Tuesday, 16 April 2019
Aircraft Noise (Dublin Airport) Regulation Bill 2018: Committee and Remaining Stages
I move amendment No. 1:
In page 6, between lines 8 and 9, to insert the following:“ “Balanced Approach” means both the International Civil Aviation Organisation’s (ICAO) agreed hierarchy of measures designed to reduce the adverse impact of aircraft noise on those living in the vicinity of an airport, described as ICAO’s ‘Balanced Approach’ and the recommendations for aircraft noise published in the World Health Organisation’s report Night Noise Guidelines for Europe 2018, produced at the request of the EU’s Environmental Ministers;”.
I welcome the Minister to the House. This amendment seeks to create a balanced approach. Having been at St. Margaret's at 5 a.m. and listened to aircraft coming and going, it is clear to me that the noise is horrendous. I am aware that there is a facility in place to purchase properties that are directly in the flight path. However, there is some question about how those properties will be valued. There is also an acceptance by the residents in the area that there has to be some noise, and they are willing to accept a change to the amendment that was made, namely, amendment No. 85 tabled by Deputy Clare Daly. They accept that that amendment would effectively close the airport. However, they are not prepared to accept the levels of noise envisaged going forward and are looking for a reduction in the proposed number of night flights.
We are trying to change the Bill so that it is in some way acceptable to our colleagues. The Minister will know that there are a number of amendments to be discussed tonight, and that the Government defeated a proposed amendment to the Order of Business in which we tried to stop the taking of Report Stage. We wanted this Bill to get proper scrutiny in the Seanad; that is the role of this House. Sadly, we do not feel that the Bill will now get the type of scrutiny to which the residents of the area are entitled and which the legislation deserves. That is disturbing, to say the least. In pushing through the Bill in this way, we feel that the democracy of legislation, and how legislation is guided through both Houses of the Oireachtas, has compromised on this occasion. I appreciate that the Minister does not set out the timetable for Committee Stage or Report Stage, but when both stages are pushed together, leaving no time between Committee State and Report Stage to resubmit amendments, some of us are left with the feeling that this is no more than a charade.Many of us, and I will let others speak for themselves, feel that what we are going through here is a charade. Given the support of the Fianna Fáil Party for the legislation, we feel, frankly, there is no way that any amendment has any chance of being accepted by the Government side. Therefore, I wonder why I am standing here and what I am hoping to achieve. I will leave it at that for the moment.
Cuirim fáilte roimh an Aire. The Minister is welcome. Like Senator Craughwell, I would have much preferred a debate that allowed for a broad, appropriate and necessary scrutiny of these amendments and this legislation as it moves forward. As has rightly been acknowledged, that has nothing to do with the Minister and he does not set the clár for this House.
I will come to the amendments very rapidly. Given the importance of the issue, this debate will be watched and all of the amendments will be followed and scrutinised closely, as will the positions of the various groupings in the Seanad. It became clear earlier this afternoon, when we sought to have the appropriate timescale given to this debate, what some of them have chosen to do, and I am sure that will be noted, not least in the areas most impacted by this legislation.
Senator Craughwell has outlined the rationale behind amendment No. 1 very eloquently and I do not need to elaborate further. With regard to the grouping, amendments Nos. 12 and 14 are Government amendments which are essentially deletions of Deputy Munster's amendments on Report Stage in the Dáil. I understand why the Government would do it but I would have thought it would come in and offer a straight deletion, and not offer any kind of alternative or opposing view. It is just a bit of bad form. Obviously, as one would expect, we will be opposing amendments Nos. 12 and 14 at this Stage.
I welcome the Minister to the House yet again. Senator Craughwell outlined the concerns of the local residents in regard to the noise element. We understand it is the development of an international airport. However, the members of the local community have been quite reasonable and they are really looking for safeguards which are covered by these amendments.
As has been outlined, amendments Nos. 12 and 14 are disingenuous, given the manner in which they are being put forward. In effect, what we are seeing this evening is a guillotine. I had hoped to have a debate and discussion with the Minister on many of the amendments.
There is technically a guillotine that Fianna Fáil facilitated earlier today. I had not meant to put my amendment to a vote. What I wanted to do was hear the Minister's response and possibly put in additional amendments on Report Stage but I am being excluded from that. What we have this evening is a veneer of democracy that has been facilitated by Fianna Fáil. As a matter of fact, Fianna Fáil has even facilitated this Bill going back into the Dáil on Thursday so the full expectation is that this will be rammed through tonight. I do not intend to give this Bill the credibility of saying it was properly scrutinised in the Seanad because, given the manner in which it is going to go through tonight, it has not been. We will not have an opportunity to table amendments on Report Stage and we can only deal with what is in front of us.
I will support the amendments of my colleagues. I disagree with the manner in which amendments Nos. 12 and 14 have been dealt with in the proposals. I am disgusted by the manner in which this is being rammed through the House.
I welcome the Minister back to this House, where he previously distinguished himself. I am also concerned at the undermining of democracy by the intention to take all Stages today. That leaves us no time whatever for submitting amendments on Report Stage and this is obviously a curtailment of democracy, of which I very strongly disapprove.
Amendment No. 1 states:
“ “Balanced Approach” means both the International Civil Aviation Organisation’s (ICAO) agreed hierarchy of measures designed to reduce the adverse impact of aircraft noise on those living in the vicinity of an airport, described as ICAO’s ‘Balanced Approach’ and the recommendations for aircraft noise published in the World Health Organisation’s report Night Noise Guidelines for Europe 2018...”.
This was produced at the whim or instruction of the environment Ministers of the EU. It is worth putting on the record of the House exactly what the World Health Organization report states in this regard, namely: "For average noise exposure, the GDG strongly recommends reducing noise levels produced by aircraft below 45 dB [...] as aircraft noise above this level is associated with adverse health effects." The Minister may not recollect this but I put on the record the last time that the difference between 45 dB and 55 dB is not just a 10 unit increase but a massive increase, and when one gets to 60 dB, it is vast and is about 16 times what is recommended. The report continues: "For night noise exposure, the GDG strongly recommends reducing noise levels produced by aircraft during night time below 40 dB [...] as night time aircraft noise above this level is associated with adverse effects on sleep." Therefore, it is a health issue. It continues:
To reduce health effects, the GDG strongly [I emphasise that it states "strongly"] recommends that policy-makers implement suitable measures to reduce noise exposure from aircraft in the population exposed to levels above the guideline values for average and night noise exposure. For specific interventions the GDG recommends implementing suitable changes in infrastructure.
One of the people from whom I received the text of this report is a resident in the area affected by high levels of noise and he and his family have been living there for some time. He said that while the lowering of the limits may have some consequences for the DAA and the management of air traffic at the airport, it is imperative that the health and well-being of the communities living close to the airport are fully considered. He points out he is a local resident and father of a young family who already experience sleep disruption from aircraft noise on an almost nightly basis. This is the lived experience of people in this area. This man has to cope with children who are unable to sleep because of the noise of the aircraft. He says he finds the rather disingenuous, unbalanced and frankly arrogant approach taken thus far by the Minister, Deputy Ross, the DAA and their supporters in regard to the new runway and this Bill very unsettling indeed.
I would like to point to another of the amendments that is included in this group, amendment No. 12, which states: "In page 11, to delete lines 2 to 4." This relates to section 9(2)(c). Section 9 reads as follows:
(1) The competent authority shall ensure that the noise situation at the airport is assessed in accordance with the European Communities (Environmental Noise) Regulations 2018 (S.I. No. 549 of 2018) and the Environmental Noise Directive.
(2) The competent authority shall ensure that the Balanced Approach is adopted where a noise problem at the airport has been identified and, to that end, shall further ensure that, as appropriate.
What the Minister is seeking to delete, at section 9(2)(c), is the following: "the likely effect of the identified noise mitigation measures and operating restrictions (if any) is thoroughly evaluated in relation to its projected impact on the well-being and health of local residents;". Can a responsible Cabinet Minister bring to this House an attempt to remove something that deals with the health and well-being of residents? This is an astonishing thing to do. I want the Minister to explain what it is that is wrong with this paragraph that requires deletion. Surely we want the maximum information in this area. We are looking for facts. We are looking to understand what is the situation on the ground for these residents.I strongly oppose amendment No. 12 which is absolutely disgraceful. I do not understand how a Minister can have so little regard for the health and well-being of constituents. I will be very surprised if Fianna Fáil does not come on board on this issue because I know that Senator Mark Daly who is here representing his party made all kinds of promise to the people of St. Margaret's about what he would not do and all the rest. Let us see some action by him.
I wish to speak to the amendments to which I am a co-signatory, particularly amendment No. 21. Who is the Minister to take away the well-being and health of local residents at the stroke of a pen and absolutely dismiss their distress, physical and emotional health and well-being? In so doing he is ignoring the World Health Organization guidelines on noise, particularly at night. Amendment No. 21 is a no-brainer. It states, "The competent authority shall direct the airport authority to ensure that average noise exposure at night is reduced below 40dB Lnight, such levels to be revised in accordance with WHO guidelines". Does the Minister believe the WHO guidelines are incorrect? Does he think the WHO put them in place for the good of its health? It certainly put them in place for the good of communities such as those which surround Dublin Airport. I met the residents of those communities. They are red-eyed, weary and on sleeping tablets. Their children are driven demented at night and sick for school during the day. They have no peace. One's home is one's castle. It is the place where one goes for rest, quiet and recuperation and to feel secure. That is not the case in communities surrounding Dublin Airport such as St. Margaret's, The Ward and other areas, the representatives of which have contacted Sinn Féin on this issue.
I will not give the Minister a bye on this issue and certainly will not give a bye to Fianna Fáil. I do not know what it was doing. Where are its Senators? What were they doing when they voted against a Sinn Féin amendment to the Order of Business by electronic means and in a walk-through vote? Then they did not know what they were doing when agreeing to the Order of Business. First they first voted "Níl" which suddenly became "Tá". Shame on them.
The Minister is rushing the Bill through. Much legislation that originates in the Seanad is delayed and kicked down the road. However, in this case the Minister is upping the ante and we, as legislators, have no choice but to go along with it because the Minister, Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael have decided that the Bill must be rushed through against the norms and values of democracy. The people own the country. The Minister is not respecting that fact. I am not sure why he is pushing the Bill through. I can only hazard a guess at his motivation.
I stand corrected in that regard, but I still think we are doing democracy a disservice. We are also doing a disservice to the residents who live in the areas surrounding Dublin Airport and the future generations who will be affected when the airport wishes to bare its teeth and expand further, which will lead to further noise infiltration to the surrounding area. Shame on the Minister. I am aghast that Fianna Fáil has only one Senator in attendance and is allowing this legislation to be progressed without standing up for democracy and the well-being of communities in that area.
I went to St. Margaret's at 5 a.m. to meet residents of the area. I listened to aircraft taking off every three to four minutes. I discussed issues such as sleeplessness and children finding it difficult to find comfort. The people of St. Margaret's are genuinely decent and have concerns for their own welfare, but they also understand the Minister's need to develop Dublin Airport. For example, they understood amendment No. 85 tabled on Report Stage in the Dáil would, by restricting the decibel average to 40dB by night and 45dB by day, make the airport unworkable. They were prepared to adjust their thinking on that issue. They were anxious to meet those involved in making the decisions. I understand the Minister met some of the local communities. Clearly, the people of St. Margaret's believe there has not been enough engagement with them.
I stood on the lawn of a resident's house listening to aircraft taking off. It is horrendous to be under an aircraft when it takes off. The house was relatively well insulated, with good double-glazed PVC windows and so on. We were standing in the sitting room of the house and in the middle of a conversation when one very big jet took of. While it was passing over the house, I could not hear the person who was speaking to me. More importantly, one of the residents had a decibel measuring instrument whit hit 89dB while the aircraft was taking off. I understand the 45dB or 40dB requirement is an average over time.
Dublin Airport is about to become a hub. There is no doubt that British Airways which bought out Aer Lingus intends to use Dublin Airport as such because it has clearance for transatlantic flights. Travellers from the east could land at a hub in Dublin and fly straight back out to travel to the United States. A hub involves aircraft arriving and taking off very early in the morning in order to meet the turnover requirements. As Members are aware, there is a desire for aircraft to be on the ground for the minimum period. An aeroplane flies in and no sooner have the passengers disembarked when it turns around and flies back out again.
The noise levels at Dublin Airport are intolerable. I could not live in those conditions. There must be further engagement and I am deeply disappointed that that has not happened. As I stated, the Minister has no control over the ordering of business in the House which took its own decision today. Some Senators opposed the Order of Business and tried to amend it.
We did not succeed in that regard. I have spoken to the Minister about these matters and found him to be reasonable. If Committee Stage were to take its normal course, we might have an opportunity to make viable changes to the Bill. However, the coalition of Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Independent Alliance has decided that the Bill is going through. I fully appreciate the desire of the Government to push the Bill through, as it must look after the development of Dublin Airport. I do not criticise it in that regard. However, Fianna Fáil needs to state where it stands on this issue. Will it vote against each amendment on the clár? If it intends to do so, let us stop trying to pretend that this is a democratic choice; rather, let the Bill go through and allow those who will go before the residents of St. Margaret's in the next election to face the music for the decision taken tonight. We need to know where Fianna Fáil stands. I, therefore, ask Senator Mark Daly who is present to set the record straight.
I was astonished to learn in the course of this debate that houses were still being built in this area. What, in the name of God, are the planning authorities doing in allowing the building of houses where they know that there are risks to health? I find it astonishing and condemn the planning authorities for allowing such development. It is a disgrace that they have allowed it to happen.
I referred to amendment No. 12. Amendment No. 14 is more direct and explicit in completely undermining any consideration of the impact of aircraft noise on health.The Minister proposed deleting section 9(12)(f) which provides for “an assessment of the impact of the decision on the well-being and health of local residents”. This completely undermines any consideration for the health and well-being of residents. It is astonishing. What is Fianna Fáil’s attitude to this?
It is legitimate for me to ask what the Fianna Fáil position is on this. I would also like to know what Senator Reilly’s position is on this as he is a medical doctor. Has he no care at all for the health and welfare of the-----
I find it quite extraordinary that a Minister would attempt to remove an assessment of the health and well-being of local residents. That is breathtaking.
I do not suppose there is anybody from the media watching this debate. I wish there was. I wish they would put on the front page of the newspapers and in the radio columns that the Government, along with this Minister, aided and abetted by Fianna Fáil, are determined to obviate and neglect the health and well-being of local residents. I find that absolutely astonishing.
I agree with Senator Craughwell on the votes which transpired today and the shameful stance from Fianna Fáil. I also agree that some of its Members’ faces will be reddened when they face communities in that area.
This goes beyond electoral politics, however. We are talking about children in their beds. Senator Norris outlined the instance of a young family. These are caregivers who are not getting the proper respite, sleep and rest they need. There are people whose working lives are being disrupted, who must get up early in the morning to contribute positively to the life of the State. I hope the residents send Fianna Fáil a message because it has sent the residents a message tonight through its shameful actions. Fianna Fáil does not give a damn about the residents’ health and well-being.
Like Senator Norris, I cannot understand why there could be any issues with amendment No. 21. I hope Members will support it, not least the Government Members and their colleagues in Fianna Fáil. It states “The competent authority shall direct the airport authority to ensure that average noise exposure at night is reduced below 40dB ..., such levels to be revised in accordance with WHO guidelines.” That provides an opening, wriggle room and an opportunity to revise and reassess these requirements should that be the case. That is the kind of space one must create for engagement with all of the key stakeholders, not least the residents affected. That is what the amendment seeks to do.
On a much lesser scale, I live a five-minute drive from Belfast City Airport. I know what it is like to have flights going over the top of one’s house late into the evening and early into the morning. I despair for the Dublin Airport residents facing the incomprehensible approach being taken to this legislation by Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil. Not only are they in for more of the same but potentially they are in for worse if we do not get the opportunity to appropriately and adequately scrutinise this legislation, as well as amend it as necessary.
I want to respond to some of the issues raised, in particular those about trying to get this Bill through quickly to ensure we can appoint a noise regulator which everyone wants, in particular the people of Fingal.
Members have also spoken about the health and well-being of the people of Fingal. There are 19,000 people directly employed by Dublin Airport, of whom 80% live in Fingal. Their well-being is contingent on the airport operating. There are 47,200 people in total in Fingal who are employed as a result of the economic activity which goes on at Dublin Airport. There are 98,000 people, outside of the original 19,000 people, who are indirectly employed as a result of activity at Dublin Airport.
Senator Craughwell has been straight in talking about his visits to St. Margaret’s where the people acknowledge that, if we were to follow Senator Ó Donnghaile's suggestion of having it lower than 40 dB, then the airport could not operate.
In his previous contribution on Second Stage, Senator Norris referred to a letter written by Fingal County Council in which it questioned its suitability to be the noise regulator.
As we are speaking to the amendment on noise and decibels, 30 dB is whispering at a distance of 1 m, while 40 dB is the average office environment or living room. Others have compared it to the noise of a babbling brook.
I made it very clear to the Senator that if that level of noise were applied to Frankfurt Airport, in which there are 894 flights per day, it would be reduced to about ten flights a day.
At least Senator Craughwell was honest in his contribution and what reasonable people understand. If one wants to make specious arguments, speaking to guidelines which are not standard or a legal requirement anywhere in the world - the report itself spoke about the evidence being thin on the ground – then so be it. In the meantime, to those who are concerned about the health and well-being of the people of Fingal, some consideration should be given to them-----
This is the fourth time I have been interrupted. I suppose empty vessels make the most noise and not just aeroplanes.
I fully support the Minister’s amendments. I will support the removal of amendments which seek to render Dublin Airport and all those who work in and around it redundant.
I acknowledge that Senator Reilly has deep concern for the residents of the area in which he lives and those who work at Dublin Airport. I am concerned about the 19,000 who have jobs there. I am also concerned about the future of the airport. I am trying to balance my concern for the jobs at and the commercial interests of the airport with the interests of the residents of the area. I acknowledge that I am not 100% satisfied that we have taken on board the interests of what is a relatively small group of people in St. Margaret's. However, we cannot allow commercial interests to trump people's daily lives. I have been there and listened to the noise. It is not possible for someone to stay asleep in his or her bed at 5 a.m.; he or she is wasting his or her time pretending he or she can.
There are options on the table and the Minister has put more on it. The subject of one of my concerns, for example, is those who decide they want to sell their property and move to a quieter environment. We need to ensure the valuation available to them will not be based on the property in which they are sitting but on a comparable property perhaps 20 km away valued at the same value plus 30%. To my mind, that would be fair. If I were to value a property in St. Margaret's in the morning, I would discount it by 70% or 80% on the basis that aircraft fly over it every few minutes. Things can be done.
I agree with my colleague. It is inappropriate to simply pull out amendments that have already been passed or reject amendments. Amendment No. 21 deals with the competent authority. There is suspicion about Chinese walls in Fingal County Council which is picking up €29 million in rates from Dublin Airport every year. Astronomical rates are brought in from the larger industrial area around the airport. From that point of view we cannot accept that Fingal County Council should be the competent authority to assess noise levels. I know that the Minister has been around the houses on this issue and think his back is to the wall on it. He must accept some other body as the competent authority, but can he suggest any other body that could be the competent authority? I want to try to meet him half way and do not want to impede the passage of the Bill. I know that I cannot do so because Fianna Fáil is onside. I would dearly like to know how much faith we can put in the competent authority. I am not sure we can put any in it.
I give credit to Senator Reilly for standing up for the people in the area in which he lives. He has made what he believes is the correct decision, obviously in support of the Government, which is more than Fianna Fáil has done. I refute the notion the Minister outlined in his first contribution that we have no interest in jobs and the ripple effects on the economy from the airport. That is disingenuous, if that is what he is saying, and that is partly how I interpreted it.
As Senator Craughwell said, what is the priority? Is it jobs at any cost or is it the health and well-being of communities, including their economic health and well-being? They need to be at the forefront. Rushing the Bill through makes a mockery of any discussion on how we can provide for the health and well-being of communities, including their economic health, because people need money in their pockets to be well and afford things to keep them in their community and happy.
Senator Craughwell mentioned that different solutions had been offered, as is the case in dealing with issues of homelessness, relocation and so on. It seems, however, that the Government wants to plough through with everything and allow no time to take a breath to understand what is happening in communities, with which we have sat down to listen to them. Fair play to Senator Craughwell who went to listen to the noise levels in the area. I do not know who else here has done that or who else has tried to get the Minister's ear. However, he has decided against the odds to push the Bill through, which is shameful.
I am challenging Senator Reilly to say from where they came. What are they? I can scarcely believe - in fact, I cannot believe - 40 dB is like whispering or that 60 dB is the average noise level in an office. I do not know what office the Senator inhabits, but it must be absolute bedlam if there is a constant noise level of 60 dB. I just do not understand it. I would genuinely like to know from where this information came because it sounds to me very like what that ghastly American President calls fake news. I do not believe it. I would like to know if it comes from a serious authority. Is there some weight behind it? Do they actually know what they are talking about? Who are the specious authorities the Senator so cavalierly floats in front of the attention of Seanad Éireann?
I have listened to the contributions of many Senators and also spoken to Deputy Brendan Ryan about the matter. What hits me in the debate on the amendments is the utter and total breakdown in trust in the local community which extends further than St. Margaret's. People from Baldoyle and Portmarnock have also contacted my office. There is something rotten about this. I live in the city centre where there have been major infrastructural undertakings. Often when there is a sense of fear, there is a breakdown of trust and less willingness to have give and take. We should not just make economic arguments. The economic arguments were made about tobacco smoking and the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill. Members spoke about the effects of job losses and what would happen to communities when they lost jobs.
The same is true of that Bill. There is a fundamental lack of trust. I have a skin in the game because I have a son who works at Dublin Airport. We need to recognise the indigenous community that has been there for a long time. We need to build trust with that community in order that when regulation is brought forward, it will be obeyed, recognised and monitored. From the very beginning we have seen that there has not been that trust.The manner in which the Bill is going through the House does not really say to people: Trust us, you will get a proper hearing and a proper debate because we are not going to get that in this House this evening. The Bill will be rammed through. My intention is to speak on section 3, on which we have tabled an amendment on the competent authority.
I think there is a fundamental problem of trust, in and around the airport.
I am anxious also and I do not wish to delay the Bill. If one checks the record of this House, Members will find that what I said was whispering at a distance of 1 m is around 30 dB, that the average office environment and living room was 40 dB not 60 dB and that normal conversation at a distance of a metre can be up to 60 dB. Let us keep to the facts of what I said rather than trying to attribute misinformation.
I am as interested in people's health and their hearing being protected as anybody else. I thank Senator Devine for her contribution. She is known to be interested in mental health and she knows that mental health does not thrive when people lose their jobs. I am not purely focused on economic activity rather on a balanced approach that allows a regulator - and we are not speaking to the amendments around the new regulator, so I will not go there - set what are realistic, practical, pragmatic and safe levels, given the technology we have, without going to the extreme of going on one specific piece of information from guidelines from the WHO, for which I have nothing but the highest admiration. The WHO itself speaks to the thin spread of information around this, which for much of the time is subjective and that is a fact, nonetheless a very disturbing one for those who suffer from that fact. We have to have a balanced approach. We will have some people who will be very happy and thousands of jobs will be lost. It is not a case of either-or; we need a balanced approach that allows the new regulator to be appointed to address all of these issues and ensures that we as a Government and a people, nationally and internationally, encourage the development of quieter aircraft and better insulation in houses etc.
A point made by Senator Norris with which I agree is that it does seem astounding that people are granted planning permission to build houses within the contour that is known to be a very high noise area. The contour by the way has been reduced considerably in recent years by the fact that aeroplanes have become considerably quieter in the past 40 years.
The debate is extremely constructive and I share - and I have been through this for a long time now - their concern about the residents. Forgive me if I said this on Second Stage because I have debated this so often that I am not quite sure when I am repeating myself,but I have met residents from every group who have sought to meet me. I am not sure that I met the residents from St. Margaret's but I certainly met a group at the request of Senator Clifford Lee and Deputy Darragh O'Brien. Deputy Clare Daly asked me to meet a group of Travellers. I have agreed to meet groups at the request of Opposition and Government Members and will continue to meet them, if they feel that is useful. That was long before the noise regulator was finally chosen. This is constantly a problem and does not let us compete for sympathy with people who are confronted by this problem because everybody feels that. The problem has to be resolved and it will never be resolved in a way which is utterly satisfactory to everybody. That would be impossible.
I applaud the fact that Senator Craughwell went out to visit residents out at the airport. That is not some sort of phoney bombast that is produced in this House and the other House from time to time. He went out and found that he empathised with the residents and indeed came in and pleaded their case in this House. He said that it may not be effective or it may, but I cannot prejudge that, but there is a real case to be made for the residents who find themselves victims of noise which they find intolerable. I, as Minister, have to balance as everybody in this House does, that fact with the need to keep the airport open. It would be utterly crazy if I, as Minister, were to say that the interest of a very small minority merits an airport being closed or being unable to operate. My duty then is to the residents to alleviate the problem as much as possible to ensure that it is not excessive and to compensate them when they are in a situation which is very difficult for them to deal with. That is what we have tried to do in this Bill. I know there are justifiable criticisms on behalf of the residents and I thought the contributions from Sinn Féin were authentic and very sincere as was that of Senator Humphreys but they have to understand, and I think they do understand, that this is a matter of common sense, that we have to keep the airport open and what Senator Reilly said is absolutely true. He is a doctor, he understands health better than anybody in this House but to say that the actual decibels in this case are not acceptable would have an effect on the airport which would detrimentally affect the economy of the country, the neighbourhood and indeed the DAA which, for all its faults, employs one of Senator Humphreys's children and is operating a very successful airport, which we must keep open. We are determined that we should do so and it is the key to economic prosperity, it is a key to a great many tourists coming to this country and is something that must be given consideration and must not be treated in anyflaithiúlachway. I do not suggest that any Senators are doing that and I respect fully what all Senators have said this evening but they have also to respect the fact that the Minister cannot be expected to take measures which would have such an effect on the economy that it could be utterly disastrous. We have to listen to voices of moderation and that is why we have appointed a regulator. Those who criticise the regulator will have to realise that some of his terms of reference and it is mentioned quite frequently in EU regulation No. 598/2014. Let me quote: (11)
The importance of health aspects need to be recognised in relation to noise problems, and it is therefore important that those aspects be taken into consideration in a consistent manner at all airports when a decision is taken on noise abatement objectives, taking into account the existence of common Union rules in this area. Therefore, health aspects should be assessed in accordance with Union legislation on the evaluation of noise effects.
Health is not being ignored at all, it is a very important part of the equation. We could debate forever what the acceptable decibel rate is, but we will leave that to the regulator and not to ourselves or anybody else. I acknowledge the concerns.
I would like to make it absolutely clear that the assessment of the health impact of aircraft noise is an integral part of this Bill. This Bill and the EU regulation underpinning it requires the noise regulator to take full account of existing EU law on health.It is important that this House understands that the issue of measuring and monitoring the health impact of aircraft noise has been discussed at length at each Stage of this Bill so far, and rightly so. It is a hugely important issue and local residents are entitled to understand what is in this Bill to protect their interests, including on the control of noise and its impact on their health.
Let me quote directly from Regulation 598, which underpins this Bill and applies fully in Ireland. Article 1(2)(a) of the regulation states that the purpose to the regulatory framework that Fingal will roll out is: "to facilitate the achievement of specific noise abatement objectives, including health aspects, at the level of individual airports". The regulation also states:
The importance of health aspects needs to be recognised in relation to noise problems, and it is therefore important that those aspects be taken into consideration in a consistent manner at all airports when a decision is taken on noise abatement objectives, taking into account the existence of common Union rules in this area. Therefore, health aspects should be assessed in accordance with Union legislation on the evaluation of noise effects.
It is there in the directive - health is important. Health must be taken into account.
The Bill also makes specific cross-reference to the 2002 environmental noise directive and the 2018 environmental noise regulations, which leaves no doubt that these EU laws apply to the work of the noise regulator too. This reference was an amendment made on Report Stage in the Dáil following representations from Deputies Troy and Darragh O’Brien. Again, let me quote directly. The environmental noise directive and its updated implementing regulations from 2018 set out "a common approach within the European Union intended to avoid, prevent or reduce on a prioritised basis the harmful effects, including annoyance, due to exposure to environmental noise". By harmful effects, the directive means "negative effects on human health". This is unequivocal.
As regards the amendments put forward by Senators to introduce changes to definitions and specific noise thresholds, I cannot accept them. These amendments would not have any practical effect on how the noise regulator will incorporate the assessment of health into its decision-making. It would have the effect of unilaterally amending what has been agreed at the UN's International Civil Aviation Organisation, ICAO, and included in EU regulation. I am sure that it is well intended but it is not something that we can allow to pass into Irish law. Similar amendments have been proposed by Dáil Deputies at various points through the Committee and Report Stages of this Bill, which I have explained are not appropriate because they have the effect of amending an EU regulation. As we all should know, the national parliament of a member state is not able to amend an EU regulation. EU regulations are made and amended at EU level, through the EU institutions of which Ireland is a part, namely, the Commission, the Council and the European Parliament. I am sure this is not a deliberate attempt to cut across EU law but that is what this amendment does.
The main responsibility of the noise regulator is to adopt the balanced approach, as agreed at UN level and written into EU law, which entails undertaking an analysis of the various measures available to reduce noise through the exploration of four principal elements, namely, noise reduction at source, land-use planning and management, noise abatement operational procedures and operating restrictions as a last resort. It is not for Ireland to redefine the entire balanced approach process. The focus of Regulation 598 is to apply the balanced approach when a noise problem is identified. This is set out in Recitals 3, 4, 9, 14 and 18 of the regulation. It is also set out in Articles 1, 2, 5 and 6 of the regulation. It is simply not permissible in national law to redefine the meaning of the balanced approach as set out in the EU regulation.
With regards to the proposed amendment to introduce a specific, fixed decibel limit for night-time, this too runs contrary to existing EU law. First, on a matter of principle, it undermines the principal policy objective of the Bill, which is to establish an independent noise regulator that will make evidence-based regulatory decisions based on technical assessments and public consultations. It is not appropriate that primary legislation includes a fixed threshold that in effect undermines the independence and expertise of the new regulator. That is what the regulator is for. A similar amendment was passed in the Dáil on Report Stage. That needs to be rectified because to allow the Bill to pass with these provisions included would be legally unsound. I am advised that inclusion of any specific threshold in the Bill amounts to the introduction of an operating restriction and, as such, is in direct contravention of everything EU Regulation 598 is trying to introduce. Government Amendment No. 19 will be moved later in the debate to remove specific reference to these guidelines, which were inserted on Report Stage in the Dáil.
It is not a question of whether the guidelines of the World Health Organization are right or wrong, rather it is about what is possible, possible to implement, and in what timeframe and at what cost. These are all of the things being considered at EU level as part of the review of the 2002 environmental noise directive, which includes consideration of how to treat and reflect the WHO guidelines. I cannot stand over a Bill that pre-empts decisions about future EU regulations and directives on environmental noise.
I will comment on the point on which the Minister concluded. It is the issue in terms of the grouped amendments that includes amendment No. 21. It is very unusual to insert a specific figure in primary legislation, as the Minister has outlined, and that is why we are not supporting the particular proposal, along with the issue of the balanced approach report, the EU legislation and laws around that, and the rules of the World Health Organization. As Members will be well aware, discretion is given to authorities, as we are setting up in this, to regulate noise control and the levels of noise. As we all know, new information and facts become available. Like Senator Norris, I would be interested to hear from where Senator Reilly got his information.
I rise to support something Senator Reilly said a little while ago when he gave us some examples of decibel measures. For example, he said that leaves rustling on the ground is 20 dB. He rightly pointed out that a busy office would have a 60 dB sound level. The interesting figure for me is that a typical aircraft, at 3 miles post take-off, has a decibel rating of 90 dB. Three miles beyond the airport an aircraft flying over one's head will give a blast of 90 dB. Imagine what it is like if one lives 250 yd. or 1 mile from the runway. If it is 90 dB at 3 miles, then the noise level must be considerably higher at the point of take-off or in the area surrounding St. Margaret's. I cannot speak about anywhere else in Fingal. I can only speak about the place that I was in and I do know that the sound was horrendous.
I fully support the development of Dublin Airport. I have concerns about the noise regulator, which I have voiced several times already. I am seriously concerned about the residents on the ground and the insulation of houses to prevent noise. We cannot have people living in glass boxes. We cannot seal houses to the point where the inhabitants can never open their windows or have a barbecue in the back garden, the sorts of things that we enjoy in our own areas. We cannot force people into a situation where people are locked into a house. The alternative for people who are totally unhappy with the noise levels, which is already available, is to move from the area in what could be a very generous buy-out but I am not so sure it has the level of generosity that one would expect. My issue is as follows. Where is the benchmark to value the property if somebody has to move?Is the property to be valued by an auctioneer who is going to discount based on the fact that it is in a flight path, or is the benchmark within 20 km, far enough away to say that the sound would not impact on the value of the property? Maybe I am picking it up wrong but I think the Minister understands we are dealing with people who are several generations in the same place. All of a sudden, a commercial development has totally disrupted their lives. That goes back to something my colleague, Senator Humphreys, said about trust, engagement and being able to reassure people. Even at this late stage, if there is a small cohort of people in St. Margaret's who have not been met, they need to be met. We need to find a solution for them. The Bill is going to be rammed through tonight whether we like it or not. That is not the Minister's choice and I accept that. That is the Order of Business of the House as it was laid down today. The Minister has interest and care for his fellow human beings. If this Bill passes tonight, can we be guaranteed that the people in St. Margaret's are going to have engagement with the Minister and his officials to find a solution? I am full of foreboding that we are not going to have any impact on this Bill. I am asking for an assurance to the House that there will be engagement with those residents and that every effort will be made to resolve the issues they have. It is the human thing to do and the right thing to do. Any caring Government will want to do that. I accept that we are not going to impact this Bill tonight but I want to know we are going to deal with the residents in a fair and equitable way.
The Minister quotes from an EU directive which is outside his remit and to which, as far as I know, he made no contribution whatever. This EU directive suggests that there should be consideration of health, which the Minister is removing from the Bill. These are the very aspects that he is removing from it. I do not regard Fingal County Council as an appropriate regulatory authority at all. There is a clear conflict of interest. This directive suggests it should consider health but the Minister has removed the section that provides for an assessment of the impact of the decision on the well-being and health of local residents. How can they properly consider it when they are deprived of an assessment? It is expecting them to make bricks without straw. They cannot do it. I do not accept what the Minister is saying at all. It seems to me that there is a clear determination to undermine health and well-being. Senator Craughwell is very amenable and very reasonable in what he says. If what he says about the residents is true, that they are prepared to compromise, although I am not sure how many groups are prepared to compromise, so be it. It does seem to me that there is something very underhand about the way in which the question of health is being treated.
In response to Senator Craughwell, there is a scheme in place run by the DAA, as he knows, details of which I can supply to him afterwards or tomorrow if he wants. That is something which is based on current valuations, but I am not sure who values them. I am sure I can get details for the Senator. The key point is that the Bill gives control of the buyout scheme to the independent regulator, and that is what it is meant to do. I will encourage the DAA, as I am entitled to do, I suppose, to continue to talk to and give as much reassurance and comfort as possible to residents who are discommoded, and to do so to the very last stage of this process, which will probably last many years. Of course I will. That is the very least I could do. A lot has been done and that should be acknowledged. I do not in any way suggest there is a perfect solution to this. There is never going to be a perfect solution to a problem of this sort. We are doing an enormous amount and will continue to do so. I applaud Senator Craughwell for keeping going on this, even at this late stage. These people presumably will need comfort for a long time to come.
I do not quite understand Senator Norris's point. I am not removing the ingredient of health as a criterion in this. Maybe the Senator misunderstood what I said. I am transposing an EU directive. Of course it is not something over which I have control. I am transposing it into Irish law so that it can implement EU standards of noise abatement at airports. If the Senator is saying I am removing health, I do not understand what he means by that.
I will quote from the EU regulation for the Senator. I have to do this repeatedly. Annex II states:
The cost-effectiveness of envisaged noise-related operating restrictions will be assessed taking due account of the following elements, to the extent possible, in quantifiable terms: (1) the anticipated noise benefit of the envisaged measures, now and in the future;
(2) the safety of aviation operations, including third-party risks;
(3) the capacity of the airport;
(4) any effects on the European aviation network.In addition, competent authorities may take due account of the following factors:(1) the health and safety of local residents living in the vicinity of the airport.
That is transposing health as a principle. It is not removing it. I am not going to go on quoting the regulation but health is included and embedded in this principle.
I take at face value the Minister's statement that he will encourage the DAA to have further engagement with residents. I will go back to what Senator Craughwell and I have said. There is an element of trust and a situation in which trust has broken down. I am taking it, because of the indications in earlier votes, that we are going to lose all our amendments, but I will make a direct appeal to the Minister. I would be happy to sit down with him on this. There are role models in respect of proper, good engagement in several Departments, where people have done good engagement in very difficult circumstances. Knowing how the votes are going to run here and that there has already been a vote in the Business Committee to take this in the Dáil on Thursday, I am very anxious that in some way we can work together to alleviate the problems of many of the residents. I much prefer to believe that we could have alleviated them through votes here in the House, but knowing how Fianna Fáil is going to continue to vote, I ask the Minister as an Independent Deputy to sit down with a number of us to see if we can work out mechanisms that would help the residents who are going through so many problems. I ask the Minister to give that commitment to the House.
The Minister is attempting to attract virtue to himself for transposing the EU directive, but as I understand it, he has to transpose the directive. It is part of the whole EU system that when directives are issued, they have to be transposed into domestic law. I do not award him any great virtue over that. The Minister cited a section dealing with cost-effectiveness. That is the principal intention of the section he read into the record. In the context of cost-effectiveness, the regulation states that they may take health into account. That is not very strong - they may - but that also leaves the possibility that they may not. It is not a guarantee at all, as the Minister was purporting to claim, and that makes it much more serious that he is removing the references to health that are in the Bill as presented.
I sense from the contributions from Senators Craughwell and Humphreys that there is a desire to try to get a resolution to this, given the political reality in the Chamber tonight. We would certainly not veer from trying to get the best result for residents in those circumstances. I still think it is important that these amendments are teased out. If that was done, I reiterate that it would be done under great duress and also great disappointment. As the Minister has acknowledged and will appreciate, we came sincerely to try to tease out this legislation and amend it as is our duty in this House. If I am reading the mood correctly, I sense that there is a desire to try to deal with the inevitability of tonight and also to try to acquire from the Minister a firm and tangible commitment that there will be further engagement. I am not as close to this issue as other people in this Chamber but I am very reluctant to let an important and worthwhile discussion on these amendments, and divisions if required, pass tonight without taking the necessary steps. I will not stand in the way of at least having some kind of result and positive outcome for residents and areas if that is being proposed by my colleagues. It is certainly worth debating if it is in order.
If it is of comfort to Senator Craughwell, the Sinn Féin Senators, and Senators Humphreys, Reilly and Norris, I would be happy to give a commitment to continue a conversation if they wish to see what can or cannot be done after this.
I will not commit to any actions at this stage but I know that the residents would probably appreciate if that happened. It would have to be done in a calm and serious atmosphere with no theatricals. I would be happy to do that because I recognise that in this House and the other House, despite the theatre associated with these sorts of debates, there are people who are representing their constituents as they should be, which is fine. It is a geographical motivation and even a political one, which is perfectly honourable. There are others involved such as Senator Craughwell, though it does not seem to represent their constituency. Of course we could continue the conversation. I appreciate that Senators feel it has not got enough discussion in this House. That is a different matter and we might debate that a little later. To try to address some of the difficulties, as I said to Senator Reilly already, I would be happy to meet him and others to discuss this. That is a way forward. I do not know quite what I can do. I can certainly keep an eye on the DAA to see what it is up to and see that, once this Bill is passed, those who seem to be the losers or have difficulties created will not be ignored for evermore. I give that commitment to Members of this House.
I appreciate what the Minister has said. I know when I am beaten and I accept that we will not get amendments through and this Bill will pass tonight. The Minister has given a commitment to at least be open. Senator Reilly lives in the constituency. We can arrange to have a meeting with DAA to try to find a way forward where we know that DAA will engage with residents in the area. Senator Reilly knows the area better than I do. I think there is a relatively small group that needs greater reassurance and engagement. If we can have that under the Minister's chairmanship, I think it is the best of a bad lot for me tonight. The best of a bad lot is better than nothing at all. I deeply regret that we find ourselves in the position that the House has put us in tonight, which is the Bill passing through all Stages in a short period. That is not the Minister's fault but ours.
I thank the Minister for his offer. We will certainly take it up. I do not want this to be seen as a situation with winners and losers. We are trying to achieve a balanced approach that allows a critical part of our infrastructure, not just for Fingal but for the country, to continue to prosper, grow and provide jobs, and at the same time protect the rights of those who live near it and to protect them from the necessary noise that operating an airport causes. I want to see great efforts made to further reduce the noise from aircraft, which has happened quite a bit over the past 40 years. It has dropped by 20 dB overall. With that in mind, I hope that we can reach the compromise that people need. This is not just about St. Margaret's. Many people in Portmarnock are concerned about this too. They are reasonable people and we need to sit down to talk with them to try to get the best solution that we can while being realistic and acknowledging that we cannot shut down Dublin Airport.
I thank the Minister for his response to my suggestion. I will sit down and mention the structures in question in detail. That is to endeavour to ensure that the residents will at least get something out of this. Like Senator Craughwell, I accept the figures here. This is not to undermine the debate or discussion on the amendments. The Minister is right that they are important. They need to be teased out, especially the next round of amendments. I certainly have a different interpretation from the Minister's of EU Regulation No. 598/2014 and we need to tease that out. I am anxious that we have what the Minister calls a piece of theatre. There was no better man than the Minister at giving theatre when he was over on this side. I mean that as a compliment rather than a criticism. Sometimes the focus can move off and the debate in the Dáil and Seanad moves on. The communities and people of St. Margaret's, Baldoyle and Portmarnock are left to pick up the pieces with nowhere to turn. To get something out of this, a defined structure would not solve every problem, but could alleviate some problems. The much maligned Dublin Docklands Development Authority had a community forum with a little muscle that made a difference to local communities in the long run during that development. There are templates of structures. Dublin Port is another. I could name many more. Maybe we could pick the best idea that would help local communities to get some respite. I thank the Minister for the offer I think he is prepared to make. I would certainly like to work and build on that. I do not intend to speak further on this set of amendments.
Like Senator Humphreys, I do not intend to prolong this group of amendments any further. The Minister made a point and I agree with him. I do not want to lure colleagues into a false sense of security that we will just wrap up on this. I do not think anyone would expect us not to have votes where they are required, not least the residents impacted. We have got to the point where I think we have made the necessary political and local arguments that had to be made, and now is the time for us to move to the votes in the fashion that is required, to have an opportunity to show where the various groupings in this House stand on the amendments. The Minister said he has to do what he has to do but we have to do what we have to do in this House too.As I said, I am not as close to this matter as other colleagues, but certainly we will engage positively and proactively on any arrangement that will flow from the debate tonight. I wish it well and every success on behalf of the residents. The Minister should do me a favour and promise me that he will bring Fianna Fáil representatives to that meeting in order that they can hear and understand the views of residents. They have not understood or even had the courtesy to articulate them here.
We were not exposed to all noise levels because of the ruling made by the Chair which might have been right. I do not want to prolong the debate. I respect the Minister's view. He is transposing a directive of the European Union and has made the case clearly. I also heard Senator Reilly's comments. There is a time in politics when we must call a vote on an issue. It is not good enough to come here and just accept that somehow we will be defeated. We do not have to be, but if we are, so be it. We should remember that there are people listening. The media are listening and this debate will be reported on in the national press. There are two or three people in the Visitors Gallery.
We have received many emails and much correspondence about the matter, as I am sure the Minister is fully aware, as he would also have received emails about it. We should proceed and not be afraid to have votes. That is what democracy is all about in this House. Of course, it leads to accountability, as we cannot have people talking out of both sides of their mouth. They are in this Chamber when they want to be and outside it when they want to be.
It is our job to be present, mindful of our responsibilities and debate with and respect one another before moving on. I will stay here for as long as there are votes. We should proceed to have as many as possible and show where we stand on the matter.
Colm Burke, Paddy Burke, Ray Butler, Jerry Buttimer, Maria Byrne, Paudie Coffey, Paul Coghlan, Martin Conway, Mark Daly, Paul Daly, Frank Feighan, Maura Hopkins, Tim Lombard, Ian Marshall, Gabrielle McFadden, Catherine Noone, Kieran O'Donnell, Joe O'Reilly, Pádraig Ó Céidigh, James Reilly, Diarmuid Wilson.
Amendments Nos. 2 to 10, inclusive, 13 and 15 to 17, inclusive, are related and may be discussed together. Amendments Nos. 2 to 4, inclusive, 6 to 10, inclusive, 13 and 15 to 17, inclusive, are consequential on amendment No. 5. Amendments Nos. 7 and 8 are physical alternatives to amendment No. 6, while amendment No. 10 is a physical alternative to amendment No. 9.
I move amendment No. 2:
In page 6, between lines 9 and 10, to insert the following:“ “CAR” means the Commission for Aviation Regulation;”.
In the earlier debate we discussed EU Regulation No. 598/2014, of which section 13 states:
The competent authority responsible for adopting noise-related operating restrictions should be independent of any organisation involved in the airport’s operation, air transport or air navigation service provision, or representing the interests thereof and of the residents living in the vicinity of the airport. This should not be understood as requiring Member States to modify their administrative structures or decision-making procedures.
Fingal County Council is not an independent authority because it should take into account the interests of the residents living in the vicinity of Dublin Airport, but the Minister is setting it up as the regulator, with the CEO in that position. This runs counter to EU Regulation No. 598/2014. Many examples were given to the Minister in the Lower House which he did not accept. I will press amendment No. 2 because the competent authority should be the Commission for Aviation Regulation. We debated this issue on Second Stage, while it was debated at length in the Lower House.
I completely accept what Senator Humphreys said. He makes a good point that the directive which the Minister quoted suggests the regulatory authority should be independent. It is perfectly obvious that the Dublin Airport Authority is not independent as it has a financial stake in the game. As Fingal County Council makes enormous amounts of money out of the airport, clearly it is not independent, as it is supposed to be.On the second letter, can I just say it was perfectly clear that Fingal County Council was not competent and that it lacked the expertise and properly trained staff? It could not have been clearer that it ruled itself out and then there was political pressure and of course it came out and said that it was competent. That is rubbish, nobody accepts that and nobody believes it.
I want to speak on amendments Nos. 2 to 10, inclusive. Many of them seem to involve the same matter, namely, the Commission for Aviation Regulation, CAR. The appointment of a noise regulator is in keeping with EU regulations and it is required to appoint such a noise regulator in airports over a certain size. The Minister complicated the issue and he failed to appreciate basic ground rules on the expertise required and what the remit of the noise regulator is. As we know, expertise is obviously essential. We just have to look at certain other projects that are ongoing, such as the national children's hospital, where the expertise was not there and it has proven to be essential given the overrun on cost and time and the impact it has had on the residents. Dare I say I am one of those residents who is impacted upon but I cannot really equate it with an ongoing lifetime exposure to noise for residents in the vicinity of Dublin Airport.
Dublin Airport has been directed to appoint a noise regulator and that has to be learned over time because it is obviously the first appointment but of equal importance is that it has to be independent, or seen to be so. Deputy Munster of Sinn Féin suggested that the Commission for Aviation Regulation was such a body but the Minister decided to ignore that advice and the advice of others that was put to him as well when he decided on Fingal County Council. The council has no record in the area of aviation. It is in receipt of at least 8% of its annual income from rates coming from the airport and the add-ons. It is down as 8% but we have worked out that when all the add-ons are put in it is 24%. That is an obvious conflict of interest. In those two crucial tests, namely, the independence and expertise, Fingal County Council does not meet those requirements. This is in no way a criticism of the staff of Fingal County Council. They have always done an excellent job. Rather, it is a criticism of the Minister. I expect that he might have learned from the first mistake, which was the choice of the noise regulator as the Irish Aviation Authority, but that did not work out and the Minister casually shifted focus onto Fingal County Council. I still believe it was the wrong decision and I would hope that CAR would be listed as the competent authority.
I wish to reiterate what I have said previously. Fingal County Council had its reservations, a period of nearly a year elapsed in which time there was ample opportunity for it to address its reservations, have them looked into and sorted, and it was quite happy at the end of it. It has made it very clear that it is happy with it. To state that because it collects rates, it has an immediate conflict of interest, is the same as to say it has a conflict of interest when it comes to planning. I do not believe it has a conflict of interest and I will protect and defend the reputation of Fingal County Council and its executive in this regard.
As I say, I will defend Fingal County Council's record and reputation and if it states that it is in a position to do this, it will do so in an exemplary fashion. Just as there is an appeal mechanism for planning decisions, there is an appeal mechanism in this Bill as well.
Others have raised the issue of CAR and I know the Minister has a comprehensive note and he will deal with that.
In response to Senator Reilly, by no means am I questioning the reputation of Fingal County Council. What I am doing is trying to raise the issue of the statutory regulations under EU Regulation No. 598/14. I know that we have raised questions on AnnMarie Farrelly's letter from Fingal County Council, when it was sent and what was in it etc. It is not when it was sent and what second and third letters were sent. It is the definition. Fingal County Council, as it should, has: "an extensive remit in both shaping and determining the strategic direction of Dublin Airport through its land-use, planning and associated functions". However, that is a contradiction for it if it then becomes the noise regulator.
Following on from the adoption of the development plan, Fingal County Council has the local area planning. Planning is the total remit of Fingal County Council and it should be. There is no contradiction in it having a responsibility in planning, local area plans, development plans and master plans. Those are totally the remit of a local authority but the problem is when a local authority is given a contradictory function. How does the chief executive officer, CEO, act without direction from the local authority members? If we have learned anything from the disasters of the 2000s, it is that these type of regulations and Chinese walls do not work. There has to be an amount of clarity and that clarity is not there. As Fingal County Council said, in light of the existing complex and varied role that Fingal County Council plays, as outlined above, it is considered that the council may not be best placed to act as a competent authority for the purposes of implementation of Regulation No. 598/14, with particular reference to clause 13, which I pointed out.
On the rights and wrongs, this was a thoughtful position in 2017. As for what Senator Norris said, I do not know what political pressures were put on or if there were any but this flags up warnings and I am asking the Minister to tread very carefully on this because he could put Fingal County Council or the CEO in a dreadful and contradictory position of trying to balance one side with the other. A person cannot be asked to separate those particular roles because a CEO of Fingal County Council has responsibilities on areas and if a counter-set of responsibilities is put on him or her, it puts that person in a very difficult and unfortunate position.
We are talking about teasing this out and I wanted to tease out this particular section with the Minister because I have real concerns on it. We could have explored and discussed whether CAR is the competent authority but that has been taken out of our hands given the Order of Business that was agreed. This is one of the amendments I would have put back until Report Stage to give us an opportunity to tease it out and see is there a better way but as that will not happen, I will press the amendment. I have genuine concerns when one looks at the directive from Europe and when one looks at what Fingal County Council is being asked to do. There are contradictions there and the whole matter basically comes back down to trust.
I ask the Minister to rethink this. Unfortunately he will not get an opportunity to rethink it on Report Stage but if this is going back into the Dáil, I sincerely ask him to review it, look at it and interrogate it because he is going in the wrong direction. Ultimately, the Minister could be found to be wrong in the courts.
It has been said that Fingal County Council has had nearly a year and it has been able to address these situations. Whatever about the question of it having the talent or expertise, it is possible that over the course of the year, it has managed to scrape up some talent or expertise and has hired people and so on.However, there is no possibility that it can answer the questions about the fact that it is the planning authority. That is a classic conflict of interest, as the county council itself pointed out. It is easy enough to state that there has been a change in position since the issuing of the first letter, but I would like somebody to explain how on earth Fingal County Council can alter its position with regard to planning. There is a classic conflict of interest. The county council laid out in its first letter that there was a conflict of interest and it was not the right organisation to be noise regulator. What has changed within Fingal County Council to allow it to now state that there is no conflict of interest? The conflict of interest was there and the situation has not changed. The conflict of interest must, therefore, remain and Fingal County Council is lying about it.
Although I do not condone his remarks, Senator Norris made the charge against a council rather than an individual. I would prefer if Senator Norris did not use such words. If he made such an accusation about a particular individual in the council, I would have insisted that he withdraw the remark.
I have been following the debate from my office. For the most part, it has been a very credible debate across all sides, with genuine concerns expressed. The one thing I do not understand is the rush. I am at a loss as to why Fianna Fáil sided with Fine Gael to ensure that we do not have ample time to debate the Bill and move to Report Stage on another day. Listening to the debate on the sections, it is clear that there is a significant amount in the Bill that needs to be teased out, but the Government, with the assistance of Fianna Fáil, is ensuring that it will finish all Stages this evening. That is not the way to do business. I am perplexed at the complete indifference of the Fianna Fáil Party to the debate this evening. Its only representative in the Chamber is from County Kerry. We are talking about Dublin Airport. I am at a loss as to what the people of north Dublin think about that.
What is the reason for the rush to pass this legislation? Senators on this side of the House are genuinely puzzled about that. The Minister can see that people across the Chamber are trying to be constructive - I include Senator Reilly in that, who, in fairness, has at least come to give his perspective in terms of north Dublin. I am at a loss as to why we must rush this through so quickly and why Report and Final Stages cannot be held on another day. That is what a proper debating parliamentary chamber would do on this issue. The people in north Dublin who are watching these proceedings must be at a loss regarding Fianna Fáil's absence from the debate this evening.
I will come to that. It was discussed in October at the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Transport, Tourism and Sport. I also discussed it earlier in 2018 when the Government decided on its approach. The committee subjected the Bill to pre-legislative scrutiny. I am quite happy to remain in the Seanad for as long as Senators wish to discuss the Bill. That is why I am here. The debate is open-ended. The issues addressed by the Bill have been in the political arena for many years and there have been many controversies attached to them, some of which are dealt with by this group of amendments. It is untrue that the Bill is being or has been rushed. Through the past year and a half, we were criticised over the delay in bringing the Bill forward. Now that the delay is over, people are complaining about the rush. It is somewhat difficult to understand that.
The Bill is urgent. Without it, there will be no noise regulator for Dublin Airport. The Bill provides the comprehensive, open and transparent process that we need. There will not be a noise regulator without the Bill. EU Regulation 598/2014 has been in place since June 2016 and, without saying anything out of order, we are, therefore, kind of late with this legislation. The Bill has not been rushed but, rather, was delayed through no fault of mine, any other politician or anybody else. It was delayed for legal reasons, as Senators will be aware, because the original choice of noise regulator was opposed by the Attorney General. It has been delayed many times and we need to move it on. The runway is now under construction and everybody, including local residents, needs clarity.
I have a significant amount of respect for what Senator Norris has to say. It is very important that what he says is responsible and I am grateful that he withdrew the accusation of lying which he made against Fingal County Council.
It was good of the Senator to withdraw that remark.
It is somewhat difficult to accept the accusation of political pressure. I can state with hand on heart that I know nothing about such pressure and was never in touch with anybody in that regard. If political pressure were to come from anywhere, it would probably come from me because I am championing the Bill. To suggest that there was political pressure is wrong, wild and irresponsible. There are very good arguments in favour of various regulators and I have heard them all. It is incorrect to suggest that political pressure was put on the authority to change its mind. That is false. I know nothing about such pressure, and I would know if there had been any. I ask the Senator to bear that in mind.
Unfortunately, I cannot accept the amendments in this group. As I stated last week when introducing the Bill to this House, I firmly believe that Fingal County Council is best placed to undertake the role of noise regulator for Dublin Airport. The preparation of the Bill has always proceeded on the basis that any enactment must provide a solid and proven administrative structure that can deal with noise fully in accordance with Regulation 598/2014. That includes providing for effective interaction with existing planning development and environmental laws and regulatory frameworks. Fingal County Council was chosen as the competent authority because it has relevant expertise relating to planning, environmental matters and public consultation, as well as the critical mass to quickly absorb, skill-up and roll out a new function effectively. As it is a Government body, it does not operate to a commercial mandate but, rather, operates within well-established statute, agreed national policy parameters and local development frameworks. The issue of a conflict of interest does not arise. I simply cannot accept that a local authority is compromised by virtue of receiving rates. How is that a sustainable and reasonable argument?
Specifically on the matter of independence, there is no legal uncertainty around Fingal’s independence in regard to Regulation 598/2014. The approach in the Bill is unequivocally in accordance with preamble (13) of regulation 598/2014 which states:
The competent authority responsible for adopting noise-related operating restrictions should be independent of any organisation involved in the airport’s operation, air transport or air navigation service provision, or representing the interests thereof and of the residents living in the vicinity of the airport. This should not be understood as requiring Member States to modify their administrative structures or decision-making procedures.
By drawing on established local government structures, the choice of Fingal County Council was very much informed by a recognition of the benefits for all parties of setting out for aircraft noise regulation the same known, tried and tested administrative structures and processes which support planning and development such as, within local government, applying the approach to public consultation, appeals and application of environmental assessments.Doing so offers the best means of securing a robust and rigorous process and one that can be relied on to deliver an informed decision. There are checks and balances in the Bill. The performance and actions of the noise regulator are governed by EU and national law. An Bord Pleanála has full step-in regulatory powers under appeal. There is provision for judicial review and, finally, there is provision in the Bill for independent, external periodic review of Fingal's performance as noise regulator.
With regard to the proposed amendment to designate the Commission for Aviation Regulation as the noise regulator, the commission was examined as an option. However, the commission has no expertise or any existing statutory remit relating to environmental noise, environmental protection or planning and development, all of which are critical components of the Bill. In addition, it has no current capacity or experience of running the type of extensive public consultations required by Regulation No. 598/2014. Finally and importantly, the commission does not have the organisational capacity to absorb a substantive new function within a relatively short timeframe. The commission is a small economic regulator responsible for determining the maximum level of airport charges that can be charged at Dublin Airport, with some additional consumer protection functions, and has a staff of about 20. It simply would not be equipped to undertake the role of noise regulator in any reasonable timeframe.
I thank the Minister. I should put it on record that I was not arguing a point about rates; I was arguing with respect to Regulation No. 598/2014, particularly clause 13 of that regulation. There is no solid and proven record in Fingal County Council being a noise regulator and it will have to develop its skill sets in that regard. Article 3(2) of the regulation states:
The competent authorities shall be independent of any organisation which could be affected by noise-related action. That independence may be achieved through a functional separation.
We do not have that functional separation in Fingal County Council. I have the greatest respect for Fingal County Council and for many councils for the work they do. However, a local authority should not be put in this position, as defined in the legislation being put through the House, and making the same person the planning authority and regulator for noise goes back to the worst days of Fianna Fáil. Fingal County Council is the competent person with the development plans, local area plans etc.
I am not happy that the Minister is putting a local authority in such a position. History bears it out that when we go down this rabbit hole, there are problems down the road. I beg the Minister to reconsider this amendment. It is not right to put Fingal County Council in this position. If we are to have a discussion on what would be a better authority other than the CAR, I would welcome such a conversation, but we are not in that position this evening. I will press this amendment and the Minister has gone in the wrong direction completely in this regard.
Regulation No. 598/2014 indicates the noise regulator should be independent and not be involved in any aspect of the airport's operation. Unlike Senator Humphreys, I believe the collection of rates is a significant interest. Of course it is in the interest of-----
He did not mention rates but I am mentioning them. It shows a clear vested interest. The council would obviously and correctly be interested in increasing revenue, so of course there is a vested interest. The council would also be involved with planning, which directly impinges on an airport's operation. It is perfectly clear that under that regulation, Fingal County Council would not be the most appropriate authority to deal with this matter.
There are a number of issues. I go back to my original contention that this is very much like planning. One could argue that by giving planning permission for various factories or businesses etc., there would be a conflict as rates would be collected from those businesses. Nobody would argue that in this House. Using that argument in the same vein with respect to a noise regulator does not carry weight.
I should clarify what Senator Devine has said. Rates are not 24% of Fingal County Council's income. The figure is 8%, not 24%, and I do not know where that figure came from.
I was asked earlier where I got my information on decibel levels and the comparisons. As Senator Craughwell demonstrated, they are freely available on the Internet and they are used internationally by sound engineers and hearing companies here and in the UK. They were put together for this matter by environmental consultants in the UK.
We need this regulator quickly. We need it for the people in Fingal who are concerned about their health and well-being, particularly their hearing. We have discussed the issue and I accept what people say and share their concerns. I want to equally put on record my concern for the tens of thousands of jobs around Fingal and beyond that depend on the airport. I can understand why sometimes Senator Norris makes expressions of cynicism as to whether anybody listens to what we say in here, but they do. Investors listen in particular. A €1.6 billion investment will take place in Dublin Airport over the next number of years to bring passenger numbers up to over 40 million and heading towards 50 million. There will be development on the air side, with the possibility of 18,000 jobs. They will look to see that the airport is functioning and the airport will bring that investment from companies. It makes the country attractive as a stepping stone to Europe and in the other direction as well.
I accept that people have concerns but as the Minister has already pointed out, the process has been ongoing for quite some time and it has been well debated. Perhaps it has not been aired as much in this Seanad as others would like but we must balance that fact with the people who are feeling insecure about investments, jobs, livelihoods and living in Fingal, particularly at a time when Brexit is facing down the barrel of a gun at us. We must consider all that entails, no matter how good an outcome for the country, aside from a complete reversal.
By no means are we trying to delay this Bill but we have asked for a proper debate within the House. We are not talking about delaying this for months or weeks. I understand the Minister's frustrations arising from the many delays and roadblocks but we all want a noise regulator for Dublin Airport. We want the best we can get.
I am sorry but I have a different view from Senator Reilly. I was a councillor, like many Members here.The most significant work a councillor does when first elected is work on the development plan. Councillors, or at least those who are interested in representing the people, put hours and hours of work into developing a plan for their county or city.
Yes. Having worked on that development plan, one has a natural instinct to protect it. Councillors negotiate with management over countless hours of meetings. These meetings are a kind of sidebar to try to progress the development plan. Fingal County Council is responsible for the Dublin Airport local area plan, which is also a very important plan. Both officials and local councillors invest a great deal of time and effort in developing those plans. They therefore have a vested interest in both plans being successful. These plans may not be in the interests of the regulator, however, so there may be a conflict. That is why the EU directive is laid out in the manner it is. Fingal County Council saw these complex positions in its considered view at the very beginning. I believe the Minister will have to reconsider the section. It is wrong. By no means am I saying that Fingal County Council is incompetent. I am just saying it is wrong to put it in this position because it will have invested a massive amount of emotional energy, time and effort in getting the area plan and development plan right. It should not be put in the position of having to undermine those plans through its work as the noise regulator.
I ask the Minister to reconsider this amendment. In the normal course of events I would have withdrawn the amendment and asked the Minister to reconsider on Report Stage, but we cannot do that this evening. Within the time we have, I ask the Minister to think it through in order to see how complex it is and the position in which he is putting Fingal County Council. The community living around the airport sees the complex position in which the Minister is putting the council by asking it to be both the regulator and the planning authority.
It is a very different situation from that Senator Reilly wishes to portray. The reality is that local authorities invest time in drawing up development plans, local area plans and development plans for the airport. To then be made regulator after doing all those plans for the airport is a contradiction. It is laid out as a contradiction in European law. The Minister and I interpret clause 13 of the introduction to the regulation and Article 3(2) of the regulation differently, but I still think that these sections make it clear that what the Minister is proposing is not the right option. I ask the Minister to take a minute, to think about it, and to consider whether he would prepared to look at an amendment to this section.
I will be very brief. I was just going to say that we will have to agree to disagree but, unfortunately, Senator Humphreys went on to say that this Bill was directly in contravention of the EU regulation, which it clearly is not. Perhaps it was a slip of the tongue. It is late at night; that would be fair enough. I cannot, however, let that stand on the record of the House.
Senator Reilly talks about the need for a noise regulator, about delays, and about rushing this Bill. If we do not get this section right, there will be further delay because it will end up in the courts. That is in nobody's interest. It is certainly not in the interests of the Department or the interests of the residents who would have to go through the stress of challenging this legislation. We should take a bit of time to reconsider. Senator Reilly is very diligent in his work and I ask him to go back and read clause 13 and Article 3(2) to see whether he interprets them in the same way I do.
I will respond to one or two of the points that were made. Senator Humphreys mentioned this legislation ending up before the courts. This Bill was subject to the most intense legal scrutiny of any Bill I have taken through the Houses, judging by the amount of time it took to get in and out of the Attorney General's office. I am not apportioning blame in saying that, but applauding thoroughness. The first choice of noise regulator, the Irish Aviation Authority, IAA, was turned down by the Attorney General's office on the grounds that there was a question about its independence and the potential for a conflict of interest. That same office cleared Fingal County Council as a suitable regulator. That decision gave the council the all-clear in terms of its independence and in terms of any conflict of interest.
People can say the Attorney General was wrong. They are perfectly entitled to do so, although I presume they would be able to put their legal credentials on the table when they do. People are perfectly entitled to take a contrary opinion to that of the Attorney General and to second-guess him on a legal matter. On occasion, they may be right. I could have gone ahead with the IAA against the Attorney General's advice but, without any doubt, that would have ended up before the courts within minutes. However, I did not do so. The reason I did not is that we were advised that it was legally unsafe. We were advised that the choice of Fingal County Council was legally safe, which is why we went ahead with it. The Attorney General addressed all issues around conflicts of interest and independence, issues which were raised eloquently and with perfectly good logic in this House. For my money, however, I back the legal expertise of the Attorney General over that of the Senators in this House. That is where I stand and where I feel protected and safe. I feel that I am on very strong legal ground on the issues of conflicts of interest, rates and independence.
Senator Reilly very decently put on the record that he got his information from some firm of environmental consultants. I challenge Senator Craughwell on the same matter because he quoted the same report. According to the Internet, the report was produced by the chemistry department of Purdue University. I therefore wonder about its authenticity.
I understand that the Minister is obliged to take the Attorney General's advice. I do not have legal expertise. I just have experience of dealing with these issues over many years. I would like to hear the Minister respond as to how clause 13 and Article 3(2) are worked into the Bill. That is the line of questioning I have been following. I do not claim to be a solicitor or a barrister. I have, however, taken the time to go through this in some detail. That is the specific question I have been asking with regard to this area. I would appreciate it if the Minister would respond precisely on those two sections for the record of the House.
I move amendment No. 11:
In page 10, between lines 27 and 28, to insert the following:“(1) Potential affected individuals, whether residential or business related, should be consulted at the pre-planning consultation stage, with applicant and planning authority, in relation to noise and consequential impact.”.
This is a fairly straightforward amendment because the Minister has indicated sympathy with the residents of this area who will be affected. He also said, and he is quite honest in this, that it is a situation that does not allow for a perfect solution for all the parties so one or the other will be inconvenienced and in a situation where industry and the economy of the country are involved, that is the decision the Government will take. However, it seems clear to me that the people who are affected have the right to be consulted with the applicant and planning authority on noise and consequential impact.
I ask the Minister to accept this amendment, particularly in light of the fact that it is giving an undertaking to this House that he will meet with those people. He did say they did not want any theatricality about it and that he wanted an honest and sober meeting and so on, but this amendment only puts into the legislation precisely something the Minister has already agreed to. It states that: "Potential affected individuals, whether residential or business related, should be consulted at the pre-planning consultation stage, with applicant and planning authority, in relation to noise and consequential impact." That is a perfectly fair, reasonable and moral thing to ask.
I formally second this amendment. If this is accepted it will give some input into future planning to the local community. On the basis of fair play and justice I urge that Senator Norris's amendment would be accepted.
I want to speak in support of Senator Norris's amendment. It is an absolute no-brainer. Residents and communities deserve the respect of each planning authority when there is a development as big as Dublin Airport in those areas, which will bring much to the area but which will also take away from the area. Respect for residents and communities is utmost and should be guiding us in everything we do.
In the first instance, section 9 of the Bill deals with the process to be followed by the noise regulator, and not the planning authority. Any changes made to this part of the Bill should have no impact on planning provisions. Furthermore, section 9 directly reflects the provisions set out in Regulation No. 598/14, and for legal drafting reasons I cannot stray from the specific text of the regulation.
On the fundamental point made by Senator Norris, of the public being able to input into pre-planning consultation, I should state that there is no such provision in planning legislation for this to happen. It is certainly not appropriate for me, as the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, to use my legislation to change the planning laws. As I understand it, the purpose of pre-planning within the planning Acts is to allow the applicant, whoever that may be, and the planning authority to have preliminary, advisory discussions on how to proceed with an application, including regarding any need for environmental impact assessments and appropriate assessments or both. Anyone with a planning application can avail of pre-planning consultation, be they large developers, small developers or individual home owners. This amendment would mean that these meetings would happen in an open forum. I see no purpose or logic to that.
I understand that the Senator is seeking to enhance transparency. This is hardly the way to do that. Whenever a formal planning application is actually made, then there is full transparency.There is public notification and public consultation and, indeed, there is a requirement on the planning authority to make discussion from preplanning a matter of public record at that point.
In respect to deliberations on noise by the noise regulator, these will happen under full transparency. There are specific requirements to make all technical documentation public, to provide non-technical summaries of the data, which improves accessibility and understanding, and to hold open, public consultations. What the Senator is proposing is a fundamental change to the Planning and Development Acts. This legislation is not the appropriate place to make such a change.
I can understand part of the response the Minister made to Senator Norris. The Minister is quite right. There is a preplanning application procedure within the legislation. Dublin City Council carries out preplanning application procedures prior to granting full planning permission so as to advise a future planning application. This also allows residents and the local community, where there is a site, to have a preplanning consultation prior to a planning application, which gives them an input into how they would see that site being developed in terms of a development or area plan.
While the precise wording of Senator Norris's amendment may not be correct, the good intention is there in terms of making it easier for local communities to have an input into and an influence on their living standards in terms of planning applications. Normally, what we would have done, had this not been guillotined with the assistance of Fianna Fáil or the House, is that we would have referred back to Report Stage to see whether we could have amended this to make it functional. Maybe the Minister might take a minute to think if there is a way or if there is a slight amendment that he or his officials could see to make this workable.
I beg your pardon. It is the decision of the House, assisted by Fianna Fáil, that all Stages are to be taken this evening, which means, after having had this discussion and conversation with the Minister, we cannot amend this legislation to try to make it stronger and better. We have not been given that opportunity this evening.
I do not doubt the good intentions of Senator Norris in this at all, but I repeat what I said. He is looking for a fundamental change to the Planning and Development Acts, and certainly this is not the right place for that. In reply to Senator Humphreys, everything that is available in the existing planning arrangements are available under this Bill.
Colm Burke, Paddy Burke, Ray Butler, Jerry Buttimer, Maria Byrne, Paudie Coffey, Paul Coghlan, Martin Conway, Mark Daly, Frank Feighan, Maura Hopkins, Gerry Horkan, Gabrielle McFadden, Catherine Noone, Kieran O'Donnell, Joe O'Reilly, James Reilly, Diarmuid Wilson.
Colm Burke, Paddy Burke, Ray Butler, Jerry Buttimer, Maria Byrne, Paudie Coffey, Paul Coghlan, Martin Conway, Mark Daly, Frank Feighan, Maura Hopkins, Gerry Horkan, Gabrielle McFadden, Catherine Noone, Kieran O'Donnell, Joe O'Reilly, James Reilly.
I move amendment No. 18:
In page 37, between lines 3 and 4, to insert the following:
12.Any costs incurred by individuals and community groups, should be borne by the applicant, and overseen by the competent authority, in relation to any aircraft noise related planning projects and permissions.”.
This amendment simply states that: "Any costs incurred by individuals and groups should be borne by the applicant, and overseen by the competent authority, relating to any aircraft noise relating planning projects and permissions." This to me seems only fair. If people are inconvenienced by aircraft noise and they have to make a submission, why should they have to pay in addition to experiencing the pain and discomfort? It seems to me to be a perfectly reasonable amendment. I note my amendment No. 25 has not been grouped with this.It should have been as amendment No. 25 states: "Where aircraft noise severely impacts on individual residents, the affected residents, shall be permitted to have an independent health, environmental and noise assessment conducted, with costs fully covered by the applicant, and to select experts of their choice, and reports submitted to the competent noise authority." Again, this amendment deals with the expenses of individuals living in this area who are blighted. I do not see any reason they should be forced to pay out of their own pockets for these costs.
I will not be here to move amendment No. 25. If any Senators wish to do so they are welcome. I have spoken on these amendments and they seem to be reasonable but I do not anticipate the Minister actually accepting them. However, they are important because the burden should not be placed on individual citizens but should be borne by the people making the noise.
The Bills Office did the grouping and I do not believe I have the discretion to group them at this stage. I will leave them as they are. Amendments Nos. 22 to 27, inclusive, and amendment No. 29 are grouped and will have to be voted upon individually. Does the Minister wish to come in on amendment No. 18 in the name of Senator Norris?
As so often happens, I sympathise with the sentiments, but what the Senator is proposing is a fundamental change to the planning and development Acts which would impact all planning applications and appeals generally. The noise assessment process set out in this Bill has been heavily interlinked with existing planning legislation, as it needs to be, but does not fundamentally change existing planning process and procedures which are tried and tested. Where a planning application is made for development, the airport noise regulator will review the application to decide if it has a significant noise impact. Where it decides that it does, it will carry out a detailed noise assessment. As part of this there will be a 14-week public consultation period. There is no fee involved for participation in this public consultation. I have specifically provided that to enable free and open participation by individuals and community groups. This consultation will be supported by the free and open publication of all relevant documentation, including non-technical summaries of any technical analysis.
I appreciate the points made on this issue by Senators Norris and Humphreys and I know it comes from genuine concern to ensure that the residents are fully heard on this. They will be. However, the planning process is the same across the country for the entire public. This legislation is not being put in place to change the fundamentals of the planning process. Rather we are ensuring that the noise assessment process is fully integrated with the existing planning processes to ensure that the noise regulator has input into major developments at the airport.
As I mentioned earlier, extensive public consultation is provided for in that process and there is no cost involved. Consultation with any member of the public and community groups will be informed by a report prepared by the noise regulator. This report will include the data examined, the measures considered and the proposed noise mitigation measures. Importantly, I have provided that a non-technical summary will accompany each report. This will make it clear to any person wishing to participate as to how the proposed measures came about and the reasoning for their inclusion in a draft decision.
I move amendment No. 21:
In page 47, between lines 16 and 17, to insert the following:
“(8) The competent authority shall direct the airport authority to ensure that average noise exposure at night is reduced below 40dB Lnight, such levels to be revised in accordance with WHO guidelines.”.
Colm Burke, Paddy Burke, Ray Butler, Jerry Buttimer, Maria Byrne, Paudie Coffey, Paul Coghlan, Martin Conway, Mark Daly, Frank Feighan, Maura Hopkins, Gerry Horkan, Gabrielle McFadden, Catherine Noone, Kieran O'Donnell, Joe O'Reilly, James Reilly.
The amendment has already been discussed. I mentioned that amendments Nos. 22 to 27, inclusive, and amendment No. 29 are related. I cannot allow the Senator to speak on it otherwise I would be setting a precedent.
I move amendment No. 26:
In page 47, between lines 36 and 37, to insert the following:
“(4) The competent authority shall be responsible for evaluating the design and implementation of the proposed Relocation Scheme and Voluntary Purchase Scheme for families affected by airport noise or to avail of the Noise Insulation Scheme.”.
I move amendment No. 27:
In page 47, between lines 36 and 37, to insert the following:
“Voluntary Purchase Scheme
21. (1) The airport authority shall—
(a) expand the existent noise insulation scheme to all homes located within the noise contours designated under section 20 of this Act, and
(b) consult local community groups and elected members fully on the design and implementation of the aforementioned noise insulation scheme.
(2) The competent authority shall be responsible for evaluating the design and implementation of the airport authority’s voluntary purchase scheme, with a view to ensuring maximum benefit for local residents. This evaluation shall be prepared and published periodically. The competent authority must publish an evaluation immediately following the design of a new voluntary purchase scheme, and no later than 1 year following the commencement of the new scheme. This evaluation shall consider—
(a) the ease with which residents can access the voluntary purchase scheme, and
(b) the experience by local residents of the voluntary purchase scheme.
(3) The competent authority shall provide an appeals mechanism to local residents who raise complaints or concerns regarding the voluntary purchase scheme.”.
I move amendment No. 29:
In page 53, after line 15, to insert the following:
“Independent valuations under voluntary purchase scheme of relevant local properties
32. That an independent valuer be appointed to carry out valuations of all relevant properties under the voluntary purchase scheme.”.
Colm Burke, Paddy Burke, Ray Butler, Jerry Buttimer, Maria Byrne, Paudie Coffey, Paul Coghlan, Martin Conway, Mark Daly, Frank Feighan, Maura Hopkins, Gerry Horkan, Gabrielle McFadden, Catherine Noone, Kieran O'Donnell, Joe O'Reilly, James Reilly.