issues. Then, the protected structures have been vandalised, damaged and broken into. They can be subject to fire damage that can destroy them. There can be outbreaks of dry rot. There can be theft of architectural features, as well as vandalism and damage to them, including, for example, decorative ceilings, etc. All of that can happen.

The current legislation is not working. Can the Minister of State tell us what is in this Bill that will strengthen that and make it work? We have had a serious loss of important features of protected structures because the existing legislation has not worked and because it is too loose.

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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The existing legislation should work. I think this is down to enforcement at a local level, which is critically important. Section 281 deals with the "duty of owners and occupiers to protect structures from endangerment". It states:

Subject to subsections (2) and (3), each owner and occupier of a protected structure or proposed protected structure shall take all reasonable steps to ensure that the structure is not endangered.

The Deputy made a point about the costs and the ability to carry out works. There are a couple of points and I will come back to the Deputy. The legal owner has a duty to protect the structure, even where there is a dispute over occupation. Section 287 states that it is an offence not to protect a protected structure. Section 283(2) states:

Where the planning authority cannot identify the owner or occupier of a protected structure or proposed protected structure, and the planning authority is satisfied that urgent works are required to address an immediate danger to the structure or to a structure’s special architectural, historical, archaeological, artistic, cultural, scientific, social or technical interest or value, the planning authority may take such steps as it considers reasonable and necessary to address the immediate danger, including— (a) entry on land by authorised persons in accordance with section 361, and

(b) carrying out, or arranging for the carrying out, of the works that it considers to be reasonable and necessary to address the immediate danger.

There are strong provisions in the Bill to ensure that local authorities have an important role where there are issues in identifying the owner or occupier of a protected structure. The local authority can step in to stop the rot, literally, and try to carry out works to protect the integrity of the building.

Photo of Cian O'CallaghanCian O'Callaghan (Dublin Bay North, Social Democrats)
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The Minister of State said in his opening response that what is proposed in these amendments is too broad. However, I specifically raised the issue of offshore owners who cannot be contacted. The wording is:

...shall include the following:

(a) legal representative, professional, or management firms or individuals managing or responsible for the property registered in an offshore company;

This often arises for land, buildings and protected structures. It is simply that an offshore entity owns the property, often it is based in one of the tax haven islands, and it can be hard to trace an owner. However, if any planning applications have been lodged or work done on behalf of the owner, there are legal representatives or professional or management firms or individuals who can be contacted. This wording would mean that where an owner is hiding in some kind of offshore entity, often based on a tax haven island, that enforcement notices could be served, at least where they relate to protected structures, on the professionals working on behalf of that offshore entity. The Minister of State says the amendment is not required. However, it is required because there are times when these offshore entities cannot be contacted and nothing happens. The only option would be for the local authority to step in itself but, as the Minister of State is aware, it often will not do so because of the cost. As it will only do so in the more extreme situations, surely that wording the Minster of State said is not required, absolutely is required. If the offshore entity can be contacted, there is no need to go to the legal and other professional representatives, but if it cannot be traced or contacted, it gives the local authority and enforcement authority other options. What is the downside of the wording I am proposing? The Minister of State said it is too broad and not required. I say it absolutely is required and is not broad but, rather, on the button.

Photo of Steven MatthewsSteven Matthews (Wicklow, Green Party)
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Deputy Ó Snodaigh also has a question.

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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I might reply on that point before Deputy Ó Snodaigh comes back in.

Going back to the definition of "owner", the Bill provides:

“owner” means—
(a) in relation to land, a person, other than a mortgagee not in possession, who,
whether in his or her own right or as trustee or agent for any other person, is

entitled to receive the rack rent of the land or, where the land is not let at a rack

rent, would be so entitled if it were so let,

The words "trustee or agent" cover the points the Deputy is making, even if the entity is overseas.

Photo of Cian O'CallaghanCian O'Callaghan (Dublin Bay North, Social Democrats)
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That is only the case if the agent is entitled to receive rent. If the agent is acting on behalf of another person but not entitled to receive rent, they are not covered.

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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I will come back to the Deputy on that, if that is okay. I am still not 100% sure myself.

Photo of Cian O'CallaghanCian O'Callaghan (Dublin Bay North, Social Democrats)
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Okay.

Photo of Aengus Ó SnodaighAengus Ó Snodaigh (Dublin South Central, Sinn Fein)
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There are cases where an owner is in dispute, which can involve a city council. In the case of the Iveagh Trust, there were three supposed owners contesting ownership which meant that the protected structure became more dilapidated and endangered. I understand what the Minister of State said in terms of an owner being those who occupy something, but the only occupier was a security man who got some type of stipend from one or other of the owners. Part of the difficulty when there is a dispute - in this case a long and protracted one - is that while that is ongoing the protected structure can be damaged by the weather, as well as there sometimes being malicious damage. That is why the city council was forced by its councillors to step in and exert, beyond the courts, ownership and, in time, leave the courts aside.

That has not always been the case. Local authorities are not as eager to get involved to protect structures. That is one of the problems we have had up and down the country over years. Perhaps this Bill will ensure that local authorities will also understand their duties and role in ensuring the protection of buildings so that they take action a lot more quickly to ensure tiles do not move off a roof and allow water to enter a building and destroy it, as has happened in many cases in this city, in particular in the 1960s and 1970s. As I said, that is happening in other areas as we speak because once some buildings are granted protected status, the owners are sometimes not happy. The vast majority of owners are delighted to have protected structure status because they value the property they have. I am still unsure, if this is not stated as explicitly as we wanted, how we can ensure all owners, including those based offshore, can be forced to take the measures required to protect structures.

Photo of Steven MatthewsSteven Matthews (Wicklow, Green Party)
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I will make a suggestion to Deputy Ó Snodaigh. I realise this is Deputy O'Callaghan's amendment. Amendment No. 980 lists a number of people Deputies O'Callaghan, Ó Snodaigh and others think should be included in this. It would be helpful for us to have some sort of document referring to which terms cover an owner and occupier, as in all other legislation, as well as those not covered by those terms and the reasons why they do not need to be included This does not just relate to amendment Number 980; it will be some time before we get to vote on this. Does the Minister of State think we could-----

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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That would be really useful for clarification for everybody. We will do that.

Photo of Steven MatthewsSteven Matthews (Wicklow, Green Party)
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Is that okay with the Deputies? We will have that information before we get to amendment No. 980.

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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I will come back in on two points made by Deputy Ó Snodaigh. It is important to have these skills at local authority level. We have budgeted in 2024 to ensure that all local authorities have an architectural conservation officer, ACO. Currently, they do not all have one. There is the wider recognition of ACOs at local authority level. It is something we have worked on with the Heritage Council. It is to be hoped this year we will be able to roll out further ACOs in other local authorities which do not have them. The Deputy is correct in the point he made on protected structures. They open up opportunities for grant schemes from the Department and other Departments. It is of benefit. The benefit needs to be communicated.

When I was a member of a local authority, the most contentious part of the development plan process was trying to remove elements from the RPS. Communicating the benefits of being on the RPS is probably a larger challenge and something that local authorities endeavour to be progressive on, but I agree with the Deputy. Having a protected structure is a benefit and should be seen as such by the owner of such premises.

Deputy Cian O'Callaghan took the Chair.

Photo of Cian O'CallaghanCian O'Callaghan (Dublin Bay North, Social Democrats)
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Deputy Matthews has amendments Nos. 982, 984 and 985 in this grouping. I invite him to speak to those.

Photo of Steven MatthewsSteven Matthews (Wicklow, Green Party)
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All of us have an interest in protecting our heritage and, especially, our protected structures. Every time I see the Minister of State walking around the Chamber, he has some book or other on architectural heritage or protection tucked under his arm-----

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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Yes.

Photo of Steven MatthewsSteven Matthews (Wicklow, Green Party)
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-----so I know he has a keen interest in the matter. He has done some good work in this area.

My amendments would improve the process and protect our structures further. In amendment No. 982 to section 276, I suggest that the record of protected structures be a separate document on a local authority website. If one wants to find a protected structure now, one needs to access the county development plan, find the section related to architectural heritage and trawl through it to find the structure. Due to it being in the CDP, there is not a great deal of information on the protected structure. It may stipulate a feature like the curtilage, the façade or so on. If we had a separate document, it would be more easily searchable and beneficial and could include greater detail. County development plans get thicker every time people do them and there is always an effort to streamline the information they contain.

Does the Minister of State wish to discuss my amendments one at a time or will I speak to them all?

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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If the Deputy wishes to speak to them all, he may.

Photo of Steven MatthewsSteven Matthews (Wicklow, Green Party)
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Amendment No. 984 relates to section 279(2)(c) and putting public notices on a website. This section is on the procedure for making additions, deletions and amendments to the record of protected structures, and paragraph (c) reads: "cause notice of the proposed addition, deletion or amendment, including the particulars of the proposed addition, deletion or amendment, to be published in at least one newspaper circulating in its functional area." I suggest that it be published on the local authority website as well. Many people look online now instead of in circulating newspapers.

Amendment No. 985 is to page 470 and relates to section 280(6), which reads:

Where the planning authority decides, under subsection (3), that it has sufficient information to make a declaration under this section and the proposed works to which the declaration relate— (a) are reasonably necessary for,

...

(b) do not—
(i) materially affect the character of the exterior of the structure, or

(ii) divide the structure into more than one dwelling,
it shall make a declaration to [that] effect ...

I suggest that we replace "it" in the final line with "the planning authority conservation officer or suitably qualified person". As much as I like engineers, and we could not live without them, they are not always the best people to make a decision on a protected structure whereas a heritage officer or suitably qualified individual - I would leave it to the Minister to decide who is suitably qualified - would be.

Photo of Cian O'CallaghanCian O'Callaghan (Dublin Bay North, Social Democrats)
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The Deputy's amendments Nos. 988 to 991, inclusive, are also grouped.

Photo of Steven MatthewsSteven Matthews (Wicklow, Green Party)
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Amendment No. 988 relates to section 281 on page 472. The original wording in the January Bill was much more comprehensive in describing a protected structure and the merits and attributes attached to it. In amendment No. 988, I suggest that we reinsert the wording from the Bill's first iteration in January.

The title of the section is "Duty of owners and occupiers to protect structures from endangerment". After "structure" I propose that we add the other elements of it which were listed in the January edition. The amendment proposes:

In page 472, line 3, after "structure" where it secondly occurs, to insert "or any element of it which contributes to its special architectural, historical, archaeological, artistic, cultural, scientific, social or technical interest, is not removed, altered and".

I think that is the wording from the 2000 Act. I think it is also the wording from the January Bill. I do not know why it has been removed from section 281 in this case and I would like to see it reinstated.

Amendment No. 989 proposes to add to section 281(4), which relates to an offence. The current wording is: "Any person who, without lawful authority, endangers a protected structure". I want to expand this so that in addition to "endangers", we include "alters, degrades or removes" in describing someone who "shall be guilty of an offence". The Minister of State might tell me that "endangers" covers endangering the actual protection of that building. It is no harm to include "alters, degrades or removes" or wording to that effect which might be more comprehensive.

Amendment No. 990 proposes:

In page 472, between lines 23 and 24, to insert the following: "(6) The endangerment, alteration, degradation or removal of the protected structure or proposed protected structure which relies on subsection (5) as a defence, shall be rectified in agreement with the planning authority within 12 months of the carrying out of works.".

Section 56(5) is somewhat bizarre. Nowhere else does the legislation offer a defence for infringements of the planning Act but it does under protected structures. The Bill states:

...it shall be a defence for the defendant to prove, on the balance of probabilities, that the endangerment of the protected structure or proposed protected structure resulted from works which were— (a) urgently required...

(b) undertaken in good faith... and

(c) unlikely to permanently alter the structure.

That might be all well and good but we still have a damaged protected structure. Where somebody relies on subsection (5) as a defence for works that they have carried out, the degradation or damage to the protected structure "shall be rectified in agreement with the planning authority within 12 months". If it was urgently required to prevent damage, 12 months is an appropriate period of time for somebody to come back and rectify that. It should not be left to sit in abeyance like that.

Amendment No. 991 is similar. Where works have been done to a protected structure that have damaged the characteristics of it, someone relying on this subsection as a defence cannot use those works that rely on the subsection as a reason to then support a deletion or removal from the list of protected structures covered in sections 278 and 279. Someone cannot carry out works because they thought they were necessary or did not know they could not do them and then depend on those works when they go to the planning authorities responsible for making additions and deletions and say, "Ah sure, the building has been degraded."

Are those all my amendments?

Photo of Cian O'CallaghanCian O'Callaghan (Dublin Bay North, Social Democrats)
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There are some more, but Deputy Matthews has spoken to many of them. We might get the Minister of State to respond to the ones he has spoken to and then return to the remaining ones.

Photo of Aengus Ó SnodaighAengus Ó Snodaigh (Dublin South Central, Sinn Fein)
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I agree with the amendments.

I would go further. The protected structures lists should be much more accessible. All of the county ones should be interlinked. There should be a website and a photograph. In many cases, we are looking for public vigilance to ensure that these protected structures are protected. If we asked the vast majority of citizens where to look for the list of protected structures, they would not have a clue. In addition, the format they are currently in is just a continuous list and that is not ideal, whereas a photograph, in particular if there is a specific part of a building that is listed, would be more useful. It would allow that extra vigilance that we cannot bring if we are totally dependent on voluntary groups, the city council or the owners to do it. It might be something that would help as well as being a separate list, as Deputy Matthews suggests, to the current development plan. Have it in the development plan but they should be extracted out on perhaps a national website on which they are all connected from whichever county. That might be a useful exercise.

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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I believe that amendments Nos. 982 and 984, tabled by Deputy Matthews, have merit with regard to the collation and accessibility of relevant information on planning authority websites and the availability of such information to the public. I have already proposed similar amendments to section 54 to ensure that if a record of protected structures is amended as part of the development plan process, the Minister and the public are also notified. We are also looking at references to newspapers in the Bill and may expand that to suitable websites as well. We will table amendments on Report Stage.

I can also see the value of the insertion of the words “any element of it”, which contributes to its special architectural, historical, archaeological, artistic, cultural, scientific, social or technical interests, as proposed in amendment No. 988. In both instances, we want to check the wording for consistency with other sections of the Bill. Therefore, we will revert on Report Stage with the proposals regarding the January draft.

Photo of Steven MatthewsSteven Matthews (Wicklow, Green Party)
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If it is helpful, section 283(1) includes that wording, so it is already in the Bill. To make sure it is consistent-----

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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We will cross-check it.

I cannot accept amendment No. 985 as it is the role of the planning authority to issue declarations that works do not materially affect the character or structure of any element of that structure and not that of a conservation officer or a suitably qualified person.

Deputy Matthews proposes in amendments Nos. 993 and 996 to replace “may” with “shall”.

Photo of Cian O'CallaghanCian O'Callaghan (Dublin Bay North, Social Democrats)
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We will let Deputy Matthews in on those amendments.

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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Sure.

Photo of Cian O'CallaghanCian O'Callaghan (Dublin Bay North, Social Democrats)
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Does Deputy Matthews wish to respond to anything there or does he want to go onto amendment No. 993?

Photo of Steven MatthewsSteven Matthews (Wicklow, Green Party)
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We have not done all the amendments. We have done amendments Nos. 982 and 984 and I accept the response of the Minister of State. With regard to amendment No. 985, it is a little disappointing. The conservation officer is generally within planning services - that is my experience, anyway. I am trying to ensure that we have somebody who is suitably qualified.

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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It is the conservation officer’s advice to the planning authority that informs the declarations.

Photo of Steven MatthewsSteven Matthews (Wicklow, Green Party)
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On the planning services, are they are required to liaise with the conservation officer before making a decision?

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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Again, the Deputy is correct. A conservation officer or suitably qualified person would inform the planning authority and be part of the process of issuing declarations.

Photo of Steven MatthewsSteven Matthews (Wicklow, Green Party)
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Yes but the current wording does not oblige them. It just says "it shall". Perhaps the Department could look at "in consultation with the conservation officer, it shall" or something like that?

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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That would be the case within a local authority anyway so that is a given.

Photo of Steven MatthewsSteven Matthews (Wicklow, Green Party)
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Okay. Does the Minister of State wish to address amendments Nos. 993 and 996?

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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Is that all right with the Deputy?

Photo of Steven MatthewsSteven Matthews (Wicklow, Green Party)
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Yes, and we can go back to the others in the group then.

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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Amendments Nos. 993 and 996 propose to replace "may" with "shall" in relation to section 283 regarding urgent notice required for works to be carried out. I understand the intention to increase the impetus in such situations but it is important to carefully consider the use of the word "shall", which is legally binding, in instances where the planning authority has to determine an issue and weigh up the most appropriate course of action. By replacing "may" with "shall" we remove the agency of the planning authority and legally bind it to one course of action. In the instance cited, it may be more appropriate to utilise a different form of enforcement, an avenue that would be closed off through the implementation of these amendments. Therefore, I cannot accept amendments Nos. 993 and 996..

Photo of Steven MatthewsSteven Matthews (Wicklow, Green Party)
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I accept that we do want to leave some flexibility for the local authorities. The reason I propose "shall" is to oblige them to do it because anyone who has ever dealt with planning authorities knows that they are extremely busy and sometimes the protected structure stuff just falls down the list a little bit because of all of their other duties. What I was trying to do was to give them a stronger nudge to take these actions by using the word "shall". Maybe we could ask them to "strive to take such steps" or something along those lines. I understand the Minister of State's point that we are binding their hands by saying "shall" and that there are other avenues that may be applicable.

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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Amendments Nos. 989, 990 and 991 are contradictory to section 281 (5) which already provides that the works may only be in compliance with the criteria. The corollary of subsection (5) is that failure to comply with the criteria would preclude the use of that subsection as a defence. It is really only for cases where a wall or a structure is about to collapse and urgent works are required to stabilise the structure and are important.

Photo of Steven MatthewsSteven Matthews (Wicklow, Green Party)
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If somebody carries out works on a protected structure and takes out the old sash windows and boards them up with a bit of plywood, he or she could use section 281 (5) (b) as a defence and say that the work was "undertaken in good faith solely for the purpose of temporarily safeguarding the structure".

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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The key words there are "temporarily safeguarding the structure". That does not absolve them of responsibility for the heritage and historic integrity of a structure or building. The work must be for the purposes of "temporarily safeguarding" and must be done in the context of the risks associated with not carrying out those works.

Photo of Steven MatthewsSteven Matthews (Wicklow, Green Party)
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Amendment No. 990 seeks to put a timescale on this. If somebody has carried out temporary works to safeguard a building's structural integrity or some other aspect of it, where is the obligation to return, undo that work and make good the structure or building? If this is used as a defence for such work, how will the work be undone and the structure or building made good again?

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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Under this section it is the duty of the owners to protect structures from endangerment. Section 281 (4) provides that "Any person who, without lawful authority, endangers a protected structure or a proposed protected structure shall be guilty of an offence.".

Section 281(5) states:

In any proceedings for an offence under subsection (4), it shall be a defence for the defendant to prove, on the balance of probabilities, that the endangerment of the protected structure or proposed protected structure resulted from works which were—

(a) urgently required in order to avoid further or other endangerment...

This relates to temporary works that need to be carried out to protect a structure from falling down or, as Deputy Ó Snodaigh mentioned, to prevent water ingress into a roof. They are works undertaken to protect the structure. This provision does not remove the obligation and opportunity for the owner of a premises to bring that structure back to a good conservation standard.

Photo of Steven MatthewsSteven Matthews (Wicklow, Green Party)
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I am worried there could be sliding degradation of a building as somebody carries out temporary works because of water ingress, vandalism or people getting into the building. Such a building could be going into dereliction before our eyes over ten, 15, 20 years or longer. Subsection 281(5) allows a person to carry out such works, notwithstanding their other obligations under the Act. My concern is that this may enable an owner to keep relying on the defence that the works are for the temporary safeguarding of the structure. If I had a protected structure I did not want to do anything with, I would be looking to subsection (5) as my get-out card for doing nothing with the structure other than another bit of temporary work.

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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The wording refers to the balance of probabilities in any proceedings for an offence under subsection (4). There have been cases in the courts where a judge has ordered a structure to be put back in full or for elements of the structure to be reinstated. Section 284, which relates to notices to require restoration of character of protected structures and structures in architectural conservation areas, ACAs, states in subsection (1):

A planning authority may serve a notice on each person who is the owner or occupier of a structure situated within its functional area, if— (a) the structure is a protected structure and, in the opinion of the planning authority, it is necessary, in order to preserve the character of the structure or of any of its elements, that specified works be carried out in relation to it, or

(b) the structure is in an architectural conservation area and, in the opinion of the planning authority, it is necessary, in order to preserve the character of the architectural conservation area, that specified works be carried out in relation to the structure.

Subsection 284(2)(d) states that a notice under subsection 284(1) shall:

specify a period of not less than 8 weeks from the end of the period specified under paragraph (c) within which, unless otherwise agreed in the discussions under that paragraph, the works shall be carried out,

There is an obligation under these provisions on the owners of a protected structure or a structure in an ACA and a defined period for action is specified.

Photo of Steven MatthewsSteven Matthews (Wicklow, Green Party)
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The local authority must act. As we all know, enforcement probably has been the weakest aspect of our planning authorities.

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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It has been, unfortunately.

Photo of Steven MatthewsSteven Matthews (Wicklow, Green Party)
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Once we get the local authority to act, however, this issue is covered in these provisions and there are timeframes associated with it. The local authority has the power to make the owner undo temporary works. Is that correct?

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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Yes.

Photo of Steven MatthewsSteven Matthews (Wicklow, Green Party)
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It is a resource and focus of local authorities to do that.

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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Yes, it is down to the local authority to ensure these matters are followed up and the works are carried out, building by building.

Photo of Steven MatthewsSteven Matthews (Wicklow, Green Party)
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Regarding my amendment No. 991, could works that might be carried out under section 281 be relied upon as reasoning to remove a structure from the list of protected structures?

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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No.

Photo of Steven MatthewsSteven Matthews (Wicklow, Green Party)
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We often see reports on protected structures indicating that works have been done that have degraded them, with the report questioning, as a result of those works that were done in the past, whether a building should remain as a protected structure. This is something of which we need to be aware and cautious. Where there is a slow degradation that is purposely done, it gives an owner good scope to say the building should be removed from the list of protected structures. To clarify, owners cannot rely on subsection 281(5) to do that?

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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No. Regarding the integrity of a protected structure, consideration is given to whether the main fabric of such a structure is still in place, regardless of alterations to it that have taken place over time. We have seen it happen throughout the country that alterations have been made to protected structures that may be inappropriate or not in keeping with the integrity of the structure, but the basic fabric of that structure is still intact underneath whatever alterations have taken place.

There are some good examples across the country where responsible property owners are working with local authorities to bring those buildings back to their original form.

Photo of Steven MatthewsSteven Matthews (Wicklow, Green Party)
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That is very true. Our eyes are always drawn to the ones that look run down, rather than noticing the ones that are protected and looked after. That is a fair point.

Amendment No. 1004 is the last one in this group. It amends section 300, which concerns recommendations to planning authorities concerning architectural conservation areas, ACAs. Section 300(7) states the decision on whether to commence variations in respect of the recommendations shall be a reserved function. I suggest it should be a reserved function of the relevant municipal district, also known as an area committee. We subscribe to decision-making at the lowest effective level and municipal district members are best placed to make decisions on ACAs.

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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I cannot accept amendment No. 1004 to section 300(7), as section 300(3) already clarifies this is a function of the planning authority. The municipal districts are not the planning authorities; they are effectively committees of council. It is a reserved function of the main plenary of local authority.

I appreciate the point the Deputy is making on the lowest possible level and I understand recommendations could come from municipal district level but those recommendations would go forward to the main plenary of the local authority.

Photo of Steven MatthewsSteven Matthews (Wicklow, Green Party)
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I understand. The planning authority shall make the decisions on whether to commence the variation process. The decision on that should be a reserved function and, because that is plenary, it should be for the plenary council.

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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That is it.

Photo of Steven MatthewsSteven Matthews (Wicklow, Green Party)
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In making an ACA, the process for that is again undertaken by the planning authority.

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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That, again, has to be made by the planning authority, yes.

Photo of Steven MatthewsSteven Matthews (Wicklow, Green Party)
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The vote on whether to agree an ACA is a reserved function and has to be done plenary because it is the planning authority.

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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That is exactly it.

Photo of Steven MatthewsSteven Matthews (Wicklow, Green Party)
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That is fine. Thanks for clarifying that.

Deputy Steven Matthews resumed the Chair.

Amendment put and agreed to.

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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I move amendment No. 458:

In page 120, line 24, after “notice” to insert “under subparagraphs (I) and (III)”.

Amendment put and agreed to.

Amendments No. 459 and 460 not moved.

Photo of Steven MatthewsSteven Matthews (Wicklow, Green Party)
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Amendment No. 461 has been ruled out of order.

Amendments Nos. 461 to 464, inclusive, not moved.

Photo of Steven MatthewsSteven Matthews (Wicklow, Green Party)
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Amendment No. 465 has been ruled out of order.

Amendments Nos. 465 and 466 not moved.

Photo of Steven MatthewsSteven Matthews (Wicklow, Green Party)
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Amendment No. 467 has been ruled out of order.

Amendment No. 467 not moved.

Photo of Steven MatthewsSteven Matthews (Wicklow, Green Party)
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Amendment No. 468 was already discussed with No. 30.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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Amendment No. 468 has been ruled out of order as well, on the same grounds as the previous ones.

Photo of Steven MatthewsSteven Matthews (Wicklow, Green Party)
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I have not been given notice; the Deputy may have been given notice of that. Is he going to withdraw amendment No. 468 with the right to reintroduce it on Report Stage?

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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Yes. On a small point, the wording of this amendment is identical to other amendments that were ruled out of order. It is the same as the earlier one. It could be an error on the part of the Bills Office that they have not noted it. We will withdraw the amendment and bring it back if necessary.

Photo of Steven MatthewsSteven Matthews (Wicklow, Green Party)
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I will check on that.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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I move amendment No. 468:

In page 125, line 35, after “inspection” to insert “in both official languages”.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Photo of Cian O'CallaghanCian O'Callaghan (Dublin Bay North, Social Democrats)
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I move amendment No. 469:

In page 126, to delete lines 6 and 7 and substitute the following:
“(vi) (I) where the functional area to which the development plan relates includes a Limistéar Pleanála Teanga Gaeltachta or a Baile Seirbhíse Gaeltachta within the Gaeltacht,

Roinn na Gaeltachta and Údarás na Gaeltachta,

(II) where the functional area to which the development plan relates includes a Baile Seirbhíse Gaeltachta outside the Gaeltacht or a Líonra Gaeilge,Roinn na Gaeltachta

and Foras na Gaeilge,”.

Amendment put and declared lost.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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I move amendment No. 470:

In page 126, line 7, after “Gaeltachta,” to insert “Foras na Gaeilge, the Minister responsible for the Gaeltacht, Oifig an Choimisinéara Teanga, and any relevant Language Planning Officer,”.

Amendment put and declared lost.

Amendment No. 471 not moved.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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I move amendment No. 472:

In page 126, line 31, after “plan” to insert “and its publication in Irish”.

Amendment put and declared lost.

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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I move amendment No. 473:

In page 126, line 34, to delete “3 months” and substitute “12 weeks”.

Amendment agreed to.

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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I move amendment No. 474:

In page 126, line 35, to delete “3 months” and substitute “12 weeks”.

Amendment agreed to.

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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I move amendment No. 475:

In page 127, to delete lines 10 to 13 and substitute the following: “(20) A failure to comply with subsections (6), (10) and (11) of section 52 and subsections (1), (5), (6), (7), (8), (10), (12), (13) and (15) within the time period specified therein shall not of itself invalidate a development plan.”.

Amendment agreed to.

Question proposed: "That section 53, as amended, stand part of the Bill."

Photo of Steven MatthewsSteven Matthews (Wicklow, Green Party)
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Deputy Ó Broin has requested some clarifications on the section. Deputy O'Callaghan already raised a question on it as well. Is he satisfied?

Photo of Cian O'CallaghanCian O'Callaghan (Dublin Bay North, Social Democrats)
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Yes, I am satisfied.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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Some of these are technical clarifications and others might require a brief discussion. I will rattle through them all and we will deal with them one by one. In section 53(3)(b) there is a period for the OPR to make additional submissions, which is an additional two weeks. Why is the OPR being given more time than others?

There is a reference to 22 weeks in section 53(6). One of the issues I am trying to get my head around is at various stages of the Bill there are different time periods for different submission dates or decision dates. What is the logic of the 22 weeks in section 53(6)(a)?

There is a reference to 12 weeks in section 53(7)(b). Could the rationale for that time period be explained?

There is a reference to eight weeks in section 53(12)(a). Could that rationale could be explained?

I have a more substantive question ion section 53(12)(c)(ii) where it sets our roles for both the Minister and the OPR. Why are both included in that provision? What is the logic of that?

I have a question about section 53(20) which may be redundant because I think the Minister of State may have withdrawn the wording. I will ask the question and he can tell me if it is redundant. Section 53(20) states: "A person shall not question the validity of the development plan by reason only that the procedures as set [out in the various] ... subsections ... were not completed within the time required...".

I am keen to understand why this is there, what the import of it is and whether it is a new provision.

Photo of Steven MatthewsSteven Matthews (Wicklow, Green Party)
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Does the Minister of State wish to respond?

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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Apologies, but the reason I think that last question might be redundant, from memory, is an amendment was introduced at an earlier stage to amend these paragraphs. Is this paragraph one of those that was amended by the alternate wording? From memory it was but will the Minister of State clarify that so I can be certain?

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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I will go through the three different time periods first. We will have a note on the timelines prepared for the Deputy as well. The 22-week period is for managers to prepare reports on submissions and recommendations. Similarly, the 12 weeks-----

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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Apologies. That I know. That was the question I asked. There are different time periods at various stages, so I presume either in the context of the original Act or during the reconsideration of it, a decision was taken to either leave or change those time periods. I am trying to get my head around the particular time periods and if there is a kind of logic or consistency to them. In some cases, the OPR appears to gets more time and sometimes the public gets less time. There is clearly a reason why certain time periods have been chosen. It is really just to put that on the record.

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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The time periods were agreed in consultation with the OPR. They reflect the volume of material the manager had to go through with the 22-week period and the 12 weeks the members are given time to consider the manager's report. It is trying to encompass the scale of the submissions that come forward and the preparation of the recommendations in the draft plan. That is similar to the eight-week period for preparing the report on submissions. Again, it is just to allow sufficient time for the-----

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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To be clear with regard to the time periods relating to the OPR, there would have been discussion between officials and the OPR regarding what would be a reasonable time period to do that work.

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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Yes and with the local authorities as well.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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With the local authorities would that discussion have been with the County and City Management Association, CCMA, or with the Local Government Management Agency, LGMA?

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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Yes, the CCMA, and senior planners within the local authorities.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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Specifically on section 53(3)(b), the OPR is getting a bit more time than the Minister and the officials. Is that just reflective of those discussions as to who thinks they can do what within what reasonable period?

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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Yes, exactly.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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That is very helpful.

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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The Deputy also asked about the questioning of the validity of the development plan. The questioning cannot be done just because of the timeline. There have to be other reasons as well.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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This is not one of the paragraphs that is impacted by one of the earlier groups of amendments.

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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We have an amendment on this.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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This is captured by that earlier group of amendments.

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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Exactly.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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With regard to this particular section the impact of the amendment does not change the intention, it just clarifies the wording.

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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That is it.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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The Bill contains the phrase "A person shall not question the validity". I presume that is questioning the validity in a court of law. It is not necessarily a protection measure against judicial review; it is an attempt to try to focus the scope of potential to judicial reviews.

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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Yes. A person must have a reason other than just timelines in questioning the validity.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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If timelines had not been met or if they had been shortened or lengthened, that would not allow someone to legal question what is happening; it would have to be something of a more substantive nature.

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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Yes.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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The timelines are set out in statute. Does that mean they are not flexible?

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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No, they are not, but issues could arise.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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Like Covid-19, for example.

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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Exactly, yes.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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During Covid-19, emergency legislation was passed pausing various elements of the planning system. This general provision would mean such a thing would not necessarily have to be done; there would be flexibility within the organisation.

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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We would expect that all timelines would be met but again it is to cover any unforeseen eventuality that could occur.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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Covid is an obvious one. There is simply no way timelines could have been kept. Who gets to decide? For example, let us say I was a chief executive, I was particularly bad at my job and I just did not manage the process properly. Therefore, times were not kept for bad reasons as opposed to something specific like Covid. This provision, even with the new wording, does not specify criteria for why timelines should or should not be met. It is just that if they are not met, you cannot be challenged on that grounds, even if they were not met for bad reasons rather than good reasons like a public health emergency.

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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It is very unlikely that a situation would arise, but again it is to have cover for that eventuality. There would have to be very significant issues-----

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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Ultimately, a judge would have to decide whether the grounds were-----

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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Yes.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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Is the new formulation of words here, which obviously is new because it is an amendment on which we will vote, from the existing planning and development Act or is it a new formulation that has subsequently been revised in the amendment?

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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It is broadly the same.

Question put and agreed to.

SECTION 54

Photo of Cian O'CallaghanCian O'Callaghan (Dublin Bay North, Social Democrats)
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I move amendment No. 476:

In page 127, between lines 17 and 18, to insert the following: “(2) The chief executive of a planning authority shall, no later than 20 months after the making of a development plan, consult with the elected members and prescribed bodies on what is working well with the implementation of the Development Plan and on any issues or actions which need to be taken, and shall consult again prior to the production of the report on progress produced under subsection (3), and shall reflect the matters raised in the consultations in such report and give the input due consideration in any conclusions and recommendations made.”.

Amendment put:

The Committee divided: Tá, 3; Níl, 6.



Amendment declared lost.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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I move amendment No. 477:

In page 127, between lines 22 and 23, to insert the following: “(3) The chief executive shall consult the elected members, prescribed bodies and the public on the content of the interim implementation report.”.

Amendment put:

The Committee divided: Tá, 3; Níl, 6.



Amendment declared lost.

Photo of Cian O'CallaghanCian O'Callaghan (Dublin Bay North, Social Democrats)
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I move amendment No. 478:

In page 127, between lines 33 and 34, to insert the following: “(vii) (I) where the functional area to which the development plan relates includes a Limistéar Pleanála Teanga Gaeltachta or a Baile Seirbhíse Gaeltachta within the Gaeltacht, any relevant Language Plan agreed pursuant to Acht na Gaeltachta 2012,

(II) where the functional area to which the development plan relates includes a Baile Seirbhíse Gaeltachta outside the Gaeltacht or a Líonra Gaeilge, any relevant Language Plan agreed pursuant to Acht na Gaeltachta 2012,”.

Amendment put and declared lost.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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I move amendment No. 479:

In page 127, between lines 33 and 34, to insert the following: "(vii) any language plans agreed in accordance with the Gaeltacht Act 2012 relevant to a Gaeltacht Language Planning Area, Gaeltacht Service Town or Irish Language Network within the functional area to which the development plan relates,".

Amendment put and declared lost.

Amendments Nos. 480 and 481 not moved.

Photo of Cian O'CallaghanCian O'Callaghan (Dublin Bay North, Social Democrats)
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I move amendment No. 482:

In page 128, between lines 17 and 18, to insert the following: "(V) (A) where the functional area to which the development plan relates includes a Limistéar Pleanála Teanga Gaeltachta or a Baile Seirbhíse Gaeltachta within the Gaeltacht, any relevant Language Plan agreed pursuant to Acht na Gaeltachta 2012,

(B) where the functional area to which the development plan relates includes a Baile Seirbhíse Gaeltachta outside the Gaeltacht or a Líonra Gaeilge, any relevant Language Plan agreed pursuant to Acht na Gaeltachta 2012,".

Amendment put and declared lost.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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I move amendment No. 483:

In page 128, between lines 17 and 18, to insert the following: "(V) any language plans agreed in accordance with the Gaeltacht Act 2012 relevant to a Gaeltacht Language Planning Area, Gaeltacht Service Town or Irish Language Network within the functional area to which the development plan relates,".

Amendment put and declared lost.

Photo of Steven MatthewsSteven Matthews (Wicklow, Green Party)
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Question proposed: "That section 54 stand part of the Bill."

Photo of Steven MatthewsSteven Matthews (Wicklow, Green Party)
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Before we proceed, Deputy Ó Broin has a request for clarification.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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It is a clarification and a point for the Minister of State and his officials to consider between now and Report Stage. Section 55 deals with the chief executive's report on the adjustment of housing development strategies.

Photo of Steven MatthewsSteven Matthews (Wicklow, Green Party)
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We are on section 54.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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I apologise; I have got ahead of myself. I alert the Chair that I will also have a question on section 55 when we get to it.

Photo of Steven MatthewsSteven Matthews (Wicklow, Green Party)
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That is fine.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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This question relates to section 54(4). An issue came up with the elected representatives during pre-legislative scrutiny around why only the chief executive could propose a variation during the mid-term review. That is obviously the standard procedure at present but the Department and the Minister were being asked to consider those members who were not involved in the original development plan and may want to have a more formalised role.

I am asking that question with respect to section 54(4). Is my reading correct? It is only the chief executive who can propose a variation. If so, why was consideration not given to the request of elected councillors' representative bodies to broaden that?

Photo of Steven MatthewsSteven Matthews (Wicklow, Green Party)
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Deputy Higgins has a question on this.

Photo of Emer HigginsEmer Higgins (Dublin Mid West, Fine Gael)
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I thank the Chair. We had quite a lot of discussion about this in this committee, in particular in respect of the mid-year review. As we know, the chief executive can instigate change. I know some changes can be made to the development plan based on a two-thirds majority. I would be interested in finding out what, if any, of our feedback was taken on board on that. We know if these plans go to ten years in duration, which they will do, there will be a new tranche of councillors. It is important for local democracy that we hear their voice in this. I am interested in hearing the response of the Minister of State.

Photo of Paul McAuliffePaul McAuliffe (Dublin North West, Fianna Fail)
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We are trying to balance the desire for longer-term planning with the ability of, in particular, new councillors who might be elected in the second half of a development plan to have an input. There is also the question of the very necessary change in how a community might develop. I do not think it is unreasonable to suggest that a councillor, rather than just the chief executive, might be able to bring forward a motion. I do not think it undoes that balance. We are already making progress, which is one way of putting it, and providing a longer-term view by removing or extending the term of a development plan. This would help to add a check or balance to the process and give local councillors stronger powers. We should try to incorporate this, if not at this stage then in an amendment on Report Stage which reflects the discussion across parties on the committee.

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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The critical and overarching point is that the balance is given to not reopening the plan in its entirety. On Deputy Ó Broin's question on the interim report and section 54(4), that refers to the recommendations of the review for consideration by members. The Bill states that not later than five years after the making of a development plan, members of a planning authority shall consider the interim implementation report of the chief executive and, by resolution, propose to make or not make any such variation or recommendation by the chief executive. Separately, in terms of the variation of a development plan under section 56(3)(a), the members of the planning authority may at any time, by resolution, request the chief executive of the planning authority to prepare a report on a proposal by them to initiate a process to consider the variation of the development plan for the time being in force. It is for the members to-----

Photo of Emer HigginsEmer Higgins (Dublin Mid West, Fine Gael)
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Is a majority required for that?

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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I think it is usually a two-thirds majority.

Photo of Steven MatthewsSteven Matthews (Wicklow, Green Party)
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The Minister of State can get clarification on the two-thirds majority. I will then come back to Deputy Ó Broin.

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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It is by a simple majority of the members.

Photo of Emer HigginsEmer Higgins (Dublin Mid West, Fine Gael)
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I thank the Minister of State.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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I will make a suggestion and do not necessarily require a response, as I will come back to this on Report Stage. Notwithstanding the provisions of section 56(3)(a), in the context of the mid-term review there should be some mechanism to allow members to initiate the proposed changes. I appreciate that the Minister of State does not want to reopen the entire development plan process and, therefore, allow any member to make any proposed change. That would clearly be an issue. We discussed a mechanism when we debated section 52(10)(e), where there is a more restrictive way of allowing members to issue directions. Something not dissimilar to that could be useful in the case of a mid-term review.

All I am asking is for the Minister of State to look at it.

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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We can do that.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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I think that would strike the balance between what Deputies McAuliffe, Higgins and I were saying regarding the desire to not reopen the plan again. Clearly, that is not the purpose of the mid-term review.

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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I agree. We will give consideration to it.

Question put and agreed to.

SECTION 55

Photo of Paul McAuliffePaul McAuliffe (Dublin North West, Fianna Fail)
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I move amendment No. 484:

In page 129, line 8, after “market” to insert “or other considerations”.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Question proposed: "That section 55 stand part of the Bill".

Photo of Steven MatthewsSteven Matthews (Wicklow, Green Party)
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As we have gone over our allotted time, I will suspend until 1 p.m., when we will return to briefly discuss section 55.

Sitting suspended at 12.06 p.m. and resumed at 1 p.m.

Photo of Steven MatthewsSteven Matthews (Wicklow, Green Party)
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I welcome the Minister, Deputy Darragh O'Brien. We were about to agree section 55 before the break, but Deputy Ó Broin has a question seeking clarification on it.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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I thank the Chair and welcome the Minister. I have a question but also a suggestion for consideration by the Minister and his officials between now and Report Stage. As he knows, section 55 relates to the chief executive's report on adjustment of the housing development strategy. It reads:

The chief executive of a planning authority shall, where he or she considers that there has been a change in the housing market that significantly affects the housing development strategy, give a report ... to the members ...

My query relates to the fact that the section only refers to the housing market, which is generally understood to be the private housing market. However, other factors could give rise to a desire by a chief executive to propose amendments to the strategy, for example, targets could be missed or exceeded, or there could be census results or other information. Is the term "housing market" broad enough to cover those other factors? Is it something the Minister will consider looking at to see whether some other caveat is required in that section? This is so it is not strictly interpreted as just relating to changes in the price of houses, or the availability of private housing stock, etc.

Photo of Darragh O'BrienDarragh O'Brien (Dublin Fingal, Fianna Fail)
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I thank the Cathaoirleach and the Deputy. The term "housing market" refers to the full housing market, be it public or private, and all tenures of housing being delivered within a local authority area. One would also expect that would covers things such as changes in census results, which would be dealt with anyway. I assure the Deputy that the term "housing market" does not just relate to the private market. It could relate to changes within a local authority area, for example, provision of a new wastewater treatment plant or something like that, which increases capacity, or the other way. The section provides for a report to members of a local authority of things that would significantly affect the housing development strategy.

The definition is broad enough. The definition of "housing market" does not just speak to the private market. However, if the Deputy has any suggestions in that regard, I would be happy to look at them. If he believes that the definition needs to be further strengthened, I am open to looking at it. As a matter of record to the committee, I can say that the term "housing market" does not just relate to the private market; it relates to housing in that authority area.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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As the Minister was saying that, I looked at the definitions section to see if there is a definition of "private market".

Photo of Darragh O'BrienDarragh O'Brien (Dublin Fingal, Fianna Fail)
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There is not such a definition that I know of.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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I will not make a big deal of it. There does not need to be a long list. It might be that there is just some general provision. Maybe I will come back to it on Report Stage, but it might be no harm-----

Photo of Darragh O'BrienDarragh O'Brien (Dublin Fingal, Fianna Fail)
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If it is required, we could come back to it and include in brackets after the term "housing market", the phrase "all tenures or-----

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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-----or other matters or-----

Photo of Darragh O'BrienDarragh O'Brien (Dublin Fingal, Fianna Fail)
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We have got to try to define it as best as possible too so it is not open to other interpretations of what should be there. I am quite content with the existing definition in section 55, but, as I said, if members come back and indicate how we might be able to further clarify it, I am certainly to certainly having a look at it.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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From my point of view, it is about ensuring that all tenures are included.

Photo of Darragh O'BrienDarragh O'Brien (Dublin Fingal, Fianna Fail)
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I assure the Deputy that it does right now, but I get the point.

Question put and agreed to.

SECTION 56

Photo of Cian O'CallaghanCian O'Callaghan (Dublin Bay North, Social Democrats)
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I move amendment No. 485:

In page 130, to delete lines 14 and 15 and substitute the following:
“(vi) (I) where the functional area to which the development plan relates includes a Limistéar Pleanála Teanga Gaeltachta or a Baile Seirbhíse Gaeltachta within the Gaeltacht, Roinn na Gaeltachta and Údarás na Gaeltachta,

(II) where the functional area to which the development plan relates includes a Baile Seirbhíse Gaeltachta outside the Gaeltacht or a Líonra Gaeilge, Roinn na Gaeltachta and Foras na Gaeilge,”.

Amendment put and declared lost.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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I move amendment No. 486:

In page 130, line 15, after “Gaeltachta,” to insert “Foras na Gaeilge, the Minister responsible for the Gaeltacht, Oifig an Choimisinéara Teanga, and any relevant Language Planning Officer,”.

Amendment put and declared lost.

Amendments Nos. 487 to 494, inclusive, not moved.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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I move amendment No. 495:

In page 135, line 35, after "inspection" to insert "in both official languages".

I am surprised this amendment was not ruled out of order along with some of the preceding amendments. I will press it.

Amendment put and declared lost.

Photo of Cian O'CallaghanCian O'Callaghan (Dublin Bay North, Social Democrats)
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I move amendment No. 496:

In page 136, to delete lines 5 and 6 and substitute the following: "(vi) (I) where the functional area to which the development plan relates includes a Limistéar Pleanála Teanga Gaeltachta or a Baile Seirbhíse Gaeltachta within the Gaeltacht, Roinn na Gaeltachta and Údarás na Gaeltachta,

(II) where the functional area to which the development plan relates includes a Baile Seirbhíse Gaeltachta outside the Gaeltacht or a Líonra Gaeilge, Roinn na Gaeltachta and Foras na Gaeilge,".

Amendment put and declared lost.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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I move amendment No. 497:

In page 136, line 6, after "Gaeltachta," to insert "Foras na Gaeilge, the Minister responsible for the Gaeltacht, Oifig an Choimisinéara Teanga, and any relevant Language Planning Officer,".

Amendment put and declared lost.

Amendment No. 498 not moved.

Photo of Darragh O'BrienDarragh O'Brien (Dublin Fingal, Fianna Fail)
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I move amendment No. 499:

In page 136, to delete lines 20 to 23 and substitute the following: "(19) A failure to comply with subsection (3), (10), (11), (12), (13), (14), (15), (16) or (18) within the time period specified therein shall not of itself invalidate a variation of a development plan.".

Amendment agreed to.

Section 56, as amended, agreed to.

SECTION 57

Amendment No. 500 not moved.

Question proposed: "That section 57 stand part of the Bill."

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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I have a technical question on this section. The section relates to variations affecting settlement-specific objectives in an urban area or priority area plan. I do not understand why this section is separate from section 56. Is there a reason it is a stand-alone section? What is the import of its provisions being separate as opposed to being included in the general terms of the preceding section?

Photo of Darragh O'BrienDarragh O'Brien (Dublin Fingal, Fianna Fail)
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Section 56 deals with a standard variation of a development plan, whereas section 57 relates to a variation of settlement-specific objectives in urban area or priority area plans. Section 56 covers a variation in a development plan that relates to any matter within it. Section 57 deals with settlement-specific matters.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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To be clear, even though section 57 deals with what is also a variation to a development plan, because it would affect settlement-specific objectives in an urban area or priority area plan, it deserves a separate section.

Photo of Darragh O'BrienDarragh O'Brien (Dublin Fingal, Fianna Fail)
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Yes.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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That makes complete sense.

Question put and agreed to.

SECTION 58

Question proposed: "That section 58 stand part of the Bill."

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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This section deals with public rights of way. It appears to be a weakening of the current provisions requiring lists of public rights of way to be included in development plans as an automatic procedure. Will the Minister clarify what is different in section 58 from the current procedure for dealing with public rights of way in the existing Act? Depending on his response, I might have a couple of follow-on questions.

Photo of Darragh O'BrienDarragh O'Brien (Dublin Fingal, Fianna Fail)
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I refer members to page 27 of the explanatory memorandum to the Bill. Regarding section 58, it states:

This section restates section 14 of the Act of 2000 with modifications [which I understand are technical in nature]. This section addresses the procedure in respect of the inclusion of a provision in the development plan relating to the preservation of a specific public right of way. The section also addresses the status of a provision in the development plan relating to the right of way pending the outcome of any appeal and following the outcome of any appeal to the Circuit Court.

I do not think there are any significant differences between the provisions in section 58 and those in the existing legislation. If anything, the provisions on pages 137 and 138 of the Bill are more descriptive and prescriptive than what is set out on page 99 of the 2000 Act. Section 58 goes into more detail and outlines the procedure in a clearer way.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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My query is about what appears to be a weakening of the current provisions, notwithstanding the broader point the Minister makes. My understanding of the current procedure is that there is an obligation that there has to be a published list of rights of way in the development plan. This makes the publication or the inclusion of that list and individual rights within that list more discretionary. I have been speaking to some of the organisations which are involved in rights of way such as Keep Ireland Open, etc., and they have expressed some concern at what they perceive as – I will stand corrected if I am reading this wrong – a less clear instruction to local authorities to provide that list because obviously it is very important to do so.

Photo of Steven MatthewsSteven Matthews (Wicklow, Green Party)
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I will bring Deputy O'Callaghan in as he also has a question on this matter.

Photo of Cian O'CallaghanCian O'Callaghan (Dublin Bay North, Social Democrats)
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The key issue here is that under the current legislation local authorities are obliged to provide as part of the development plan process a list of public rights of way, whereas under this Bill they are no longer obliged to list public rights of way. I am not sure if it is section 58 where the change or the weakening of the provisions occurs or if it is elsewhere in the Bill. Could the Minister respond on that?

Photo of Darragh O'BrienDarragh O'Brien (Dublin Fingal, Fianna Fail)
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I genuinely do not see a weakening. If we look at section 58(10), it states:

Any provision relating to the preservation of a public right of way contained in a development plan continued in force under section 66 may be included in a subsequent development plan made under this Act without the necessity to comply with this section.

Section 58(11) states: "Nothing in this section shall affect the existence or validity of any public right of way which is not included in a development plan." So if one were missed, for argument's sake, the validity of the right of way is not affected. I will check the point about the listing of rights of way because section 58(12) states: "The inclusion of a public right of way in a development plan shall be evidence of the existence of such a right unless the contrary is shown." The word “shall” is used, and that is very clear. If I can get a moment to do so, I will just check about the listing of rights of way.

We can check this further, but from a reading of both the existing Act and the current Bill, there is a very clear reference to the issue in section 58(1) which states "notice of the proposed variation of the development plan under section 56, serve notice (which shall include particulars of the provision and a map indicating the right of way) of its intention". The introduction to that paragraph states:

Where a planning authority proposes to include a provision in a development plan relating to the preservation of a specific public right of way, it shall, prior to the publication of notice of the preparation of the draft development plan under section 53 or notice of the proposed variation of the development plan under section 56, serve notice (which shall include particulars of the provision and a map indicating the right of way) of its intention ...

That is pretty much word for word with section 14 of the Planning and Development Act 2000. If the Deputies have the current Act, they should look at page 98.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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I apologise, but to which section of the current Act does the Minister refer?

Photo of Darragh O'BrienDarragh O'Brien (Dublin Fingal, Fianna Fail)
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Section 14(1) on page 98.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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I will have a quick look.

Photo of Darragh O'BrienDarragh O'Brien (Dublin Fingal, Fianna Fail)
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It is pretty much word for word there, although it might be laid out differently. I do not see any difference.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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I apologise but could I have 30 seconds to check it? Did the Minister say section 14?

Photo of Darragh O'BrienDarragh O'Brien (Dublin Fingal, Fianna Fail)
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It is section 14(1) on page 98.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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It might be in section 14(5)(b) of the Act: "Where a development plan has been made under section 12 and the Court, having considered an appeal under subsection (4), decides that the public right of way exists, the proposed provision under this section shall be", but no, that is not it either.

Photo of Darragh O'BrienDarragh O'Brien (Dublin Fingal, Fianna Fail)
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That very thing is there as well.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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Rather than delaying further, I might return to this on Report Stage. I will have a further look at it.

Photo of Cian O'CallaghanCian O'Callaghan (Dublin Bay North, Social Democrats)
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An amendment to the 2000 Act, passed in July 2010, placed a legal obligation on a planning authority to include objectives for the preservation of public rights of way in development plans. This is to be done by "marking them on at least one of the maps forming part of the development plan and by indicating their location on a list appended to the development plan". This is in section 10(2)(o). This provision has been changed in this Bill to state that it “may” include objectives for preserving a specific public right of way.

Photo of Darragh O'BrienDarragh O'Brien (Dublin Fingal, Fianna Fail)
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To be helpful, I refer to section 58(1), which relates to the preparation of the draft development plan or the notice of proposed variations to development plans, which, it states, “shall include particulars of the provision and a map indicating the right of way”. That is very clear.

Photo of Cian O'CallaghanCian O'Callaghan (Dublin Bay North, Social Democrats)
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My point is that it states “shall” regarding where a planning authority proposes to include a provision in a development plan relating to the preservation of a specific public right of way, whereas the existing legislation places a legal obligation on planning authorities to include objectives for the preservation of public rights of way. That is why it is a dilution of the existing legislation. That is the issue.

Photo of Darragh O'BrienDarragh O'Brien (Dublin Fingal, Fianna Fail)
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I think this is covered in another section.

Photo of Cian O'CallaghanCian O'Callaghan (Dublin Bay North, Social Democrats)
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That is the issue.

Photo of Darragh O'BrienDarragh O'Brien (Dublin Fingal, Fianna Fail)
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Under section 49, which deals with the obligation to prepare objectives for management of areas, uses and structures, paragraph (g) refers to "preserving a specific public right of way, including a public right of way which gives access to any seashore, mountain, lakeshore, riverbank or other place of natural beauty or recreational utility." I genuinely do not see this as any sort of diminution or weakening of the existing Act.

Photo of Cian O'CallaghanCian O'Callaghan (Dublin Bay North, Social Democrats)
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It is because section 49(2) states that “a development management statement may include objectives for any of the following”, whereas the existing legislation obliges the local authority to include objectives for the preservation of public rights of way. It is not what is in section 49(2)(g) that is at issue; it is the introductory wording that is of significance.

Photo of Darragh O'BrienDarragh O'Brien (Dublin Fingal, Fianna Fail)
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I get the Deputy’s point but he is looking at section 49 in isolation, without section 58, which clearly states “shall”. I do not see any difficulty. They should be provided, and they are. If there were to be a perceived difference regarding what a local authority must do, that is made very clear under section 58. There may be an issue with the use of the word “may” and I can have a look at that.

Photo of Steven MatthewsSteven Matthews (Wicklow, Green Party)
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We have discussed section 49. We are on section 58 now.

Photo of Darragh O'BrienDarragh O'Brien (Dublin Fingal, Fianna Fail)
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I just went back to section 49-----

Photo of Cian O'CallaghanCian O'Callaghan (Dublin Bay North, Social Democrats)
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This relates to section 49, which is why-----

Photo of Steven MatthewsSteven Matthews (Wicklow, Green Party)
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I tabled an amendment to that section and the Minister stated he would look at this.

Photo of Darragh O'BrienDarragh O'Brien (Dublin Fingal, Fianna Fail)
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The Chair is right. In our discussion of section 49, we said we would look at that. Section 58 uses the word “shall”.

Photo of Cian O'CallaghanCian O'Callaghan (Dublin Bay North, Social Democrats)
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“Shall” is used in relation to where a planning authority proposes to do this. It is still optional. That is the point.

Photo of Darragh O'BrienDarragh O'Brien (Dublin Fingal, Fianna Fail)
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That is exactly the same as the wording used in the 2000 Act. It is the exact same wording as in section 14 of the existing Act, on page 98. To respond to the Chair’s point about section 49(2)(g), we did say we would look at the wording, and we will do so.

Question put and agreed to.

SECTION 59

Question proposed: “That section 59 stand part of the Bill”.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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Various reporting requirements are included in the process set out in section 59.

Has there been engagement with the OPR on the workload that will be required or the staffing requirements necessary to meet the additional reporting requirements of this section?

Photo of Darragh O'BrienDarragh O'Brien (Dublin Fingal, Fianna Fail)
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This relates to additional resources for the OPR, which is regularly discussed with the regulator, what will be an coimisiún pleanála and our planning authorities. There will be additional responsibilities for each of the arms of our planning system. In many instances, that will require additional resources and that absolutely has been discussed. The Deputy will have seen over the course of the two most recent budgets the increase in the provision for staffing in our planning authorities - the local authorities, An Bord Pleanála and the OPR.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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I accept that, although interestingly there was some recent public commentary about the difficulty the board has in retaining staff. While additional sanction has been provided, the board has not filled all of those positions. My question, however, is slightly different. Section 59(1) states: "Where the Minister issues or amends a National Planning Statement, each planning authority shall, within 2 months of the publication of National Planning Statement, submit a report to the Office of the Planning Regulator..." All local authorities, on foot of each of those national planning statements, of which there might only be one or two per year, now have an additional set of reporting requirements. We already know they are significantly understaffed. In the framing of these specific sets of requirements, has there been an assessment to determine if the local authorities currently have the capacity to do this? One obviously assumes that following the enactment of the Bill, national planning statements are going to come in one form or another. The County and City Management Association, CCMA, indicated previously that it is significantly under-resourced in its planning sections, notwithstanding the sanction for an additional 100 staff members. Its representatives spoke of a need for an additional 500 staff members to meet existing needs. These are significant additional requirements. The same applies to the OPR and elsewhere throughout the section. I am raising a concern that there are onerous reporting requirements. What happens if the resources are not made available or if they are, the staff cannot be recruited within the timelines set out?

Photo of Darragh O'BrienDarragh O'Brien (Dublin Fingal, Fianna Fail)
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To put the situation in context, we have the ministerial action plan, which is providing additional resources across all our planning authorities, including the OPR, local authorities and what will be an coimisiún pleanála. The Deputy is correct that many of these roles are specialised and we have a job to do to ensure we increase the pool of talent through third-level education and for people who are selecting jobs or who are looking to work within planning sections.

I will first deal with the example of the board. An Bord Pleanála has approval for approximately 50% more resources than it had two years ago. It is filling those roles but in some areas, for example in respect of the specialised marine planner, it takes time to find the right person with the required expertise and experience. I imagine there will always be some challenges in that regard.

The national planning statements are the new national guidelines. What were the guidelines are now planning statements. One is being replaced with another. It is right to set that timeframe because we want co-ordination across the board. We have had a good debate at the committee about national planning statements and why we believe they are crucial to the provision of the clarity we want across all future Government policy on planning.

We discuss the matter regularly with the CCMA and others. We have approved additional posts. We can get out the figure but I think we have shared with the committee the number of resources that have been approved and are in place across our planning authorities. There may well be requirements for more and the ministerial action plan is in place to consider what additional resources are needed. They have been sanctioned heretofore. There will in the coming years, particularly in specialised areas, be challenges, as there always are in an economy that has full employment. We see people moving between the local authority planning system, the board and the OPR and that type of thing. It is about ensuring that we provide those additional resources, which we are doing, and that we increase the pool of available talent.

There is also unquestionably a need to develop education and training initiatives to increase the availability of personnel.

Regarding the specific question about section 59(1), is it an additional burden, let us say, on the planning authorities? I do not believe it is. It is replacing one thing with another. We will always have to keep resources under review, as they are there. Obviously there will be a greater onus on planning authorities, particularly on an coimisiún pleanála, because it would have statutory timeframes in place that will have to be met. We want to provide certainty around timeframes for planning decisions, which I think all of us agree with because we want efficiency, and consistency of approach, which is why we have set it down to be within two months of the publication of a national statement. Any future government will have to keep abreast of resources in our planning authorities.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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I have a final comment separate to my overall objection to this section, which I will not repeat because we already discussed it. I wish to put the following on record. About half of the new planning staff the board has employed are coming from local authorities, which means that even with the additional sanctions for local authorities, they are not getting the same net increase they would have otherwise and certainly not getting what they need. I think this will cause the Minister, the Department and whoever is in government a real challenge. I just want to state that. It will mean that some of the additional plan-making requirements we are giving to local authorities, which are a good thing, could end up suffering because there can only be so many planning staff in the planning authority, they will have different functions and responsibilities, and something like this could end up distracting from some of that forward plan-making. I just want to state that as a concern.

Photo of Darragh O'BrienDarragh O'Brien (Dublin Fingal, Fianna Fail)
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Just by way of response – we do not want to debate back and forth – I understand the point Deputy Ó Broin is making. In the course of this session, I will give members the up-to-date resources figures. We had them before at a previous stage but within this as well.

It is telling that An Bord Pleanála, even with all the difficulties it had that we stabilised and rectified in the main, is still seen as an attractive job for people in the planning profession because it sits at the apex of our planning system, and that is a good thing. If someone looked back 18, 20 or 24 months ago to see whether it was, at that stage, a desirable place for people to work, many may have had a different view. This is certain from meeting new staff on the board, some of whom come from local authorities and others come from private practice. There is a good mix of that within An Bord Pleanála. It is good that it is still seen as a career advancement and as a desirable place to work now, even after all the difficulties we have managed to come through there.

During the course of this session, for the information of members, I will give them an idea of resources we have approved and what is filled.

Photo of Steven MatthewsSteven Matthews (Wicklow, Green Party)
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The committee is open to inviting the board back in again for an update. We had a good session with them a couple months ago.

Photo of Cian O'CallaghanCian O'Callaghan (Dublin Bay North, Social Democrats)
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Does "during the course of this session" mean this afternoon?

Photo of Darragh O'BrienDarragh O'Brien (Dublin Fingal, Fianna Fail)
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Yes, this afternoon. We have those figures, so if I can get them for members this afternoon, I will.

Photo of Cian O'CallaghanCian O'Callaghan (Dublin Bay North, Social Democrats)
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Will there be a breakdown per local authority?

Photo of Darragh O'BrienDarragh O'Brien (Dublin Fingal, Fianna Fail)
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Let us see what I get first. I will be able to give members the overall resources. Let us see what I can get for members this afternoon.

Photo of Cian O'CallaghanCian O'Callaghan (Dublin Bay North, Social Democrats)
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The reason I ask is because the Irish Planning Institute raised with me, for example, that in one local authority, only three out of 11 posts in the planning department had been filled. That is relevant to this because if there are only three planners out of 11 posts and there are additional workloads like this, how are they meant to do it? That is the exactly the point of----

Photo of Steven MatthewsSteven Matthews (Wicklow, Green Party)
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I would like to move on.

Photo of Darragh O'BrienDarragh O'Brien (Dublin Fingal, Fianna Fail)
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For a point of clarity on that, this is not an additional burden on a planning authority; rather, this replaces an existing procedure. However, the Deputy’s point is still valid. I will get members as up-to-date figures as I can on resourcing, what is approved and how many additional staff we have in place across the planning authorities.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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To be clear, is the Minister saying that currently when section 28 guidelines are issued, a planning authority has to report within two months in the same way as is required? I ask because this seems to be a new procedure.

Photo of Darragh O'BrienDarragh O'Brien (Dublin Fingal, Fianna Fail)
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It replaces the existing procedure. Every planning authority, when guidelines are issued, has to look at them. What we are doing now is ensuring that they are reporting back within two months.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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The reporting procedure within two months does not exist at present.

Photo of Darragh O'BrienDarragh O'Brien (Dublin Fingal, Fianna Fail)
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No, not the element of a reporting procedure.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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Okay.

Photo of Darragh O'BrienDarragh O'Brien (Dublin Fingal, Fianna Fail)
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However, any planning authority has to have regard to and work through guidelines that are issued. We are trying to ensure consistency of approach and certainty around the implementation of national policy. It is the same as setting a timeframe in respect of it. That is a reasonable thing to do. However, we will come back later on with the resources as best as we can.

Question put: "That section 59 stand part of the Bill."

The Committee divided: Tá, 6; Níl, 3.



Question declared carried.

SECTION 60

Amendment No. 501 not moved.

Question put:

The Committee divided: Tá, 6; Níl, 3.



Question declared carried.

SECTION 61

Photo of Cian O'CallaghanCian O'Callaghan (Dublin Bay North, Social Democrats)
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I move amendment No. 502:

In page 143, between lines 22 and 23, to insert the following:
“(v) (I) where the functional area to which the development plan relates includes a Limistéar Pleanála Teanga Gaeltachta or a Baile Seirbhíse Gaeltachta within the Gaeltacht, any relevant Language Plan agreed pursuant to Acht na Gaeltachta 2012,

(II) where the functional area to which the development plan relates includes a Baile Seirbhíse Gaeltachta outside the Gaeltacht or a Líonra Gaeilge, any relevant Language Plan agreed pursuant to Acht na Gaeltachta 2012.”.

Amendment put and declared lost.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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I move amendment No. 503:

In page 143, between lines 22 and 23, to insert the following:
“(v) any language plans agreed in accordance with the Gaeltacht Act 2012 relevant to a Gaeltacht Language Planning Area, Gaeltacht Service Town or Irish Language Network within the functional area to which the development plan relates.”

Amendment put and declared lost.

Amendment No. 504 not moved.

Photo of Cian O'CallaghanCian O'Callaghan (Dublin Bay North, Social Democrats)
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I move amendment No. 505:

In page 144, between lines 3 and 4, to insert the following:
“(h) (i) where the functional area to which the development plan relates includes a Limistéar Pleanála Teanga Gaeltachta or a Baile Seirbhíse Gaeltachta within the Gaeltacht, any relevant Language Plan agreed pursuant to Acht na Gaeltachta 2012,

(ii) where the functional area to which the development plan relates includes a Baile Seirbhíse Gaeltachta outside the Gaeltacht or a Líonra Gaeilge, any relevant Language Plan agreed pursuant to Acht na Gaeltachta 2012,”.

Amendment put and declared lost.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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I move amendment No. 506:

In page 144, between lines 3 and 4, to insert the following:
“(h) any language plans agreed in accordance with the Gaeltacht Act 2012 relevant to a Gaeltacht Language Planning Area, Gaeltacht Service Town or Irish Language Network within the functional area to which the development plan relates,”.

Amendment put and declared lost.

Photo of Darragh O'BrienDarragh O'Brien (Dublin Fingal, Fianna Fail)
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I move amendment No. 507:

In page 144, line 5, to delete “Regulator or the National Transport Authority” and substitute “Regulator, the National Transport Authority or any other body as may be prescribed,”.

Amendment agreed to.

Photo of Cian O'CallaghanCian O'Callaghan (Dublin Bay North, Social Democrats)
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I move amendment No. 508:

In page 144, between lines 26 and 27, to insert the following:
“(e) (i) where the functional area to which the development plan relates includes a Limistéar Pleanála Teanga Gaeltachta or a Baile Seirbhíse Gaeltachta within the Gaeltacht, any relevant Language Plan agreed pursuant to Acht na Gaeltachta 2012,
(ii) where the functional area to which the development plan relates includes a Baile Seirbhíse Gaeltachta outside the Gaeltacht or a Líonra Gaeilge, any relevant Language Plan agreed pursuant to Acht na Gaeltachta 2012,”.

Amendment put and declared lost.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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I move amendment No. 509:

In page 144, between lines 26 and 27, to insert the following:
“(e) any language plans agreed in accordance with the Gaeltacht Act 2012 relevant to a Gaeltacht Language Planning Area, Gaeltacht Service Town or Irish Language Network within the functional area to which the development plan relates,”.

Amendment put and declared lost.

Photo of Darragh O'BrienDarragh O'Brien (Dublin Fingal, Fianna Fail)
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I move amendment No. 510:

In page 144, line 40, to delete “simultaneously” and substitute “on the same day”.

Amendment agreed to.

Photo of Cian O'CallaghanCian O'Callaghan (Dublin Bay North, Social Democrats)
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I move amendment No. 511:

In page 145, between lines 25 and 26, to insert the following:
“(v) (I) where the functional area to which the development plan relates includes a Limistéar Pleanála Teanga Gaeltachta or a Baile Seirbhíse Gaeltachta within the Gaeltacht, any relevant Language Plan agreed pursuant to Acht na Gaeltachta 2012,

(II) where the functional area to which the development plan relates includes a Baile Seirbhíse Gaeltachta outside the Gaeltacht or a Líonra Gaeilge, any relevant Language Plan agreed pursuant to Acht na Gaeltachta 2012,”.

Amendment put and declared lost.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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I move amendment No. 512:

In page 145, between lines 25 and 26, to insert the following:
“(v) any language plans agreed in accordance with the Gaeltacht Act 2012 relevant to a Gaeltacht Language Planning Area, Gaeltacht Service Town or Irish Language Network within the functional area to which the development plan relates,”.

Amendment put and declared lost.

Question proposed: "That section 61, as amended, stand part of the Bill."

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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Section 61(2)(a) states: "The Minister may, at any time, request the Office of the Planning Regulator to carry out an assessment of a development plan." If we look at the overall architecture of the new relationship between the regulator and the development plan process, we can see that the regulator will be brought in at the very beginning before the elected members. The regulator has a role all the way through. The formal development plan process involves a series of mechanisms to issue draft directions and expedited revisions. Given all of that is proposed, what does section 61(2) mean? It seems to suggest that the Minister may require this at any other time. The entire process is unduly onerous but this seems to add another layer to it. I cannot think of another point where the OPR is not already being given a formal role. What is envisaged here? I presume there is some logic to it.

Photo of Darragh O'BrienDarragh O'Brien (Dublin Fingal, Fianna Fail)
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It is a kind of saver provision; a catch-all just in case it would be required. It is not just the Minister. Section 61(2)(d) states: "The Office of the Planning Regulator may, at any time, of its own initiative and for stated reasons, carry out an assessment of a development plan in accordance with subsections (3) and (4)." That is a good thing. The independent Planning Regulator may decide it is appropriate to carry out an assessment of a development plan, but they must state their reasons, which can be done. It is not just the Minister at any time. It is not a catch-all provision; it is an in-case provision if something was to come up outside what is already stated to provide the legal ability for that to happen. It could be a controversy or whatever. It could be a new development, a big FDI investment in a county or a local authority looking to vary a plan, but the OPR may want to look at that or a Minister may want to instruct the OPR to assess it. It is a saver provision. It works for both and either the Minister requesting the OPR to do it or the OPR doing it of its own volition.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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Correct me if I wrong, but if there was a variation of the plan, surely the OPR would already be involved in the process because that is already set out? I said this at a session at which the Minister may not have been present. The work the OPR has done in respect of the current round of development plans has been very positive. It has an even more involved role. However, I am not so sure any of it is necessary, given that the first round of development plans in which it has been involved has proven quite successful. There is no aspect of a development of which the OPR will not already have had detailed, intimate knowledge and involvement in up to and after the final approval, subject to whether there is a draft direction, a ministerial order, etc. The OPR already has a role in any material alteration. Someone, somewhere must have thought something might require this. Will the Minister provide clarity on that?

Photo of Darragh O'BrienDarragh O'Brien (Dublin Fingal, Fianna Fail)
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In the context of all the things the Deputy, other members and I can think of, we have outlined in the Bill what the process will be in either allowing the Minister or the OPR, as I said, to initiate an assessment.

It could be for an unforeseen circumstance, and it is better that the saver provision is there. I would not expect it to be widely used, but it could be for an unforeseen reason that the OPR deems it necessary to assess a development plan. The Deputy is correct in saying that if there is a variation or material contravention, it would go u to the office. However, it is just using it on the basis of a saver provision if there is an unforeseen circumstance that all of us present cannot identify at this stage. It is for the future. This is generational legislation, and the aim is to provide the ability for that to happen. I do not envisage these additional ones to be overly onerous on the OPR, but it provides the ability for that to happen should there be an event that requires it.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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There is a level of overreach in the provisions relating to the OPR. This subsection is part of that. First, it is entirely unnecessary but it will also cause problems further down the line. I hear the Minister's argument very clearly, but I certainly do not accept it. I will still be opposing this section.

Photo of Darragh O'BrienDarragh O'Brien (Dublin Fingal, Fianna Fail)
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That is fine. You or I might not be able to foresee a circumstance here today, but we must at lease make provision. I do not see what the difficulty would be in the OPR, which is independent, being given the option of initiating an assessment a development plan. I do not envisage the OPR doing it that often, or maybe at all, but if I were to remove that option - I know it is not in the current system - I might be accused in some way of trying to reduce the office's ability to look into development plans. While the Deputy is correct in stating that it has done this through all of the various development plan cycles, and the office has done its work very well heretofore, provision is being made just in case something were to come up in order that a future Minister would not have to come before the Oireachtas to seek an amendment to the legislation to provide for an assessment to be done outside of a variation, a material contravention or a development plan.

Question put:

The Committee divided: Tá, 6; Níl, 3.



Question declared carried.

SECTION 62

Photo of Steven MatthewsSteven Matthews (Wicklow, Green Party)
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Amendments No. 513, 527 and 573 are related and may be discussed together. Amendments Nos. 513 and 573 in this grouping are in my name. I will move amendment No. 513 in order that we can speak to the grouping. Deputy O'Callaghan may then speak to amendment No. 527.

Deputy Paul McAuliffe took the Chair.

Photo of Steven MatthewsSteven Matthews (Wicklow, Green Party)
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I move amendment No. 513:

In page 147, between lines 26 and 27, to insert the following: “(5) Where a planning authority or the Board is temporarily precluded from determining an application, subject to subsection (4), the statutory timeline for decision making shall be suspended for that period.”.

Photo of Cian O'CallaghanCian O'Callaghan (Dublin Bay North, Social Democrats)
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Amendment No. 527 relates to section 65, which deals with an urgent direction requiring a chief executive to vary development plans. I have two issues with this. The first is the level of discretion afforded to the Minister and the Government in deciding what sort of event or situation would justify giving the Minister the power to issue an urgent direction. The wording is not well defined. It refers to the Minister being satisfied that "an event or situation with significant national, regional or strategic implications has occurred or is likely to occur". It is quite broad and sweeping in terms of how a Minister might decide to exercise that or not. That is why I am seeking for the Bill to provide that the Minister would issue a "draft urgent direction", rather than an "urgent direction".

The second issue is that section 65(4) seems to empower the chief executive to vary the development plan without recourse to, or oversight or input from, the elected members. Will the Minister address that point? Is there any provision in this for a role for the elected members or is it simply that the Minister can issue an urgent direction, the chief executive replies and that is the end of the process, without input from democratic structures? It is laid before each House of the Oireachtas by the Minister within three working days of the direction being issued but that seems to be it in terms of oversight. I am concerned about that aspect of it.

Photo of Darragh O'BrienDarragh O'Brien (Dublin Fingal, Fianna Fail)
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On the interaction with elected members, I take the Deputy's point and have some sympathy. As Deputies can see, we have detailed what the Minister shall do before issuing an urgent direction. Section 65(4), in paragraphs (a) to (d), lists what the Minister shall do and that includes consulting the OPR and so on. I understand the point about elected members of a local authority. We have to make sure that is sufficient. Having said that, I do not envision this being used in a widespread way. One would have thought it would be a rare enough occasion. As I said, an urgent direction would apply to "an event or situation with significant national, regional or strategic implications has occurred or is likely to occur". One would expect that would be in extremis but, having said that, I am content to look at what role the local authority would have within that. The Minister would still issue the urgent direction but before doing so, there would be consultation with the relevant local authority. I will look at that in advance of Report Stage.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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These sections of the Bill are really problematic. We have gone from a situation where, prior to the establishment of the Office of the Planning Regulator and the SPPRs, local authorities had a wide berth - one could argue it was too broad - with regard to development plans. We then had the SPPRs, the Office of the Planning Regulator and the process by which the planning regulator tries to achieve consistency through previous legislation, as the Minister has outlined. We then have layer upon layer of what can only be described as draconian procedures to remove any discretion or scope for democratically elected members to have some variance, within the principles of subsidiarity as they would be properly applied. Enforcement would be a polite way to describe all of these draconian mechanisms, which are to enforce significant changes to the plans of local authorities. These would often be plans that have already been under significant scrutiny.

With respect to Deputy O'Callaghan's question, I am not sure if there is any role for the elected members in this procedure. There is also no role for the Oireachtas or the Government. It is really the role of the Minister, on foot of recommendations from the planning regulator. Apart from the gaping democratic deficit that runs through all of these amendments, it also raises the question of why councillors and a development plan are needed when there is this level of centralisation. How robust will it stand against legal challenge if, for example, this procedure is used and elected members have no say whatsoever in the final change to the development plan? I said this when we dealt with amendments to other stages in the process so I will not labour the point, but we are going down a very dangerous route. A balance has to be struck between allowing local authorities a level of subsidiarity and allowing elected members a level of democratic responsiveness to the people who elect them, while at the same time operating in the context of national planning policy and planning law set by the Oireachtas. I think we have gone so far to the other side that it is antithetical to good plan-making. It will also end up in real difficulty.

This amendment is just one small attempt to undo some of that damage. I think fundamentally that these sections of the Bill should not proceed and do not belong in a modern, 21st century plan-led code. If I were an elected member or a director of planning looking at this, I would be thinking about what my role now is. As it is, when I was engaging with directors of service in a number of local authorities during the last development plan review, they said it was the most restrictive development plan review they had ever experienced. That was before all of this is in place. I want to sound the alarm about all of these procedures.

The amendment is, in a small way, trying to redress the balance, albeit in the one section, that is, section 65, to which it pertains.

Photo of Paul McAuliffePaul McAuliffe (Dublin North West, Fianna Fail)
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Does Deputy O'Callaghan wish to speak on this point or on his amendment?

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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We are both talking to the same amendment.

Photo of Paul McAuliffePaul McAuliffe (Dublin North West, Fianna Fail)
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Do you want to come it at this point in advance of the Minister?

Photo of Cian O'CallaghanCian O'Callaghan (Dublin Bay North, Social Democrats)
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I have one question on this. I share the concerns about these sections of the Bill. The Bill places a huge amount of power in the hands of the Minister and creates, in terms of the Office of the Planning Regulator, a range of additional inputs. From national planning statements being issued to the role of the Office of the Planning Regulator, the role of elected members is being massively reduced while the role and powers of the Minister and the Office of the Planning Regulator are being massively increased. My question on that and subsidiarity is whether any analysis of that has been done. Is there any evidence base behind doing this? My overall concern is that when we concentrate a lot of power in the hands of a small number of individuals, whether it is the planning process or anything else, sooner or later that tends to go wrong. Is there any evidence base informing the changes in section 65? Where is it coming from?

Photo of Steven MatthewsSteven Matthews (Wicklow, Green Party)
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Have we completed the debate on amendment No. 527?

Photo of Paul McAuliffePaul McAuliffe (Dublin North West, Fianna Fail)
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Let us speak to the group and the Minister can reply.

Photo of Darragh O'BrienDarragh O'Brien (Dublin Fingal, Fianna Fail)
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I have not responded to Deputy Matthews. Deputy Gould has indicated on this point. I might come in on the points raised by colleagues, and we can then deal with Deputy-----

Photo of Paul McAuliffePaul McAuliffe (Dublin North West, Fianna Fail)
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Deputy Gould on this point, and we will take Deputy Matthews separately.

Photo of Thomas GouldThomas Gould (Cork North Central, Sinn Fein)
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I will not go over what my colleagues have said. Last week I expressed my concerns about local democracy and taking away powers from councillors. There have been huge changes in local authorities from when I became a councillor in 2009 to now. I am concerned about any reduction in the power or ability of councillors to have a say. In his response, the Minister might explain the reason for the change. I am concerned that representatives, such as councillors, are elected locally and we want a democratic voice to be heard in the planning process. I ask the Minister to take this on board. It is to be hoped he will enlighten us on this point. I do not think the Minister wants to remove democracy from local government in this Bill. Unfortunately, that appears to be what will happen as a result of section 65.

Photo of Darragh O'BrienDarragh O'Brien (Dublin Fingal, Fianna Fail)
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I thank members for their contributions. This is balanced. I assure the Deputy that the Bill is not draconian. In no way or shape is there an intention to take councillors out of the process. I point him to section 65(1)(a) and (b) which contain the specific criteria which will be used. Paragraph (b) refers to where "it is necessary for the Government to take action as a matter of urgency for the purposes of dealing with the implications or likely implications of the event or situation concerned". What could that possibly be? It could be a national emergency or another pandemic. It could be giving that power to a future Minister, following consultation, before issuing a direction.

As I said, this refers to a situation in extremis. It certainly does not reach into the development plan process or in any way try to diminish the role of councillors. As I said in response to Deputy O'Callaghan, regarding the consultation piece under subsection (4), it is stated "Before issuing an urgent direction, the Minister shall". I am more than content to be clear as to where the elected members would be.

In early 2020 or 2019, pre-pandemic, there were certain things that this country had to do that we never thought we would have to do because of unforeseen events and a national emergency. There could be a national emergency regarding flooding or whatever else. This section refers to where it may necessary for the Government to take action. I am not being facetious, but this would not be a provision that would be used by a Government stating we need to put a rural cluster in an area in west Cork.

We are talking about where "an event or situation with significant national, regional or strategic implications has occurred". Let us consider what the State had to do post Brexit, for argument's sake, regarding the provision there. This is a measure that I believe is required and is appropriate to be there, allowing a Minister and a government to issue urgent direction, which would only happen in extremis. For clarity, I reiterate that regarding consultation with elected members, unless it is a national plan, if it is specific to a local authority area, before issuing the direction listed there from (4)(a) to (d)-----

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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Which section?

Photo of Darragh O'BrienDarragh O'Brien (Dublin Fingal, Fianna Fail)
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I refer to section 65(4). It states:

Before issuing an urgent direction, the Minister shall— (a) consult the Office of the Planning Regulator,

In response to Deputy O'Callaghan's point and maybe Deputy Ó Broin's also, this is not initiated by the OPR. This is not an extra thing we are asking the OPR to do. Regarding section 65(4), requiring the Minister to consult, I will certainly come back on Report Stage regarding the local elected members. That would be appropriate.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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My colleague Deputy Gould has been too generous. The precise function of these sections of the Bill is to further weaken and undermine the role of local government - not just the elected members but also the executive. As Deputy O'Callaghan has said, there is no way of reading these sections other than interpreting them as taking a system which is already heavily centralised - one of the most centralised systems if not the most centralised system of governance in Europe - and further centralising it. There is increasingly less scope for local authorities, their executives and their elected members to really shape these development plans.

Why is that important? It is important because the electorate could decide to choose a different complexion of elected members in a certain area and they would like to see that reflected in the development plan. I have always considered that in the interrelationship between local government and central government, particularly in these matters, local government should set the floor, the minimum standards which should be very high in various ways, but there needs to be scope for the local authorities to raise the bar, raise the standards or have variations that reflect the democratically expressed wishes of their populations. All of this is designed to limit that.

There are real world examples. For example, when SHD was introduced, there were two driving factors. There was concern that the good people of Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown had a tendency to elect folks who had a more green and environmental complexion in their politics and that filtered its way through the development plan. There were particular elements of the development plan that developers did not like and they wanted to challenge them. Dublin City Council, because it was trying to ensure proper planning and mixed family sizes in its urban core, wanted different standards of apartment size, one-bedroom, two-bedroom and three-bedroom apartments, to accommodate different family sizes.

All of this is the latest element of trying to squeeze that ability out of our local government system to make those kinds of variations. It is the latest in a series of iterations of that. Each iteration fails. The section 28 guidelines failed; the SHDs failed and we have come back with this.

I wish to respond specifically to what the Minister said. The section states:

(1) This section applies where the Minister is satisfied that— (a) an event or situation with significant national, regional or strategic implications has occurred or is likely to occur ...".

While I accept that, the Minister gets to decide. That is very wide and broad. The two examples he gave, of Covid and Brexit, do not need this. He is absolutely right that the Covid pandemic meant we needed to do things we would not have otherwise done in a very timely fashion. Changes to exempted development requirements were put through the House with co-operation from this side as well as from the Government. Within the existing legislative planning framework, we can deal with those things but changing a development plan is not responding to an immediate emergency.

It is making a more fundamental change to the planning code in a particular area. I do not see how the Minister could say that is anything but draconian, centralising, and antithetical to local democracy and the principles of subsidiarity. None of that is an argument against consistency. It is just a question of where is the line. Where does the role and responsibility of central government begin and end, and where does the role of local government begin and end? Increasingly, all local government does is it takes policy direction and instruction and, ultimately, if it is not willing to take it, it gets enforced.

I reiterate that the amendment is very simple and straightforward - I will not repeat it - but these really are very damaging structural changes to our planning system and they will not work. We will be back here at some point in the future if they are passed and enacted, having to undo this latest round of damage, like we had to do with SHDs, mandatory ministerial guidelines and specific planning policy requirements, SPPRs, etc. That means we are not learning from the failures of the previous attempts to do these kinds of things.

The great thing is that when councillors from the Minister's party start to fully understand the implications of this change, when this becomes the law, they will be up in arms, just like they were when they fully understood the implications of SHDs, on which Fianna Fáil abstained when the party was in opposition. I urge Members to be mindful of that. We had good presentations from elected members and local authorities. We are not against the idea of consistency. I am not against the idea of national government setting national policy and law but subsidiarity just dissolves and disappears in all of this. It is deeply problematic. I do not understand why the Minister would want to be the one to implement these very damaging changes to our planning system. They are really inappropriate and will come back to cause significant damage in the future.

Photo of Darragh O'BrienDarragh O'Brien (Dublin Fingal, Fianna Fail)
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We are speaking specifically about the amendment. I am conscious that Deputy Matthews is absent. We can go back and forth on this. A very high bar has been set here. It is certainly not a diminution of responsibilities for local authority members. I came from a local authority myself and I have a high regard for local authorities and the input local authority members have. That is why the development plan is their reserved function.

We must read paragraphs (a) and (b) of section 65(1) together and look at the bar that is set there. It is not the case that a Minister could just wake up one morning and decide to issue an urgent direction. This would be in extreme cases where it is seen as an absolute imperative for the Government of the day to respond and take action as a matter of urgency for the purpose of dealing with implications, for example, to protect certain elements of strategic importance to the State. It could also be for whatever other reason, but the bar is set very high here.

I respectfully disagree with Deputy Ó Broin's assessment that it is a centralised power grab. It is not that at all. What it is doing is providing for a legal basis, should a threat or an urgent situation develop, so that the Government of the day can respond in the timely and efficient way that would be needed in instances where there could be an urgent matter that would be likely to have serious implications for the State or a region.

Deputy Ó Broin used the example of SHDs. For the record, I abolished SHDs because I believe in a two-stage planning process. This whole Bill is about a plan-led approach. These are provisions that allow the State to respond in an urgent way should a situation arise that warrants it. All of us hope it would not, but it is important that the provision is there for that to happen, should it be required.

I will reflect as well on what Deputy O'Callaghan has said about section 65(4) regarding consultation before an urgent direction is issued. If that was on a local authority basis, in the sense that it just affected one local authority, we would provide for consultation in that regard.

It could be on a regional basis or it could be a national basis but this provision is appropriate and is required in the sense that although it is legally required, one hopes one would rarely, if ever, have to use it. It is prudent it is there and is in place. For those reasons I am not in a position to accept amendment No. 527.

Photo of Cian O'CallaghanCian O'Callaghan (Dublin Bay North, Social Democrats)
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There is a question I want to ask but the Minister has backtracked a bit there because in his previous response he said that if it was on a regional basis he would look at roles of elected members but not if it was a national basis. Now he has said if it is on a single authority basis-----

Photo of Darragh O'BrienDarragh O'Brien (Dublin Fingal, Fianna Fail)
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I was trying to give-----

Photo of Cian O'CallaghanCian O'Callaghan (Dublin Bay North, Social Democrats)
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-----that he would look at the roles but not on a regional basis.

Photo of Darragh O'BrienDarragh O'Brien (Dublin Fingal, Fianna Fail)
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Say for argument's sake it is five local authorities, for example, coastal local authorities in the north east or the north west. One would have to look at how the local authorities are grouped there in that regard and what level of consultation would be there with regard to affected counties. As I said to the Deputy, in trying to be constructive on this and taking the main purpose of the Deputy's point, we would ensure there is consultation with local elected members in whatever forum is required, just for clarity. As I have said, I have already explained the reason. I will look at that and I will revert on that piece under subsection (4) in advance of Committee Stage but I am not accepting the amendment as it is tabled.

Photo of Cian O'CallaghanCian O'Callaghan (Dublin Bay North, Social Democrats)
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I have a question on that but first have a comment. Section 65(1)(a) is very broad, as I said previously. It is open to a lot of interpretation as to when an event with significant, national, regional or strategic implications has occurred or is likely to occur. There are lots of different ways that can be interpreted. This comment is just before I ask my question, because the Minister is dying to get in.

Photo of Darragh O'BrienDarragh O'Brien (Dublin Fingal, Fianna Fail)
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I am because as I said already - the Deputy may not have heard me or misheard me - that one cannot read section 65(1)(a) in isolation. It is paragraph (a) and paragraph (b). This section applies "where the Minister is satisfied that-----" the provisions in paragraph (a) and paragraph (b) and paragraph (c) are met. It is not the provision in paragraph (a) in isolation. One cannot read that in isolation, because all provisions are relevant.

Photo of Cian O'CallaghanCian O'Callaghan (Dublin Bay North, Social Democrats)
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Sure. I get that. I am concerned, however, about the part of it that is very broad.

Photo of Darragh O'BrienDarragh O'Brien (Dublin Fingal, Fianna Fail)
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When the Deputy reads them together-----

Photo of Cian O'CallaghanCian O'Callaghan (Dublin Bay North, Social Democrats)
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It is that part, however, which is broad even when reading them together. This is what I am concerned with.

I will go on to my question. Is this the first time there has been a legislative provision like this where there is potential to vary the development plan without any role for the elected members? Have there been legislative provisions relating to that previously?

Photo of Darragh O'BrienDarragh O'Brien (Dublin Fingal, Fianna Fail)
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To be helpful, on page 29 of the explanatory memorandum it clearly states "This section is a new provision that empowers the Minister [and this is important] with the approval of the Government, to issue an urgent direction to the chief executive of a planning authority to amend the development plan within a specified period for the purpose of making provision for, or in connection with, a class of infrastructure or other development of national or strategic importance at a location specified in the direction or at a location to be specified by the chief executive of the planning authority." So yes, it is a new provision.

Photo of Cian O'CallaghanCian O'Callaghan (Dublin Bay North, Social Democrats)
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I am aware it is a new provision, sorry-----

Photo of Darragh O'BrienDarragh O'Brien (Dublin Fingal, Fianna Fail)
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The Deputy asked me the question.

Photo of Cian O'CallaghanCian O'Callaghan (Dublin Bay North, Social Democrats)
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My question was whether this is the first time ever we have had a legislative provision where a development plan can be varied without any role for elected members?

Photo of Darragh O'BrienDarragh O'Brien (Dublin Fingal, Fianna Fail)
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As I have said-----

Photo of Cian O'CallaghanCian O'Callaghan (Dublin Bay North, Social Democrats)
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Is this a new departure? Up until now the making of development plans - the making of them, preparing them and varying of them - always involved elected members. Is this the first time ever we will now have provisions where a development plan can be varied without a role for elected members?

Photo of Darragh O'BrienDarragh O'Brien (Dublin Fingal, Fianna Fail)
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Deputy O'Callaghan is saying that on the basis of-----

Photo of Cian O'CallaghanCian O'Callaghan (Dublin Bay North, Social Democrats)
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This is the question.

Photo of Darragh O'BrienDarragh O'Brien (Dublin Fingal, Fianna Fail)
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I know. I will answer the Deputy's question. Let me give it a bit of context here. The reality is that one cannot put that question in isolation. Asked in isolation, it is not given the context of when this event would occur. When such a situation would occur is clearly outlined in paragraphs (a) and (b). This would be potentially an extreme event where the State has to respond and a government has to respond with the approval of the Government. The committee will get what we are talking about here. This could be a national emergency where a response is needed and required. All other elements of the development plan, like normal development plans, would absolutely proceed. The role of councillors would absolutely proceed. The Deputy will see that it is outlined there very clearly how that would work. This is a new provision.

It would allow a government to issue an urgent direction to vary a development plan. It is the correct and prudent provision to have. The Deputy is presenting this on the basis that he thinks it is something that I am going to use, or any future Minister is going to use, on an ongoing basis and go back to the government of the day and say this or that is urgent. A very high bar is set for this. We must plan for the future. We have rightly talked at length about the climate challenge we have as a State, a continent and a world. There may be elements of the climate crisis to which the State must adapt and that requires it to act very quickly to events or national emergencies. This provision is absolutely appropriate. It is correct to include it and it should be there. Including something such as this, a provision that would be used in very extreme cases where the State or a region of it has a specific emergency, is the right and proper thing to do.

Photo of Cian O'CallaghanCian O'Callaghan (Dublin Bay North, Social Democrats)
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The issue is that we do have a climate emergency and biodiversity, housing and homelessness crises. We do not now, but at other times we have had economic and unemployment crises. All of those are important but any of them could fit in with section 65(1)(a) or 65(1)(b). The Government may feel the need to take action as a matter of urgency on any of those issues. The section covers an enormous amount of things and circumstances in which it could be used. The Minister could then vary the development plan and consult the OPR, and there would be no role for elected members.

Photo of Darragh O'BrienDarragh O'Brien (Dublin Fingal, Fianna Fail)
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I respectfully disagree with the Deputy's interpretation. The section clearly sets out that it applies where the Minister is satisfied in the case of "an event or situation". Section 65(1)(b) refers to circumstances in which "it is necessary for the Government to take action as a matter of urgency". For the sake of everyone else who is listening, so we are not just repeating ourselves, I have been abundantly clear as to what the section would be used for. Those are very specific criteria. For anyone who takes the leap to imagine that this provision would be used to direct how each development plan would be used to deliver housing, for argument's sake, or schools or something else, that is absolutely not the intention. I have also said that I will consider section 65(4) and come back on Report Stage in respect of the consultation with elected members in the very rare event this section is used.

Photo of Paul McAuliffePaul McAuliffe (Dublin North West, Fianna Fail)
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Deputies Ó Broin and Gould have indicated. We are covering areas that we have already discussed at length. Perhaps these will be the last contributions from Deputies Gould and Ó Broin and we will then move on.

Photo of Thomas GouldThomas Gould (Cork North Central, Sinn Fein)
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I will follow on from what Deputy O'Callaghan has said and the Minister's response. The Minister said the section will only be used in national emergencies and extreme cases but the worry is the wording. He also said that this would not be used on an ongoing basis but the problem is that the section has been included, which gives additional powers to Ministers and the Government. That could potentially ride roughshod over local authorities and local councillors without their having an input. The Minister made the point that this is a new provision. He is trying to bring in future-proofed legislation but the concern is that while it might future-proof the decisions of Ministers or a government, it might remove powers from local authorities, especially councillors. Deputies O'Callaghan and Ó Broin have made genuine points and outlined them clearly. I hear what the Minister is saying but I have seen the diminishment of power in local government over the past 20 years. This section looks like it might take another notch from local government and local democracy.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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I will make a final comment because I appreciate what the Acting Chairman said, although these are important sections. I will make a final appeal to the Minister. I know he is not going to accept the amendment but I want him to consider the following argument after this meeting and during the final passage of the Bill. We are having a similar conversation to the one this committee had in 2017 when the strategic housing development, SHD, legislation was being passed. The Minister is correct that he introduced large-scale residential development, which abolished the SHDs, and we supported that legislation notwithstanding some of its deficiencies.

We made very similar points when the Minister's predecessor, Deputy Cowen, was the Fianna Fáil spokesperson for housing. He was on the committee at the time. We urged them to consider the points we were making. If the Minister’s predecessor and his own party had listened to us at that stage, they would not have had to abolish the SHD, because we tabled amendments that would have maintained a two-stage process and all the damage that was done to our planning system as a result of Fine Gael’s refusal to amend the SHD legislation, as well as Fianna Fáil’s abstentions on those amendments, could have been avoided. Most of us here experienced that.

There is a problem with the interrelationship between sections 62 and 65 because, as I read it, particularly with respect to regional strategic implications, it could include, for example, a ring road in Galway, a data centre in Athenry or a cheese processing plant in Kilkenny, based on the argument that those things are of regional or strategic importance. All three of those things, it could be argued, would have huge regional and strategic importance.

I know the Minister keeps using the word “extreme” but it is not in the Bill, and we have to deal with the text that is before us. We also have to deal with the possibility of other governments, parties and Ministers that might take a progressive view of these measures. By repeatedly suggesting this is only for extreme national emergencies such as Covid, the Minister is actually downplaying the range of other uses of these functions, which I think are very serious.

I agree with the Minister on one point. I know he is not talking about individual housing developments, schools, etc., but the regional and strategic implications. What would happen if there was a clash? The Galway ring road is a good case in point. I have no view on the matter. It is not my constituency and I will not weigh into a controversy, but there are clear strategic and regional tensions there between something that has environmental implications versus personal employment implications. There are arguments on both sides. This particular provision could be used to come down on the side of either one or the other, irrespective of the views of local communities, democratically elected representatives, etc.

This provision is far too broad and wide. It is not as narrow or as exceptional as the Minister presents it, and I think he is using that case to try to strengthen his argument. In reality, it has much broader applications and implications. I urge him to at least consider that at a later stage as he goes through this, because the consequences could be very significant if he proceeds with it as it is outlined.

Photo of Richard Boyd BarrettRichard Boyd Barrett (Dún Laoghaire, People Before Profit Alliance)
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I share these concerns. The Minister will be familiar with the idea of the shock doctrine, as outlined in Naomi Klein’s very good book. This is about how emergency and disaster situations are used to push through changes that undermine democracy. I have to be honest and say that I fear there is more than a bit of this here.

This is to vary a development plan based on an approval by the Government and the Minister but not the Oireachtas. It essentially cites a series of wide-ranging reasons the central Government, based on emergency considerations, could vary a development plan that is democratically made by elected representatives and communities. Looking through that section, the things that would trigger the right of the Minister or the Government to require a different variation in the development plan are very broad. I am seriously concerned about that. That seems to me to be an excessive centralisation of power.

Photo of Darragh O'BrienDarragh O'Brien (Dublin Fingal, Fianna Fail)
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I will address those points and then I will conclude. I will not come back in again because I think I have made the point. Members should look at section 65(3). Deputy O’Callaghan referred to housing, and I was not being facetious. It reads "The purpose referred to in subsection (2) is to make provision for or in connection with a class of infrastructure or other development of national or strategic importance specified in the urgent direction". Again, it would require Government approval to issue it.

The other really important point is that this relates to a potential variation of a development plan.

Should there be a type of infrastructure to be put in place on the back of that, it would constitute a change in the development plan and would require a planning application. To use Deputy Ó Broin's example of the Galway ring road, this would not involve doing what was done with SHDs, which was going over the local authorities at the planning level and straight to An Bord Pleanála. It would involve, in very extreme cases, making a designation on a development plan. I have given the context in which that would be done. Others may disagree with it but I have been very clear on what the context would be.

Basically, a change would be made to the development plan but anything that happens following that change would go through the normal planning process. It is not the case that it would simply involve saying that an area is to be designated for such and such infrastructure and that is it and nobody has a say in it. I am not suggesting that is what Deputy Ó Broin was saying but he made a comparison with SHDs, in respect of which one of the big issues, I understand, was that local communities and others did not get to have their say at a planning authority level, with matters going straight to An Bord Pleanála. That is why I decided, as Minister, with the support of many Members of the Oireachtas, to abolish SHDs and bring in large-scale residential developments, which have worked extremely well. We have had only one case among all the applications that have been made where the deadline was missed. It is important to look at section 65(3).

I have said enough on this amendment. I am conscious that Deputy Matthews is waiting to speak on his two amendments.

Photo of Paul McAuliffePaul McAuliffe (Dublin North West, Fianna Fail)
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Is the Minister not in a position to accept the amendments?

Photo of Darragh O'BrienDarragh O'Brien (Dublin Fingal, Fianna Fail)
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No, I am not. However, I will come back on Report Stage on the suggestion regarding pre-consultation, for want of a better word, with local elected members, as put forward by Deputy O'Callaghan.

Photo of Steven MatthewsSteven Matthews (Wicklow, Green Party)
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Section 62 deals with the issuance of a draft direction by the OPR. My amendment No. 513 relates to subsection (4). I am proposing that where subsection (4), particularly paragraph (b), kicks in, it would be beneficial for statutory timelines to be suspended for the duration of the process set out in the subsection.

Photo of Darragh O'BrienDarragh O'Brien (Dublin Fingal, Fianna Fail)
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I take the Deputy's point. Section 62(3) suspends the operation of the identified provision. Section 62(4) precludes the making of a decision if materially affected by the provisions of the direction. Provision is made for the suspension of the statutory timeline. The wording as set out in the subsection is clear in this regard in its specification that "A planning authority or the Commission shall not determine....". On that basis, acknowledging the reasoning behind the Deputy's amendment, it is not necessary to further amend the provision. Allowance is made for the suspension of time.

Photo of Steven MatthewsSteven Matthews (Wicklow, Green Party)
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That is fine.

Amendment No. 573 relates to section 77(6), which states:

For the purposes of [the preceding paragraphs], a modification shall be deemed to be minor where it is not likely to have significant effects on the environment or on any European site.

I note the wording "deemed to be minor" and "not likely to have significant effects". My question is about who does the deeming and how it is done. I am proposing to insert "having been assessed and reported on" after "where" in line 4. I assume somebody will assess whether something is minor but it is not stated in the provision that such an assessment must be done. The wording is simply that somebody must deem a modification to be minor.

Photo of Darragh O'BrienDarragh O'Brien (Dublin Fingal, Fianna Fail)
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Is the Deputy asking who would make that assessment?

Photo of Steven MatthewsSteven Matthews (Wicklow, Green Party)
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I am asking who would deem a modification to be minor. The wording used is "shall be deemed". I am not sure who would do the deeming and by what process that person would do so.

Photo of Darragh O'BrienDarragh O'Brien (Dublin Fingal, Fianna Fail)
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The phraseology "deemed to be minor" is standard phraseology that is used throughout existing legislation. That assessment would be made by the Minister's officials. The Deputy is seeking to insert the phrase "having been assessed and reported on".

Photo of Steven MatthewsSteven Matthews (Wicklow, Green Party)
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I would settle for the inclusion of "having been assessed".

It is not even necessary to see the report on it. I just want to know that it will be adequately assessed and somebody will not just deem it to be minor.

Photo of Darragh O'BrienDarragh O'Brien (Dublin Fingal, Fianna Fail)
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I assure the Deputy it will be. I am happy to look at that wording, but it will be assessed. I will have to talk with officials, but if it is going to be assessed and will always be assessed, the question is why we would not state it.

Photo of Steven MatthewsSteven Matthews (Wicklow, Green Party)
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That is it.

Photo of Darragh O'BrienDarragh O'Brien (Dublin Fingal, Fianna Fail)
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I get the point the Deputy is making.

Photo of Steven MatthewsSteven Matthews (Wicklow, Green Party)
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If the Minister is to deem it minor, he or she will be relying on an assessment carried out by the Department.

Photo of Darragh O'BrienDarragh O'Brien (Dublin Fingal, Fianna Fail)
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Yes. It will be carried out by the Department.

Photo of Steven MatthewsSteven Matthews (Wicklow, Green Party)
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I just want to be clear that will be done.

Photo of Darragh O'BrienDarragh O'Brien (Dublin Fingal, Fianna Fail)
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It will be. For the purposes of amendment No. 573, we will look to add that wording on Report Stage.

Photo of Steven MatthewsSteven Matthews (Wicklow, Green Party)
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That is grand. I thank the Minister. I withdraw the amendment based on his response.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Photo of Darragh O'BrienDarragh O'Brien (Dublin Fingal, Fianna Fail)
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I move amendment No. 514:

In page 148, to delete lines 14 to 16 and substitute the following:
“(v) where the planning authority is a coastal planning authority, the Maritime Area Regulatory Authority,

(vi) the Commission,

(vii) the National Transport Authority, and

(viii) any other body, as the Office of the Planning Regulator considers appropriate.”.

Amendment agreed to.

Photo of Cian O'CallaghanCian O'Callaghan (Dublin Bay North, Social Democrats)
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I move amendment No. 515:

In page 148, between lines 16 and 17, to insert the following:
“(viii) (I) where the functional area to which the development plan relates includes a Limistéar Pleanála Teanga Gaeltachta or a Baile Seirbhíse Gaeltachta within the Gaeltacht, Roinn na Gaeltachta and Údarás na Gaeltachta,

(II) where the functional area to which the development plan relates includes a Baile Seirbhíse Gaeltachta outside the Gaeltacht or a Líonra Gaeilge, Roinn na Gaeltachta and Foras na Gaeilge,”.

Amendment put and declared lost.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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I move amendment No. 516:

In page 148, between lines 16 and 17, to insert the following:
“(viii) the board members of Údarás na Gaeltachta, Foras na Gaeilge, the Minister responsible for the Gaeltacht, Oifig an Choimisinéara Teanga, and any relevant Language Planning Officer.”.

Amendment put and declared lost.

Photo of Darragh O'BrienDarragh O'Brien (Dublin Fingal, Fianna Fail)
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I move amendment No. 517:

In page 148, line 37, after “and” to insert the following:
“in the summary of submissions submitted to the Minister under subsection (12), which will be considered”.

Amendment agreed to.

Photo of Darragh O'BrienDarragh O'Brien (Dublin Fingal, Fianna Fail)
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I move amendment No. 518:

In page 150, between lines 7 and 8, to insert the following:
“(14) The Minister may prescribe a period or periods that shall be disregarded for the purposes of reckoning any period referenced in this section.”.

Amendment agreed to.

Deputy Steven Mathews resumed the Chair.

Question put: "That section 62, as amended, stand part of the Bill."

The Committee divided: Tá, 6; Níl, 3.



Question declared carried.

SECTION 63

Photo of Darragh O'BrienDarragh O'Brien (Dublin Fingal, Fianna Fail)
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I move amendment No. 519:

In page 150, line 24, after “any” to insert “summary of”.

Amendment agreed to.

Photo of Darragh O'BrienDarragh O'Brien (Dublin Fingal, Fianna Fail)
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I move amendment No. 520:

In page 151, line 36, to delete “3 working days” and substitute “5 working days”.

Amendment agreed to.

Photo of Darragh O'BrienDarragh O'Brien (Dublin Fingal, Fianna Fail)
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I move amendment No. 521:

In page 152, line 1, to delete “2 working days” and substitute “5 working days”.

Amendment agreed to.

Photo of Darragh O'BrienDarragh O'Brien (Dublin Fingal, Fianna Fail)
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I move amendment No. 522:

In page 152, line 8, after “authority,” to insert “the relevant regional assembly,”.

Amendment agreed to.

Photo of Darragh O'BrienDarragh O'Brien (Dublin Fingal, Fianna Fail)
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I move amendment No. 523:

In page 152, line 15, to delete “shall, within 3 working days of receipt of the direction,” and substitute “shall, as soon as practicable,”.

Amendment agreed to.

Photo of Darragh O'BrienDarragh O'Brien (Dublin Fingal, Fianna Fail)
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I move amendment No. 524:

In page 152, between lines 30 and 31, to insert the following: “(17) The Minister may prescribe a period or periods that shall be disregarded for the purposes of reckoning any period referenced in this section.”.

Amendment agreed to.

Question put: "That section 63, as amended, stand part of the Bill."

The Committee divided: Tá, 6; Níl, 3.



Question declared carried.

SECTION 64

Question put:

The Committee divided: Tá, 6; Níl, 3.



Question declared carried.

SECTION 65

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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I move amendment No. 525:

In page 153, line 9, to delete “Government” and substitute “Oireachtas”.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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I move amendment No. 526:

In page 153, between lines 13 and 14, to insert the following: “(3) The Minister shall lay a proposed direction in respect of subsection (1) before both Houses of the Oireachtas, together with any screening determinations and assessments made in respect of a Strategic Environmental Assessment and Appropriate Assessment, and the proposed direction shall not be issued until a resolution approving the issuing of the proposed direction is made by each such House, following a debate of no less than 2 hours in each House.”.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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I move amendment No. 527:

In page 153, line 20, to delete “issuing an urgent direction” and substitute “proposing a draft urgent direction”.

Amendment put and declared lost.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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I move amendment No. 528:

In page 154, to delete lines 11 to 13.

Amendment put and declared lost.

Question put: "That section 65 stand part of the Bill"

The Committee divided: Tá, 6; Níl, 2.



Question declared carried.

SECTION 66

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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I move amendment No. 529:

In page 154, to delete lines 26 to 28.

Amendment put and declared lost.

Section 66 agreed to.

NEW SECTIONS

Photo of Darragh O'BrienDarragh O'Brien (Dublin Fingal, Fianna Fail)
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I move amendment No. 530:

In page 154, after line 37, to insert the following:

“Notices under section 11 of Act of 2000

67. Where a notice was given under section 11 of the Act of 2000 of the preparation of a new development plan before the repeal of Part II effected by section 6, that Part shall continue to apply and have effect on and after that repeal in relation to that notice, and any act done consequent upon the giving of that notice, until the making of the development plan concerned, and the development plan so made shall be deemed to have been made under and in accordance with Part 3.”

Amendment agreed to.

Photo of Steven MatthewsSteven Matthews (Wicklow, Green Party)
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Amendment No. 531 in the name of Deputy McAuliffe relates to a new section. It is related to a number of other amendments in the name of the Minister and Deputy McAuliffe. I ask the Deputy to move the amendment and speak to it, and we can then speak to those groups. Amendments Nos. 531, 632, 635 to 639, inclusive, 653, 656, 695, 697 to 701, inclusive, 705, 706 and 718 are related and may be discussed together.

Photo of Paul McAuliffePaul McAuliffe (Dublin North West, Fianna Fail)
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I move amendment No. 531:

In page 154, after line 37, to insert the following:

“Permitting of Lifetime Extensions on Existing Windfarms

67. Lifetime extensions for existing permitted wind farms shall be permitted following either a notification or a planning application to the relevant authority. That authority shall decide within eight weeks of receipt of a notification whether this is sufficient—
(a) where the relevant authority decides that a notification is sufficient, it shall automatically grant the permit,

(b) where that authority decides that the notification is not sufficient, it shall be necessary to apply for a lifetime extension and such extension shall be granted where no significant negative environmental impact is expected.”.

Photo of Darragh O'BrienDarragh O'Brien (Dublin Fingal, Fianna Fail)
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This group comprises amendments Nos. 635 to 639, inclusive, 653, 697 to 701, inclusive, and 705. Also included are amendments Nos. 531, 632 and 695 in the name of Deputy McAuliffe and amendment No. 718 in the name of Deputy Matthews. They propose to amend Chapter 5 of Part 3 which deals with development plan processes and insert a new section into the Chapter. I ask the Deputies to bear with me. I will provide the rationale for this. Part 3 is not the appropriate Part for an amendment concerning the development consent process.

With regard to the substance of the proposed amendment, I oppose the amendment as an existing permitted wind energy development with the condition attached regarding the operational lifespan of the development will require a new planning application to amend this condition. In addition, it may be appropriate to attach such a condition to a grant of permission for a new wind energy development to enable the planning authority or commission to reassess the operation of the development at a later stage in light of, among other things, any planned or emerging land use or infrastructural requirements. As such, while I understand the sentiment behind amendment No. 532, an application for permission for the extension of the operational lifespan of a wind energy development is necessary to allow for a case-by-case consideration of the development, having regard to all relevant matters and to appropriately facilitate public consultation and participation in the decision-making process in accordance with the Aarhus Convention. Therefore, I cannot accept the amendment. I do not know whether Deputy McAuliffe wants to speak to that. Does the Cathaoirleach want to deal with the other amendments now?

Photo of Paul McAuliffePaul McAuliffe (Dublin North West, Fianna Fail)
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We can take them all together, and I will come back in.

Photo of Darragh O'BrienDarragh O'Brien (Dublin Fingal, Fianna Fail)
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Amendment No. 632 proposes to amend section 84 which relates to the conditions that may be attached to a grant of permission. I am opposing this amendment as it may be appropriate to attach conditions to a grant of permission similar to the operational lifespan of a new wind energy development and enable the planning authority or an coimisiún pleanála to reassess the operation of the development at a later stage, as stated previously, in light of, among other things, any planned or emerging land use or infrastructure requirements. While I understand the sentiment behind this amendment, this is a policy matter more appropriately dealt with through guidance which the relevant planning authority or an coimisiún pleanála would have regard to in determining on a case-by-case basis whether to attach such a condition to a grant of permission. For that reason, I cannot accept amendment No. 632.

Amendment No. 695 seeks to add a new subsection to section 114 to provide that a prospective applicant for port infrastructure to facilitate offshore renewable energy may enter consultations under section 114 notwithstanding that they do not hold a maritime area consent at the time. I cannot accept this amendment because, as just mentioned, this may potentially lead to a speculative pre-application consultation which would not be constructive use of the commission's resources. With the marine area consents, MACs, there is a pre-consent process in place particularly relating to port infrastructure. That is happening right now with the establishment of MARA.

Amendment No. 718 proposes to amend section 125 which relates to additional provisions relevant to electricity transmission infrastructure development. I am opposing this amendment as section 114 provides a process whereby a prospective applicant may actually request a pre-application consultation with the commission in respect of a proposed application for what is called a Chapter 4 development. Where the commission receives such a request and forms the opinion that the proposed development is not a Chapter 4 development, it must notify the prospective applicant that an application for permission for the proposed development may not be made to it under this Chapter.

While I cannot accept the amendment, I will consider bringing a similar amendment on Report Stage to provide a streamlined process for the commission to confirm if an application for permission for a proposed electricity transmission infrastructure development, which is not a Chapter 4 development but which forms an integral part of an overall project, is required to be submitted to it. I will look at amendment No. 718 to see if we can bring forward a similar amendment. However, I need a little bit more time to look at the wording to clarify the process. I fully accept the point that if something is deemed not to be a Chapter 4 development, what happens next. We might be able to incorporate that into a process or the process. I give a commitment to come back on Report Stage on amendment No. 718.

Photo of Paul McAuliffePaul McAuliffe (Dublin North West, Fianna Fail)
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On the two amendments, it probably reflects how our perspective has changed on onshore wind farms. Granting significant pieces of infrastructure planning permission on a time basis would be like in the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s us considering motorways on a time basis. I think we now realise how important onshore infrastructure is. There is a significant strategic risk for Ireland in that, based on information from Wind Energy Ireland, I understand between 75 and 80 wind farms will reach that time cliff edge. We need to be careful that what could amount to 20% of the entire installed wind capacity on the island would be subject to review. I am not suggesting there will be no process for extension. We need to look at our competitors in other European countries. Scotland, for example, has moved away from this type of time-based system.

The idea that a key piece of strategic infrastructure would be bound by time alone is just not consistent with the idea of us respecting a climate crisis and the investment that happens on these sites. We talked about key changes to the development plan in respect of the previous sections. There is a very strong argument for us to move away from the idea of it being time based, and a specific application having a specific time, towards us having the ability to be much more flexible, without diluting the obligations we might have under Aarhus, the habitats directive or any other directive. I ask the Minister to reflect on it to see what we can do specifically to try to protect and retain the infrastructure that is being invested in.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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I will make a general comment and then ask a question on this. When Wind Energy Ireland and other industry representatives were before the committee, and in subsequent correspondence, they raised this issue. Their argument was the existing 25-year time limitation was fine when the technology was at a less advanced stage but, increasingly, the technology is 30 years plus. They strongly urged the committee to consider this. There are challenges with what they asked for. If you talk to environmental organisations, for example, they will highlight that an unlimited, or longer, time period has potential environmental and biodiversity consequences. In addition, "lifetime" could mean after a wind farm is no longer operational, when there are issue around decommissioning, etc. I am interested in hearing, and it is helpful that Deputy McAuliffe tabled the amendment, the Minister's thoughts more generally, as the technology advances, on how we ensure that our planning system is making appropriate grants of permission that balance the need to provide onshore and offshore renewable wind technology, and do not create unintended consequences, for example, of an environmental or decommissioning nature. I am halfway between the two sets of arguments.

Given that the existing section 40 of the Act has that 25-year limitation, it might be helpful to state for the public record what the current provisions of this Act are. Is it a simple transposition of the existing Act? Is it something slightly different? If the Minister is not accepting Deputy McAuliffe's amendment as outlined, where is the Minister and the Department's thinking on this? This issue will not go away, irrespective of what way the relevant sections of the Bill land.

Photo of Darragh O'BrienDarragh O'Brien (Dublin Fingal, Fianna Fail)
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I thank Deputy McAuliffe for the amendments. I engaged with Wind Energy Ireland and spoke at its conference previously. Unquestionably, a great resource is already in place. If we go back to the 2006 wind energy guidelines, which set 20-year timelines, and I will come back to the Deputy's specific amendment on that, we can certainly do more. That is why it is not just about onshore but offshore. That is why we worked hard for the creation of MARA, the single consenting process that is there, and the establishment of an expert section within An Bord Pleanála. Undoubtedly, there are many offshore renewables we can harness. In the context of energy stability and energy security in particular, and the climate challenges the State faces, it is absolutely appropriate that we do everything we can to continue to unlock this potential.

I will speak to Deputy McAuliffe's amendment first and will then deal with Deputy Ó Broin's questions on the broader point of where Government thinking is. This amendment deals with existing wind farms in place that already have a condition with regard to the lifespan of those wind farms. To speak to Deputy Ó Broin's point, when these wind farms were granted permission, people had engaged in a process that was very clear with regard to the lifetime of this. What I said in my response to the Deputy was that in recognising that many of these wind farms are in place, will continue to be in place and may be upgraded as part of it, there is a process they can go through, by way of a new application, to extend that particular lifespan. On balance, that is the appropriate thing to do for existing infrastructure where a timeframe condition was given.

That was the condition that was granted. It is a legal condition of the planning permission and it is important for people in the locality and others who engaged with the process. It is not simply about extending it through primary legislation. While I fully understand the points behind it and what is being proposed, it would effectively mean that granted permissions would be extended and that would be potentially open to challenge. Having said that, a process is in place for people to seek an extension through the planning process.

There is a process and standard procedure for decommissioning. Some cases are more problematic than others. One case was the subject of infringements with the EU Commission and even the decommissioning of that site would require the seeking of permission regarding how it would be decommissioned because of the issues with what happened on that site, the topography of the site and how it could be affected in the future. There are complexities around it.

Turning to the main point, the new wind energy guidelines that are due to be published are crucial. With the advancement of technology that Deputy Ó Broin correctly spoke about and in the area of noise, it is important we get the guidelines published. Some work is being done in relation to noise in the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications. That will form the approach of the Department's publication and further consultation with it. I urge that work be concluded as expeditiously as possible because, with the new technologies that exist, the guidelines that are in place need to be updated. That is recognised and a lot of work has been done in that space in my Department and the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications. Some further work is being done with respect to noise that I believe will conclude soon. It is not in my Department. That will address the Deputies' points about what the future will look like, especially in respect of onshore wind and the lifespan of granted permissions. I do not have an exact timeframe for those guidelines yet. I will endeavour during our meetings to get an update from colleagues in the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications on when they expect them to be published because they are important. Is it appropriate with newer technology to set a lifespan for what is a significant investment and an important part of our energy infrastructure? We are improving the percentage of power generated through renewable sources all the time and that is important. Lifespan is important and we will be guided in that area by the wind energy guidelines. I will get an update for the committee that we can discuss, as there is a full section on this. I have asked officials to do so.

To be helpful, I might digress for a moment. I will take this opportunity to speak about additional resources on the planning side, which was mentioned earlier. I have the figures from 2023 onwards. I will get them for the period 2020 to 2023. Since 2023, 93 additional posts have been approved in An Bord Pleanála, of which 78 have been filled and 15 have not. There are some specialist roles within that. At the end of February, there were 261 staff in An Bord Pleanála, which is the highest number we have had, which is good. I had the pleasure of meeting many of them recently when I spoke to staff a number of weeks ago.

These figures are since September 2023. I have not given the starting point, which I will give tomorrow if we can get the information. Since September 2023, there have been 100 new posts in local authorities and as of January 2024, the most recent date for which I have figures, 32 had been filled. Once they are all filled, a further 100 new posts will be approved for local authorities. I will get the details for 2021 and 2022 as well so the committee can see where we started and where we are now. I had said I would give that information to the committee.

Photo of Steven MatthewsSteven Matthews (Wicklow, Green Party)
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Thank you, Minister. I will move on now.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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I have a couple of questions on the Minister's response.

Photo of Steven MatthewsSteven Matthews (Wicklow, Green Party)
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On the amendments?

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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Yes.

Photo of Steven MatthewsSteven Matthews (Wicklow, Green Party)
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Fire away.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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With respect to existing energy infrastructure, whether it is seeking extension or repowering, these are just some of the questions that industry representatives have raised with us. There are issues around not only the cost of seeking to extend but also the timing of it, particularly if there are delays in the decision-making process. Will the Minister provide us with a little more detail as to how, separate from the regulations, which will come from the Department of the Minister, Deputy Ryan, this process will work? Is the Minister, Deputy O'Brien, confident that there will not be any cliff edges where somebody's existing permission is coming to an end because of, for example, delays with the board or elsewhere or because the application for the extension, for example, might not coincide? That is my first question.

My second question goes back to the original question I asked. Section 40 of the Act, as it currently stands, will go, but what I am not clear on - and we can deal with this in more detail at the section but it is relevant to this amendment - is, in the absence of the 25-year timeline, which was written into section 40 of the existing Act, what is now the procedure. Is it that each grant will have a timeline to it and that timeline will be related to the assessment of the application? How are the new timelines likely to work? I think one of the things industry was saying is that there is a lack of clarity. They know it is being removed but they are not necessarily sure what is being put in place. Is it still the intention to have timelines of a 25-year or 30-year duration, or what is the thinking?

This is not a comment on the An Bord Pleanála stuff. What is really good about the information the Minister gives us with respect to An Bord Pleanála is that he can tell us the total number of staff it has. With the local authorities it would also be really important because they could actually have a net reduction in staff, notwithstanding the new recruitments, so that would be really good to get.

Photo of Darragh O'BrienDarragh O'Brien (Dublin Fingal, Fianna Fail)
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Sure. On the last point, I will get that information. I just do not have it to hand.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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Absolutely.

Photo of Darragh O'BrienDarragh O'Brien (Dublin Fingal, Fianna Fail)
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We have tried to give the committee information that might be useful for this evening.

As regards the lifespan, there are two things. Going back a little as to whether someone should seek an extension to the existing lifespan of a wind farm, one of the reasons for that, looking back and not being here, was that there would be a situation where, say, an existing wind farm involved technologies that are 20 years old or potentially 25 years old, and it would look to be maybe repurposed or upgraded and that would be important. If there were new technologies, or indeed new turbines, full stop, different types of turbines, larger or smaller, and in many instances they are becoming more efficient, that would form part of a further application for an extension. The lifespan of that would be dealt with on a case-by-case basis, so we are not looking in this Bill to set forward a standard lifespan. The wind energy guidelines, though, are important to get a view around the area of noise and separation and that, for onshore in this instance, as to what that will look like. I will, during the course of the continued proceedings here, get an update from the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications on that, but, no, it is not envisaged and it is not in the current Bill that we would set a standard lifespan for it.

I fully get this from the industry perspective, by the way. There are significant investments there, and we want more renewables. We want to work with them, and that is why we have worked very hard on the offshore piece and the streamlining of that process. There is a balance, though, to be struck, as colleagues here will know, as regards the appropriate development of wind farms in the appropriate locations, in consultation with the community. The process is there, to go back to Deputy McAuliffe's amendment, for someone seeking an extension to a lifespan. Will there be a cliff edge? No, I do not expect that. There will be transitionary arrangements between the current Act and the new Act as it comes forward. We have spoken already about some of the provisions. Statutory timeframes will be in place, but if there were a delay in the board, they would still be compliant because it is still in with the planning authority.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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A very quick-----

Photo of Steven MatthewsSteven Matthews (Wicklow, Green Party)
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After I let in the members who are indicating, I have some questions for the Minister on this grouping. We will finish our discussion on this section before we take a break.

Photo of Paul McAuliffePaul McAuliffe (Dublin North West, Fianna Fail)
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On the basis of the Minister's response, I am happy to withdraw my amendment, on the understanding that I may come back to it on Report Stage. Of particular concern to me are those projects at the very end of their life, where their life span has, in reality, extended beyond what was predicted but would not necessarily justify the investment required for a new planning application. The planning applications we are discussing are not simple or easy and they can be very costly. We do not want to see the inadvertent ending of the production of renewable energy earlier than would be sensible. I hear what the Minister is saying but I am conscious that towards the end of the lifetime of a project, the technology and infrastructure might still have life left in them but might not necessarily justify the cost of a whole new planning application. We could end up in a situation where renewable energy is tuned off simply because of the cost of a renewal process. That may not happen but we must make sure it is avoided. However, on the basis of the Minister's response and the guidelines that are expected, I am happy to withdraw the amendment.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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My question is on the planning elements. Whether we are talking about an extension or repowering of an existing plant or a new plant, in order to give guidance to the planning authorities, is it the intention to provide regulations or national planning policy statements? This will be an evolving situation because of the nature of the technology. How does the Minister plan to give that guidance after the Bill is enacted?

Photo of Darragh O'BrienDarragh O'Brien (Dublin Fingal, Fianna Fail)
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A national planning policy will be introduced. That will be give the absolute clarity that is needed on Deputy Ó Broin's question.

On Deputy's McAuliffe's point, where there is a condition of a grant of permission, it is a legal condition. The only way to alter it is with another application. I take his point but the guidelines in this regard, one would imagine, will become national planning policy statements. I will seek clarification on it. That is the direction in which we are going.

Photo of Steven MatthewsSteven Matthews (Wicklow, Green Party)
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I am seeking clarification on two of the Minister's amendments, namely, amendments Nos. 656 and 706. They are more or less the same and relate to energy production developments. Both amendments propose that "a condition shall be attached to the permission requiring that no works shall be carried out in respect of the development" until the offer of a group connection is made and the permission for the distribution or transmission line for that development is granted. I am seeking clarification in respect of amendments Nos. 656 and 706 that this provision refers to a pre-grid situation. Is it the case that before the grid is reached at all, if EirGrid or networks have to do an energy upgrade to their grid, that will not be part of the provisions under these amendments?

Photo of Darragh O'BrienDarragh O'Brien (Dublin Fingal, Fianna Fail)
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The Cathaoirleach's understanding is absolutely correct. I intend to withdraw amendments Nos. 656 and 706 in order to further review their wording and resubmit them on Report Stage. However, the Cathaoirleach's understanding of what the process will be is precisely what is intended. As I said, I am withdrawing these amendments and will come back to them on Report Stage.

Photo of Steven MatthewsSteven Matthews (Wicklow, Green Party)
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I thank the Minister. I want to clarify something regarding amendment No. 718. Where a project is strategic, it is a Chapter 4 application and will go to the commission. However, local authorities are well capable of granting permissions for development of transmission infrastructure. I am wondering whether the definition of a strategic proposal refers to developments of 110 kV or more. There may be smaller networks of 110 kV in respect of which permission could be granted by the local authority. That is what I am trying to clarify in amendment No. 718. Could an applicant go the commission and say that although the proposal is for a 110 kV system, it is small and located within the county, and ask whether it can be presented to the local authority? I think the Minister said he will come back on Report Stage on this matter.

Photo of Darragh O'BrienDarragh O'Brien (Dublin Fingal, Fianna Fail)
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Yes, I will. I made the point in my initial response to this grouping about how we will deal with developments that are deemed not to be Chapter 4 developments.

I will work on that process and come back on Report Stage on that. Right now, I cannot accept the amendment but I take the point that it requires clarity in that space.

Photo of Steven MatthewsSteven Matthews (Wicklow, Green Party)
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Yes, because obviously we know local authorities are making a decision in a shorter timeframe than the board but this Bill is designed to tighten up all timeframes. I thank the Minister for the response on that.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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There are some ministerial amendments in that group that have not been spoken to yet. The Minister has withdrawn two but there are others.

Photo of Steven MatthewsSteven Matthews (Wicklow, Green Party)
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I ticked them all off but we can speak to them again if the Deputy wishes.

Photo of Darragh O'BrienDarragh O'Brien (Dublin Fingal, Fianna Fail)
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I can, yes. We dealt with the other amendments in that group that were substantive. I will get to the other amendments now. Amendments Nos, 635 to 639, inclusive; amendment No. 653, amendment Nos. 697 to 701, inclusive; and amendment No. 705 simply seek to improve the language of these provisions without changing the intent of the provision as already provided for in the Planning and Development Act 2000. Effectively, that is just an improvement of language. For example, amendments Nos. 635 and 697 change the language from the applicant submitting "at least 2 approaches" to "a description of not less than 2 approaches". Amendments Nos. 636, 653, 698 and 705 change references to the commencement of the "proposed development" to the commencement of "the part of the proposed development to which the aspect concerned relates". This is consistent with the wording currently in the Planning and Development Act 2000 and ensures a person must confirm the specifics of the development prior to commencing the part of the development that was unconfirmed. The intention here is to ensure that, for example, in the case of renewable energy technology, the applicant can carry out site preparation works, etc., before confirming the exact technology to be used so long as the site works are carried out in accordance with their permission. The applicant may then confirm the technology to be used before that part of the development commences thereby allowing the developer avail of the most efficient technology available. Therefore, if site preparation works were to take a number of years - not saying that they would but they could - you would be able to use the most up-to-date technology. The Rochdale Envelope was a case in point on that, which we have looked at.

Amendments Nos 637, 638, 699 and 700 amend references to the planning authority or the commission keeping a copy of "each request for an opinion" and "a record of each meeting relating to providing an opinion" with any subsequent application for permission for the proposed development to references to the planning authority or the commission keeping a copy of "a request for an opinion" and "a record of a meeting relating to providing an opinion" with any subsequent application for permission for the proposed development. That makes sure all the information is sequential and is kept in the right place. This again is consistent with the wording in the Planning and Development Act 2000 and clarifies that the process of seeking an opinion around flexibility should involve a single request and meeting in respect of a proposed development.

Concluding on this, amendments Nos. 639 and 701 correct an incorrect reference. I have already mentioned that I will withdraw amendments Nos. 656 and 706. These amendments propose to insert the requirement that we have already gone through. I do not need to go through that again. That is it.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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I have one very quick question regarding that first one. Obviously, any new technology that might subsequently be inserted into the project has to be consistent with the terms of the original planning permission as granted.

Photo of Darragh O'BrienDarragh O'Brien (Dublin Fingal, Fianna Fail)
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Yes, absolutely.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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That issue of the design envelop for which industry had made a case but, as far as I read it currently, is not in the Bill, does not overlap with this provision. This is just to allow the site works to carry on.

Photo of Darragh O'BrienDarragh O'Brien (Dublin Fingal, Fianna Fail)
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Yes, it was. We had engaged with the industry on that going way back as well and it just made a lot of sense. If technology had improved by the time you were putting in the actual energy infrastructure after the site preparation works were concluded, this amendment allows that to be done.

I thank the Minister and Deputy Ó Broin. I propose to suspend the meeting now and resume at 5 p.m. when we will commence with that vote on section 67.

Photo of Paul McAuliffePaul McAuliffe (Dublin North West, Fianna Fail)
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Will that be returning at 5.10 p.m.?

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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Will it be 5.10 p.m.? I think people want the full hour.

Photo of Paul McAuliffePaul McAuliffe (Dublin North West, Fianna Fail)
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Then 5 p.m.

Photo of Steven MatthewsSteven Matthews (Wicklow, Green Party)
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Will the question then be the vote on section 67?

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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If my answer determines whether the Cathaoirleach gives colleagues here the extra ten minutes then-----

Photo of Steven MatthewsSteven Matthews (Wicklow, Green Party)
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Does the Deputy have questions to ask on section 67?

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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No. I have questions on section 68. There is no vote on section 67.

Photo of Steven MatthewsSteven Matthews (Wicklow, Green Party)
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Can I ask members to come back at 5 p.m.? Is that agreed? Agreed. I thank the Minister, Deputy O'Brien, for his time here in committee this afternoon.

Sitting suspended at 4.11 p.m. and resumed at 5 p.m.

Section 67 agreed to.

SECTION 68

Photo of Cian O'CallaghanCian O'Callaghan (Dublin Bay North, Social Democrats)
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I move amendment No. 532:

In page 155, between lines 36 and 37, to insert the following: “(v) (I) where the settlement or part of the settlement to which the proposed plan relates includes a Limistéar Pleanála Teanga Gaeltachta or a Baile Seirbhíse Gaeltachta within the Gaeltacht, any relevant Language Plan agreed pursuant to Acht na Gaeltachta 2012,
(II) where the settlement or part of the settlement to which the proposed plan relates includes a Baile Seirbhíse Gaeltachta outside the Gaeltacht or a Líonra Gaeilge, any relevant Language Plan agreed pursuant to Acht na Gaeltachta 2012,”

Amendment put and declared lost.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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I move amendment No. 533:

In page 155, between lines 36 and 37, to insert the following: “(v) any language plans agreed in accordance with the Gaeltacht Act 2012 relevant to a Gaeltacht Language Planning Area, Gaeltacht Service Town or Irish Language Network within the functional area to which the development plan relates,”

Amendment put and declared lost.

Amendments Nos. 534 and 535 not moved.

Question proposed: "That section 68 stand part of the Bill".

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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I have some questions on that.

Photo of Steven MatthewsSteven Matthews (Wicklow, Green Party)
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Deputy Ó Broin would like to seek clarification on section 68. He may go ahead.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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It is a bit more than clarification. At this stage, I will indicate that there are a couple of sections coming up next on which a small amount of discussion would be useful. I say that because we are now getting into Chapter 6, which deals with the urban area plans, priority area plans and co-ordinated area plans. These are very important innovations of the Bill. They got far less scrutiny during pre-legislative scrutiny. I do think there is a value, without extending the conversation for too long, in providing the Minister of State with an opportunity to answer some questions on these and talk through how they will work.

Specifically with respect to section 68, while it is not the same as a local area plan, it replaces a local area plan, LAP, in some sense. Local area plans have been the previous mechanism for plan-making. I would like the Minister of State, in summary form, to first give us a sense of what is new, additional or innovative in the urban area plan versus the old LAP. Somebody, such as a member of the public, might have been involved in an LAP. What are they getting that they did not have before? This is one of the sections of the Bill the Government would say shows a renewed focus on plan-making, making it more forward planning-led, etc. I invite the Minister of State to justify that a little bit and to give us a sense, specifically with respect to urban area plans, of how this gives us something of added value to what is already available under the existing Act.

Photo of Cian O'CallaghanCian O'Callaghan (Dublin Bay North, Social Democrats)
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I ask the Minister of State to clarify a point about urban area plans and priority area plans. Is it the case that priority area plans are basically area plans that do not occur in urban areas. What is the difference?

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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Urban area plans are for regional growth centres in key towns that have been designated at a regional level in the regional spatial economic strategy and where, in the opinion of the planning authority, the scale of the planned growth requires an integrated approach to land use and transportation planning for the entire urban area. This is not too dissimilar to local area plans.

Priority area plans are for parts of towns and cities that have the capacity to deliver significant housing or other development or that have a particular need for a bespoke plan for regeneration or renewal.

Photo of Cian O'CallaghanCian O'Callaghan (Dublin Bay North, Social Democrats)
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I would like to see where this sits. Strategic development zones are therefore just gone.

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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They were replaced by urban development zones, UDZs. Priority area plans are for areas where there is a large brownfield site in an urban area that requires a specific focus.

Photo of Cian O'CallaghanCian O'Callaghan (Dublin Bay North, Social Democrats)
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Okay. I thank the Minister of State.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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We have strayed into section 69, which is fine, if it is quicker to do that. Can this be put into plain English so that people can understand it? Regarding an urban area plan, it talks about how the development plan identifies a settlement. Is that the equivalent of a town or urban village? Will the Minister of State give us a sense of the difference between that and an LAP? It seems that what it can be applied to is more open and more flexible.

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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These are for regional growth centres or key towns that were designated as regional growth centres in the RES.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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Where does it say that in section 68?

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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That is in the explanatory memorandum, which is on page 30.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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Okay, but what about in the text of the legislation itself?

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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I apologise.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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That is the point. It is not as explicit here as it is in the explanatory memorandum.

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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No. This is for when there are particular towns within the local authority and when the LAPs have a population of more than 5,000. Again, it depends on the overall objectives of the county plan, in which the local authority has identified an area that will require an urban area plan because of potential future growth and development. I revert to section 27, which reads, "A regional spatial and economic strategy shall identify and designate any key town in the region." It is therefore identified in the regional spatial and economic strategy.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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I have questions about this so I can understand. The legislation does not set out the eligibility criteria. It is the regional spatial and economic strategy that does that, as well as the county development plan.

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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Yes.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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Therefore, there is a certain level of flexibility with the regional spatial and economic strategy, or at a development plan level, as to whether they include towns.

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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Yes.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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The Minister of State mentioned regional growth centres. Some of those regional growth centres are not just towns; they are cities. Is this just applicable to towns?

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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That is a good question. It could be an urban area.

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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I am thinking of Ferrybank, for instance, that is not a town but part of a larger urban settlement.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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This is an opportunity for us to provide as much clarity as possible. If we are not clear, other folks will be equally unclear. I ask the Minister of State to explain what it is we are getting with this section of the Bill. Could it cover Clondalkin, Adamstown, Sligo or Athlone? I am trying to understand the range and scope of the provision.

Photo of Steven MatthewsSteven Matthews (Wicklow, Green Party)
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Could I add a question? In terms of the three new types of plans, they will not be in place until the new development plan process has been established. Is that correct?

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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Yes.

Photo of Steven MatthewsSteven Matthews (Wicklow, Green Party)
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Is it proposed to provide good guidance for not only planning departments, but elected representatives of the timelines, processes, etc. We are all familiar with LAP processes, but will something similar be issued to local authorities? That might answer a lot of the questions.

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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In terms of guidance-----

Photo of Steven MatthewsSteven Matthews (Wicklow, Green Party)
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I ask for guidance on how the process works, in terms of a guidance document for the three different types of plans.

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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If you go to section 24(1)(a)-----

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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Section 24(1)(a).

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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Yes. It states that:

In deciding to issue and in formulating or amending a National Planning Statement under section 23, the Minister shall have regard to the desirability of setting out policy and providing guidance in relation to planning matters to support proper planning and sustainable development, including, but not limited to, the following: (a) preparation of regional spatial and economic strategies, development plans, urban area plans, priority area plans, coordinated area plans and development schemes

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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The answer to the question is that it will be national planning policy statements developed at a later stage that will provide guidance to regional assemblies and local authorities. I presume that is the case because rather than being prescriptive in the Bill, the Government of the day is given flexibility through the national policy statements to decide.

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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Yes.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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Notwithstanding that, we know what the co-ordinated area plans are. I am trying to understand the difference between an urban area plan and Deputy O'Callaghan's question on a priority area plan. It is not necessarily one of scale, but rather importance.

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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Priority area plans address where there is a specific need, as I understand it, in terms of regeneration. I will go back to the memorandum.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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I do not want to cut across the Minister of State, but the problem with the memorandum is that it states things that are not necessarily what the Bill states. The memorandum is trying to be helpful, but it was produced under enormous time pressure, as was the Bill. Part of what creates confusion is that we read the memo and think it says X, but we then read the Bill which states that something may be X.

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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The term "urban area" refers to the entire urban settlement. Priority area plans, as I said, refer to an identified area.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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They are portions of an area in a settlement.

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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In some cases, they require a priority area plan by virtue of urban regeneration or refer to brownfield areas where there are large former industrial sites.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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To get clarity on the question asked by the Chair, when we dealt with co-ordinated area plans there was a clear timeline. We have to get new development plans in place and the legislation then sets out a period of time within which things have to happen. With respect to the urban area and priority area plans, is it the same? Do we have to wait for the new development plans?

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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Yes.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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That is the first answer. With respect to priority area plans, this goes back to a question I asked on co-ordinated area plans. Could a city's edge be a priority area plan or could it only be a co-ordinated area plan? I am trying to get a sense of whether there is a choice for local authorities. Dublin city's edge straddles Dublin City and County Councils.

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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The priority area plan is limited to one local authority area. As the Deputy is talking about the edge of town sites, I assume that would-----

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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It would only be a co-ordinated area plan because it straddles two local authorities.

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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Yes.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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That is fine.

Photo of Cian O'CallaghanCian O'Callaghan (Dublin Bay North, Social Democrats)
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I wish to clarify a point. The Minister of State said priority area plans refer to areas of regeneration or brownfield sites, which means that greenfield sites will not be addressed by priority area plans. Is that correct?

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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They could be. Any part of the city in respect of which a priority area plans-----

Photo of Cian O'CallaghanCian O'Callaghan (Dublin Bay North, Social Democrats)
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I am asking about this because the Minister of State put quite a bit of emphasis on brownfield sites and regeneration. I wondered whether that meant greenfield sites were excluded.

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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Not specifically, no. That is not a difference between an urban area and a priority area. An urban area refers to a whole town, settlement or village which might include some regeneration sites, brownfield sites or greenfield sites on the edge or wherever, whereas a priority area plan zooms in to a particular brownfield, regeneration or greenfield site. That is more akin to a lot of the LAPs in growth areas where a new area might be covered by an LAP.

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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Exactly. That would be a good example.

Photo of Cian O'CallaghanCian O'Callaghan (Dublin Bay North, Social Democrats)
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We can have LAPs that encompass existing settled areas and some new parts, and that would be more about urban area plans. It splits what we currently understand to be an LAP into two slightly different names.

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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That is it.

Photo of Cian O'CallaghanCian O'Callaghan (Dublin Bay North, Social Democrats)
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I thank the Minister of State.

Photo of Steven MatthewsSteven Matthews (Wicklow, Green Party)
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It is like an area action plan within an LAP.

Question put and agreed to.

SECTION 69

Photo of Cian O'CallaghanCian O'Callaghan (Dublin Bay North, Social Democrats)
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I move amendment No. 536:

In page 156, between lines 32 and 33, to insert the following: “(v) (I) where the settlement or part of the settlement to which the proposed plan relates includes a Limistéar Pleanála Teanga Gaeltachta or a Baile Seirbhíse Gaeltachta within the Gaeltacht, any relevant Language Plan agreed pursuant to Acht na Gaeltachta 2012,

(II) where the settlement or part of the settlement to which the proposed plan relates includes a Baile Seirbhíse Gaeltachta outside the Gaeltacht or a Líonra Gaeilge, any relevant Language Plan agreed pursuant to Acht na Gaeltachta 2012,”.

Amendment put and declared lost.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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I move amendment No. 537:

In page 156, between lines 32 and 33, to insert the following: “(v) any language plans agreed in accordance with the Gaeltacht Act 2012 relevant to a Gaeltacht Language Planning Area, Gaeltacht Service Town or Irish Language Network within the functional area to which the development plan relates,”.

Amendment put and declared lost.

Amendments Nos. 538 and 539 not moved.

Question proposed: "That section 69 stand part of the Bill".

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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I have one question. In terms of prioritisation, will that be a matter for-----

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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For the local authorities-----

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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-----the local authorities to decide.

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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Yes.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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Okay.

Question put and agreed to.

SECTION 70

Photo of Cian O'CallaghanCian O'Callaghan (Dublin Bay North, Social Democrats)
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I move amendment No. 540:

In page 157, between lines 37 and 38, to insert the following: “(vi) (I) where the settlement or part of the settlement to which the proposed plan relates includes a Limistéar Pleanála Teanga Gaeltachta or a Baile Seirbhíse Gaeltachta within the Gaeltacht, any relevant Language Plan agreed pursuant to Acht na Gaeltachta 2012,

(II) where the settlement or part of the settlement to which the proposed plan relates includes a Baile Seirbhíse Gaeltachta outside the Gaeltacht or a Líonra Gaeilge, any relevant Language Plan agreed pursuant to Acht na Gaeltachta 2012,”.

Amendment put and declared lost.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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I move amendment No. 541:

In page 157, between lines 37 and 38, to insert the following: “(vi) any language plans agreed in accordance with the Gaeltacht Act 2012 relevant to a Gaeltacht Language Planning Area, Gaeltacht Service Town or Irish Language Network within the functional area to which the development plan relates,”.

Amendment put and declared lost.

Amendments Nos. 542 and 543 not moved.

Question proposed: "That section 70 stand part of the Bill".

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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We had a very detailed discussion on co-ordinated area plans already, so I do not want repeat any of that. I do not think we got clarity on one point. I refer to section 70(4), which states that: "A coordinated area plan committee shall comprise of 11, 13 or 15 members from the principal planning authority and the associate planning authority who shall be appointed in accordance with the regional spatial and economic strategy". It is there a rationale for why there are 11, 13 or 15 members? Does that depend on the size of the local authorities in question or are there two or three-----

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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It depends on size of the local authority.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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Whether it is-----

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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-----and the numbers.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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An issue was raised regarding the fact there are odd numbers of members.

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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That is for voting purposes.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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Yes. How is it decided which local authority gets the extra-----

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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The weighting.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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-----weighting? Is that done on the basis of size or is it-----

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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It is by majority voting.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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Again, the question is about the national planning policy statement. They clarify that.

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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Guidance will be issued in that regard.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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Will that be in the form of guidelines, regulations or the national planning policy statement?

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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It is in the national planning statement.

Photo of Steven MatthewsSteven Matthews (Wicklow, Green Party)
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Provided all members turn up for the vote, I presume.

Question put and agreed to.

SECTION 71

Photo of Cian O'CallaghanCian O'Callaghan (Dublin Bay North, Social Democrats)
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I move amendment No. 544:

In page 158 between lines 34 and 35, to insert the following:
“(v) (I) where the settlement or part of the settlement to which the proposed plan relates includes a Limistéar Pleanála Teanga Gaeltachta or a Baile Seirbhíse Gaeltachta within the Gaeltacht, any relevant Language Plan agreed pursuant to Acht na Gaeltachta 2012,

(II) where the settlement or part of the settlement to which the proposed plan relates includes a Baile Seirbhíse Gaeltachta outside the Gaeltacht or a Líonra Gaeilge, any relevant Language Plan agreed pursuant to Acht na Gaeltachta 2012,”.

Amendment put and declared lost.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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I move amendment No. 545:

In page 158, between lines 34 and 35, to insert the following:
“(v) any language plans agreed in accordance with the Gaeltacht Act 2012 relevant to a Gaeltacht Language Planning Area, Gaeltacht Service Town or Irish Language Network within the functional area to which the development plan relates,”.

Amendment put and declared lost.

Amendments Nos. 546 and 547 not moved.

Photo of Cian O'CallaghanCian O'Callaghan (Dublin Bay North, Social Democrats)
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I move amendment No. 548:

In page 159, between lines 16 and 17, to insert the following:
“(V) (A) where the settlement or part of the settlement to which the proposed plan relates includes a Limistéar Pleanála Teanga Gaeltachta or a Baile Seirbhíse Gaeltachta within the Gaeltacht, any relevant Language Plan agreed pursuant to Acht na Gaeltachta 2012,

(B) where the settlement or part of the settlement to which the proposed plan relates includes a Baile Seirbhíse Gaeltachta outside the Gaeltacht or a Líonra Gaeilge, any relevant Language Plan agreed pursuant to Acht na Gaeltachta 2012,”.

Amendment put and declared lost.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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I move amendment No. 549:

In page 159, between lines 16 and 17, to insert the following:
“(V) any language plans agreed in accordance with the Gaeltacht Act 2012 relevant to a Gaeltacht Language Planning Area, Gaeltacht Service Town or Irish Language Network within the functional area to which the development plan relates,”.

Amendment put and declared lost.

Question proposed: "That section 71 stand part of the Bill."

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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I have two technical questions on the section. Section 71(7) states:

A planning authority may at any time amend or revoke an urban area plan or a priority area plan made by the authority and this Chapter shall apply to the amendment or revocation of any such plan as it applies to the [plan] making.

When I read that initially, I thought about the process, how this will be done and what consultation will take place with respect to co-ordinated area plans. What if there is no agreement between the local authorities?

Section 71(9) states:

The Minister may by regulation prescribe such other matters to be addressed in an urban area plan, priority area plan or coordinated area plan taking into account the principles of proper planning and sustainable development of the settlement or part of the settlement ...

If there are going to be national planning policy statements providing statutory guidance on these types of plans, what is the purpose of including the phrase "such other matters" in the subsection?

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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On section 71(7), the co-ordination will be done in the national planning statements. In terms of the amendment, however, revocations would come forward in regulations.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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And-----

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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I am sorry; there will be further details in the regulations.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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With any of these plans, there is obviously a process by which they are developed and agreed in a democratic manner. Will it be the case that the chief executive will propose the revocation and that this proposal will be voted on by the elected members? There is much detail in the section regarding the production and agreement of these plans, but not a whole lot on revocation. I accept that it may be dealt with in later sections.

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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It is done by the planning authority. Section 72(11) states:

The members of the planning authority shall consider a report of the chief executive prepared under subsection (9) and the urban area plan or priority area plan, as the case may be, shall be deemed to be made in accordance with the recommendations set out in the report of the chief executive 6 weeks after the furnishing of the report to the members ...

Section 72(12) states, "Where the members of the planning authority resolve in accordance with paragraph (a) or (b) of subsection (11) to make an urban area plan or a priority area plan", which means that the members will have an opportunity to vote on it.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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Including revocation.

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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Yes.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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The Minister of State might address the use of the phrase "such other matters" in section 71(9).

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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For clarity, we can provide further detail on how that process would work.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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Am I right in thinking that subsection (9) is more of a general provision for something that might not yet be apparent at the time we are doing the national policy statements and that might emerge at a later stage?

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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Yes.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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It is almost like a safety net rather than something explicit.

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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Yes. Again, we can provide further detail on that.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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Okay.

Question put and agreed to.

SECTION 72

Photo of Cian O'CallaghanCian O'Callaghan (Dublin Bay North, Social Democrats)
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I move amendment No. 550:

In page 160, to delete lines 38 and 39 and substitute the following:
“(vi) (I) where the settlement or part of the settlement to which the proposed plan relates includes a Limistéar Pleanála Teanga Gaeltachta or a Baile Seirbhíse Gaeltachta within the Gaeltacht, Roinn na Gaeltachta and Údarás na Gaeltachta,

(II) where the settlement or part of the settlement to which the proposed plan relates includes a Baile Seirbhíse Gaeltachta outside the Gaeltacht or a Líonra Gaeilge, Roinn na Gaeltachta and Foras na Gaeilge,”.

Amendment put and declared lost.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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I move amendment No. 551:

In page 160, line 39, after “Gaeltachta,” to insert “Foras na Gaeilge, the Minister responsible for the Gaeltacht, Oifig an Choimisinéara Teanga, and any relevant Language Planning Officer,”.

Amendment put and declared lost.

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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I move amendment No. 552:

In page 165, to delete lines 19 to 21 and substitute the following:
“(26) A failure to comply with subsections (1), (7), (9), (12), (17) and (23) within the time period specified therein shall not of itself invalidate an urban area plan or priority area plan.”.

Amendment agreed to.

Question proposed: "That section 72, as amended, stand part of the Bill."

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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I have eight question on this section. I will rattle through them. A number are straightforward.

Section 72(2)(a) states, "the chief executive of the planning authority shall consult the members of the planning authority or, in the case of a priority area plan where a sub-committee has been appointed under subsection (3)". Who decides the make-up of the subsection? Again, is that to be-----

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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Is the Deputy referring to the sub-committee?

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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Absolutely. I apologise.

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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Section 69(3) states:

A planning authority may appoint a sub-committee comprised of elected members from the part of the settlement to be the subject of a priority area plan for the purposes of liaising with the chief executive in relation to the preparation of a draft priority area plan under section 72.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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In terms of how the planning authority will decide the size and composition of the sub-committee, will that be set down in a national planning policy statement or regulations or will it be left to local authorities to decide?

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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It will be a sub-committee of a local authority. It will be a matter for the local authorities.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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They will have discretion to decide how many members will serve on the sub-committees, etc.

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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Exactly.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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Will it be a sub-committee of a local area committee or a municipal district committee?

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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It will be a sub-committee of elected members. It will be brought together for the specific purpose outlined.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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If the plan deals with a geographical area, such as one or two local electoral areas, LEAs, will the sub-committee be comprised of members of those areas?

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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Yes, it will comprise members from both of those areas.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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Having established that, my question is still the same. We have sub-committees of Oireachtas committees and sub-committees of the Dáil. Of what is this a sub-committee? Is it a sub-committee of the council or of the lower tier committees?

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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It is a sub-committee of the elected members of the council.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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Okay. My next question is on section 72(5), which deals with plan-making. We had a lengthy debate on the national planning framework in which we fought tooth and nail, but I do not think we won, in regard to the language around who should be consulted. The language used in subsection (5) is a little more inclusive than in that case. I am noting this because if the Minister of State considers returning to some of the queries we raised with respect to strengthening the public participation and consultation aspects of the planning framework, this subsection has slightly better language. I am interested in why that is. Is it because these provisions relate to a smaller geographical area and, therefore, a smaller amount of work, which means we can be more generous in the list of organisations to be consulted, or is there some other reason the language is a little more generous?

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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The reference to the Minister, the Office of the Planning Regulator and the commission is an all-inclusive provision. Then it is specific in terms of the reference to the regional assembly, the planning authority and, where the settlement is part of a Gaeltacht, Údarás na Gaeltachta is included as well.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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My point was more specifically that subsection (5)(a)(viii) uses slightly more inclusive language than what has gone before. I might move on and press the point by way of another example. Section 72(6) is very interesting.

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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Before the Deputy moves on, it should be noted that we are looking at subsection (5)(a)(viii) in a broader context. The Deputy is saying it is inclusive. We are looking at that in terms of other contexts in the Bill with the reference to "such other persons as may be prescribed".

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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I welcome that. I am making the same point in noting that I really like some of the language in subsections (6) and (7). Again, this relates back to the discussions we had about more inclusive public participation. Subsection (6)(d) provides that "written submissions received before the expiry of the period specified in the notice, will be taken into consideration before the making of the urban area plan r priority area plan". Subsection (6)(e) states that "children, or groups representing the interests of children, are entitled to make submissions under paragraph (d)". This is a really good thing. I commend in particular the inclusion of a very important group of people who, up until page 161-----

Photo of Steven MatthewsSteven Matthews (Wicklow, Green Party)
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That provision is included in current legislation.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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Yes. However, in other areas of plan-making, such as for the national planning framework, it is not included. That is my point. I am not complaining. I am highlighting an anomaly in a Bill that is meant to be about consistency. There is nothing stopping a Minister, in the context of the national planning framework, from including children and groups representing children. I am commenting on the fact this is stated here and not elsewhere. It is something for the Minister of State to consider before Report Stage.

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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The Deputy makes a very good point that is worthy of consideration. This is a critically important provision. We do not want to have a tokenistic approach. Children and young children must have their voices heard in such processes. It is something we should consider further.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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On subsections (6) and (9), I assume the answer to my question is the same as for a previous point. There is a six-week turnaround time and a nine-week turnaround time provided for under subsection (6)(c). Were those timelines decided on following consultation with the local government sector?

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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Yes, there was consultation with the local government sector.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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I have two more questions. I promise to be quick. Section 72(11) states:

The members of the planning authority shall consider a report of the chief executive prepared under subsection (9) and the urban area plan or priority area plan, as the case may be, shall be deemed to be made in accordance with the recommendations set out in the report of the chief executive 6 weeks after the furnishing of the report to the members of the planning authority unless the planning authority, by resolution passed before the expiry of the said period...

Out of interest, why is it necessary to have a provision whereby the plan would not be agreed unless the planning authority passes it by resolution? Surely it should be passed. Is it the case that if the local authority does not get it together to have the meeting, the plan passes by default? What is the reason for that formulation?

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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It is to allow the elected members to have that period to consider the report.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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My question is slightly different from the one the Minister of State is answering. As the Cathaoirleach noted, these provisions are in the existing legislation. It almost seems like this provision is there to prevent the elected members from delaying the passage of the plan by not convening a meeting, not turning up at a meeting or not having a quorum. The members have to come to the meeting and say "Yes" or "No" to it.

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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In effect, yes.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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Is that the reason the provision is there?

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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Yes, it is.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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Okay. My final question is on section 72(22). Again, this may be an existing provision of the Act or it may be new. I am not sure. The subsection states:

A resolution referred to in subsection (11) or (20) shall require to be passed by not less than half of the members of the planning authority and the requirements of this subsection are in addition to, and not in substitution for, any other requirements applying in relation to such a resolution.

This relates to resolutions regarding the approval of plans-----

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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It relates to making the plan with or without "proposed material alteration" or the decision not to make the plan.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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Yes. There is a requirement for 50% of the members of the planning authority, that is, 50% of the members of the council, to approve a plan that might only be relevant to a geographical portion of the council.

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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It may be for a plan area that is affecting only part of a local authority but there will be implications for the entire planning authority in terms of costs, implementation, etc.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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That might answer my question. It is almost like a check that the full council gets to decide in order that the members of one particular area cannot lose the run of themselves and go off a spending spree. In essence, that is why it is there.

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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That is it.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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With apologies to the Cathaoirleach, I have one further question.

Photo of Steven MatthewsSteven Matthews (Wicklow, Green Party)
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Go ahead, Deputy.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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It relates to section 72(27). Again, this could just be a catch-all provision. The subsection states:

The Minister may by regulations make further provision about— (a) the preparation of, the making of and the amendment of urban area plans and priority area plans, and

(b) related matters.

Is this just to catch stuff that might not otherwise be covered?

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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Yes, it is just a catch-all provision.

Photo of Steven MatthewsSteven Matthews (Wicklow, Green Party)
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I thank Deputy Ó Broin for his helpful questions.

Question put and agreed to.

SECTION 73

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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I move amendment No. 553:

In page 165, line 28, to delete “within one year of making a development plan for its functional area” and substitute the following:
“prior to the preparation by the principal planning authority of an interim report under subsection (2) of section 54 on the progress achieved towards securing the implementation of the development plan for the functional area.”.

Amendment put:

The Committee divided: Tá, 6; Níl, 3.



Amendment declared carried.

Photo of Cian O'CallaghanCian O'Callaghan (Dublin Bay North, Social Democrats)
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I move amendment No. 554:

In page 166, to delete lines 16 and 17 and substitute the following: “(vii) (I) where the settlement or part of the settlement to which the proposed plan relates includes a Limistéar Pleanála Teanga Gaeltachta or a Baile Seirbhíse Gaeltachta within the Gaeltacht, Roinn na Gaeltachta and Údarás na Gaeltachta, (II) where the settlement or part of the settlement to which the proposed plan relates includes a Baile Seirbhíse Gaeltachta outside the Gaeltacht or a Líonra Gaeilge, Roinn na Gaeltachta and Foras na Gaeilge,”.

Amendment put and declared lost.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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I move amendment No. 555:

In page 166, line 17, after “area,” to insert “or Gaeltacht Service Town within a Gaeltacht area”.

Amendment put and declared lost.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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I move amendment No. 556:

In page 166, line 17, after “Gaeltachta,” to insert “Oifig an Choimisinéara Teanga, and any relevant Language Planning Officer,”.

Amendment put and declared lost..

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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I move amendment No. 557:

In page 166, between lines 17 and 18, to insert the following: “(viii) where the settlement or part of the settlement to which the proposed plan relates includes a Gaeltacht Service Town outside the Gaeltacht or an Irish Language Network, Foras na Gaeilge, Oifig an Choimisinéara Teanga, and any relevant Language Planning Officer,”.

Amendment put and declared lost.

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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I move amendment No. 558:

In page 172, to delete lines 15 to 17 and substitute the following: “(33) A failure to comply with subsections (1), (7), (9), (14), (19), (24), (26) and (29) within the time period specified therein shall of itself not invalidate a coordinated area plan.”.

Amendment agreed to.

Section 73, as amended, agreed to.

Section 74 agreed to.

SECTION 75

Photo of Cian O'CallaghanCian O'Callaghan (Dublin Bay North, Social Democrats)
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I move amendment No. 559:

In page 174, between lines 8 and 9, to insert the following: “(VI) any relevant Language Plan agreed pursuant to Acht na Gaeltachta 2012 which applies to the settlement or the part of a settlement concerned,”.

Amendment put and declared lost.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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I move amendment No. 560:

In page 174, between lines 8 and 9, to insert the following: “(VI) any language plans agreed in accordance with the Gaeltacht Act 2012 relevant to a Gaeltacht Language Planning Area, Gaeltacht Service Town or Irish Language Network which applies to the settlement or the

part of a settlement concerned,”.

Amendment put and declared lost.

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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I move amendment No. 561:

In page 174, line 27, to delete “assembly or the National Transport Authority” and substitute “assembly, the National Transport Authority or any other body as may be prescribed”.

Amendment agreed to.

Photo of Cian O'CallaghanCian O'Callaghan (Dublin Bay North, Social Democrats)
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I move amendment No. 562:

In page 175, between lines 2 and 3, to insert the following: “(h) any relevant Language Plan agreed pursuant to Acht na Gaeltachta 2012 which applies to the settlement or the part of a settlement concerned,”.

Amendment put and declared lost.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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I move amendment No. 563:

In page 175, between lines 2 and 3, to insert the following: “(h) any language plans agreed in accordance with the Gaeltacht Act 2012 relevant to a Gaeltacht Language Planning Area, Gaeltacht Service Town or Irish Language Network which applies to the settlement or the part of a settlement concerned,”.

Amendment put and declared lost.

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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I move amendment No. 564:

In page 175, line 23, to delete “simultaneously” and substitute “on the same day”.

Amendment agreed to.

Photo of Cian O'CallaghanCian O'Callaghan (Dublin Bay North, Social Democrats)
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I move amendment No. 565:

In page 176, between lines 18 and 19, to insert the following: “(vi) any relevant Language Plan agreed pursuant to Acht na Gaeltachta 2012 which applies to the settlement or the part of a settlement concerned,”.

Amendment put and declared lost.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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I move amendment No. 566:

In page 176, between lines 18 and 19, to insert the following: “(vi) any language plans agreed in accordance with the Gaeltacht Act 2012 relevant to a Gaeltacht Language Planning Area, Gaeltacht Service Town or Irish Language Network which applies to the settlement or the part of a settlement concerned,”.

Amendment put and declared lost.

Question proposed: "That section 75, as amended, stand part of the Bill."

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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Section 75(4) states:

Where the Office of the Planning Regulator, as part of an assessment under subsection (1) or (2), forms a preliminary view that the urban area plan, priority area plan or coordinated area plan concerned or any part or provision thereof should be suspended because it may be materially inconsistent with one or more of the items referred to in subparagraphs (i) to (v) of paragraph (a) of subsection (8), it may issue a notice to the planning authority or, in the case of a coordinated area plan, the principal planning authority and the associate planning authority, which shall take effect immediately upon issuance and shall—

(a) suspend the effect of the plan or part or provision thereof.

The section talks about the planning regulator forming a preliminary view - not a detailed assessment or consideration. If its view is that a plan may be materially inconsistent, not that it is materially inconsistent, it is immediately suspended. They are low thresholds. Is there a time limit on how long? It seems a very low bar for some dramatic interventions by the regulator. I am not arguing that the plans in question should be allowed to be materially inconsistent with other areas of the legislation. However, with a preliminary view that it may be materially inconsistent and on issuance of the notice, the plan or section of the plan is suspended immediately.

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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Any such suspension shall take effect immediately upon issuance by the office of a notice of suspension. Any such suspension shall furthermore remain in effect pending the making of a recommendation by the office to the Minister, to issue the draft direction or not, and consideration of the recommendation and making of the decision by the Minister. It is precautionary, and I think the objective is to suspend it immediately where there are concerns, while a recommendation is being made.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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I have a couple of observations. Part of the problem is that it is based on a preliminary view that something may be inconsistent, and not that it is inconsistent. The regulator could, on further reflection, take a different view and lift the suspension. It seems too easy a trigger for suspension. Should there not at least be some check or threshold that would have to be met? Second, the direction can obviously involve some level of consultation with other bodies and organisations. This means the section or plan could be suspended for some time before a draft direction is issued to the Minister for consideration by the regulator.

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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It would not be the case that it would be done on a whim. That temporary suspension derives from an assessment.

Section 75(3) states:

In carrying out an assessment of an urban area plan, priority area plan or coordinated area plan under subsection (1) or (2), the Office of the Planning Regulator shall, for the purposes of forming an opinion under subsection (8), in particular, consider ...

A range of considerations are then listed in paragraphs (a) to (g), inclusive. The objective is to ensure a plan is suspended while this deliberation takes place. The suspension is grounded in careful consideration until a formal official recommendation is made by the office to the Minister.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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If subsection (4) were to state "on conclusion of the assessment as set out in subsection (3)", that would be one thing. However, the regulator does not have to wait until he or she has concluded an assessment and has considered all those-----

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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Section 75(5) states, "Where the Office of the Planning Regulator issues a notice under subsection (4), it shall simultaneously provide a copy of the notice to the Minister and the Commission and publish the notice".

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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My point is different. Section 75(4) contains the phrase "Where the Office of the Planning Regulator, as part of an assessment". That is not on the conclusion of or after the assessment. Where the planning regulator and its hardworking staff are going through their assessment of the plan as per subsection (3), subsection (4) can kick in at any stage. At an early stage of the assessment, the regulator may form a preliminary view before concluding the assessment that something may be materially inconsistent. That is very different to the import of the phrase "on conclusion of their assessment". It seems such a draconian inclusion, and "draconian" is a word we have used a great deal with regard to these sections. I am not saying they would do it on a whim but they do not necessarily need to do it on the basis of the conclusion of the assessment or detailed analysis of the plan.

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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A preliminary view s formed. Let us go back to subsection (1) or (2).

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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Does the Minister of State mean section 75(1) or section 75(2)?

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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Yes. Section 75(2)(a) states, "The Minister may, at any time, request the Office of the Planning Regulator to carry out an assessment of an urban area plan, priority area plan or coordinated area plan."

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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That still does not address the point. Subsection (4) includes a significant power. The Government is proposing to allow the regulator, at any stage while it is carrying out its assessment of a plan - the beginning, middle or end - to have the power to temporarily suspend a plan or any element of it. My one concern is that there seems to be no real check. It would be different if it were to come at the end of the assessment.

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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Section 75(3) includes a check in terms of carrying out the assessment of an urban area plan. I referenced the items contained in section 75(3)(a) to 75(3)(g) in terms of the assessment.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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Sure, but subsection (4) can be used before any item under section 75(3)(a) to 75(3)(f) are concluded. Am I not correct in that?

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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Those items under 75(3)(a) to 75(3)(g) inform a case where a preliminary view is formed.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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I am asking the Minister of State to clarify that the assessment does not have to be concluded. Not all of the considerations under section 75(3)(a) to 75(3)(f) must be concluded. We are talking about a really early intervention mechanism. Is that not what it is?

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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By way of example, if the regulator gets a plan and the initial review finds that it is not aligned with section 75(3)(a) to 75(3)(g), it can suspend the plan until the full review is complete.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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That clarifies the point.

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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Settlement objectives would be an example.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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I have a general query about section 75(12), which states:

Where the Minister decides under subsection (11) that a draft direction should be issued under section 76, he or she shall—

(a) identify in the stated reasons provided under paragraph (b) which of the criteria in paragraphs (a) to (c) of subsection (8) the Minister considers to be met, and

(b) direct the Office of the Planning Regulator to issue a draft direction...

I am confused about the term "draft direction". Perhaps I have forgotten what was said in previous debates but from previous discussions, I thought a draft direction would be issued by the regulator and the Minister would then decide whether to enact it or not to give effect to it. Is this different?

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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The draft direction is issued by the OPR on the instruction of the Minister.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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I just want to ensure I have the process right. The OPR does its review or assessment but has to get permission from the Minister for the draft direction.

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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It is a recommendation.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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Will the Minister of State explain that?

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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Let us look at section 75(8)(c), which states in respect of the OPR that:

[It] shall make a recommendation to the Minister that a draft direction under section 76 should be issued, which recommendation shall be accompanied by— (i) proposed terms for the draft direction, having regard to paragraphs (a) and (b)...

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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The OPR makes a recommendation to the Minister for the issuance of a draft direction.

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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The Minister then considers the recommendation.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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Let me get this process right. The OPR makes a recommendation to the Minister that a draft direction under section 76 is issued. The Minister permits the issuance of a draft direction. That direction is then considered by the Minister before a decision is taken by him or her whether to give effect to that and make it a direction.

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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That is correct.

Question put: "That section 75, as amended, stand part of the Bill."

The Committee divided: Tá, 5; Níl, 3.



Question declared carried.

SECTION 76

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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I move amendment No. 567:

In page 179, to delete lines 9 and 10 and substitute the following: “(v) where the planning authority (and where the subject matter of the draft direction is a coordinated area plan, the principal planning authority or the associate planning authority) is a coastal planning authority, the Maritime Area Regulatory Authority,

(vi) the Commission,

(vii) the National Transport Authority, and

(viii) any other body, as the Office of the Planning Regulator considers appropriate.”.

Amendment agreed to.

Photo of Cian O'CallaghanCian O'Callaghan (Dublin Bay North, Social Democrats)
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I move amendment No. 568:

In page 179 between lines 10 and 11, to insert the following: “(vii) (I) where the subject matter of the draft direction involves a Limistéar Pleanála Teanga Gaeltachta or a Baile Seirbhíse Gaeltachta within the Gaeltacht, Roinn na Gaeltachta and Údarás na Gaeltachta,
(II) where the subject matter of the draft direction involves a Baile Seirbhíse Gaeltachta outside the Gaeltacht or a Líonra Gaeilge, Roinn na Gaeltachta and Foras na Gaeilge,”.

Amendment put and declared lost.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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I move amendment No. 569:

In page 179, between lines 10 and 11, to insert the following: “(vii) the board members of Údarás na Gaeltachta, Foras na Gaeilge, the Minister responsible for the Gaeltacht, Oifig an Choimisinéara Teanga, and any relevant Language Planning Officer.”.

Amendment put and declared lost.

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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I move amendment No. 570:

In page 179, line 32, after “and” to insert the following: “in the summary of submissions submitted to the Minister under subsection (12), which will be considered”.

Amendment agreed to.

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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I move amendment No. 571:

In page 181, between lines 5 and 6, to insert the following: “(14) The Minister may prescribe a period or periods that shall be disregarded for the purposes of reckoning any period referenced in this section.”.

Amendment agreed to.

Question proposed, "That section 76, as amended, stand part of the Bill."

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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Section 76(4)(a) states: "A planning authority or the Commission shall not determine any application for permission which would be materially affected by a provision suspended in accordance with subsection (3)". We will be in the period of statutory timeframes for planning decisions. Where there is a planning application and a portion of a plan is suspended, that could lead to a delay in the decision, including beyond the statutory timeline for the relevant planning authority. Have the practical and legal consequences of that been thought through?

I assume - correct me if I am wrong - the plan is produced and the OPR does its review.

How then would any planning application be materially impacted by the suspension of the plan or is this a provision for some time after a plan is agreed? I am trying to work out the timelines of this, if that makes sense.

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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The section states that the "planning authority or the commission shall not determine any application for permission". The timeframes therefore do not apply.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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If the planning application has been submitted, the impact of this is that they cannot make a decision.

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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Yes, it is paused.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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My apologies but where is that stated? It could be right in front of me.

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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The section states that the planning authority or commission "shall not determine any application for permission". That is the pause.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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Is is really the case that they are not allowed to make a decision?

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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Yes.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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The application is still being lodged. Where, legally, is it stated that the time period will be paused?

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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The provision in section 76(4)(a) pauses the timeline. Section 76(4)(b) states that where "a planning authority or the Commission is temporarily precluded from

determining any application for permission under paragraph (a), it shall notify the applicant." That pauses the application.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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Is it that the planning authority or commission cannot consider the application and because of this the timeline only begins from the point of view of consideration? Is that what the Minister of State means?

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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Yes. They cannot make a decision. They assume the process of consideration still goes on but they cannot make a decision on it.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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That is not at all clear from the wording, although I understand how the Minister of State is presenting it. Is there any concern that the inability of the planning authority to consider making a decision could leave it open to legal action because the legislation does not explicitly state that the application is paused or because it is through no fault?

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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No, it states the planning authority or Commission "shall" not determine. It does not leave the planning authority open to legal action.

Photo of Steven MatthewsSteven Matthews (Wicklow, Green Party)
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Can I get clarification on that? I tabled an amendment about suspending statutory timelines with regard to section 62, which is similar. Is that situation similar to this one?

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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This relates to section 76(4)(a). I see Deputy Matthews raised it.

Photo of Steven MatthewsSteven Matthews (Wicklow, Green Party)
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I suggested a suspension of statutory timelines under section 62(4) where a draft direction was issued by the planning regulator to suspend that provision. That would equally apply here, so the planning authority cannot make a decision-----

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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Does Deputy Matthews recall what amendment this related to?

Photo of Steven MatthewsSteven Matthews (Wicklow, Green Party)
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It was amendment No. 513.

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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Section 62(4) also provides that a "planning authority or the Commission shall not determine any application". It is the same situation.

Photo of Steven MatthewsSteven Matthews (Wicklow, Green Party)
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I asked if the suspension of statutory timelines makes sense under subsection (4). Would it also make sense here to suspend and essentially stop the clock?

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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Essentially, what the Minister of State is saying is that because the planning authority and commission are not allowed to determine the application, the clock will not apply. There is no clock.

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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Yes, the timeframe does not apply. There is none.

Photo of Steven MatthewsSteven Matthews (Wicklow, Green Party)
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Could that be made clearer because sections 98 and 110 deal with time limits?

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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The applicant is informed of the suspension of the process.

Photo of Steven MatthewsSteven Matthews (Wicklow, Green Party)
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Okay. Therefore, the statutory timeframes are-----

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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Yes.

Question put: "That section 76, as amended, stand part of the Bill."

The Committee divided: Tá, 5; Níl, 2.



Question declared carried.

SECTION 77

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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I move amendment No. 572:

In page 181, line 25, after “any” to insert “summary of”

Amendment agreed to.

Photo of Steven MatthewsSteven Matthews (Wicklow, Green Party)
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I will withdraw my amendment No. 573.

Amendment No. 573 not moved.

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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I move amendment No. 574:

In page 182, line 36, to delete “3 working days” and substitute “5 working days”.

Amendment agreed to.

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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I move amendment No. 575:

In page 182, line 40, after “authority),” to insert “the relevant regional assembly,”.

Amendment agreed to.

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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I move amendment No. 576:

In page 183, line 2, to delete “2 working days” and substitute “5 working days”.

Amendment agreed to.

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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I move amendment No. 577:

In page 183, line 11, after “authority),” to insert “the relevant regional assembly,”.

Amendment agreed to.

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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I move amendment No. 578:

In page 183, line 20, to delete “shall, within 3 working days of receipt of the direction,” and substitute “shall, as soon as practicable,”.

Amendment agreed to.

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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I move amendment No. 579:

In page 183, after line 40, to insert the following:

“(18) The Minister may prescribe a period or periods that shall be disregarded for the purposes of reckoning any period referenced in this section.”.

Amendment agreed to.

Question put: "That section 77, as amended, stand part of the Bill."

The Committee divided: Tá, 5; Níl, 2.



Question declared carried.

Section 78 agreed to.

SECTION 79