Dáil Éireann - Volume 522 - 29 June, 2000

Other Questions. - Strategic Development Zones.

7. Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for the Environment and Local Government if, in regard to his Department's document, Action on Housing, he will outline when the series of project offices will be established to fast-track infrastructural development in the proposed SDZs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18643/00]

Mr. Dempsey: The purpose of strategic development zones or SDZs is to ensure a much greater degree of certainty both in securing planning permission and the time horizon involved in relation to development that is of strategic economic and social importance to the State.

While candidate SDZs for housing development were listed in the recently published review of the housing market, decisions have not yet been taken on suitable sites. Such sites can only be designated by Government order following commencement of the Planning and Development Bill. The selection of sites will have regard to objective criteria including the capacity of the site to deliver a significant quantity of housing, the availability of necessary services such as water, sewerage, roads and public transport and the planning status of the land in question. My Department will shortly commence a series of [992] detailed consultations with local authorities to determine what sites could best be developed using the SDZ process so that decisions can be taken by the Government at the earliest possible date following commencement of the Bill. It is my intention that the necessary arrangements will be finalised to ensure that project offices for the SDZs can be established as soon as sites are designated.

Mr. Gilmore: The SDZs were represented in the Bacon report and the Government statement which followed it as a way of speeding up planning for residential development. If the Government has not yet made decisions on the designation of areas as SDZs and is only now commencing a process of consultation, is it not the case that these SDZs will be part of a longer process than planning applications submitted to the planning process in the normal way for residential development? Can the Minister indicate when he expects the Government to announce areas to be covered by SDZs and when he expects the first SDZs to be designated?

Mr. Dempsey: As I said in my reply, these SDZs will be put in place by Government order—

Mr. Gilmore: When?

Mr. Dempsey: —following consultation with local authorities to determine what sites can best be developed in that way.

Mr. Gilmore: When?

Mr. Dempsey: Discussions on all these matters will take place at the earliest date possible following commencement of the Bill. They cannot come into being until the Bill is in place.

Mr. Gilmore: This is all about making residential development happen faster than it would under the normal planning process. If the Government is serious about doing this and it is not just a ruse for circumventing the normal planning process rather than getting residential development fast-tracked, it seems strange to me that the Minister is not in a position, three weeks after publication of the Bacon report, to indicate when the Government will make an announcement about SDZs or where they will be? Can the Minister give us an approximate date for when the Government will make the order for SDZs? When does he expect this to be done? The Bill has already been passed in the Houses.

Mr. Dempsey: The Deputy is usually reasonably well-informed about these matters so he may be aware that the Bill has not yet been signed by the President.

Mr. Gilmore: I am aware of that.

[993] Mr. Dempsey: There is a meeting of the Council of State on Friday at which the Bill will be discussed. I do not know what the outcome of that meeting will be, so I will not be drawn into making predictions about particular dates and so on. A number of possible sites were identified in the report entitled The Housing Market in Ireland: An Economic Evaluation of Trends and Prospects, which was published last week. However, the Deputy need have no fears. If the normal planning process is faster for any particular application then I am sure that process will be used by local authorities. This measure is meant to facilitate bringing into use land for residential development over a period of time, but it cannot happen overnight.

Mr. Barrett: What local authorities have been contacted so far regarding these proposed SDZs? Can the Minister name them? What criteria will be used by each local authority to select parcels of land suitable for SDZs? Will it involve consultation with the elected public representatives of the local authorities or will it be done at official level?

Mr. Dempsey: The process for selection and for putting SDZs in place is outlined in the Planning and Development Bill and local public representatives will have a role. They will be consulted. In all cases the process of selection of SDZs will be initiated by the local authorities; they will come to the Government and suggest areas should be designated and the Government will decide on that basis. The criteria will include the capacity of the site concerned to deliver a significant quantity of housing, the availability of necessary services such as water, sewerage, roads and public transport and the planning status of the land in question.