Thursday, 18 February 2021
Land Development Agency Bill 2021: Second Stage (Resumed)
I thank Deputy O'Connor for being so generous with the time shared. I am not sure if Deputy O'Donoghue is still in the Chamber but I was taken by his remarks on water going from the Shannon region to the Dublin region. I am sure he will look for a similar level of gratitude for local property tax going from my home area to regions across the country. We have balance in this country and it is extremely important to acknowledge that.
It is extremely important to acknowledge the balance provided in this legislation, which I welcome and, of course, support. I am grateful to the Minister of State for bringing it to the House and for the opportunity to raise a few points.
The key issue that has faced all of us over the last number of years is the ability to deliver affordable public homes for people who need them, and to deliver them now. If we look at the history of development in this State, we can obviously learn lessons. We can see what can be achieved when it is driven. I fundamentally believe the ability to deliver those affordable new homes that are so badly needed across every part of our beautiful country is at the heart of this legislation.
What is really crucial in this legislation, when it revamps and looks again at the agency, is that we look at what it has done so far. We should look at the opportunities and learn from the processes in place. In the heart of my constituency in Dundrum, the former Central Mental Hospital site is being developed by the Land Development Agency to provide up to 1,300 much-needed homes for that community. That process is under way. It is definitely at the pre-consultation stage. It is really crucial with any proposal to develop an area of a townland, that real and proper engagement is started, and not just engagement for engagement's sake. I am grateful to the project leads in Dundrum for being so open with me and other elected representatives in the area, be they councillors, Deputies or Senators, when they are in the area. The community that is there already needs to be at the heart of it.
I simply do not go in for a NIMBYism. If we want homes, we have to build them somewhere. However, the best way to deliver homes - family homes, real homes - is, of course, with the buy-in of the local community. The processes available to the Land Development Agency need to be strengthened. I mention the ability for a community not just to feed into seminars or webinars, which they are doing at the moment, or to have their voices heard but what they say needs to replicated and responded to in the plans when they come out.
We have a crucial development in Dundrum to provide high-density, good quality affordable homes. It is much needed and, as I said, the issue came up at every door during the general election more than a year ago. We must make sure, however, that those homes are fit for purpose and that common sense is applied when it comes to open space but also when it comes to community facilities. One thing we need to learn from other developments from, perhaps, a couple of decades ago is that one cannot simply build homes first and then think about the community requirements afterwards, that is, school places, childcare, recreational places and at harnessing the power and potential of existing nearby communities, whether local football clubs, schools and much else, to drive that new development and cohesive community spirit.
I ask the Minister of State to bring back to his Department and the teams at the Land Development Agency the idea that they need to be truly reactive to residents. I am sure that if they are, these new developments provided for under this legislation will be wholly beneficial to society, not just to those people who are lucky enough to get homes of any nature in this area and, crucially, those who will be living beside those homes and who will benefit from those additional community facilities. With that, I am delighted to support this legislation.