A planning exemption enabling developers to sidestep requirements for childcare places in new dwellings must be removed, according to Fine Gael Senator Mary Seery- Kearney.
Senator Seery-Kearney, Fine Gael Seanad Spokesperson on Children, Disability, Equality, Integration and Privacy Rights, said: “Guidelines for Planning Authorities on Childcare Facilities were issued in 2001 as Ministerial Guidelines under Section 28 of the Planning and Development Act, 2000.
“In relation to new housing areas, these guidelines call for an average of one childcare facility, providing for a minimum 20 childcare places, for every 75 dwellings.
“Developers have the ability, within the guidelines, to exempt themselves from this obligation based on the number of one bedroomed units within a development and on the calculation of the local provision of childcare facilities.
“There is a crisis in childcare at present that is being tackled by increasing financial supports into the sector and to parents that I hope will be increased again in the forthcoming budget to alleviate the burden on families struggling to meet the costs of childcare.
“In tandem with that, we need to be ensuring that there is an increase in the supply of childcare places. What better place to have childcare facilities than as close to home as possible, and with increasing remote working opportunities and hubs, having a childcare facility in a housing development is an ideal arrangement. This was the purpose behind the guidelines when they were first introduced.
“Time and time again developers are arguing their way out of their obligations on what are spurious grounds using the number of one bedroomed units in a development to reduce their obligations by subtracting them from the number of units overall, and in build to rent facilities that can be as high as 50% of the development. This appears to suggest that people in one bedroomed homes won’t get pregnant, which is wholly wrong and discriminatory.
“Another ground for exemption is the number of childcare facilities in proximate to the proposed development – there is no obligation to enquire as to available capacity within those facilities. I have examples of childcare facilities in the community being cited as the reason to exempt them from their obligations where those facilities are already at capacity and have long waiting list.
“The threshold for exemption is too low and needs to be abolished.”
“I have written to Ministers Darragh O’Brien and Minister Peter Burke asking that they immediately strengthen the guidelines to ensure that there is a bias in favour of the provision of childcare places, to raise the threshold for exemption or abolish the exemption all together.”