Government accused of ramming through Planning Bill without opportunity to examine its own inadequate amendments

Ivana Bacik TD
11 June 2024

Labour Leader and Housing Spokesperson Ivana Bacik TD has criticised the Government’s decision to guillotine the Planning and Development Bill 2023.

Deputy Bacik said,

“It is deeply concerning to see that the Government is proposing to push its much-criticised Planning and Development Bill through both Houses before the Summer break. This is the third biggest piece of legislation in the history of the State – 730 pages long. Almost 1,200 amendments were tabled for consideration in committee. Now that it is due to return to the Dáil for fuller examination later today at Report Stage, we have been told that the Government is proposing to guillotine the Bill, allowing for just two days of debate, today and tomorrow.

“Although debate is due to come to a stop tomorrow, we still did not have a full list of the hundreds of amendments we are supposed to consider within that very constricted timeframe late last week. Clearly, the vast bulk of the Bill, and most amendments, could not possibly receive adequate consideration within the allotted time. TDs who were not members of the Housing and Local Government Committee will have either very limited or no opportunity to contribute.

“Not only are most Opposition amendments to the Bill likely to fall without being debated, but all the Government’s amendments will be deemed automatically to have been passed – without being debated either. And the Minister has tabled more than 60 pages of such amendments to his own Bill.

“Among these amendments is his response to an issue I have raised several times already, with both the Taoiseach and the Minister: the use of improper financial inducements in the planning process. While I welcomed his positive response at the time, the Minister’s own proposed amendment to deal with this issue is entirely inadequate. Essentially, he proposes that a planning objector should be barred from requesting a payment in order to withdraw his or her objection, but that developers should remain free to continue to offer such payments as an inducement to withdraw.

“This is a completely lop-sided proposal, one that ignores the unequal financial resources of the two sides to most planning disputes. Why should a developer be free to flash cash in order to buy off objections while a local resident is criminalised if he or she seeks some of that cash?

“The draft attempts an impossible distinction between requesting a payment from a developer, which would be a crime, and accepting such a payment, which would not. Where would reliable evidence come from to show whether a payment had first been offered by one side or requested by the other? And would a payment that was requested and made be classed as the proceeds of crime, to be seized by the CAB, while the person who made the payment could walk away scot-free?

“The amendment seeks to criminalise some participants in the planning process, and rightly so I believe, but to ensure at the same time that no developer will be criminalised. It is a proposal for unequal and unfair treatment, and it must be withdrawn.”

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