Friday, 19 February 2021
An tOrd Gnó - Order of Business
I want to touch on the Land Development Agency Bill which came before the Houses of the Oireachtas this week.Coming from a county with such a huge population as Meath, the pressure of providing homes is something we deal with on a daily basis, whether through social housing waiting lists or private developments. I back the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Deputy Darragh O'Brien, 100% in his remark that this is about delivering homes, not dogma. During the debate, several Deputies from rural areas stated that there was nothing in this Bill for rural Ireland. We are talking about trying to develop large-scale housing. By its very nature, one would not be doing that in the countryside. One Deputy from Limerick attacked the LDA as the death knell for rural Ireland. One of the current developments on the books is the Colbert Station Quarter development, which will include thousands of homes, thousands of units of student accommodation, enterprise and hotels. One would not build that in the countryside. Responsible politicians either want to develop large-scale housing or play to the gallery, but they cannot do both. We have to be honest with people.
What yesterday's debate did show is that there is clearly a growing frustration surrounding planning in rural areas, which is equally valid. People see planning policies driving urbanisation and they see it, rightly or wrongly, as being at the expense of rural areas. The national planning framework is without doubt driving a wedge down the middle of this country and creating a lot of anger. The Office of the Planning Regulator and the Minister need to take account of this and we need to reconcile it. I am a townie. I believe in creating large-scale urban areas in order to provide services and have a centralised population for transport, broadband and cultural and viable commercial enterprises. However, I equally respect people from rural areas who want to continue working and living there, and so should the planning regulator.
The backdrop to this debate in the Dáil in the previous term was that services such as post offices were being closed in rural areas. Services can only be provided where there are population bases. This exceptionally rigid approach is going to result not just in people not being able to live in the areas in which the were born, but also, ultimately, in the death of rural services because there will not be a population base to serve them. That will mean the destruction of the fabric of these areas. The Leader is well aware of the anger in places such as rural north and south Meath, where the urban influence is now restricting planning greatly. We need a debate with the Minister on both the planning framework and the legislation that has come before the Dáil in tandem with it, in order that we do not value one aspect of Irish life above the other.