Thursday, 13 December 2018
Local Government Bill 2018: Report and Final Stages
There is nothing the Minister of State, Deputy Phelan has said with which I would disagree. I do not believe that anybody is arguing for it simply to be referred back to the two local authorities to do what they have not been able to do up to this point. I believe there should be urban area committees with a structured, formal mechanism for councillors from the municipal districts who are not on that urban area committee to participate in that process. I made a suggestion at one of the meetings with the Minister of State and his officials that if there is no ultimate agreement on the area plan, there should be some independent third party - be it An Bord Pleanála or the planning regulator if that office has the independent power to do this - to ensure that councillors would know that if they were to walk away from a final agreement on an area plan, there would be a third party to step in to ensure those plans would be insisted upon.
I am quite taken by the idea of a committee that has an equal number of members from either side of the boundary. The full membership of the municipal districts should be able, however, to submit amendments into the urban area committee and should be given a formal draft plan for final ratification, subject to the ultimate oversight of the planning regulator if an agreement cannot be reached.
I do not believe there is any disagreement between anything I have said in the public or the private housing committee meetings with the Minister of State and his officials, and anything the Minister of State has said in the House.
Deputy Naughten is right; there is no alternative in front of him so I have a lot of sympathy for his position. In the past week and a half, I have probably spoken to more city and county managers, and ex-city and county managers, from outside my constituency than I have done in quite a long time. Nobody is arguing against a structure or a statutory requirement to produce a plan for those urban areas. In no conversation I have had with people has anyone said things should be left the way they are. Many of the discussions we had during the committee and at the private sessions have been informed by some of those points of view. I am not asking the Minister of State to take us at our word, because obviously he has a legitimate concern, but I do not believe we will have the same head of steam when the Minister of State comes back with proposals. We have given a commitment, however, to get this agreed and get it through and we will certainly honour this commitment.