Latest Laois News: Laois Councillors unite against provisions of LDA Bill.

Latest Laois News: Laois Councillors unite against provisions of LDA Bill.

The February meeting of Laois County Council held on February 22nd saw a degree of unanimity across party lines that is seldom seen in local government. Their common enemy? It is the provisions of the Land Development Agency Bill that is currently going through the parliament.

Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Darragh O‚ÄôBrien TD on 5th February this year published the Land Development Agency (LDA) Bill 2021. Minister O’ Brien had this to say on the provision in the LDA Bill that allows transfer of local authority land without the need for a council vote;

“Local Authorities can transfer lands to the LDA without requiring a council vote, accelerating the process, clearing blockages and driving on development.

For more information on the LDA Bill click here.

Cathaoirleach of Laois County Council Councillor Catherine Fitzgerald made her feelings about the bill abundantly clear from the off;

“The Minister is using a sledge hammer to crack a nut. …It is a total attack on local democracy.”

photo of front of Laois County Hall in Portlaoise
Laois councillors united in their opposition to the Land Development Agency Bill ūüď∑ Laois County Council

Councillor Willie Aird was nonplussed by the Bill. Cllr Aird pointed out that, on one hand, the current Programme for Government calls for powers to be handed back to local government. Yet Cllr. Aird opined that this Bill ran contrary to that sentiment as follows;

“I cannot understand where this Bill is coming from.”

Councillor Noel Tuohy felt if passed the LDA Bill when law would have the consequence of

“turning us (councillors) into a talking shop.”

Caroline Dwane Stanley said this about the issue;

“It goes beyond party politics. Section 38’s will not go in front of councillors (if the LDA Bill passes). I am very worried about this. If this goes ahead we (councillors) will only have powers over parks and leisure centres. We should send a letter to the Minister and ask to meet him.”

For more information on the provisions of Section 38 of Local Government (Planning and Development) Act, 1963 click here.

Councillor John King made it abundantly clear that he too was worried about the LDA Bill as follows;

“Our powers (those of councillors) are being undermined enough. What sort of role would councillors have in the future (if the LDA Bill) passes?”

Councillor Paschal McEvoy opined that the councillors were

“well capable of making their own decisions” (in planning matters)”.

Ending the discussion on the LDA Bill Cllr. Aird voiced his opinion that there was no need for it (a Land Development Agency). LCC Cathaoirleach Cllr. Fitzgerald, summing up, presented a worst-case scenario to her colleagues if the LDA Bill passed the Houses of the Oireachtas and became law.

“It is a very sad step for councillors. If they came into St. Fintan’s (Portlaoise) for housing that could happen.”