Speech by the Minister of State at the Department of Justice and Equality and Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht with special responsibility for Equality, New Communities and Culture, Aodhán Ó Ríordáin TD
I thank the House for being afforded the opportunity to speak on this Private Members Bill entitled Moore Street Area Renewal and Development Bill, 2015. I have listened carefully to the proponents of the Bill and to what each of the speakers have said.
The primary aim of the Bill is to establish two new limited companies known as Moore Street Renewal Limited and Moore Street Properties Limited respectively to provide the grounds on which certain approvals may be made relating to existing or proposed buildings and premises in the Moore Street area and to have a development company for the Moore Street area. The development company would have functions for the compulsory acquisition of land in that area and the Minister for Finance would have a power to guarantee borrowings by Moore Street Properties Limited.
Unfortunately, while appreciating the constructive motivations behind the Bill, the Government does not support it for a variety of reasons.
First of all, I have to point out that the role of the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht is primarily concerned with the protection and conservation of the National Monument comprising Nos. 14-17 Moore Street. The Minister has no role in planning and development in the wider Moore Street Area which is the preserve of the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government in conjunction with relevant local planning authority or other designated development authority. Indeed, I could foresee a conflict of roles where on the one hand, the Minister is charged with safeguarding our built heritage, notably the National Monument comprising 14-17 Moore Street and on the other hand, would be supporting development that could adversely impact the National Monument and other historic buildings or fabric in the Moore Street Area.
Secondly, and of course, when it comes to urban development and re-generation my colleague, the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government has primacy but his Department is already active with various initiatives that beneficially affect the Moore Street area and the proposed Bill would only serve to complicate rather than streamline the various measures in place. For example, in 2012, the Government published “Putting People First – An Action Programme for Effective Local Government”. At its core, this programme seeks the local government system to be the primary vehicle for overall economic and community development at the local level, including the regeneration aspects of that brief.
That action programme more widely, sets out an overall vision for local government to be the principal vehicle of governance and public service at local level – leading economic, social and community development, delivering efficient and good value services, and representing citizens and local communities effectively and accountably.
Consistent with this overall vision, Government policy is to build on the local government process and not to establish separate or parallel public bodies or organisations distinct from the local government system unless, in exceptional circumstances, the need for this is clearly demonstrated.
Moreover, with the dissolution of Dublin Docklands Development Authority and the preparations in place to transit Temple Bar Cultural Trust to local authority control, which were established by previous Governments to pursue regeneration of large components of the overall structure of the Dublin City Council area and at a strategic level, regeneration initiatives have moved on to a new phase that build on enhanced local authority capability in this area rather than setting up new bodies.
Thirdly, Under the Planning and Development Act 2000, as amended, Dublin City Council as both local government and planning consent authority is the most appropriate entity to manage the on-going development of this important inner city area of Dublin. Already, sections of Moore Street and the auxiliary lanes are within the current O’Connell Street Architectural Conservation Area, designated in July 2001, and the O‘Connell Street Area of Special Planning Control adopted by Dublin City Council in September 2009.
Indeed, the main objectives of the bill are unclear in terms of compliance with the Current Dublin City Development Plan Process and objectives for the inner city area of Dublin City – in part such a development approach as proposed in the Bill could be impractical given the variation of private, commercial and publicly owned properties within its remit and the process involved in setting up the supporting statutory provisions could be difficult.
Also, the size of the area in question and its variation of property types does not on a practical level, lend itself to the type of development model envisaged. Indeed, management of a national monument are best developed, managed and promoted as specific proposals in tandem with Dublin City Council and other key stakeholders.
The mechanisms above operate within the wider policy framework of the Dublin City Development Plan 2011-2017 which is currently under review.
It remains open to the City Council to furthermore prepare a statutory local area plan for the area under the provisions of the Planning Act, for which Dublin City Council would be the relevant authority to oversee implementation of such a plan.
Therefore, an extensive array of planning policies and actions has been put in place for which the City Council is the statutory implementation body.
Moreover, after extensive levels of scrutiny at local authority and Bord Pleanála levels, a planning permission for comprehensive redevelopment is in place, within which arrangements have recently been agreed as regards the securing of the 1916 Rising related National Monument.
Taking all of the above into account, the local government, planning policy and development consent and conservation policy and implementation issues pertaining to this area have been broadly settled and it is therefore, very unclear what additional clarity or impetus could be brought to the accepted need for the regeneration of this area, over and above the role of Dublin City Council. I have full confidence in DCC to manage the area using the policy already settled and the measures already in place.
Fourthly,I have already mentioned that government policy is to build on the local government process and not to establish separate or parallel public bodies or organisations distinct from the local government system. But there is a much wider dimension to this and there is a context for this during the last administration’s tenure. That government commissioned the officially named Special Group on Public Service Numbers and Expenditure Programme but more commonly known as An Bord Snip Nua, to look at among other things, the rationalisation of State agencies with a view to saving money in the delivery of services. Those same principles still apply today and it would be more than remiss of this government were it to support a proposal to set up a new company with a board, chief executive and staff which would represent an additional and costly layer of administration and which is at variance with current government policy aimed at rationalising public services so as to deliver such services in an integrated, transparent and cost-efficient manner.
While I appreciate the good intentions behind this Bill, and the contribution of all Members here this evening, I am of the opinion that the current approach taken by the Minister and the Government in acquiring the National Monument on Moore Street is the correct approach and should be commended. I am confident that this will protect the buildings for the Irish Nation and all its citizens. The buildings will be a fitting commemoration to the 1916 Rising and its leaders and it will complement the new visitor centre being developed in the GPO. These two projects alone will significantly enhance the appeal of the area and will bring thousands of new visitors each year with obvious spin-offs for local businesses and this in turn, will spur on other new development in the area.