Dáil Éireann - Volume 392 - 08 November, 1989

Derelict Sites Bill, 1989: Committee Stage (Resumed).

[1958] SECTION 17.

Debate resumed on amendment No. 25a:

In page 12, subsection (5), line 22, after “site.” to insert “The Minister shall make his decision within 6 months from the date of the application.”.

—(Deputy Gilmore.)

An Ceann Comhairle: I understand Deputy Gilmore is pressing his amendment.

Amendment put.

The Committee divided: Tá, 21; Níl, 75.

De Rossa, Proinsias.

Ferris, Michael.

Gilmore, Eamon.

Gregory, Tony.

Higgins, Michael D.

Howlin, Brendan.

Kavanagh, Liam.

Kemmy, Jim.

McCartan, Pat.

Mac Giolla, Tomás.

Moynihan, Michael.

O'Shea, Brian.

O'Sullivan, Gerry.

O'Sullivan, Toddy.

Quinn, Ruairí.

Rabbitte, Pat.

Ryan, Seán.

Sherlock, Joe.

Spring, Dick.

Stagg, Emmet.

Taylor, Mervyn.


Ahern, Bertie.

Ahern, Dermot.

Ahern, Michael.

Aylward, Liam.

Barrett, Michael.

Brady, Gerard.

Brady, Vincent.

Brennan, Mattie.

Briscoe, Ben.

Browne, John (Wexford).

Burke, Raphael P.

Callely, Ivor.

Clohessy, Peadar.

Collins, Gerard.

Connolly, Ger.

Coughlan, Mary Theresa.

Cowen, Brian.

Cullimore, Séamus.

Daly, Brendan.

Davern, Noel.

Dempsey, Noel.

Dennehy, John.

de Valera, Síle.

[1959]McCreevy, Charlie.

McDaid, Jim.

McEllistrim, Tom.

Molloy, Robert.

Morley, P.J.

Nolan, M.J.

Noonan, Michael J. (Limerick West).

O'Connell, John.

O'Dea, Willie.

O'Donoghue, John.

O'Hanlon, Rory.

O'Keeffe, Ned.

O'Kennedy, Michael.

O'Leary, John.

Ellis, John.

Fitzgerald, Liam Joseph.

Fitzpatrick, Dermot.

Flood, Chris.

Flynn, Pádraig.

Gallagher, Pat the Cope.

Geoghegan-Quinn, Máire.

Harney, Mary.

Haughey, Charles J.

Hillery, Brian.

Hilliard, Colm.

Hyland, Liam.

Jacob, Joe.

Kelly, Laurence.

Kenneally, Brendan.

Kirk, Séamus.

Kitt, Michael P.

Kitt, Tom.

Lawlor, Liam.

Lenihan, Brian.

Leonard, Jimmy.

Lyons, Denis.

Martin, Micheál.

[1960]O'Rourke, Mary.

O'Toole, Martin, Joe.

Power, Seán.

Quill, Máirín.

Reynolds, Albert.

Roche, Dick.

Smith, Michael.

Stafford, John.

Treacy, Noel.

Tunney, Jim.

Wallace, Dan.

Wallace, Mary.

Walsh, Joe.

Woods, Michael.

Wyse, Pearse.

Tellers: Tá, Deputies McCartan and Gilmore; Níl, Deputies V. Brady and Clohessy.

Amendment declared lost.

Mr. Gilmore: I move amendment No. 25b:

In page 12, between lines 22 and 23, to insert the following subsection:

“(6) The Minister shall not refuse consent for the compulsory acquisition of all or part of a derelict site, where the owner or occupier of the land has failed to comply with the requirements of a notice, within the period specified by the notice, which has been served under section 13 of this Act.”.

I have already spoken on this amendment.

Mr. Flynn: The Deputy spoke on this matter and I assume the reference to section 13 is intended to relate to section 12. This amendment empowers a local authority to serve a notice requiring remedial measures in relation to a derelict site. The present amendment would mean that a CPO would automatically go through on the proposal of a local authority in any case where a section 12 notice had not been complied with. That is essentially what Deputy Gilmore is suggesting. Provisions for objections by the landowner and consideration by the Minister would then be irrelevant. I cannot imagine Deputy Gilmore will be pressing this since the amendment in these cases would give the Minister only one choice — to confirm the CPO as proposed by the local authority, and that would run contrary to what the Deputy was suggesting should be in other cases.

The purpose of allowing the right of objection and referring CPOs for ministerial decision is so that where a CPO is contested the local authority will not be the judge and jury of their own case. That is the essential principle enshrined in CPOs as we know them. This amendment would set aside that very important principle of justice where a landowner was in default of a section 12 notice. Enforcement of section 12 notices is already adequately provided for in the Bill and a breach of section 12 can be prosecuted by the local authority in the District Court or, alternatively, under section 12 (5) the local authority can carry out the remedial works required by the notice and charge the costs to the landowner. I consider that these follow-up powers in relation to section 12 are clear and adequate and I cannot see why Deputy Gilmore would pursue this seeing it is contrary to some of the things he and his party have professed and articulated so many times in debates on different Bills.

Mr. Gilmore: The Minister is incorrect in assuming that the amendment relates to section 12. The amendment states that it relates to section 13. That section of the Bill gives power to the Minister to [1961] direct a local authority to serve an order. Indeed, I agree with much of what the Minister has said in regard to the right of appeal from notices served under section 12 but here we have a situation where the Minister, presumably for very good reason, would take a decision to direct a local authority to serve a notice on the owner of a derelict site. If the owner of that derelict site fails to comply with that order — the Minister having already directed that the order should have been served — and the local authority then proceeds to take steps to compulsorily acquire that site, it is contradictory that the Minister would, on appeal, not confirm that compulsory purchase order. The purpose of the Bill is to take effective measures against dereliction. If we are going to do that — and one of the principal instruments provided in the Bill is the power of local authorities to compulsorily purchase a site — then I do not think we should leave it wide open and full of holes and avenues which the owners of delelict sites can exploit. It should be made clear to them that if the Minister directs a local authority to serve a notice on the owner of a derelict site that that owner cannot subsequently, many months or a couple of years later — after the procedure has been exhausted — come back and expect the Minister to deny the local authority the right to compulsorily purchase that site. The amendment is confined to section 13 rather than section 12. It is confined to where the Minister would direct a local authority to serve notices on the owners of derelict sites.

Mr. Flynn: With all due respect to the Deputy, he is getting this somewhat confused. I would suggest that substantive power is enshrined in section 12 and that section 13 can bear only on local authorities, not on land owners. The question of whether a derelict site needs to be brought into the ownership of a local authority is a separate one and should, like all contested CPO proposals, be dealt with impartially and on its merits. I do not favour mechanism for CPO being involved in your amendment. [1962] There is adequate power in the Bill, particularly as it is enshrined in section 12; that is where the substantive power rests. For that reason I ask the Deputy to withdraw the amendment.

Mr. Gilmore: I will not be withdrawing the amendment.

Amendment put and declared lost.

Question proposed: “That section 17, as amended, stand part of the Bill.”

Mr. Flynn: In order that we will be clear, I agreed to the substance of an amendment to the Report Stage but I did not agree to an amendment. As you are phrasing it now, you are saying `as amended'. It is not as amended. I have agreed to submit an amendment in my own name on Report Stage, the substance of which was elucidated in Deputy shatter's amendment. That is how it should be recorded.

Acting Chairman (Mr. Sherlock): We know it was agreed but we accept the explanation on the amendments. Is that understood? Agreed.


Mr. Flynn: I move amendment No. 26.

In page 12, subsection (3), line 44, to delete “seven” and substitute “fourteen”.

A number of local authorities have made representations to me that seven days could be inadequate to comply with delays which can sometimes arise in processing a vesting order. A 14 day time limit was provided for in the 1961 Act. In response to the concerns which have been presented to me through the local authorities, the amendment seeks to restore the 14 day limit.

Amendment agreed to.

Question proposed: “That section 18, as amended, stand part of the Bill”.

[1963] Section 19 agreed to.


Acting Chairman: We now come to amendment No. 26a in the name of the Minister. Amendments Nos. 26a, 26b and 34a are related and they will be taken together by agreement.

Mr. Flynn: I move amendment No. 26a:

In page 14, subsection (3), line 14, after “person” to insert “by way of derelict sites levy or”.

These amendments relate to compulsory acquisition of derelict sites which is finally effected by a vesting order. Amendments Nos. 26a and 26b clarify the provisions whereby a local authority is authorised to reduce compensation in respect of certain sums owing to them by the landowner. In particular, amendment No. 26a makes it clear that the local authority is entitled to claw back any unpaid amount of a derelict site's levy from the compensation payment for the land. Amendment No. 34a provides for an exception in the case of CPO from the general rule whereby unpaid derelict sites levy must remain a charge on the land. This general rule is designed to cater for transfer of land from one private ownership to another. In such cases the new purchasers will be bound to discharge the unpaid amount of the derelict sites' levy. this requirement is unnecessary and inappropriate where the local authority is acquiring the land by CPO. The amendment waives its application in these two cases. I recommend the amendments to the House.

Mr. G. Mitchell: I do not have any difficulty with the amendments but I would like to take the opportunity to say a few words on the section before it is put. In regard to subsection (2) in relation to the calculation of compensation, perhaps the Minister would give the House an outline of precisely how compensation will be calculated. It seems to me that [1964] some of the shysters and chancers who are operating in this city, particularly in regard to houses and gardens which have been allowed to go derelict by people who do not reside in those houses but who expect others to reside in multiple dwellings in those houses and expect people living in private houses to live next door to those derelict sites while they themselves live in nice suburbs. When such people are being compensated — that is the term the Bill uses — they should be penalised an amount of money which would then be required to be used in restoring the building and site from its derelict condition.

I hope that will be a penalty clause in any calculation of compensation. I do not see why somebody who sells a derelict house or site to the State or the local authority should get the same price as a person living in a house next door who looks after it and does not create a nuisance. This dereliction is created because the people who own the house or the site in question do not reside there and do not have to face it every day. Some people in suburbs like Rathmines put washing lines in front of their houses which they attach to electricity posts on the footpath. They have built extensions to the side of their houses in contravention of High Court orders and of the planning authority. The whole house should be compulsorily acquired, fully restored and sold on. The local authority should have the power to retain from the compensation a sufficient amount of money to carry out the necessary works. One person can own a series of houses in several suburbs, destroy the local environment and streetscape and cause a terrible nuisance to neighbours, perhaps even damaging their property. It is totally unfair. In calculating the compensation there should be a penalty which allows a substantial amount of money to be retained and used to put a house or site in good order before the net payment is made to the offender.

Amendment agreed to.

Mr. Flynn: I move amendment No. 26b.

[1965] In page 14, subsection (3), line 16, to delete “section 12” and substitute “this Act”.

Amendment agreed to.

Mr. Flynn: I move amendment No. 27:

In page 14, between lines 23 and 24, to insert the following subsections:

“(4) Sections 69 to 79 of the Lands Clauses Consolidation Act, 1845, as amended or adapted by or under the Second Schedule to the Housing of the Working Classes Act, 1890, or any other Act, shall apply in relation to compensation to be paid by a local authority under this section as if such compensation were a price or compensation under the said Act as so amended.

(5) Where money is paid into Court under section 69 of the Lands Clauses Consolidation Act, 1845, as applied by this section, by the local authority, no costs shall be payable by that authority to any person in respect of any proceedings for the investment, payment of income, or payment of capital of such money.”.

These sections of the Land Clauses Acts provide a mechanism for dealing in the context of a CPO with the payment of compensation to persons not fit to manage their financial affairs or to owners who cannot be traced. Essentially they involve the lodgment of the compensation sum for administration by the courts. In all other legislation involving CPOs, such as the Housing Act, 1966, the Planning Act, 1963, or the Canals Act, 1986, these Land Clauses Acts provisions are expressly applied to compensation payments. They were omitted from the compensation provisions of the 1940 and 1961 Derelict Sites Acts but this is considered an appropriate time to state them explicitly in this Bill. I recommend the amendment to the House.

Mr. Gilmore: Perhaps the Minister would clarify the effect of this amendment.

[1966] Mr. Flynn: If it cannot be discovered who the money should be paid to, it goes into the court. The local authority discharge this total liability in so far as they take over the property concerned. The money established by the arbitrator as the value is paid into the funds of suitors. That fund has existed for many years. It was never expressly stated to be applicable to derelict sites legislation but this is an appropriate time because it might apply to some liability being discharged in the future.

Amendment agreed to.

Question proposed: “That section 20, as amended, stand part of the Bill.”

Mr. G. Mitchell: Could the Minister respond to the question about compensation? What will be the basis of the calculation?

Mr. Flynn: Market value rules will apply. All is subject to evaluation and assessment by the arbitrator. That is the situation in regard to all CPO cases. It will apply here as well. Unauthorised development and its value is discounted in determining the value, which would do a lot to satisfy the Deputy's point.

Question put and agreed to.


Mr. Flynn: I move amendment No. 28:

In page 14, subsection (1), line 25, after “or the” to insert “Acquisition of”.

This is a drafting amendment to express the correct title of the 1940 Act.

Amendment agreed to.

Question proposed: “That section 21, as amended, stand part of the Bill.”

Mr. G. Mitchell: I am somewhat concerned about the wording of this section. Section 21 (1) states:

[1967] A local authority may use any derelict site acquired by them under this Act, the Derelict Sites Act, 1961, or the Derelict Sites Act, 1940, for any purpose connected with their functions.

That seems to be a very strong power to confer on a local authority. Does this mean they could build a sewage plant in the middle of a residential estate or build a factory where planning permission exists only for private dwellings? Are we empowering them to do what they like and bypass other legislation? Local Authorities have widespread functions and it could mean literally anything. If we, at a future date, removed the ultra vires rule on local authorities, about which there has been much talk, then they would be able to do whatever they liked, whenever they liked, with derelict sites which they acquire. Any purpose connected with their functions should at least be limited to the words “in keeping with good planning law”.

Mr. Flynn: That is already in the section.

Mr. G. Mitchell: It is a very wide section and I would be very concerned that the House should not empower a local authority to use a derelict site which they acquired for any purpose they wished.

Mr. Flynn: The Planning Act, 1963, gives details of the restrictions on certain local authorities and it states that the planning authorities shall not effect any developments in their own operative areas which contravene materially their own development plan. That means a local authority cannot materially contravene their own development plan, so they are restricted in what they may do with land they acquire.

Mr. G. Mitchell: Will the Minister assure the House that this Bill will not override that legislation?

Mr. Flynn: It does not seek to do that. [1968] It seeks only to allow that land which is taken under this legislation is covered. It is not tied to anything but the local authority may use it for the purposes of their functions as long as they are in conformity with their own stated development plans. They cannot break their own laws.

Mr. G. Mitchell: If I were a lawyer arguing for a local authority I would certainly have a close look at this section because we may well be conferring conflicting powers on them, one under the planning legislation and one under this section. However, if the Minister assures the House that it does not override the planning legislation of 1963 I will accept that assurance.

Mr. G. O'Sullivan: It is my first opportunity to speak on this long overdue Bill, which I welcome. Local authorities are responsible and I have no doubt that the Deputy's fears will not be realised because most of us are members of local authorities. This section will give us power and authority to work for the betterment of our local authority areas and I welcome the provision. I do not subscribe to Deputy Mitchell's view that the scope of the section is too wide.

Mr. Flynn: We are only restating the provisions of section 13 of the Derelict Sites Act, 1961, which states that a local authority may use any land acquired by them under this Act for any purpose connected with their powers and duties. The situation which existed since 1961 has not been altered and in my experience it has not proved to be defective.

Mr. G. Mitchell: Presumably the 1963 Planning Act superseded the 1961 Derelict Sites Act in so far as a conflict of description is concerned——

Mr. Flynn: Only in respect of development.

Mr. G. Mitchell: If this Bill is passed it could presumably be quoted as superseding the 1963 Planning Act in so far as [1969] it affects the purpose mentioned in this section. However, if the Minister assures me that that is not the case I will accept it. I do not agree with Deputy O'Sullivan's remark that local authorities are always responsible. I am aware of one local authority which has been the owner of a very large number of derelict sites. Local authorities are just as capable of being guilty of an offence as anybody else and it is often very hard for members of local authorities to bring the authority to heel in dealing with the problem. However, I accept the Minister's assurances and I will not press the matter further.

Mr. Flynn: Deputy O'Sullivan and the Minister for the Environment will watch how Deputy Mitchell and his friends respond in dealing with dereliction in their local authority representative area.

Question put and agreed to.


Mr. Flynn: I move amendment No. 29:

In page 14, lines 35 and 36, to delete “within a county health district” and substitute “not being part of a county or other borough, an urban district or a town,”.

This is a drafting amendment to express more accurately the intention of the section. Boroughs, urban districts and towns with town commissioners are automatically urban areas by virtue of section 3. Under this section, the Minister for the Environment will have power to prescribe further areas to be urban areas. These additional areas will come from the county council area and the intention is to prescribe built-up areas from within the county council area where the application of the derelict sites levy would be beneficial. That would be a welcome addition to what is proposed.

Amendment agreed to.

Section 22, as amended, agreed to.

[1970] SECTION 23.

Acting Chairman (Mr. Sherlock): Amendment No. 31 is related and may be taken with amendment No. 30.

Mr. Flynn: I move amendment No. 30:

In page 14, subsection (1), line 38, to delete “5” and substitute “five”.

These are minor drafting amendments suggested by the parliamentary draftsman and they merely involve changing the description of various numbers, for example, changing “5” and “14” from arabic numerals to alphabetic script.

Mr. Gilmore: I do not have an amendment on this section but I wonder if the Minister could, before Report Stage, give some further consideration to the intervals of time within which the market value of urban land is to be entered on the register. My understanding of what is proposed in the Bill is that the market value is to be revised once every five years. At the rate at which property values in some parts of large cities are rising, the market value of urban land would have greatly increased within that period and the amount entered in the register would be considerably below the real value of the land. Therefore, the levy which it is intended to impose on derelict sites would be very low in comparison with the real value of the land. In view of the recent, very significant upsurge in property prices, will the Minister give some further consideration to that point?

Mr. Flynn: I understand the point made by the Deputy and I can see the wisdom of what he is saying. There are fluctuations but the Deputy will recognise that they are not always in one direction. They have gone up and down, even in this city, over the past number of years. There is a lot involved in carrying out a revision and we do not think it would be appropriate to do it every one or two years. We have taken the balanced view that a period of five years is a reasonable time scale in getting a fair balance of judgment in the matter. I take the point [1971] the Deputy is making, that one must decide on some time scale. I consider this a reasonable one to suggest.

Mr. G. Mitchell: This is a rather long section with a number of subsections. Would the Minister set out in layman's language precisely what is the objective of this section?

Mr. Flynn: The section provides for the determination by a local authority, as soon as possible after it is entered in the Derelict Sites Register, of the market value of a derelict site in an urban area. That valuation is to be repeated once every five years. Where a person disagrees with the determination he may, within 28 days of being notified, appeal to the Valuation Tribunal against the determination depending on the entry in the register concerning the market value of the site. Urban land is defined in section 3 and excludes occupied buildings, land owned by the local authority in whose area the land is situated, land owned by a State authority and lands covered by a compulsory purchase order which has become operative, or land the subject of planning reservation or for such purposes as roads and parking.

Under subsection (1) a local authority is obliged to determine the market value of urban land, defined in section 3, as soon as possible after it has been entered in the register and once every five years on a prescribed date thereafter.

Under the provisions of subsection (2) a local authority may authorise a person to determine the market value of the urban land. Some local authorities, such as Dublin Corporation, employ full-time valuers but most local authorities engage private valuers — they would engage them on an ad hoc basis — particularly when dealing with compulsory purchase order cases.

An owner of urban land may appeal, under the provisions of subsection (4), to the tribunal which shall hear and determine appeals under subsection (5). Apart from a right of appeal to the High Court [1972] on a question of law, the determination of the Valuation Tribunal will be final.

Section 5 deals with the statement of a case for the High Court by the Valuation Tribunal. Where any party to an appeal is dissatisfied with the determination of the Valuation Tribunal as being erroneous in point of law they may, within 21 days of the determination, by notice addressed to the tribunal, require the tribunal to state a case for the opinion of the High Court on the matter within three months of the date of receipt of the notice. The High Court may affirm, amend or reverse the determination on the question of law arising in the case.

Mr. G. Mitchell: That is the most interesting layman's language I have heard in a long time.

Mr. Flynn: I do not think it was intended to be drafted for the layman. It was intended to give an idea of what exactly the provisions of section 23 will do in law.

Amendment agreed to.

Mr. Flynn: I move amendment No. 31:

In page 15, subsection (3), line 11, to delete “28” and substitute “twenty eight”.

Amendment agreed to.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Amendment No. 32. Amendment No. 34 is related. Amendments Nos. 32 and 34 to be discussed together by agreement.

Mr. Flynn: I move amendment No. 32.

In page 15, lines 27 to 31, to delete subsection (9) and substitute the following:

“(9) The Tribunal shall, where any amendment falls to be made to the market value of relevant urban land pursuant to a determination of the Tribunal or a decision of the High Court in relation to an appeal under this section, give notification of the amendment in [1973] writing to the local authority concerned, who shall inform the owner of the land of the said amendment and shall cause the appropriate entry in the register to be amended with effect from the date of entry referred to in subsection (3).”.

Both of these amendments deal principally with the retrospective effect of a decision of the Valuation Tribunal on appeal. Amendment No. 32 makes it clear that any amendment of the market value of land resulting from an appeal shall be effective from the date on which the determination of market value was originally made by the local authority. This amendment also provides a mechanism for communicating decisions of the Valuation Tribunal. The tribunal will be obliged to notify amendments of market value to the local authority who, in turn, will have to notify the owner of the relevant land.

Amendment agreed to.

Section 23, as amended, agreed to.


An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: I would ask the House's indulgence while I go through the following. We come to amendment No. 33 in the name of the Minister. Amendment No. 1 in the name of Deputy Gilmore to amendment No. 33 is related. Amendment No. 2 to amendment No. 33 is an alternative to amendment No. 1 to amendment No. 33. Therefore, amendment No. 33 and amendments Nos. 1 and 2 to amendment No. 33 to be taken together for discussion. Is that agreed? Agreed.

Mr. Flynn: My amendment No. 33 reads:

In page 15, lines 43 to 46, to delete subsection (3) and substitute the following:

“(3) The amount of the derelict sites levy shall be——

[1974] (a) in respect of the first local financial year after the passing of the Act, three per cent. of the market value of urban land concerned, and

(b) in respect of any subsequent such year such amount not exceeding ten per cent. as may stand prescribed for each urban area or if there is no such amount prescribed three per cent. of the said market value.

(4) Where it is proposed to prescribe a levy for an urban area the amount of which would exceed the levy in force for that area in the preceding local financial year by more than two per cent. of the market value of urban land concerned, a draft of the regulations concerned shall be laid before each House of the Oireachtas not less than three months before the end of the local financial year and the regulations shall not be made unless a resolution approving of the draft has been made by each such House.”.

The point was made in the course of Second Stage that too wide a discretion was being vested in the Minister in regard to the amount of the derelict sites levy to be prescribed by him. In effect, the Minister was free to determine the annual amount of the levy within the range of zero to 10 per cent of the market value of the land. This amendment is intended to give a clear indication, within the legislation itself, as to the amount of the levy which will apply and to give limited discretion only to the Minister to increase this in subsequent years without full recourse to the Houses of the Oireachtas.

Under the provisions of the new subsection (3) (a) the amount of levy for the first year will be fixed at 3 per cent of the market value of the relevant urban land for all urban areas. Subsection (3) (b) stipulates 10 per cent as being the absolute maximum for the levy in any year and provides that, if no amount is prescribed, a 3 per cent levy will apply.

Under the provisions of subsection (4), when the Minister proposes to prescribe [1975] a levy for the urban area which would exceed the levy in force for that area in the previous year by more than 2 per cent of the market value of the land, the regulations involved must be confirmed by an affirmative resolution of each House of the Oireachtas, having been laid before each House at least three months before the end of the local financial year. Where the Minister proposes to increase the levy by 2 percentage points or less, or to reduce the levy, he may do so by regulation, which will be subject to the normal annulment procedure within 21 days.

Mr. Gilmore: I move amendment No. 1 to amendment No. 33:

To delete all words after “concerned, and” in subsection (3) (a) down to the end of the amendment and substitute the following:

“(b) in respect of the second local financial year after the passing of the Act, five per cent. of the market value of the urban land concerned, and

(c) in respect of the third local financial year after the passing of the Act, seven per cent. of the market value of the urban land concerned, and

(d) in respect of the fourth local financial year after the passing of the Act, nine per cent. of the market value of the urban land concerned, and

(e) in respect of the fifth and each subsequent financial year after the passing of the Act such percentage of the market value of the urban land concerned, which shall be set by the Minister, but which shall not be less than ten per cent.”.

What we are attempting to do here is strengthen the provisions of this Bill. I have considerable doubt as to whether the levy system will actually work in practice. First, there are considerable resources required by local authorities to make it operable. The Minister has already mentioned the kind of staff which will be required to establish the register, [1976] to determine the market value of lands and so on. The whole purpose of the Bill must be to render it as unattractive as possible for the owner of a derelict site to leave it lying derelict.

I welcome the Minister's proposal to fix a levy of 3 per cent for the first financial year. However, I have grave doubts as to whether that amount will ever be increased subsequently. Frankly, I do not foresee the Minister or his Department regularly revising the levies to be charged for each urban area. In practice I do not believe that will happen. I would be very much opposed to the notion that, where the proposed increase is in excess of 2 per cent, it has to come before both Houses of the Oireachtas, that three months notice and so on is required. It would appear to me that that will wrap it up in procedures rendering it totally unworkable, particularly when one takes into account the fact that, where the Minister proposes to reduce the levy, he does not have to come before the Houses at all.

It would be desirable that there be a phased increase of the levy being charged on derelict sites, beginning with 3 per cent in the first year, rising to 5 per cent the second year, to 7 per cent the following year, and so on, until the figure of 10 per cent is reached in the fifth and subsequent years. That would send out the message very clearly to the owners of derelict sites that the longer they leave a site derelict the more it is going to cost them. Sites are left derelict because the owners of them, by and large, are waiting for an opportunity to arise when they can either dispose of a site at considerable profit or develop it at considerable profit. The language the owners of derelict sites understand is the language of money. If this Bill is to have real clout then the provision in regard to the levy must make it clear to the owners of derelict sites that the longer they leave sites derelict the more it will cost them and that that cost will increase each year.

Once the figure of 3 per cent is fixed for the first year that is the figure which will remain subsequently in practice. I doubt very much if that figure will be revised in subsequent years and I do not [1977] think that in respect of a site which is left derelict for several years 3 per cent of the market value will be an adequate levy in subsequent years. The Bill should provide specifically for this by providing for a phased increase in the amount of the levy.

Mr. Flynn: I do not think there will be any great problem in compiling the register, and I think the Deputy will concede that.

Mr. Gilmore: If the local authorities have the staff, and I am not so sure they have.

Mr. Flynn: I think enough concern was expressed on Second Stage to guarantee that Members will be more than anxious to see to it that the register is compiled. I suppose part of the sweetener attached to this provision is that the income from such a levy will apply to local authority revenue. This will entice them along and I think Deputy O'Sullivan will accept that it will be an incentive to them to see to it that the register is compiled.

Mr. Gilmore: Three per cent of 1984 property values is not up to much.

Mr. Flynn: It is quite a lot. This raises the whole question as to what is intended by this legislation and the levy. It is intended above all else as an efficiency tax which will promote the better use of land. I have to reiterate that it is not intended to raise revenue for local authorities. That is not its primary function. I made it clear on the introduction of this legislation what was intended by my attitude to dereliction. That underscores everything which has been done and is being attempted here. There is no reason to suggest that the levy will not be raised. Hopefully it will not be necessary to raise it.

Mr. Gilmore: I agree that the derelict sites levy should not be used to raise money for local authorities. I am a member of a local authority and I would have no hesitation in saying, in regard to [1978] a site which has been derelict for several years, or the raising of moneys which will arise from the levy, that we should get rid of the derelict site. I understand that the intention of the levy is to provide an incentive to the owner of a derelict site to get his act together and clean up or develop the site.

As I mentioned earlier, under the original proposal in the Bill, the market values of lands will be revised only every five years. In practice the amount of the levy will be 3 per cent. That is what this Bill will amount to and in practice that 3 per cent will not be increased. As the years go on, the amount of the levy will not be a sufficient incentive to the owners of those sites to clean them up. I do not see why the Bill cannot provide for the scaled progression of the levy which I have proposed. This would make it clear — I understand this is the main purpose of the Bill — to the owners of derelict sites that there is a war on dereliction and that that war is going to result in increased penalties and charges to the owners of derelict sites as the years go on. That is the purpose of my amendment.

Mr. G. O'Sullivan: I welcome what the Minister has said in regard to the provision of a register for local authorities. It is very welcome news that they will be able to compile a register. Local authorities do not have the staff to compile such a register and I welome this provision. I accept the Minister's statement that it is not the purpose of this Bill to provide financial gain for any local authority. What happened over the past number of years was that dereliction cost local authorities money and I think it deterred a number of industrialists from setting up in cities where there is dereliction. I accept that a progressive levy would probably be the answer to many of the problems facing local authorities at present. I do not think coming back into the House again is the proper way to do this.

I would certainly favour the message going out loud and clear from the Oireachtas that a person who deliberately and blatantly allows his property [1979] to become derelict will have to pay the penalty for doing so, taking into consideration, of course, the safeguards built into the Bill for people who cannot afford to invest in their property. I ask the Minister to look closely at this provision and perhaps he will be able to come back on Report Stage and say in what circumstances a progressive rate can be implemented by the local authorities. It is the one area which gives teeth to a local authority and the speculators who are waiting for the price of their property to go up should be made aware that local authorities are being given the power by the Minister to come to grips with this very serious problem.

Mr. Flynn: I am pleased that there is general consensus in the House as to the intention of this legislation, which is primarily to promote the better use of land rather than to raise revenue for local authorities. This is an essential ingredient of the legislation. I think implied in that is that the Legislature must allow us to learn from our experience during the early years of operation of the levy. In effect, I have made a two-pronged attack on the problem of dereliction. This was the whole idea behind the designated areas under the Urban Renewal Act, 1986. That Act provided the carrot to try to get rid of dereliction and this Bill is the stick for those who are reluctant to come along with us and see our point of view.

Inherent in this legislation is a clear provision for a variation of the levy. This is an important provision. We will get good results once the register is in place and people realise they have to pay for the comfort of allowing their property to remain derelict. Many of the tardy landowners and property owners will move along or pay the penalty in money terms. The provision in the Bill to increase that levy will be utilised by the Minister. It is a fair interpretation of what I wish to do and I can move the levy up by certain percentage points — raising it from 3 to 5 per cent is quite a jump — without necessarily having to come back [1980] to the Oireachtas. I think this is a reasonable provision, particularly when we have no experience yet as to how effective it will be in the way it is now proposed. I am recommending it to the House and in my view it is a reasonable approach to the problem.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Will Deputy Gilmore be happy not to press his amendment?

Mr. Gilmore: No, I am not entirely happy with the Minister's explanation. The difficulty is that the increase over 3 per cent will not take place. We all know that the Minister's Department, covering such a wide area of activity, will not, on an ongoing basis, be able to give this the attention it deserves. I am pressing my amendment.

Mr. Flynn: The Deputy seems determined to press everything to a vote but I should like to point out to him that it has always been the practice in the House to give the Minister a certain amount of flexibility on new legislation. That flexibility is given for many reasons but primarily so that experience can be gained by the Minister in the implementation of certain provisions that involve levying individuals. The Deputy's amendment would run contrary to that well established flexibility that is allowed to the Minister and would, in fact, represent a determination by the Legislature to impose taxation almost for its own sake. I do not think that is part of the ethos or philosophy that is practised by the Deputy in other places.

Mr. Stafford: I support the Minister's view on this. As a public representative for an inner city area, I have been pushing hard for this legislation. I found the Minister to be extremely co-operative. He has taken into consideration many of the points we have put to him. The idea of 3 per cent, and the power to increase it by 2 per cent, is acceptable to me. There is no doubt in my mind that the Minister would not have any hesitation in moving towards the upper figure if he deemed it [1981] necessary because he has had experience of the north inner city areas. I understand some of the reasons why Deputy Gilmore is moving his amendment but, as a public representative whose area is directly affected by the problem of dereliction, I am anxious that we get the Bill through as soon as possible. I am not saying that Deputy Gilmore is purposely adopting the attitude that he should hold up the Bill but it is unfortunate that it is being held up. If amendments are considered necessary later they can be introduced by the Minister.

Mr. Gilmore: The last thing in the world I want to do is to obstruct the passage of the Bill because, generally speaking, I welcome any measures being taken to deal with dereliction. However, on Committee Stage of any Bill sections are amended. I accept, as the Minister has reminded me on a number of occasions, that I am a new Deputy, but I think I am right in my view. The amendments I have tabled seek to strengthen the provisions and prevent owners of derelict sites, people who are hardened to the ways of the world, from getting around the legislation. The reason the Bill has been introduced is that those people have found ways of obstructing local authorities and preventing them from taking effective action.

Mr. Flynn: And because local authorities did not use all the powers that are there.

Mr. Gilmore: I am a member of two local authorities who have used their powers. It is clear to us that we need more effective legislation. We use the powers but we still end up with sites which are derelict. The Minister mentioned the question of flexibility but this is not about giving, or not giving, him flexibility. However, we do not want the owners of derelict sites to have flexibility. There is nothing wrong with having a penal tax on derelict sites. There should be a penal tax on such sites. The 3 per cent on the market value, bearing in mind that the market value may become dated, is quite [1982] small and I do not think it is unreasonable to ask that if it is found that the 3 per cent is not enough it should be increased. We should be able to make owners of derelict sites put them in order and get their act together.

Mr. Flynn: If the amount is not enough the Minister can increase it.

Mr. Gilmore: I do not see why the Minister should take upon himself the responsibility of having to amend the provision when a decision can be made today.

Question, “That the words proposed to be deleted stand”, put and declared carried.

Amendment No. 2 to amendment No. 33 not moved.

Amendment No. 33 put and agreed to.

Mr. Flynn: I move amendment No. 34:

In page 16, lines 18 to 24, to delete subsection (8) and substitute the following:

“(8) Where the market value of any urban land is altered by a determination of the Tribunal or a decision of the High Court in relation to an appeal under section 23, and where in consequence, having regard to subsection (9) of section 23, the appropriate entry in the register is amended, the amount of the derelict sites levy in respect of that urban land shall be determined by reference to the market value as so altered; and in case another amount in respect of the derelict sites levy has already been paid, the local authority shall, if the market value is decreased, repay any amount paid in excess of the sum which would have been payable if the market value had originally stood as altered on appeal, and if the market value is increased, the local authority may demand the levy on the amount of the increase.”.

[1983] Amendment agreed to.

Section 24, as amended, agreed to.


Mr. Flynn: I move amendment No. 34a:

In page 16, between lines 32 and 33, to insert the following subsection:

“(2) Subsection (1) shall not apply in any case where a vesting order is made in relation to a derelict site.”.

Amendment agreed to.

Section 25, as amended, agreed to.


An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: We now move to amendment No. 34b in the name of Deputy Gilmore. Amendments Nos. 35 and 35b are related and amendment No. 35a is an alternative to amendment No. 35. With the agreement of the House, we will take amendments Nos. 34b, 35, 35a and 35b together for discussion.

Mr. Gilmore: I move amendment No. 34b:

In page 16, subsection (1) line 40, after “local authority” to insert “and provided the owner or occupier of the derelict site maintains the site in a reasonable condition to the satisfaction of the local authority”.

It seems to me that it is in this section that the owner of a derelict site has the greatest opportunity of escaping from his responsibilities. As I understand it, it is intended under section 26 that if the owner of a derelict site makes a planning application he can, instead of paying the levy, enter into a bond for a period of five years. The first thing we have to deal with is the principle of that. As I read the Bill there is nothing to prevent the owner [1984] of a derelict site from submitting a planning application which would save him paying the levy for five years and making a further planning application before the five years had elapsed. He could continue to do so and in the end would not have to pay the levy. The owner can pick his time to go ahead with his development.

My first amendment to this section suggests that the owner or occupier of the derelict site should have to maintain the site in a reasonable condition and to the satisfaction of the local authority. My later amendment proposes reducing the period of time from five years to three years. There may be cases where a site can be developed and a period of time would have to be given to an owner to proceed with that development. In addition, the owner of the derelict site should be required to keep it in a reasonable condition and that reasonableness should be to the satisfaction of the local authority. That is the intention of the first amendment.

Mr. Flynn: Amendment No. 34b, would, in all cases, make it a condition of a bonding arrangement under this section that a derelict site should be properly maintained. It is important that I should state that. I am not sure that this provision is appropriate in those circumstances. The overriding concern of the Bill, both in the land use type controls of Part II and in the levy provisions of Part III, is, of course, that land should be made non-derelict but, in so far as this occurs, section 24 (6) makes it clear that the levy provisions will have no further part to play. Looking at it the other way, the levy is designed to deal with the unsatisfactory circumstance that, despite everything, a site may be likely to remain derelict for some time. It will impose penal taxation on the owner throughout that time in the hope of influencing him to improve the site.

However, in the case of certain proposed comprehensive redevelopments, it could be counter-productive to front-load the penal tax. We talked about that before and that is the danger in what the Deputy is suggesting. For this reason, [1985] section 26 provides for the bonding arrangements which we are discussing. As I have said, it would be contradictory to attach site maintenance conditions to these arrangements, since if these were fully implemented, the site would become non-derelict and neither the levy nor bonding provisions would any longer apply.

Progress reported; Committee to sit again.

Sitting suspended at 1.30 p.m. and resumed at 2.30 p.m.