Thursday, 25 May 2006
Planning and Development (Strategic Infrastructure) Bill 2006 [Seanad]: Second Stage (Resumed).
John Gormley (Dublin South East, Green Party)
This legislation has been introduced because the perception exists that many major planning proposals have been unnecessarily delayed. The Bill is designed to fast track planning proposals. It follows previous legislation from this Government to essentially dismantle people-centred planning. We have had the introduction of fees for those who want to make planning submissions. I know of many residents who make very sensible submissions on planning issues, who are now being charged for doing so. It seems they are being charged illegally as the European Commission takes a different view and has asked the Government not to charge those fees for a submission.
A planning proposal with which I am dealing requires €250 to make an appeal to An Bord Pleanála. Of course that appeal can only be made by a party that had objected in the first place, which represents a further erosion of people's democratic rights. The Government has a poor record on planning. It seems it wants to move the planning process away from people's participation.
Some elements in the Government want to remove themselves from Government decision making in this area. I refer to my constituency colleague, the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, who recently circulated a leaflet in the constituency claiming he is opposed to the incinerator for the Poolbeg Peninsula. This is extraordinary as the incinerator is Government policy. Just before Christmas the Government, consisting of Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats, approved a public private partnership for the development of the incinerator on the Poolbeg Peninsula. I do not know how he can on the one hand say he is part of the Government and approves of the policy, while on the other hand say he disagrees with the policy. He seems to want to have it both ways. While I am not saying that people in this Chamber are doing that, I am saying that my constituency colleague, the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform is doing just that. It is quite unprecedented for a Minister to behave in this fashion.
His basic argument is that this is now a mass burn incinerator: of course it is a mass burn incinerator that is proposed for the Poolbeg Peninsula. The Progressive Democrats manifesto for the 2002 general election states the party "would ensure no mass burn incineration", yet a public private partnership is proposed to provide such an incinerator. How can the party approve of such a public private partnership while opposing the development? The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform claims in a leaflet he circulated in the constituency that he "successfully thwarted the proposal to have the project taken away from An Bord Pleanála and handed over to a fast-track infrastructural board". That is a reference to this legislation.
It is extraordinary that the Minister could have achieved this. He says he has used his ministerial office to influence his Cabinet colleagues but despite tabling numerous parliamentary questions, I have not been provided with details of his representations on this. I do not know how he did it. If Dublin City Council wishes, it can wait until we pass the legislation to process the planning application for the incinerator. Nothing can prevent the council from doing this but there is little difference between undertaking a public private partnership, which must be referred to An Bord Pleanála, and the process provided for in the legislation, which provides for the making of applications directly to the board. There is no profound difference and, therefore, the Minister's claim is bogus.
When people accuse others of making a political football out of an issues such as this, they need to be careful as they are standing in a glasshouse. Clearly, the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform has made the incinerator project a major issue. He said this would be a major plank of his election campaign and that he would put manners on Fianna Fáil in Government.