Saturday, 17 February 2007

State to acquire unused development land by order

Tim O'Brien writing in The Irish Times provides good coverage of a Departmental press release which finally takes on some of the Kenny Report's findings:

The Government is to introduce a "use or lose it" provision under which the State will compulsorily acquire development land from owners who have failed to exploit its potential.
The measure - mooted as long ago as 1973 in the government-commissioned Kenny Report on the price of building land - has been approved by Cabinet, Minister for the Environment Dick Roche said yesterday.
Announcing a number of reforms of housing policy - including new measures for people to acquire social and affordable housing - Mr Roche said various governments had "genuflected in the direction of the Kenny Report" over recent decades.
But he maintained the current administration is the first to adopt the broad thrust of the recommendations as Government policy and instruct the Attorney General to bring forward new legislation.
The 1973 Kenny Report, which dealt with obstacles to the rapid supply of housing, proposed the government acquire land for development at its existing, usually agricultural value, plus 25 per cent.
Yesterday Mr Roche said the new proposals would affect zoned, designated land which the owners had failed to develop or to allow be developed.
The Minister ruled out paying the full development value for undeveloped land.
"It would be less than the development value. I don't want to overly reward people for sitting on it" he said. The measure would, he said, be a "significant financial incentive" to owners of designated land to see it developed.
Acknowledging previous concerns that such a move may have constitutional difficulties because of property rights, Mr Roche said the legislation would be complex but could be implemented.
He cited Part V of the Planning and Development Act 2000 and the State's compulsory purchase order mechanisms as legislation which had been tested by the Supreme Court and had been found to be sound.
Such schemes had served in that they had allowed authorities to acquire land and he was sure the Attorney General's office, which he said had appointed a counsel to work on the issue full-time, would come up with a Bill which was satisfactory.
The legislation, which may be published this summer, will not however be enacted before the general election, the Minister acknowledged. The provision is one of a number of measures aimed at speeding up the supply of development land, particularly land for housing, which was contained in a new strategy, Delivering Homes - Sustaining Communities, published yesterday.
Mr Roche said the strategy was a "companion document" to the National Development Plan Transforming Ireland 2007 - 2013 , which would detail how €18 billion would be spent on housing over the next seven years.

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