Dáil debates

Thursday, 25 November 2021

Planning and Development (Amendment) (Large-scale Residential Development) Bill 2021 [Seanad]: Second Stage


2:50 pm

Photo of John LahartJohn Lahart (Dublin South West, Fianna Fail) | Oireachtas source

We did not support it, actually. It was stitched into the programme for Government. I wish we had outlawed SHDs from the start. However, this legislation appears to do it. I was concerned that a Government press release about its legislative programme and what it was prioritising for autumn term - I welcome that this Bill has been prioritised - stated that the legislation would see a streamlining of the SHD process. We need to be very clear; that was Government language. This cannot be streamlining of the SHD process which not only must see an end, but needs to be seen to terminate. It is a seriously flawed process.

That is one of the most significant points I want to make.

The Minister would not be bringing forward this Bill if the previous legislation had not failed or been seen to fail. I do not want to be tiresome about it but I represent a constituency and one of the lessons I have learned, and which I am sure the Minister has learned, is that there is no one-size-fits-all approach in housing legislation. The Minister represents a constituency substantially larger than mine and it probably has much more land with development potential. I am not underestimating the impact of SHDs in Fingal but I know that in Dublin South-West, the SHDs essentially result in developments being shoehorned into what are, by and large, existing and settled residential areas, riding a coach and four through county development plans and local area plans.

As my constituency colleague, Deputy Duffy, stated earlier, I have seen first-hand that objections cannot be categorised as a case of "not in my back yard" or "NIMBYism". Some of the applications are obscene and offensive in how they ride roughshod over county development plans in terms of density and height with no regard for impact on traffic or great provision for amenities except on the site that the developer proposes. They have no regard for the wider need of amenities that the developments will necessitate.

There is a classic example in Citywest, with a local area plan in 2013 that envisaged a particular scale of residential development. All of this was overruled. The latest planning permission was for 13 storeys and we cannot even get 13 storeys in the city. The permission has no library, community centre or Garda station and it is an example of multiple SHD decisions, all build to rent, granted in the Citywest area, with more in Tallaght.

The SHD process became so sullied that developers are probably disinclined to enter into it. I suspect that contrary to what I feared, which was that when the end was flagged there would be a plethora of applications being steamrolled through. However, the process has been so sullied, challenged to such a degree and with outcomes denigrated that developers will be slow to use the SHD process. What has been the result? Democracy will always find a way. There is a ridiculous scenario, with residents having to hold cake sales on village greens and open spaces in estates to raise funding for judicial reviews. That was never intended to be the case.

I welcome and acknowledge the work the Minister has done, particularly in listening to his colleagues whining meaningfully and sincerely over the past 18 months about having a decent process that is transparent and involves the local authority. It should have democratic input along with transparency. This is vital and local communities kicked back because they were forced to use the judicial review process. What has happened? This delayed developments that otherwise might have found their way, with amendment, through the planning process. The units are not in the ground now and it could be a year or two before they are in the ground so they will come into the ground in a much more expensive manner.

I say to the Opposition that the phrase is "it does what it says on the tin". My colleague, the Minister, knows I opposed the programme for Government on a number of grounds, specifically those relating to the SHD process. That concern has been taken on board. I wish SHDs could have been ended earlier. This is a failed Government policy and a different Minister should be here to take the abuse; the current Minister should just be launching these new proposals. I am sorry the current Minister must take the continuous abuse in this regard.

I say to Deputy Boyd Barrett that the Minister is ending SHDs and it was a commitment in the programme for Government.


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