Land agency 'must engage' with councils before building

Councillors tell Oireachtas committee draft law should not include provision that would permit councils to transfer lands without a vote
Land agency 'must engage' with councils before building

Local elected representatives told the Oireachtas committee that the Land Development Agency should have to engage with local authorities before building on land in their area. Picture: Dan Linehan

The Land Development Agency (LDA) should have to engage with local councils before building on land in their area, an Oireachtas committee has heard.

Representatives for city and county councillors were before the Oireachtas housing committee yesterday to discuss the Land Development Agency Bill, which will give the LDA legislative backing, but will also hand it new powers. 

One of those, which councillors said that they could not support, is a mechanism that would allow councils to transfer land to the LDA without a vote from councillors.

This would remove the primacy of councils in the home-building process, the committee was told.

Limerick councillor John Sheahan of the Local Authority Members Association (LAMA) said that while there is "no magic wand" to solving the housing crisis, the LDA bill goes "too far in removing decision-making from the people and their elected councillors”.

He said county development plans must be given priority to LDA sites and suggested the agency be made to engage with councils before beginning work.

"We see a lot of merit in having an agency set up to compile and manage an inventory of publicly-owned lands within the State," he said. 

"We are not convinced that the proposed powers that are to be vested in the agency are in the best interest of local government. 

If you set up the LDA as it is, you will be giving them carte blanche to do what they want in some local authorities.

The LDA bill is a signature piece of legislation for housing minister Darragh O'Brien, who has said he wants the LDA to "start delivering real homes this year". The LDA currently has nine sites. 

Sinn Féin's Eoin Ó Broin said that the LDA is unnecessary as proposed, adding: "We have long argued that we need an active land management agency and we do not need a centralised State agency to deliver social and affordable homes. 

This role should continue to be done by local authorities, supported by approved housing bodies and community housing trusts. 

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