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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 84-105
 Header Item Local Authority Housing Provision
 Header Item Voluntary Housing Sector Issues
 Header Item Septic Tank Registration Scheme
 Header Item National Countryside Recreation Strategy
 Header Item Water Services Provision
 Header Item Pyrite Remediation Programme Issues
 Header Item Local and Community Development Programme Expenditure
 Header Item Local Authority Staff Numbers
 Header Item Referendum Campaigns
 Header Item Leader Programmes Funding
 Header Item Rural Development Policy
 Header Item Pyrite Incidence
 Header Item Departmental Reports
 Header Item Household Charge Collection
 Header Item RAPID Programme
 Header Item Water and Sewerage Schemes Provision
 Header Item Unfinished Housing Developments

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 785 No. 1

First Page Previous Page Page of 89 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 84-105

  Question No. 84 answered with Question No. 61.

Local Authority Housing Provision

 85. Deputy Martin Ferris Information on Martin Ferris Zoom on Martin Ferris asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan if he will provide an update on his plans to introduce a new statewide uniform scheme of allocations for local authority housing; and the measures that will be put in place to enure it is as transparent and fair as possible. [54243/12]

Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Jan O'Sullivan): Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan The ongoing programme of social housing reform for which I am responsible includes reviewing the implementation of the Social Housing (Allocation) Regulations 2011. These regulations set out the matters that housing authorities must deal with in their allocation schemes. My intention is to put a greater emphasis on "time on the list" as a criterion for allocating local authority housing, which I believe is the most transparent way to operate a waiting list. This review will be advanced in the context of the broader and demanding programme of reform in respect of social housing provision.

Voluntary Housing Sector Issues

 86. Deputy David Stanton Information on David Stanton Zoom on David Stanton asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan the consideration that has been given to introducing a tenant purchase scheme for long-term approved voluntary housing body tenants similar to that available for local authority housing tenants; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [54209/12]

Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Jan O'Sullivan): Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan The Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 2009, introduced a new approach to the sale of social housing whereby social housing tenants, including tenants of approved housing bodies, could acquire new local authority houses and existing apartments under the Incremental Purchase Scheme (IPS). The details of this scheme are available on my Department’s website www.environ.ie.

  There is no provision at present for the purchase of individual houses by tenants of approved housing bodies. My Department is currently in consultation with the approved housing body sector regarding the development of an enabling regulatory framework to support the expanded role for the sector as envisaged in the Government’s 2011 Housing Policy Statement. I expect that this framework will provide support and assurance both to the sector itself and to its external partners and will underline its status as a viable and attractive investment opportunity for financial institutions. In conjunction with the development of this framework, my Department will examine a range of issues around the long-term financing of the sector. How best to use the equity accrued in approved housing body housing stock to, for instance, leverage additional new supply will be considered; the sale of existing stock to tenants is one of a range of options in this regard.

Septic Tank Registration Scheme

 87. Deputy John McGuinness Information on John McGuinness Zoom on John McGuinness asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan the number of persons who have registered their waste water systems to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [54193/12]

 88. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan the number and percentage of private waste water systems registered in each county to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [54196/12]

 90. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan if, in view of the delay in providing the operating manual for private waste water systems, he intends to postpone the latest date for registering private waste water systems under the Water Services Act 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [54195/12]

 94. Deputy David Stanton Information on David Stanton Zoom on David Stanton asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan the progress that has been made in finalising a national inspection plan for domestic waste water treatment systems as provided for by the Water Services (Amendment) Act 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [54208/12]

 96. Deputy Denis Naughten Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan his plans to review the current septic tank regulations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53804/12]

Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Phil Hogan): Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan I propose to take Questions Nos. 87, 88, 90, 94 and 96 together.

  The Water Services (Amendment) Act 2012 provides that the Environmental Protection Agency will make the National Inspection Plan for domestic wastewater treatment systems. A public consultation on a draft plan was publicised by the Agency on 11 October 2012. The submissions received are currently being reviewed by the Agency with a view to finalising the Plan. A training course for the water services authority personnel who will be appointed to carry out inspections under the new legislation is also currently being finalised and this is being overseen by the Water Services Training Group. I understand that the Plan and the training course will be finalised shortly. The training course for inspectors will be extended to suitably qualified local authority staff in early 2013. This will be followed by the commencement of inspections, which will be based on the national inspection plan.

  Since enactment of the Water Services (Amendment) Act 2012 I have made a number of regulations to give effect to the provisions of the primary legislation including the Water Services Acts 2007 and 2012 (Domestic Waste Water Treatment Systems) Regulations 2012 which inter alia, set out the requirements for the operation and maintenance of treatment systems. The implementation of all regulations is kept under on-going review. I have no plans at present to make any amendments to the provisions of the Regulations made to date. The Water Services Acts 2007 and 2012 Domestic Waste Water Treatment Systems (Registration) Regulations 2012 prescribe 1 February 2013 as the date by which owners of domestic wastewater treatment systems must register their systems. Registration facilities have been available since 26 June 2012. I have no plans to amend the date specified in the legislation.

  Since June 2012, a public awareness campaign, which included the nationwide delivery of an information booklet to unsewered households, has helped to inform owners of domestic waste water treatment systems of their legal obligations to register their systems and to operate and maintain their systems so as not to cause a risk to human health or the environment. Prior to inspections commencing in 2013, an extensive information campaign to advise householders of how to comply with the legal requirements regarding operation and maintenance of on-site waste water treatment systems will be undertaken.

  As of 29 November, applications in respect of the on-site wastewater treatment systems of 226,156 owners, who have registered on-line, by post or in person at their local authority offices, have been processed. I understand that more than 60,000 registration applications are awaiting processing by the bureau operated by the Local Government Management Agency. In total, therefore, some 290,000 householders have already applied for registration of their waste water treatment systems. Census 2011 recorded that there are 497,281 households served by septic tanks or other treatment systems in Ireland.

  Details of the numbers of processed registrations for each County and City Council are set out in the following table.

Water Services Authority Estimated total number of on-site waste water treatment systems Number of on-site waste water treatment systems registered Number of on-site waste water treatment systems registered as a percentage of the estimated total number
Carlow County Council
7190
3448
48%
Cavan County Council
14477
7566
52%
Clare County Council
19769
13122
66%
Cork City Council
586
307
52%
Cork County Council
57993
22995
40%
Donegal County Council
32955
8377
25%
Dublin City Council
2718
66
2%
Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council
1928
656
34%
Fingal County Council
5213
1734
33%
Galway City Council
1145
403
35%
Galway County Council
42161
16894
40%
Kerry County Council
28277
18082
64%
Kildare County Council
16795
7764
46%
Kilkenny County Council
15368
8163
53%
Laois County Council
11309
5617
50%
Leitrim County Council
7005
3464
49%
Limerick City Council
420
136
32%
Limerick County Council
24207
9886
41%
Longford County Council
7556
4285
57%
Louth County Council
11633
4012
34%
Mayo County Council
26659
11631
44%
Meath County Council
21687
11493
53%
Monaghan County Council
12065
4769
40%
North Tipperary County Council
12342
5726
46%
Offaly County Council
11170
4945
44%
Roscommon County Council
14297
7459
52%
Sligo County Council
11192
5517
49%
South Dublin County Council
2266
665
29%
South Tipperary County Council
14442
6945
48%
Waterford City Council
488
232
48%
Waterford County Council
11466
4724
41%
Westmeath County Council
12165
5865
48%
Wexford County Council
26267
12327
47%
Wicklow County Council
12070
6881
57%

National Countryside Recreation Strategy

 89. Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan the new developments in rural recreation policy in the past year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [54200/12]

Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Phil Hogan): Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan My Department convenes and supports regular meetings of Comhairle Na Tuaithe (The Countryside Council) where the implementation of the priorities of the National Countryside Recreation Strategy (NCRS) is discussed and progressed. This strategy sets out the main policy and strategic objectives to be achieved over time and provides a focus for the delivery of outdoor recreation facilities and services. In addition, the development of such facilities and services provides a significant boost to local communities by encouraging both national and international activity tourists. Consequently there are enhanced opportunities for rural communities to benefit from local enterprise development and enhanced opportunities for small scale businesses.

The significant development with regard to the implementation of policy in this area has been a change in the contractual arrangements with the Local Development Companies (LDC) contracted to deliver the Walks Scheme. The Walks Scheme is closed to new entrants due to budgetary constraints. However, the LDCs are now also contracted to deliver on the implementation of the NCRS in extended geographic areas. This means that some companies now provide services over the full county area and some provide advice and support to adjacent counties also. The change in focus from the delivery of the Walks Scheme only to the delivery of the full range of outdoor recreation opportunities and activities will further enhance the attraction of our rural areas and accelerate developments in all areas of recreation.

My Department is currently in negotiations with other State Agencies to agree a National Outdoor Recreation Plan for Public Lands and Waters in Ireland. The Department continues to be a main funding partner of Leave No Trace Ireland which promotes responsible recreational use in the outdoors. It encourages all outdoor enthusiasts to act responsibly in the outdoors and to do their part to protect lands used by the public for the benefit of the environment and for future generations. A Pilot Mountain Access Scheme is being implemented. It is intended to facilitate access to uplands for hill walking and similar activities. A pilot project has been developed at Mount Gable in Connemara and discussions are continuing towards extending another proposed pilot project for Carrantuohill to the entire MacGillicuddy Reeks in County Kerry.

My Department is currently supporting the State Claims Agency in the establishment of a Visitor Safety in the Countryside Group who will use best practice to aim to achieve a safe and pleasant experience for outdoor enthusiasts and visitors to the countryside. The possibility of implementing a National Indemnity Scheme is also being examined; while the Occupiers Liability Act of 1995 already provides significant protection to landowners, this would indemnify all private landowners against claims from recreational users for injury or damage to property.

  Question No. 90 answered with Question No. 87.

Water Services Provision

 91. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan the position in regard to the future development of an adequate and reliable domestic drinking water supply with particular reference to sourcing of supply, purification, storage and transmission; if it is expected to realise the required objective in this regard in the short to medium term; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [54205/12]

 411. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan the extent to which he expects to be in a position to proceed with the upgrading of existing domestic water supply networks such as the replacement of defective pipelines; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [54550/12]

Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Phil Hogan): Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan I propose to take Questions Nos. 91 and 411 together.

The overall strategy of investment in water services is to ensure that the timing and scale of investment facilitates economic and other development, achieves compliance with statutory requirements and promotes environmental sustainability objectives. The main vehicle for achieving these objectives for public domestic water supplies is the multi-annual Water Services Investment Programme. The current Programme, which runs to the end of 2013, provides for the commencement of contracts with a value of over €800m in relation to water supply infrastructure. This includes contracts to address deficiencies in the quality of supply, to improve the overall capacity of the system and an accelerated programme of mains rehabilitation. The Programme also provides for the advancement of a further range of schemes through planning, for progression to construction in future investment cycles.

The development of the programme followed a comprehensive review of investment requirements initiated in 2009 involving an assessment of needs for water and sewerage services by each water services authority and taking account of reports by the Environmental Protection Agency on drinking water quality and an assessment by Forfás of the requirements of enterprise in Gateways and Hubs, as well as River Basin Management Plans.

In addition, a detailed project appraisal is undertaken during the planning phase of each scheme, which determines issues such as the appropriate source of water, projected future demand and the most cost effective solution to meeting needs. There is, therefore, a strong evidence base, from technical assessments, environmental monitoring and policy studies to underpin the strategic direction of water services capital investment. In order to create efficiencies, improve service delivery and achieve cost savings in the delivery of water services, the Programme for Government provides for the establishment of a new State-owned national water authority to take over responsibility for managing and supervising investment in water services infrastructure. An implementation strategy for the establishment of Irish Water has been finalised. This strategy takes account of the need to ensure that this critical public service is delivered efficiently during the transition, that there is no loss of momentum in the delivery of key projects and that a sustainable funding model is put in place to support increased investment in the sector.

Pyrite Remediation Programme Issues

 92. Deputy Clare Daly Information on Clare Daly Zoom on Clare Daly asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan his views on whether the draft NSAI pyrite testing and categorisation protocol will increase the cost of inspections; and if this will lead to categorisation of more damaged houses as amber and delay the necessary remedial works at a time when the structural guarantee liability period is running out for money of the home owners. [54250/12]

Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Phil Hogan): Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan In its report the Pyrite Panel recommended that an industry expert group be established by the National Standards Authority of Ireland (NSAI) to develop an Irish testing protocol capable of determining whether there is reactive pyrite in the sub-floor material and if it has caused pyritic heave. A number of companies and consultancies have developed testing protocols to meet their own particular needs with the costs varying from €1,000 to €5,000 depending on the complexities of the tests involved. In asking the NSAI to undertake work in relation to the development of a protocol for testing and categorisation, it was made aware of the Panel’s view, with which I concur, that the protocol should be sufficiently comprehensive to allow for the categorisation of dwellings, but should also be cost effective to reduce the financial burden on householders.

I understand that the technical committee established by NSAI to assist with the development of the testing and categorisation protocol is a broad based committee which draws on the expertise on pyrite developed in Ireland over the past five years to establish testing and categorisation criteria. NSAI has launched a period of public enquiry from the 27 of November 2012 until the 17 December 2012 in respect of I.S. 398: Reactive pyrite in sub-floor hard core material – Part 1: Testing and categorisation protocol and I.S. 398: Reactive pyrite in sub-floor hard core material – Part 2: Methodology for remediation works. This facilitates the submission by the public of comment on the draft protocol which will be considered by the relevant committee before final decisions are made.

Local and Community Development Programme Expenditure

 93. Deputy Brendan Smith Information on Brendan Smith Zoom on Brendan Smith asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan if it is intended to integrate the activities of integrated development companies into the local authorities; the reason for same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [54202/12]

Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Phil Hogan): Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan There are no proposals to integrate local development companies with local authorities. The Action Programme for Effective Local Government - Putting People First recommends greater alignment between local government and local development, including the 51 local development companies that currently deliver important programmes for my Department. This improved alignment will involve, inter alia, greater co-ordination of local development activities, with an enhanced role for local government in this co-ordination. These proposals are in line with the recommendations made by the Steering Group on alignment between local government and local development, whose report was published alongside Putting People First; the report is available on my Department’s website at www.environ.ie.

  Question No. 94 answered with Question No. 87.

Local Authority Staff Numbers

 95. Deputy Gerry Adams Information on Gerry Adams Zoom on Gerry Adams asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan the number of staff working in local authorities housing maintenance departments; and if he will provide a breakdown by local authority area. [54246/12]

Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Phil Hogan): Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan While overall staffing figures for local authorities are collected on a quarterly basis by my Department specific figures relating to the number of staff working in local authority housing maintenance departments are not available in my Department.

  Question No. 96 answered with Question No. 87.

Referendum Campaigns

 97. Deputy Gerry Adams Information on Gerry Adams Zoom on Gerry Adams asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan his views regarding the arrangements for the holding of future referendums, including the days of the week on which referendums will be held. [52240/12]

 110. Deputy Sean Fleming Information on Seán Fleming Zoom on Seán Fleming asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan if he will ensure spending on any future referendum information campaign is undertaken only by the Referendum Commission and not Government Departments; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51813/12]

Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Phil Hogan): Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan I propose to take Questions Nos. 97 and 110 together.

Arrangements for the holding of referendums are set out in the Referendum Acts 1994 to 2001. In accordance with the Referendum Acts the costs of running a referendum are met by the Minister for Finance from the Central Fund on the request of the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform and the costs of the Referendum Commission are met by the Department sponsoring the constitutional amendment Bill.

On the question of spending by Government Departments it is a matter for each Department to ensure that expenditure is only incurred in accordance with public financial procedures. The provision of sanction, either specific or delegated, for voted expenditure is a matter for the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform and it is the responsibility of each Department to ensure that only expenditure covered by sanction is incurred.

On the matter of the day of the week on which referendums are held, whenever a Bill containing a proposal for the amendment of the Constitution is passed by both Houses of the Oireachtas, I am required under section 10 of the Referendum Act 1994 to appoint the day upon which the poll at the referendum shall take place. The Act allows for the taking of the poll on any day of the week and this flexibility allows all relevant factors to be taken into account at any given time in setting the polling day. While I have no proposals to change the current arrangements for the holding of referendums they are kept under review in my Department in the light of all relevant developments.

In the meantime the Electoral (Amendment) (Referendum Spending and Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill, which is on the Government’s legislation programme, will be progressed. This Bill will provide for the disclosure of expenditure and donations at referendum campaigns and for the extension of the spending limit period that applies at Presidential, Dáil, European Parliament and local elections.

Leader Programmes Funding

 98. Deputy Niall Collins Information on Niall Collins Zoom on Niall Collins asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan the reason that North East Mayo Integrated Development Company has not being approving LEADER projects in recent months; the date from which this occurred; the steps taken by him to resolve the issues; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [54198/12]

Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Phil Hogan): Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan Mayo North East Leader Partnership (MNELP) is the Local Action Group contracted by my Department to deliver both the Rural Development Programme (RDP) and the Local Community Development Programme (LCDP) to the North Mayo area. On foot of correspondence I received in 2011 regarding a possible governance issue at Mayo North East LEADER Partnership Company, I directed my Department to investigate the matter. This investigation is complex but advanced, and approval of projects under the LEADER element of the Rural Development Programme was suspended on 7 March 2012 and remains suspended pending the outcome of the investigation. Payment of eligible approved applications is progressing as normal. My Department will act on the recommendations of the investigation as soon as is possible following completion of the processes associated with the investigation. My Department is committed to providing the resources of the Rural Development Programme (LEADER) to the area going forward.

Rural Development Policy

 99. Deputy Micheál Martin Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan if he has a role in the new Commission for the Economic Development of Rural Areas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [49607/12]

Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Phil Hogan): Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan I established a Commission to investigate the potential for the Economic Development of Rural Areas (CEDRA) in September 2012 in order to facilitate a detailed examination of the current status of the rural economy in Ireland. Mr Pat Spillane has been appointed Chair of the Commission and to date the Commission has met twice. It is an independent body and I have no involvement in its work beyond my responsibility for its establishment and its terms of reference, agreed with Government.

The Commission will conduct a comprehensive public consultation exercise and examine all relevant information available in order to inform its work. The public consultation process will include a number of public meetings to be held across the country from January to April 2013. In addition, there will be a number of individual stakeholder meetings with civil society organisations. The Commission has established a web site at ruralireland.ie where interested parties can follow progress. I expect that an interim research report will be available by June of 2013 with a final draft to be submitted to both myself and my colleague the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine by October 2013, at which time the Commission will have completed it work.

Pyrite Incidence

 100. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan if his attention has been drawn to the fact that a quarry at Rathcore, County Westmeath which is known to have supplied stone fill containing heave inducing pyrite to housing developments during the past 10 years continues to operate; if he will confirm by test results or other monitoring that stone fill from this quarry does not induce heave if placed under the ground floor slab of houses. [54254/12]

Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Phil Hogan): Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan Standard Recommendation (SR) 21:2004+A1:2007 provides specific guidance on reducing the risk of reactive forms of pyrite being present in hardcore material for use under concrete floors in dwellings and buildings. It includes an example specification (Annex E) for unbound granular fill for use under concrete floors and paths and limits the total sulphur content to 1%. The example specification sets out verifiable performance criteria for hardcore. It sets the quality of the aggregate (attempting to rule out low quality stone), the grading (reducing the level of fines) and the results required from sulphur-related chemical tests. If the value of total sulphur content during initial testing is less than 0.1%, no further testing is required, unless there is a significant change in the quarry deposit. However, if the result is between 0.1 and 1%, there is a risk of swelling from pyrite, and it is advised that a suitably experienced petrographer carry out a detailed mineralogical examination to establish: (a) the material’s suitability as hardcore under floors and footpaths, and (b) an appropriate testing frequency for total sulphur based on the variability of the quarry deposit.

The Building Regulations set out the legal requirements for the design and construction of buildings, including houses and extensions. Technical Guidance Documents (TGDs) provides guidance on how compliance can be achieved in practice. TDG D (Materials and Workmanship) requires that all works are carried out with proper materials which are fit for the use for which they are intended. More specifically, TGD C (Site Preparation and Resistance to Moisture) requires that hardcore conform with I.S. EN 1342:2002 and meets the specification in Annex E of SR21. In this regard, the Pyrite Panel noted in its report that there are no reported instances of dwellings commenced after 2007 which became the subject of pyrite related claims to structural guarantee providers.

Responsibility for compliance with the requirements of the Building Regulations rests with the owner and /or the builder and the onus is on the builder to ensure that the infill material he is using meets the requirements set out Standard Recommendation (SR) 21. The recently published pyrite report contains a recommendation on the development of a standalone specification for hardcore which will require quarries to put in place robust testing and traceability procedures.

Departmental Reports

 101. Deputy Robert Troy Information on Robert Troy Zoom on Robert Troy asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan when the Thornhill Report was presented to the Cabinet. [54190/12]

Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Phil Hogan): Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan The EU-IMF Programme of Financial Support for Ireland contains a commitment to introduce a property tax for 2012. The Programme reflects the need, in the context of the State's overall financial position, to put the funding of locally-delivered services on a sound financial footing, improve accountability and better align the cost of providing services with the demand for such services. It was considered that, in light of the complex issues involved, a local property tax would take time to introduce and accordingly to meet the requirements in the EU-IMF Programme, the Government decided to introduce a household charge in 2012 as an interim measure.

An independently-chaired Inter-Departmental Expert Group was established earlier this year to consider the structures and modalities for an equitable Local Property Tax to replace the Household Charge. The Expert Group’s report is being considered in the overall context of Budget 2013.

Household Charge Collection

 102. Deputy Michelle Mulherin Information on Michelle Mulherin Zoom on Michelle Mulherin asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan if he will make provision to enable householders who are liable but have not paid their household charge to date to make their payment by instalment where they need to so to meet their statutory obligations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53806/12]

Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Phil Hogan): Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan The Local Government (Household Charge) Act 2011 provides the legislative basis for the household charge. Under the Act, an owner of a residential property on the liability date of 1 January 2012 is liable to pay the Household Charge, unless otherwise exempted or entitled to claim a waiver. The Local Government Management Agency (LGMA) is administering the Household Charge system on a shared service/agency basis for all county and city councils. Instalment payments were available by direct debit only and persons opting to pay in this way had to register their details with the LGMA before 1 March 2012. This deadline was necessary in order to meet banking requirements for direct debit arrangements. The collection of the Household Charge is under the care and management of local authorities. I urge any liable person who is having difficulty making payment of the Charge to contact their local authority.

RAPID Programme

 103. Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan the new developments in the RAPID programme in the past year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [54199/12]

Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Phil Hogan): Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan The RAPID (Revitalising Areas by Planning, Investment and Development) Programme directs State assistance towards improving quality of life and access to opportunities for communities in fifty one of the most disadvantaged areas in the country. In May 2009, Ballina, Co. Mayo, Dungarvan, Co. Waterford, Enniscorthy, Co. Wexford, Mullingar, Co. Westmeath and Rathkeale, Co. Limerick were included in the RAPID Programme. I have provided €440,000 in 2012 for the five new RAPID towns (€88,000 each), to fund a number of projects designed to improve the infrastructure of these communities. These projects are currently in the process of drawing down this funding.

To date this year, my Department has provided €1.77m for RAPID areas. This includes co-funding for Community Based CCTV, run by the Department of Justice and Equality; a Community Support Budget provided to RAPID Area Implementation Teams to enhance the implementation of local plans and to promote wider engagement of the communities with service providers; and funding in Sports Capital Top-Up Grants to Sports Clubs and Organisations within or serving RAPID areas.

A new round of Sports Capital funding in 2012 presented an important opportunity for RAPID areas to develop or upgrade local facilities and acquire valuable equipment, in order to maximise local participation in sport and physical recreation. RAPID has played an active role in promoting this funding opportunity, and in the endorsement process for local applications to the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport.

Water and Sewerage Schemes Provision

 104. Deputy Joe Higgins Information on Joe Higgins Zoom on Joe Higgins asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan his plans to construct basic sewerage infrastructure in unsewered areas of population density. [54256/12]

Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Phil Hogan): Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan The overall strategy of investment in water services is to ensure that the timing and scale of investment facilitates economic and other development, achieves compliance with statutory requirements and promotes environmental sustainability objectives. The main vehicle for achieving these objectives for public wastewater infrastructure is the multi-annual Water Services Investment Programme.

  The current Programme, which runs to the end of 2013, provides for the commencement of contracts with a value of over €1 billion in relation to wastewater infrastructure. This includes contracts to ensure compliance with the both the Water Framework and Urban Wastewater Treatment Directives, and to meet forecasted increases in demand. The Programme also provides for the advancement of a further range of schemes through planning, for progression to construction in future investment cycles. In the period, 2000 to 2011 (inclusive), over €5.5 billion has been invested in the water services sector; this led, inter alia, to an increase in wastewater treatment capacity to a level equivalent to the needs of a population of over 3.9 million.

  Funding is also available under my Department’s Rural Water Programme towards works on small public wastewater schemes and group sewerage schemes.  Responsibility for the administration of this Programme has been devolved to local authorities since 1997. The selection and approval of individual schemes for advancement and funding under the programme, within the overall priorities set by my Department and subject to the block grant allocations provided, is therefore a matter for the water services authorities.

  In order to create efficiencies, improve service delivery and achieve cost savings in the delivery of water services, the Programme for Government provides for the establishment of a new State-owned national water authority to take over responsibility for managing and supervising investment in water services infrastructure. An implementation strategy for the establishment of Irish Water has been finalised. This strategy takes account of the need to ensure that this critical public service is delivered efficiently during the transition, that there is no loss of momentum in the delivery of key projects and that a sustainable funding model is put in place to support increased investment in the sector.

Unfinished Housing Developments

 105. Deputy Dessie Ellis Information on Dessie Ellis Zoom on Dessie Ellis asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan his plans to evacuate residents of an estate (details supplied) in County Longford while works are being carried out; if he is seeking to source any more funds to help with necessary works; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [54240/12]

Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Jan O'Sullivan): Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan While the Government has made significant progress in this area by reducing the number of unfinished housing developments by 37% since 2010, the issues faced by the residents of the Gleann Riada development are a particularly severe example of the problems caused by unfinished housing developments across the country. An explosion occurred within a private house in this development in March 2012, one of a terrace of six houses. Subsequently, Longford County Council established an expert steering group and appointed a firm of consulting engineers to investigate the cause of the explosion. A second explosion occurred in this development at the beginning of October.

The specific findings of this report have been made available to residents of the terrace in Gleann Riada as well as general advice to other residents in the estate. Longford County Council has also established a steering group to address the range of issues faced by the occupants of the Gleann Riada development and is liaising with the other State authorities involved, including the Health and Safety Authority.

My Department approved funding totalling €91,753.40 in August 2012 to cover the cost of addressing immediate public safety concerns. It is now clear that, building on existing analysis, a comprehensive assessment and plan is required to determine the cause or causes of the difficulties with this development and potential routes to their resolution. While this is primarily a matter for the local authority working with local residents and property owners, I have now made a provisional allocation of up to a further €200,000 to Longford County Council to cover the costs of any Public Safety Initiative type remedial works arising from the assessment and plan referred to above.


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