Thursday, 11 July 2019
An tOrd Gnó - Order of Business
I want to raise the issue of the Planning and Development (Housing) and Residential Tenancies Act 2016. Members will know that this Act was introduced to provide a new streamlined arrangement for fast-tracking housing that is of a strategic nature, includes more than 100 units or is student accommodation. When that legislation was passed by both Houses, the Minister rightly gave a commitment that it would be reviewed within two years. We have learned much from this process. We have learned that, despite all the fast-track planning permission granted under this arrangement, very little housing has been developed. I live close to a large site for which permission for a substantial development was granted. The buildings were knocked down, a fence was erected and the land has now trebled in value with no builders on site. This legislation allows the fast-tracking of planning with blocked out third party appeals. In simple terms, that means our citizens are not able to make submissions about those developments. We have added millions to the fortunes of developers, yet in many cases they have not built even one new home. All this legislation has done is give them fast-track planning permission and allowed them to bypass public engagement, which is not tolerated anywhere in Europe, while they sit on valuable sites and vast wealth.
The legislation was to be reviewed by the Minister after two years. I am pleased the Minister placed an advertisement in the national press yesterday stating there would be a public consultation process, but it would have to be completed and submissions received from the public by 25 July. That is to be acknowledged. All of us in this Chamber need to get out and tell people that they now have an opportunity to make a public submission on this fast-track planning process, and that they need to make a submission to the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government by 25 July 2019. I have written to the Department today and asked it to circulate the public consultation notice to every public representative, whether in the Dáil, the Seanad or a city or county council. This is really important. It is built into the legislation, in fairness. We are lawmakers and it is good that the provision is in place. I hope we can encourage members of the public to engage in this process. We cannot and should not allow developers to bypass public consultation or communities, secure planning permission that adds to the value of their lands and then sit on those sites without developing housing.