Tuesday, 28 February 2006
Urban Renewal Schemes.
Question 50: To ask the Minister for Finance if there is an appeal mechanism in place for persons who have a property designated under the town renewal scheme for refurbishment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7991/06]
The actual selection and designation process for areas to be designated under the town renewal scheme is a matter primarily for local authorities and an independent expert advisory panel set up by the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. I understand that in accordance with the Town Renewal Act 2000 and the 1999 Guidelines on the Town Renewal Scheme, the designation of sites is decided in the context of town renewal plans. It is for the relevant county council to prepare and submit such plans, including proposals on the designation of specific sites for tax incentives, in accordance with the appropriate criteria as outlined in the scheme guidelines. These plans are assessed by the independent expert advisory panel, which makes recommendations to the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government on the areas to be designated and the appropriateness of the categories of relief that should apply.
The expert panel is confined by the Town Renewal Act 2000 to examining the specific proposals put forward by local authorities in their town renewal plans. The expert panel on town renewal exercises an independent role in assessing the plans submitted and in making recommendations on the sites to be designated in the context of the plans submitted by the various county councils. The recommendations made by the panel are accepted in full and designations are implemented on that basis.
Given that the sites selected for designation by county councils, examined by the expert panel and subsequently approved for designation follow a very detailed, structured and well thought out process, it was not seen as necessary to establish an appeal process when the procedural arrangements for designation were put in place.
I have come across a few cases in which, when the final application was being made to have the buildings designated for refurbishment, the architect made a judgment call on behalf of the individual property owner that it was not possible to refurbish the property and that it would have to be demolished. Some of these properties might have had some new build in addition to the refurbishment. Is there any appeal mechanism for such designations? In addition — if the Minister cannot answer this, that is fair enough — will the Minister clarify whether an appeals mechanism existed under the old urban renewal scheme that has been scaled down?
The only way in which I may be able to help the Deputy is to clarify that section 372AB of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 provides that the Minister for Finance can revoke or amend an order. To date, amendments have been made to three designation orders, two of which were for the town renewal scheme and the third of which was for the urban renewal scheme. All the amendments related to mapping or transposition errors that resulted in the expert panel's recommendations not being fully reflected in the signed orders. The errors did not come to light until after the orders were made. In no case was an amendment made on the basis of a request by developers, local authorities or site owners for changes to a designation because the type of designation did not match their planned project for the site. For example, if part of a site was excluded on a map in the original order, the amendment process could be used. However, if all the technical details were in order but the developer simply preferred to go for new build rather than refurbish the existing property, there is no procedure by which the designation could be appealed. Only if a detail has been excluded in error can an amendment be introduced under this process, as has happened in three cases.