Thursday, 25 November 2021
Planning and Development (Amendment) (Large-scale Residential Development) Bill 2021 [Seanad]: Second Stage
We welcome this legislation and will support it because it brings to an end the flawed SHD legislation. We need a decent framework for large-scale residential builds but let us be clear; unfortunately, strategic housing developments will be with us into 2022. That has already been put on record, particularly by a number of my colleagues. We will propose amendments in that regard on Committee Stage. We also have difficulties with the changes being proposed with regard to the judicial review process. We have not had an adequate explanation as to the reason for these changes.
We all accept that there is a planning problem across the board. We welcome that a review is being undertaken by the Attorney General. There will be a need to streamline this planning process to allow it to work in the modern age. We are aware of the difficulties being experienced by the Office of Public Works, OPW, Transport Infrastructure Ireland, TII, National Broadband Ireland, NBI and other agencies in trying to undertake major infrastructural projects.
In addition, this process can fall down at all ends, in that many of those outfits can also fail to do what they should be doing from a community interaction perspective regarding consultation and even pre-consultation scenarios. We need as much as possible, therefore, to build this aspect into a framework and then ensure that there is best practice and due diligence in planning. We must get a sensible system in place for planning that works for everybody involved.
We have a pile of anomalies that we must deal with in the planning system. Eventually, we must see the results of the review of rural housing. We must also have a straight conversation regarding that aspect, because every local authority takes a slightly different angle and all the political parties sometimes split on where they stand on the issue as well. A proper discussion has never been had about that issue, and nor has a roadmap or a framework emerged from this place. That must happen. Multiple anomalies exist throughout many local development plans by now. The cart has been placed before the horse, and that is the usual thing we do here.
When talking about planning, what is consistently raised with me is the idea of permeability. We all accept the desire to facilitate a world of active living. I have seen many circumstances, however, where a developer, or whomever, has been forced to build what is regarded as permeability and connectivity but all it does is create a rat-run that produces problems with antisocial behaviour and difficulties for the Garda. Councillors then have to beat themselves up from the perspective of trying to ensure that they can get some of these features extinguished. That is a difficulty that we must deal with.
We have had a long conversation on how to deal with the supply issue and we are also aware of the rental issues. We support this Bill but several issues remain outstanding. I have dealt with and will continue to deal with the Minister to address the issue of maintenance. He has put forward proposals concerning potential retrofitting of buildings, dealing with housing maintenance issues and possible regeneration schemes. We have a particular issue in the Louth County Council area regarding the age of the housing stock. It is an issue that must be dealt with as soon as possible.