Seanad Éireann - Volume 98 - 15 July, 1982

Local Government (Planning and Development) Bill, 1982: Second Stage.

Question proposed: “That the Bill be now read a Second Time”.

Minister for the Environment (Mr. Raphael Burke): The Local Government (Planning and Development) Bill, 1982, is meant to deal primarily with matters that require urgent attention. The explanatory memorandum circulated with the Bill gives details of the individual sections. These can be grouped under five main headings, as follows: (1) duration of planning permissions; (2) validity of certain permissions; (3) general policy directives: (4) penalties for planning offences, and (5) fees for applications and appeals.

Section 29 of the Local Government (Planning and Development) Act, 1976, provides that all planning permissions granted since 1 November 1976, cease to have effect five years after the date of the granting of the permission unless they have been extended by the planning authority. The same section provides that all permissions granted before 1 November 1976, would cease to have effect on 31 October 1981, unless they were [1171] extended. Last year numerous representations were made from individuals and from legal and other professional interests regarding the operation of this section. In addition, defects in the section came to light. The previous Minister examined the situation and, on 16 December last, announced his intention to introduce legislation to repeal and replace section 29. His proposals were that all permissions would have a life of six years instead of five and that all permissions that expired on 31 October 1981, would be automatically extended for a further year. However, the legislation necessary to give effect to these proposals had not been completed when the Coalition Government left office last March.

The Government have now reviewed the situation in some detail and have decided to repeal section 29 of the 1976 Planning Act and to replace it with sections 2, 3, 4, 11 and 14 of this Bill.

Section 2 provides that permissions granted before 1 November 1976, will expire on 31 October 1983. This allows for the lapse of time since the announcement by the previous Minister in December last. The Government are, however, satisfied that the life of permissions granted in the future should not, in general, exceed five years and section 2 provides accordingly. As I have already stated, the previous Government had intended to extend the life of all future permissions to six years but I do not consider that this is either necessary or desirable. It is, however, necessary to make some form of tapering arrangement in respect of permissions granted between November 1976 and November 1982. Section 2 provides for this. Permissions granted during that period will last until 31 October 1987, or seven years after the granting of the permission, whichever is the shorter period. In addition extensions for any longer period already granted by planning authorities under existing legislation will continue to have effect.

I consider that the new provisions of section 2 will achieve a reasonable balance between the objective of encouraging [1172] early development and redevelopment and the practical problems encountered by developers of all kinds in commencing and completing their developments. I hope that they will encourage speedier development, particularly in urban areas, thus reducing the amount of dereliction and urban blight.

Section 3 of the Bill allows planning authorities, as part of a grant of permission, to specify a period of duration longer than the normal five years in cases where they consider that the nature and extent of development warrant this. This provides for a greater degree of flexibility in regard to the duration of permissions than existing legislation provides for. Section 3 could be used in the case of large complex development which could take a considerable time or for continuing development such as quarries. A refusal by a planning authority to exercise this power or a decision to specify a particular period may be appealed to An Bord Pleanála.

Under section 4, the procedure in relation to extension applications is specified, criteria are set out for the granting of extensions and a time limit is specified for dealing with applications for extensions. No such provisions were specified in section 29 of the 1976 Act and this has led to a considerable amount of difficulty. However, section 4 and the regulations to be made under section 11 should eliminate these difficulties.

I turn now to section 6, the purpose of which is to remove doubts about the validity of certain permissions and approvals granted on appeal before 15 March 1977 when An Bord Pleanála took over appeals functions. The need to do this arises from the decision of the Supreme Court in The State (Pine Valley Developments Limited) v. Dublin County Council — judgements delivered 5 February 1982. In that case, the court held that the Minister for Local Government had no power, in determining a planning appeal, to grant permission for a development which contravened materially the relevant development plan. I should emphasise that the Minister was not a party to the case and had no notice that the important point of law involved was [1173] to be raised or decided in the Supreme Court in the case.

In determining planning appeals, successive Ministers for Local Government had always been advised that they had power to grant a permission even in material contravention of a development plan. A significant number of such decisions were made between 1964 and 1977, when the function of determining appeals passed to An Bord Pleanála, but it would not be possible to attempt to identify all of the cases involved.

The Supreme Court decision has given rise to unease and uncertainty in the legal profession, the construction industry and among the financial institutions. It is particularly undersirable that purchases of land, dwellings and other buildings have been made, and that contracts and commitments have been entered into, in good faith, on foot of permissions which are now open to challenge in the courts. Serious problems are arising not only for builders who have developments in progress but also for owners of completed buildings. Problems are also arising in closing sales of new houses and other property. The Incorporated Law Society have been in touch with me to express their concern about the effect of the Pine Valley decision. The society feel that many innocent parties would be involved in considerable hardship unless the situation is altered. As the society see it, this hardship would affect people changing house or buying a new house, who could be on bridging finance and unable to complete a mortgage or sale because of the doubt now cast on the planning permission for the property. For this reason, the society have urged the introduction of legislation to remedy the situation.

Before deciding to introduce legislation to deal with the matter, an effort was made to have the relevant point of law reviewed in the course of another case which is before the Supreme Court but that case will not now be taken until the term commencing in October 1982 and I cannot, of course, be certain as to the outcome of the case even then. In these circumstances, and having regard to the disruption and hardship which has arisen, the only sensible course at this stage is to [1174] enact a provision which will put the matter beyond doubt. Section 6, accordingly, makes it clear that a permission or approval granted on appeal prior to 15 March 1977 — when An Bord Pleanála took over appeals functions — shall not be invalid by reason only of the fact that the development concerned would materially contravene the development plan.

Section 7 provides that the Minister shall, from time to time, issue such general directives as to policy in relation to planning and development as he considers necessary. Essentially, this is a reenactment of section 6 of the 1976 Act extended to apply to planning authorities as well as to An Bord Pleanála. The terms of section 6 are otherwise unchanged. It is made clear in subsection (3) that the power conferred by this section may not be used in relation to particular cases. In 1981, planning authorities received approximately 54,200 planning applications while An Bord Pleanála received over 4,500 planning appeals. It is anomalous in these circumstances that planning authorities are not required to have regard to ministerial policy directives as to planning and development which apply to the board. Clearly, the same criteria should be applied at local level and at appeals level and the new section will enable this to be achieved.

Only one directive has been issued under section 6 of the 1976 Act. This directive was given by me to An Bord Pleanála in May 1981, and related to policy on large retail establishments. When this Bill is enacted, I intend that that directive will be re-issued to planning authorities and to the board. This will be consistent with the Government's commitment to the continuance of a policy of freedom of choice for consumers as between large-scale and independently owned retail outlets.

Sections 8, 9 and 13 are concerned with the level of penalties for offences under the Planning Acts. The wider question of enforcement will be considered as part of the general review of planning law which I am carrying out at present.

The effect of section 8 is to increase the monetary penalties for all offences under the 1963 and 1976 Acts to take [1175] account of the fall in money values. For the less serious summary offences, a maximum penalty of £100 is now being provided for. The more serious offences which now attract fines of £250 on summary conviction will carry a maximum fine of £800. The legal advice available is that this is the maximum penalty which can be prescribed at present while retaining the offences within the category of minor offences which can be dealt with in the District Court. The offences which will attract the new maximum fine of £800 include failure to comply with the conditions of permissions in regard, for example, to housing estates and other development. The penalties for further or continuing offences related to the basic offences are being increased pro-rata.

Subsection (3) of section 8 makes provision, for the first time, for indictable offences in the case of two basic offences under the Planning Acts. These are the offences under section 24 (3) of the 1963 Act of carrying out development in respect of which permission is required, save under and in accordance with a permission, and the offence under section 26 (4) of the 1976 Act of failing to comply with a warning notice, or knowingly assisting or permitting development in contravention of a notice, or damaging or removing a tree to which such a notice relates. On conviction on indictment for either of these offences, a person will be liable to a fine of up to £10,000, or up to two years imprisonment, or both.

These penalties are intended to be a real deterrent in the case of flagrant breaches of the Planning Acts and are an indication of the seriousness with which the Government view such breaches. Clearly, however, every contravention of the relevant sections will not warrant such large penalties or, indeed, being dealt with as an indictable offence. It will be a matter for the Director of Public Prosecutions to decide when to press for a trial on indictment and when to consent to a summary trial in the District Court. Where an indictable offence is tried summarily under section 9, the section provides for maximum penalties of £800, or six months imprisonment, or both, plus [1176] further fines and/or imprisonment for continuing offences.

Section 13 is consequential on the provision in section 8 for indictable offences. As it stands, section 80 of the 1963 Act provides that any planning offence may be prosecuted by the relevant planning authority. Since the Director of Public Prosecutions is responsible for the prosecution of indictable offences, it is necessary to confine the planning authority's power under section 80 (1) to summary offences and section 13 provides accordingly.

Finally, I wish to refer to the provisions of the Bill in relation to fees for planning applications and appeals. The question of charging such fees has been raised at intervals over the last ten years and has been considered in detail in more recent years in the context of other changes in the system of local finance. In May 1980, for example, a paper on local government finance prepared by the County and City Managers Association recommended that local authorities should be empowered to charge for the “investigation and determination of planning applications”. Last December, the Coalition Government decided, following consideration of proposals submitted by the former Minister for the Environment, that legislation should be prepared to enable planning fees to be introduced. This intention was confirmed at the time of the January 1982 budget. The provision of this Bill in regard to fees are the same as those decided on by the former Government and I hope that this will be borne in mind in the debate.

I might also mention that the cost of planning control at local level in 1981 is estimated at £6.86 million. The total number of planning applications in that year was 54,200. The average cost of dealing with applications was about £280 in County Dublin and the four county boroughs, and £85 in the other counties. In areas outside of Dublin and other major growth areas, a high proportion of total applications relate to housing — either extensions to existing houses or proposals to erect new single houses or small groups of houses.

The main provision in this Bill in regard [1177] to fees is section 10 but sections 5 and 12 are also related. Under section 10, the Minister for the Environment will have power to make regulations, with the consent of the Minister for Finance, providing for the payment of fees to planning authorities and to An Bord Pleanála in relation to the various categories of planning application, appeals, etc. Where fees are prescribed in relation to a planning application, the two months period during which the planning authority must determine the application will not begin to run until the fee has been received by the planning authority. Similarly, where fees are prescribed in relation to appeals, provision is made under which the appeal will not be valid unless the fee is received by the board within the period specified for the making of the appeal. In addition to enabling fees to be prescribed for payment by the main parties to applications and appeals, the section makes provision for the payment of fees by other persons who wish to make submissions or observations either to the planning authority or to the board as regards an application, appeal, etc. Provision is also made under which additional fees could be prescribed in respect of requests for oral hearings of appeals or references to the board.

The power to make regulations under section 10 is deliberately framed in a flexible manner. In particular, it is made clear that the regulations may provide for the payment of different fees in relation to cases of different classes or descriptions. This power could be used to require relatively small fees to be paid for single house applications or for other minor developments as compared, for example, to the fees for major commercial developments. The power to allow for complete exemption from the payment of fees in circumstances specified in the regulations, or for the waiver, remission or refund, in whole or in part, of fees in specified circumstances could be used to make special provision in relation to certain categories of applications at local level or to make special provisions in relation to appeals by prescribed categories of persons or bodies.

References and appeals are made regularly [1178] to An Bord Pleanála and not proceeded with. In some cases there may be a request to hold an appeal in abeyance. If such requests are reasonable, they will be acceded to by the board. Section 5 is not designed to interfere with that system. However, when an appellant simply does not co-operate in processing the case, or, in effect, abandons it, the board have no way of dealing with that situation, except to determine the original application, involving a commitment of time and effort which should go to more pressing cases. What section 5 proposes is, in effect, to confer a power on the board to enable them to clear off from their books cases where the appellant has clearly lost interest in pursuing his appeal. Before exercising their powers under section 5, the board will be required to serve appropriate notice on the parties and to invite submissions in relation to the matter. Any such submissions will have to be considered by the board before an appeal is formally declared to be withdrawn.

Section 12 will allow the fee for a copy of an entry in the planning register to be increased by regulations. The fee fixed by section 8 of the 1963 Act is ten shillings which, under the Decimal Currency Act, 1969, must now be construed as 50 pence. In fixing the new fee account will be taken of the fall in the value of money. The planning authority register is used for the purpose of recording all entries required under the Planning Acts in relation to all land within the area of a planning authority. Copies of entries are required mainly for conveyancing or other legal purposes and are sought primarily by solicitors, auctioneers, architects and estate agents. It is reasonable to increase the fee having regard to rising production costs.

Section 15 will enable the existing requirements as regards appeal deposits to be repealed when fees regulations are made. The deposit of £10 is no real deterrent to frivolous or vexatious appeals. In the past number of years, only a very small number of appeals have been declared by the board to be vexatious — 14 in 1979 and 13 in 1980. This does not mean that a much higher proportion of appeals may not have been without [1179] substance but is a consequence of the legal interpretation of “vexatious” as used in the 1976 Act. It appears that “vexatious” in that sense is held not to include, for example, causing unnecessary delay and is not synonymous with being frivolous or without foundation. The fact that only a small number of appeals are formally declared to be vexatious cannot be taken as an indication that all others are reasonable. In practice, the true nature of an appeal which is vexatious, or frivolous, or without merit, may not emerge until processing of the case is well advanced or almost completed. Each appeal is, of course, dealt with on its merits, and experience has shown that few can formally be declared to be vexatious, given the legal interpretation of that word.

Before concluding I should make it clear that the Bill now before the House is regarded by me only as a short-term measure and that I see a need for further legislation to bring about the improvements required in our planning system. A general review of that system is being carried out so as to enable us to decide what changes are necessary to improve the performance of the system and to speed up the decision-making process at local and at appeal levels. Clearly, it will take some time to complete this exercise and to introduce and enact whatever legislative proposals may be decided upon. In the meantime, I will be asking planning authorities to review their own approach to planning control so as to ensure that the system will not have the effect of causing delays in the commencement of worthwhile development and in the creation of jobs.

Work on the preparation of a substantial memorandum containing advice and guidelines to assist planning authorities in reviewing their procedures is well advanced in my Department.

Although the present Bill is an interim one, it provides for some necessary and desirable modifications of existing law. In addition, some of its provisions are urgently required for reasons I have explained earlier. In these circumstances, I trust that the House will co-operate with [1180] me in giving the Bill a speedy passage through all Stages. I commend the Bill to the House.

Mr. P. Reynolds: I suppose it would be right to say that this is a technical Bill and could be dealt with on Committee Stage but I would like to make a few remarks. The planning board, since they were introduced in 1963, have completely changed in so far as week in week out we have court case decisions being handed down. The Minister said there is delay. What is being done about it? I do not think there is anything in the Bill to get these decisions speeded up.

We are now at a stage when nearly every developer and anybody who is involved in development are more concerned with legal matters then with the actual planning. That is understandable. I am not trying to criticise these professional people who have contributed so much to the development of our infrastructures. Local needs do not seem to get sufficient attention and circulars issued by the Department of the Environment seem to be much more acceptable to the planning officers in each local authority than recommendations that are made by local representatives.

I agree that it is right that we protect our waters from pollution. I further agree that it is right not to allow people to build new houses at dangerous bends on our roads. The safety of people must be taken into consideration. It certainly is going a bit far when a private individual or a farmer is prevented from building a house on his own land because somebody has decided that it is a high amenity area. A person wants to build his own house which he is prepared to occupy himself. Not many sites are available to him on his holding. Perhaps only one site is available. It is going a bit far to deprive that man of this right because it is a high amenity area.

I am concerned at the fact that there is nothing in this Bill about afforestation. The Department of Forestry can buy or acquire land and afterwards, particularly in the west, a number of farmers may feel that that land should not be planted, that it is more suitable for agricultural [1181] purposes. The Department should have to get planning permission not alone for the development of the forestry but also because they damage the roads leading into the forests. At the planting stage, at the cultivation stage, at the trimming stage and at the harvesting stage, these roads are sadly abused by the Department of Forestry. The local authorities have not sufficient money to repair them. No local authority would give planning permission to the Department without a commitment to leave the roads in the condition in which they found them.

Let us take an ordinary developer, an individual who wants to develop a quarry: he has to apply to the county council for planning permission and there is a condition that the roads must be left in the condition in which they were found. If that is good enough for the private individual, it is good enough for the Department of Forestry. The only way to get at them is through the planning permission. It would prevent many a row with the local farmers who feel the land should be taken over by the Land Commission and divided among small holders. If the Department had to apply for planning permission, the local people would know about it and this would prevent trouble.

Other people can build without planning permission. I am thinking of county councils, local authorities. It is not necessary for them to apply for planning permission. That may be all right. Some people may ask why it should be necessary for a local authority to apply for planning permission. If the local authority want to build a fire station, a courthouse or something else, how can a local person object? If he wants planning permission himself he has to go through the whole machinery to get it. The local authority are not required to do that. The Office of Public Works can build a national school without planning permission. They can build a Garda barracks without planning permission. They can build a barracks for the Army without planning permission, but the individual has to get planning permission for everything he does. That is most unfair.

[1182] The Minister is to issue instructions that main roads and secondary primary roads are to be cleared. No planning permission is required. Road clearance is understandable on some of our roads. I am thinking of the roads from Dublin to Cork and from Dublin to Sligo. On our secondary roads, roads connecting towns with other areas, there should be no big developments, but if farmers living beside these roads want to build houses for themselves, they should not be deprived of that right.

Some appeals are with the Planning Board for as long as 12 months before a decision is made. Something must be done to speed them up. I do not know how it will be done, I do not want to pass judgement on the Planning Board, far from it. If there is an awkward case, human nature being what it is, it is read, looked at, and left to one side for investigation, and a number of straightforward appeals are dealt with immediately. The delays are becoming very long.

Section 2 provides that permissions granted before 1 November 1976 will expire on 31 October 1983, a period of seven years. Permissions granted after 1 November 1976 and before 31 October 1983 will expire on 31 October 1987, again a period of seven years now. Permissions granted after 1 November 1982 will have a life span of five years. Section 3 enables the planning authority or an appeals board to specify a period of more than five years. A number of planning applications with various local authorities are now out of date. It will be a mixum-gatherum business with some people thinking the specified period is seven years and others thinking it is five years.

A number of planning permissions became null and void on 31 October and people will have to apply again. The Minister said he would have to look at this. What the situation is, I do not know. Older planning permissions have a life span of seven years and new ones have a life span of only five years. Each planning permission should have the same life span, be it five or six years, otherwise it will be very complicated and people will misunderstand it and think they are being victimised.

[1183] Section 7 empowers the Minister to issue general policy directives to local authorities and planning boards. This goes back to my reference to building beside the national primary roads, and the national secondary roads. On a number of our national secondary roads, sewerage is available and telephone wires are available. With regard to the national secondary roads the Minister's instructions to the various local authorities should be flexible, but not in the case of the national primary roads. I have one particular road in mind in my own county, the secondary road from Dromod into the North. The volume of traffic that road is carrying is not great. I can see no reason why there should not be individual development there.

Section 8 increases the penalties. Something will have to be done to get quicker decisions from the board and the courts. Section 10 introduces charges for planning permission. This is an old proposal and, as the Minister said, it was made by the previous Government. I can recall it coming before my council. I do not know what happened in the case of other local authorities but Leitrim County Council did not favour it.

The Minister said the cost of processing a planning application in County Dublin is £280, and the cost in other countries is £85. When he is replying could he give us the reason for such a very big difference, almost £200, between County Dublin and other counties? In rural Ireland, a big percentage of people who are doing private development are about to get married or are not long married. The prices of materials, wages, and so on, are high enough without adding on a further £85. These people have commitments. They find it hard to keep going. I am sure the Minister will admit that in nearly every county the number of planning applications from private individuals is falling. People are going to the local authority for housing because they are unable to house themselves. We should be helping them.

I want to conclude on the question of the finances of local authorities. They are [1184] in a mess. The former Minister had some ideas about how the local authorities could get finances to pay their way. We all know what happened to the finances of local authorities. I will not go into that, but it created problems. There should be some method of financing local authorities. At the moment it is not being done. We are now having an increase of 11, 12 or 15 per cent while the cost of materials increased last year by 20 per cent, with wage increase running at 18 per cent. An increase of 15 per cent for local authorities will not and cannot work.

Mr. O'Toole: I am a little disappointed with the Bill in so far as it does not amend the existing legislation. As Senator Reynolds said, it is a technical Bill. It is not designed to eliminate the undesirable elements in the Planning Act as we know it in most local authorities. A different Planning Act appears to be operated by each local authority. Mayo is the greatest county for invoking section 4. Because of the administration of the Act in Mayo we felt we had continually to bring in section 4s in order to give local applicants their rights. It is a very unusual procedure, but a very effective one. You bring in a section 4, remove the power from the county manager and give planning permission. The objector can appeal to An Bord Pleanála and they, in turn, may decide that an oral hearing is required. In my view, that oral hearing is only a window-dressing operation for the Department. I know a case where our technical staff blatantly refused planning permission. Their technical staff, the health people, the engineers and the sanitary people, spoke against it. When the oral hearing was held the same people had to go into that oral hearing and speak for the granting of the application. I find that totally confusing.

I was chairman of Mayo County Council when we had to adjourn an oral hearing while our county solicitor was speaking against a planning application. When the solicitor got up to speak we had to call for an adjournment immediately to take her into a room to brief her. We had to tell her she should be speaking for the planning application, and not [1185] against it. After half an hour's briefing the county solicitor came down and spoke in favour of the development.

Mr. Ferris: A marvellous profession.

Mr. O'Toole: This is the reality and the thinking in Mayo. We now have a Planning Act which we operate individually and very successfully.

Mr. Ferris: It is no wonder that you are getting an airport down there.

Mr. O'Toole: The county council were erecting some buildings where we felt they should not be erected. They do not require any planning permission. Neither do the Land Commission. They built a house between the road and the sea in a very scenic area at Lecanvey. The following week a local farmer tried to do the same and was refused planning permission. That was the type of application and administration we had of the Planning Act.

For that reason we took the law into our own hands, and we now have a case pending — it has been pending for 14 months — with An Bord Pleanála. When everybody in Mayo decided that this house should be erected — and portion of it was — those self-elevated people in the body called An Taisce, retired lords, ladies and colonels in our locality, decided that this development would contravene the Planning Act. They objected, and the case is still with the Department of the Environment and An Bord Pleanála. No decision has been taken on it. I regret that the Minister has not got more power to intervene in such cases and ensure that proper decisions are taken.

When the decision was taken by the Coalition Government to introduce fees for planning applications and processing it was turned down flatly in Mayo. It was also turned down in Leitrim. Most local authorities throughout the country did the same. The name of the Bill includes the words “planning and development”. As I see it, retarding development seems to be the role of most planning officers. They should be developing the county to [1186] provide employment and bring up the standard of the buildings, roads, infrastructure and so on. There is a development plan which is reviewed from time to time, but it is not put into effect. It is a controlling plan, rather than a development plan. That is what I have against the planning regulations.

Flexibility of the administration on the ground is the keynote to all development. We tend to be very rigid in giving decisions. This prevents people from developing their own land. It is very sad that people who want to develop their own county are restricted by delays in processing planning permissions. There is supposed to be a two month period, but if a query is raised inside the two month period by the planning officers, that extends their period of decision, with the result that a planning decision may not be fully processed for six to nine months. That is too long to wait and, if we could have some speeding up in decision-making, it could be very effective.

I would welcome the increase in the case of appeals. It should be roughly £100 in my view. It will put a stop to the activities of people who have no rights whatever to object to development. Quite recently when we were developing a car park at the foot of Croagh Patrick, An Taisce decided that there were three trees in the development park that should be retained. They will be an obstruction there. An Taisce got away with it. Possibly some night somebody will remove the trees because they are an obstruction, and there are plenty of trees in the location at any rate. An Taisce decided that the three trees should be retained in the centre of this park, which will be a beautiful car park. The same applied at the seaside resort of Old Head. There are two large trees which are decaying because their roots have not got room for expansion. An Taisce asked to have them retained. The council fear An Taisce so they will take the easy way out. They will leave the trees there. If there is an objection to any planning application they take the side of the objector rather than the side of the applicant, because they do not want to get into any hassle. A common-sense application of standards should be [1187] the keynote. The time of officials examining sites would not be wasted, and confusion, appeals and oral hearings would be eliminated if we had people with commonsense dealing with applications.

In Mayo if you dig the trial hole for a septic tank in inclement weather, you are refused planning permission because of the high level of water. The sanitary people feel there is not enough of a filter bed to take the effluent from that septic tank. My own view — and it is the view of experienced people who already have septic thanks — is that you could put a septic tank in the Seanad Chamber, provided you had proper ventilation, and provided that you extracted the effluent into a filter bed. In the final analysis that effluent could be recycled into drinking water. That has happened in other countries. You could build a septic tank in the middle of a tarred road, take the outlet from it, and the inlets, and have proper aerial ventilation. It has worked very well down the years.

For such reasons people are being refused planning applications. I have one section 4 coming up on Monday night and I will be successful with it and I will give permission to this man to build his house in my location. He will have his house built inside six months with a properly planned septic tank in operation. Years ago we needed baffled walls. Now you take the septic tank on a truck. You dig a hole with an excavator. You drop down your pipes and you have your septic tank completed inside an hour or two. That is the modern type of septic tank which is being used at the moment. Years ago it was a big operation to have an effective septic tank working from the engineering point of view. All of that has gone by the board. It is about time that there was reason in the application of planning appeals. I will have something more to say about them. I do not want to hold up the passage of this Bill. There are many things I would like to say about planning. I will have more to say on Committee Stage.

Mr. Ferris: I accept the Minister's comment that this is an interim Bill. The [1188] whole area of planning, especially to county council members, is a very emotive subject. Very few of us are entirely happy with the Planning Act which I was instrumental in formulating in 1976 and having some useful amendments made to it. Since then with experience we have discovered that many areas leave a lot to be desired if we are to develop in a reasonable way. I accept that the Minister is faced with a dilemma arising from the Supreme Court case, and because of the disquiet in the building industry, and the fear that jobs could be at stake as a result of pending court decisions. I and my party will give the Minister all stages of this Bill as quickly as possible.

I welcome also his commitment in the other House to implement the building regulations before the end of the year. That is also a necessary part of the construction industry. It is essential that we are allowed to build, and that we build correctly. I also welcome the fact that the Minister had the courage in the past to issue a directive to An Bord Pleanála in regard to the development of large retail establishments. This directive met with widespread support throughout rural Ireland, particularly in many towns with experiences of family type retail outlets independently owned. If the large retail groups had a monopoly of the market the consumer would suffer eventually. I am pleased that the Minister has given that directive to An Bord Pleanála. I should like him to continue to monitor that situation. When a planning authority give permission for an extension to an existing large retail establishment this developer, who could be the wealthy owner of a chain of stores, should make a contribution to the cost of providing off-street car parking for that development.

Increased demands for car parking will result from this development. When my council inserted such a requirement, it was appealed by the developer to An Bord Pleanála and the figure was reduced from £2,500, as a reasonable contribution to provide car parking space, to £25. That is an insult to the planning authority who were trying to deal with the matter in a way which would have a desirable effect on the town and its amenties. Off-street [1189] car parking could have been available if the local authorities had acquired a derelict site and used it as a car park. This would also have been of financial assistance to the authority. If the board deal with that kind of request in that way one must question the thinking of some people in An Bord Pleanála.

I share the concern of other Members of the House about the delays in processing decisions by An Bord Pleanála. I welcomed the decision to set up An Bord Pleanála because in my view it was removing planning appeals from the political sphere, because there was evidence that political influence was being used when it came to decisions on appeals. The setting up of an autonomous board like An Bord Pleanála, with power to make decisions, was very welcome but whether it is a lack of staff or something else, the long delays involved in getting decisions from them justifies any complaints any “cribber” might make. We have many “cribbers” in this country and there are many people to whom the word “vexatious” could apply. These people get tremendous value for their £10 in the delay they cause to legitimate acceptable development in agricultural and industrial development. I have no objections to people's constitutional right to lodge an objection. The previous Planning Act stipulated that people had the right to go to the High Court within a time scale of two months. This was a welcome decision. At that time some people were threatening industrialists, particularly American industrialists — I am thinking of Shearing Plough — with taking High Court actions, but never intending to do so. They were frightening away what could have been welcome developments in an area in need of industrialisation.

Lodging a fee of £10 with An Bord Pleanála is almost as useful as going to the High Court, because for £10 you can hold up development for 12 months although there might never be any justification for objecting. There would be an exchange of correspondence between the appellant and the developer and the county planning authority, until such time as the date for an oral hearing was set. Senator O'Toole outlined the fiasco [1190] an oral hearing can be. It is unbelievable that there should be this delay when the statutory planning authority have processed the appeal, listened to the objections and made a decision. At the end of the day when the conditions are written in which are fairly restrictive but acceptable to the developer, the objector has the right to go to An Bord Pleanála, and there the matter rests for a further eight to 14 months.

There are some developments that cannot wait that long, especially in the agricultural sector if a grain crop is involved. If somebody at this time of the year lodges an objection to An Bord Pleanála, the grain crop is gone because the board cannot process it quickly enough. If they are dedicated to the task they have been given statutory powers to carry out, there should be immediate consultation with the local authority who have already processed the complaint and listened to all the objections. Many of these people are abusing the system. It would be useful if it was generally known that, like the local authority, a two months time limit was imposed on the board. In some future Bill the Minister could look seriously at the possibility of setting a time limit on the hearing of applications. The number of appeals made is not very great and they could be processed much faster than at present. We will have to streamline the situation so that we can overcome this problem.

I share the view that some people resent the fact that local authorities, semi-State bodies and others do not have to get planning permission to carry out developments which are not allowed to anybody else. This is looked on as one law for ourselves and another law for the ordinary people. This area should be looked at. There should be some period in which the developing authority would have to advise publicly people that they intend to develop and if there are any objections they should be made within a certain time. There should be some process in which the State or semi-State developers would have to comply with the same conditions as ordinary citizens. In County Mayo there is one law for the [1191] authority and another for the ordinary person.

The cost of planning applications is an emotive issue. Senator Reynolds said how his council dealt with them. No matter how the Houses of the Oireachtas decide, the operation of this legislation at local level will create problems. There will be a minimum charge for the ordinary household development. A person should not have to pay an exorbitant fee to a local authority to build a house. Already he has to pay for an ESB service and a water connection. Before he is finished, he will be paying something like £1,000 or more to acquire a service he will have to pay for later. If there is a fee envisaged, it should be a minimum fee for a small development. The Minister has not ruled that out; he talks about a tapering cost for development. I have no objections to large scale development, superstores or even industrial developers, paying a reasonable sum towards their applications, because it is possible the council may have to employ expert advice to deal with them and go to a lot of necessary expense. Planning permission for an ordinary small house will involve the planning authority in a minimum amount of effort. They will have to visit the site, the plans will be submitted and there should be no reason for a very large fee to be charged. I ask the Minister to deal fairly with this development so that we will not be discriminating against people who are put to the pin of their collars trying to provide homes. Because of the high cost of loans from local authorities, whether IDA loans, Housing Finance Agency locans, or bridging finance, these people have to make up the deficit and we should not penalise them under the Planning Act for trying to comply with the regulations laid down.

I am glad penalties have been covered. This will ensure that people comply with planning regulations. Some people, particularly developers, when providing a group of houses in an estate or other private developments often leave without completing the job. They do not carry out the landscaping they promised and which is written into their contracts and [1192] they rarely finish the roadways, paths, lawns and so on in their plans. Eventually local authorities are faced with demands from the people occupying these houses for amenities like public lighting and pathways. I would like this penalty to apply to speculators who are involved in such developments and leave the sites before they fulfil their obligations. All they are interested in is making as much profit as they possibly can. If this kind of clause is in operation we can follow them up and insist that they provide the services they promised.

I support these measures and look forward at some future date to a more thorough Planning Bill that will give us an opportunity to deal with the problems facing us as members of local authorities.

Mr. Fallon: Like previous speakers, I, too, welcome this Bill. I do not agree with everything in it, but I agree with its principal objectives. This Bill was introduced as a result of the delay in granting planning permissions, and the Minister rightly took this opportunity to bring in other matters he felt should be tidied up. Planning is of great interest to local authority members. It is an emotive issue. Some counties are notorious for section fours and issues of that kind. My own opinion is that section four should never have to be used. The 1963 Act clearly said that the elected representatives are the planning authority. They are the people who make the laws, and have the final responsibility in the control of planning development and making the county development plan. I accept that the local authorities have technical people to give technical advice, but it is the members of the local authorities who should have the final say. If we do not clearly state our position to the country managers and the planners the situation will get out of hand.

There are a number of aspects of this Bill which I find interesting, for example, in 1981 there were over 54,000 applications. I have always felt that many applications should not have to be made. In future legislation — I not this is an interim measure — exempted development should be looked at very carefully. [1193] There was a time when an application for planning permission had to be made for porches, small buildings at the back, and so on, but that is no longer the case. Even here, we should go further and hope for more exemptions in any plan we adopt in the future. The administration costs involved in an application for a porch costing £500 or £600, is the same as for a scheme costing £50,000, £60,000 or £100,000. Enforcement of the legislation should be looked at in the future.

In Athlone and County Westmeath there were notorious developers who came in, developed and got away without carrying out the conditions laid down in their planning applications. A strong enforcement officer should be at the beck and call of the council and he should inspect these developments to ensure that every condition is complied with. That must be one of the most important features of any future planning development legislation.

The question of the local authority being exempt is wrong too, because the ordinary citizen who might want to object has no rights. Justice must be done and be seen to be done. While the local authority would not be doing something that was illegal, nonetheless, the fact that the ordinary man in the street has not the right to object is wrong. This is an area the Minister might look at when he is introducing future legislation. There are different standards in different countries. Roscommon is on one side of the River Shannon and Westmeath on the other. In Westmeath we are notorious for screening development on the lake itself. We tend to shy away and refuse permission to develop there. On the other side of the river, that is not the case. In the past permission was granted to develop the shores of lakes. That would not be allowed in Westmeath. There should be a national standard for development of major roads, lakes and scenic areas generally.

The local authorities are the planners. There should be flexibility in every plan and if the spirit of the Act is adhered to sufficienty, there should be no reason for section four. That is not to say we have not had them in Westmeath in the past [1194] and maybe we will have them in the future but I hold a personal view that with the kind of flexibility the Act allows there should be no reason for a section four. The plan is clearly for the people and it should be flexible. That should be the aim of any future legislation in this area.

Mr. O'Connell: I will not speak at length on this Bill, but section three in particular seems rather worrying. It seems, on casual reading, to give an open-ended licence to authorities to give permissions in perpetuity. Maybe I am misreading the Bill. I would like clarification on that point. The second point I would like to raise is the extraordinary remarks of Senator O'Toole as regards An Taisce, a highly responsible body which has the interest of the public at large and which is trying to do its best. If we are to have that kind of comment on An Taisce which has proved its worth to most of us, it bodes ill for the National Heritage Council if and when that comes into being. Obviously, there is a certain proportion of frivolous objections or objections made by cranks and people like that, but there must remain the right to object which is reasonably practicable. If you create obstacles or settle fees which are prohibitive this must work against the ordinary citizen in favour of the more wealthy and more powerful sections of our community.

Mr. Durkan: I give a conditional welcome to this Bill. As the Minister rightly pointed out the need has been obvious for some time. Unfortunately, a matter as complex as planning and developing generally cannot be dealt with adequately in a Bill of this nature. While I accept on the one hand that it is an interim measure and is absolutely essential by virtue of pending court decisions that some interim action must be taken I feel it will be necessary to follow this Bill up with a more far-reaching and comprehensive Bill. That is absolutely essential, and I would like the Minister to give an indication of that when he is replying.

In relation to the duration of the planning permission, which has already been [1195] referred to by Senator O'Connell, there could be some difficulties in relation to continued extensions. It could mean that developers, as opposed to individual applicants, could have unnecessary influence, or could bring unnecessary pressure to bear on the powers that be, whether they be the local authorities or the Department, thereby ensuring the continued existence of planning permission. In this Bill it is proposed that the local authority will have the power to extend or withdraw as the case may be.

A couple of speakers mentioned applications made by individuals for their own dwellings. We should differentiate between large scale planning applications where large amounts of money are involved, and applications made by ordinary individuals who wish to provide themselves with dwelling-houses. Unfortunately the regulations are so complex, particularly the manner in which they are interpreted by some local authorities, as to make it almost impossible for the average citizen to obtain planning permission without a two month period, but large scale developers have both the financial where withal and the technical assistance to ensure that they receive adequate consideration and get planning permission. If a similar application were made by an individual he would not receive the same favourable consideration. This is something that has been brought up again and again by members of local authorities. Members of local authorities, of which I am one, are the people who have the closest working knowledge of the Planning and Development Acts. This is one area where careful thought should go into a future Bill.

The proposal to charge a fee is necessary and desirable. If we expect the staff of a local authority to undertake the necessary investigation related to a planning permission, it is absolutely essential that there be some recompense paid to that local authority. This will mean the local authority will be able to recover some financial control over their own destiny. I would not like that to be taken as a free licence to increase, at the whim of the [1196] local authority or of successive Governments, that fee indiscriminately, because then we could arrive at a situation when again we would have to differentiate between the individual and the large-scale planning applicant. There is absolutely no way we should do this. When we set the fee we must ensure that it will be in line with the scale of development as opposed to an application for the single house. I would like the Minister to refer to that in his reply.

I live in an area which has ample urban and rural development. We should have a second tier in a Planning Act which would deal more readily with applications in the rural area. The restrictions imposed on the average individual applicant in a rural area seem to delay the decision to such an extent that in many cases the applicant gets tired of the system and gives up. Consequently, we have to revert to the section 4s which have already been referred to. That is a bad thing. It is unfortunate that members of local authorities should have to introduce section 4s to get an average and straightforward planning application through the system. We will have to come round to thinking about a two-tier system, which would simplify the situation from the point of view of the average citizen making an application for his or her own use as opposed to the highly technical type of application which has to be made and the highly technical type of response needed when large-scale development is involved. I am concerned about the possibility of a planning authority — and this relates entirely to large-scale development — making a decision which, in the opinion of the courts, reduces the value of the lands concerned, whereupon a purchase order can be served on the local authority, putting that body under serious financial pressure. A number of these cases have already been referred to and more, I understand, are before the courts. They have very serious implications. One could have a situation where a planning authority can refuse planning permission, but invariably that involves large-scale development. It does not seem to affect the person or persons who make applications for their own use.

[1197] When a large-scale development takes place we have had a number of cases where the applicant on finding that the local authority did not wish to grant permission, or accede to the request for permission, then appealed to An Bord Pleanála who in most instances also agreed, and rightly so with the decision of the local authority. The courts can view the matter in a somewhat different light, and a purchase order can be served on the local authority, which in itself can have serious implications. The valuation arrived at by the courts may bear little relationship to the actual value of those lands a number of years previously. I accept that this has been covered in another Bill relating to taxation but there are, unfortunately, loopholes which are being circumnavigated at present.

There is another point to which serious attention should be given, and if it were, would eliminate a lot of the mischievous objections which have been referred to by a number of people. The validity of planning permissions granted on the basis of insufficient information in the original public notice should be seriously questioned. I have come across a number of cases where the public notice did not in any case or to any extent give sufficient information as to the proposed development. A number of these cases have come before An Bord Pleanála. Having regard to the previous decision, the board in their wisdom decided to approve the decision already taken by the local authority. This is something to which greater attention should be given. If it was, it would eliminate problems whereby residents and residents' associations who suddenly find themselves with a development they did not anticipate arriving on their doorsteps. Usually such development takes place on foot of a notice in a newspaper, and often in a section of the newspaper which will not be read. Unfortunately this has been the case and it has had the effect of creating unnecessary alarm. Residents and residents' associations then seek to object to a development without knowing all the facts.

I have already mentioned section 7 (2) [1198] and (3) in relation to general directives. While I accept that the general directives which will be required from time to time are necessary, at the same time there is a danger, despite what subsection (3). says, that this will not apply to any particular case. There is a danger that clout, influence or the sheer insistence of a powerful lobby may be exercised, and — I say this without any criticism of the Minister or his predecessor — I have seen evidence, as I am sure have all members of local authorities, of this type of problem. There is a great danger that these people would force a decision to be taken that might not have a bearing on a current application but which could at some future date have a very strong bearing on their own applications. That is something I would like to have considered and I hope amended at a later stage. That is one area I am worried about and I hope the Minister will take cognisance of it.

An Bord Pleanála generally has done a good job. It has taken a great deal of the pressure off successive Ministers and has taken away a lot of the political tag that attached to planning and development. However, there are shortcomings, and some of them have already been dealt with by the previous speakers in relation to delays in processing applications. Again, unfortunately, this has the greatest impact on the individual applicant. The individual in almost all cases seems to be forgotten and seems to miss out on the careful and compassionate consideration he or she should get under the Planning and Development Acts. The large-scale operator seems to be able to command greater control and greater attention and seems to be able to insist on the expeditious processing of his application.

In relation to oral hearings and An Bord Pleanála, oral hearings are very useful because they tend to illustrate to some extent to the general public the manner in which the decision is arrived at on a particular application. It also tends to give them an opportunity of making a submission. There may be instances where a submission may be mischievous or not well-founded but by and large appeals that go before An Bord [1199] Pleanála go there for a very good reason. The only qualification I would make there is that I would like to see oral hearings granted more readily, particularly where a large community or a large number of objectors lodge an objection. It does not necessarily follow in all cases that when a large number of people object to a particular type of development that an oral hearing is granted. In fact, the reverse may be the case.

I mentioned earlier, in relation to another Bill, the need for overall planning and development strategy. That need still exists and will exist, as I am sure the Minister will agree, after the enactment of this Bill. It is something which successive Governments have neglected, and I am not attributing blame to any one individual or any one Department. It is something which we have failed entirely to come to grips with over a number of years. I suppose it is understandable that the development explosion that took place in what I regard as the eastern region was not anticipated and, consequently, the effects of such development explosion could not have been anticipated. It is now long past the time for the careful consideration of long-term and medium-term planning and development objectives.

It is the job of the Department of the Environment, through the aegis of local authorities, to ensure that in the future we will not have the type of planning development that has been so much criticised over the past number of years and the extensions of what are referred to as the concrete jungles. That would be deplorable. The only way it can be resolved is by setting out clear development objectives both on a regional and on a national scale. It will entail the provision of the infrastructure in areas outside of those which are currently coming under most pressure for development. It will entail the provision of hospitals, schools, telecommunications, roads, rail and all the necessary services in order to encourage the population, which is expanding, to remain in their own communities, as opposed to what we have at [1200] present when we have the continuous increase in the population in the greater Dublin area. This results in continuous development to facilitate that population and the continuous need to provide more jobs, something which we are finding great difficulty in doing.

All of this stems from the massive increase in the population in the eastern region. As a member of the Eastern Regional Development Organisation, I have strong views on the matter. I know the Minister has received submissions from that body and I hope he will consider them favourably in due course. We hope that as a result we will seek to put an end to the social and economic difficulties that are attendant on unlimited development in any one area. I will go into this in more detail at a later stage. I will be interested to hear the Minister's response on some of the queries already raised.

Minister for the Environment (Mr. Raphael Burke): I should like to thank the Senators for their contributions to this debate which were very interesting and, in particular, the fact that contributions were coming from men with a background in local authorities and local government. They know exactly the operation of planning and development on the ground in their own local areas.

Senator Reynolds mentioned planning permission for single houses, and that theme ran through all the contributions made here today. I share the frustration of Members in the way the Planning Acts have been interpreted with regard to construction of single houses. Sites have been provided by fathers for sons to stay near their homes but planning permission has been refused by local authorities. It is with this in mind, and I refer to my opening remarks, that I will be asking planning authorities to review their approach to planning controls to ensure that the system will not have the effect of causing the delays in the commencement of worthwhile development and the creation of jobs. I will be looking for a uniform system and interpretation of the Act rather than the system we have at the moment, where one county uses one set [1201] of rules and another county has another set of rules.

With regard to the point made by Senator Reynolds on local authorities not having to apply for planning permissions, of course, if they want to build houses, fire stations, libraries or courthouses, all new works of that type have to be approved by the council themselves and by the elected members. If there is a body of opinion within an area that feels strongly on, say, a fire station being built in their area, it is up to the people involved to make representations to their local councillors. The councillors can air their views on behalf of the objectors at local authority meetings.

As far as the Office of Public Works are concerned, section 84 of the 1963 Act covers the question of consultation by State authorities before undertaking the construction or extension of any building where it states that a State authority shall consult with a planning authority to such extent as may be determined. It also states that if any objections raised by the planning authority are not resolved, except where the construction or extension is being undertaken by the Minister, they shall consult on the objections with the Minister. There is a consultation process there.

At the moment the period for extending planning permission is seven years. From 1983 the period will be five year. There is no question of two sets of rules, one for existing and one for new permissions. It is generally agreed, and it is incorporated in the Bill, that many people were caught out by the withering that took place on 31 October 1981 and we are trying to get over this anomaly by extending it to 1983. The original intention was October 1982 but by the time this Bill will be finished it will be the end of July and that would leave only two or three months if we went for the 1982 date. We are going for 1983 instead and after that it will be five years.

There is no intention whatsoever to have directives with regard to secondary roads. There is no such directive there at the moment. A letter went out to local authorities in 1972 which asked them in the granting of planning permissions not [1202] to allow permissions which would front on to national primary routes. There was in the last paragraph of the letter a passing reference to secondary routes but it was only a passing reference. As I have said in my opening speech, the directives I have in mind refer to the freedom of choice between large and small retail outlets. I intend to forward a directive to the local authorities and to the board, similar to that of May last year, which set out guidelines to be followed with regard to the decisions by An Bord Pleanála and it will apply also to local authorities when making decisions on applications for multi-stores and for large supermarkets.

I thank Senators who welcomed the provisions in the penalties area. A number of Senators mentioned the fees and charges; some Senators welcomed them and others were not too happy. I gave the figure for the processing of planning permissions. It is costing the country £6,800,000 at the moment. I can assure the House that the scheme being introduced is purposely flexible. This was a point that was worrying a number of the Senators. It will be on a sliding scale — a very small sum of money for a single house and for an extension but it will rise for major commercial developments, for office blocks and other commercial developments. The Senators need have no fears whatsoever about the type of scheme of fees to be introduced.

Senator O'Toole highlighted the different approach that prevails in different counties. For this reason I am anxious to give the local authorities the type of information to help in the matter of planning permissions. Personally I feel that in many cases the authorities can be too restrictive. The Bill, as the Senator rightly said, is called the Planning and Development Bill. There should be room for development especially in single houses in rural areas. That is something I would encourage very much in the smaller villages and also in the rural areas. It is with that sort of background that I intend to forward these guidelines to the authorities to try to get some sort of uniform interpretation of the rules.

The single republic of Mayo I will leave to another day and as a half Mayo man [1203] I will not comment on it. I know that they have not only their own rules and regulations in that but they cannot even play a decent game of football. Having seen them last Sunday, I say they disgraced themselves.

Senator Ferris mentioned the delays in the board and we all regret those delays. In many cases the delays cannot be avoided because of problems when appellants will not send in the necessary information or refuse to submit enough information for the board to make a decision.

Senator Fallon mentioned the important role of local authority members in the whole of this planning area and I could not agree with him more. There is too often an attempt by Government to take away the powers of local authorities. I am against that and I share his concern that local authority members should be listened to more in the planning area. Too often a local authority member says a particular item is right but if an official says it is wrong, the official's view is automatically taken. The official may have been in the county for only six months or six weeks whereas the local man knows his county and represents the people. Of course, account should be taken of the technical advice available but technical advice on its own should not be the main criterion. It is the technical advice, plus the wisdom, experience and the local knowledge of the local democratically elected member that should be taken into account.

Senator Fallon mentioned the case of extending the exempted developments on such thing as porches. Last year I exempted porches and back-kitchens of a certain size from having to get planning permission. I will look again at extending the number of exemptions in the smaller areas. He also mentioned the very important point of the completion of housing estates. I have increased the penalties for non-compliance with conditions of planning permissions and I had in mind particular housing estates. Too many housing estates are left by developers in an appalling condition and not just private developers. We have many examples in [1204] the city and county in which I live. The Dublin Corporation, for example, develop in the county council area and leave their estates in an appalling condition and if a private developer did this under the terms of this Act he would be in jail. I hope that the public bodies as well as the private sector will complete their estates and meet their obligations under the rules of planning permissions. Last year I brought in a scheme for financial assistance to local authorities to pay up to two-thirds of the sum involved where a local authority, having used all the means available to them through the courts and so on, could not succeed in getting an estate completed. The scheme I introduced allows for a local authority to finish the estate themselves.

Senator O'Connell mentioned the case of section 3. The local authority can extend only if justified by reference to the criteria laid down. The point is something that we can tackle in detail on Committee Stage. Senator Durkan and others asked for a more comprehensive Bill. I can assure Senators that a more comprehensive Bill is on the way. It will not be in the next session but there is much work going on on it at the moment. I was surprised to hear Senator Durkan mention that he did not want further extensions. He was afraid of the larger planning permissions having a longer life than the five years. I would remind him that in the Dáil the direct opposite view was taken by his colleague, Deputy Tom Fitzpatrick, who had an amendment down which asked that the life of a planning permission would only start——

Mr. Durkan: On a point of order, I may have given the wrong impression. I was speaking in relation to extension of individual applications.

Mr. Raphael Burke: We can come back to that on Committee Stages. The question of the life of a planning permission was discussed in the time we had available last night. There was a request that the life of a permission would only commence when all conditions had been met, such as the provision of water and sewerage, and that the five-year period [1205] would only start then. I accepted the amendment in principle; but I will come back to it at a later stage in a more comprehensive Bill. I did not accept the amendment as it was down. I have already covered the point made by other Senators of the sliding scale with regard to development. It was suggested that a two-tier system be used, with the single house and large-scale development being treated differently but, I do not think that would work. It is a matter for the managers to operate their own administration so that every application receives proper and careful attention.

On the question of compensation claims, that seems to be more relevant to the motion and to the Joint Committee that is now being set up with regard to building land. One of the terms of reference of that committee refers to the operation of the Planning and Development Acts of 1963 and 1976. Those Acts include the question of compensation, and is a matter for the committee to look at.

I can assure the Senator and the House that there is no question whatsoever of any attempt to bring the Minister for the Environment back into planning on a day-to-day basis. These are general directives on the lines with regard to such things as the right of choice on shopping and between smaller and larger schemes. Subsection (3) of the section specifically excludes the Minister. It precludes him from involving himself in the day-to-day affairs of local authorities.

As far as the long- and medium-term planning is concerned, I agree fully with the Senator that there is a need to have a comprehensive plan, perhaps through the regional development organisations for each region. For example, it is to me a bit ludicrous to prepare a plan which takes no account whatsoever of the sewerage and water facilities available. Why should Dublin expand continuously outwards? Why not develop some towns such as Naas, maybe up to Drogheda, maybe into Navan? These towns should be developed. We should have a proper transportation system into the city centre. It should not necessarily mean [1206] just a continuous sprawl out from the city.

From now on we will have to look at planning on a regional basis rather than just a county-by-county basis, especially in places like Dublin, Galway and Limerick, which would be an obvious one with a Clare connection. This is particularly relevant to Dublin. It is time that the regional development organisations came into this whole area of regional planning in the medium and long term. It is something that I am very much in favour of.

I would like to thank the Seanad for the welcome that they have given to the Bill. I look forward to Committee Stage next week when we can go into greater detail on some of the points that were raised.

Question put and agreed to.

Committee Stage ordered for Thursday, 22 July 1982.