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Sinn Féin expresses serious concerns about controversial Government Planning Bill- Ó Broin

8 December, 2016 - by Eoin Ó Broin TD

Sinn Féin spokesperson on Housing Eoin Ó Broin TD has expressed serious concern about the consequences, “unintended or otherwise,” of a controversial government planning Bill that has just passed second stage in the Dáil.

Deputy Ó Broin said

“Sinn Féin agrees with the government on the need to increase supply of all forms of housing. We are open to reforming the planning system to achieve this.  However the Planning and Development (Housing) and Residential Tenancies Bill 2016  in its current form does not accomplish this. The controversial Bill has the potential to compromise good planning decisions, undermines Local Authorities, exclude citizens from the planning process and impede the building of sustainable communities.

“The centrepiece of the Bill is a proposal to fast track housing applications, of 100 units or more, to An Bord Pleanála. The Minister is effectively bypassing the local authority and weakening the county development plan. This is a profound change to our planning system. During second stage debate on the Bill I outlined a more transparent and democratic way in which large planning applications could be processed more speedily.”

Sinn Féin’s concerns were echoed in a statement from the Irish Planning Institute that states: “These provisions could encourage applications which do not comply with Development Plans and fundamentally alter the relationship between local communities and planning authorities, damaging the credibility of local government and the planning system as a whole.”

“I am also very concerned with aspects of the proposed environmental impact assessment screening process. While there is a need for such a process I am concerned that what is proposed does not comply with International and European legal requirements such as the Aarhus Convention and the EIA directive.

“The proposed changes to the Residential Tenancies Act aimed at strengthening tenants’ rights are exceptionally weak. We know that a large number of families presenting as homeless are in that situation because of buy to let landlords or banks serving a notice to quit when selling the property. The Minister’s original proposal would only have covered 0.56% of landlords. The Bill as amended in the Seanad only covers 5.9% of landlords. The vast majority of families at risk of homelessness because their landlords are selling their properties will get no extra protection from the Bill.  If this measure is to mean anything it must be available to all tenants. “

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