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 Header Item NAMA Social Housing Provision (Continued)
 Header Item Building Regulations Application
 Header Item Wind Energy Guidelines

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 834 No. 2

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Jan O'Sullivan: Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan] There is no point taking a house from NAMA that is situated in a place where nobody on a social housing list will live. We have to be realistic. The local authorities are best placed to identify which are suitable. I acknowledge that it was very slow at the start but the Minister and I have had several meetings with NAMA, which has established a special purpose vehicle into which it gathers the suitable properties and makes them available to local authorities or the voluntary housing sector. The figures I gave the Deputy show that it has escalated considerably in the past year and will again this year. I am confident we will deliver the 2,000 units in the lifetime of this Government.

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett Much seems to centre on what NAMA puts forward as suitable. I take the point about properties in the middle of nowhere being of little use to anybody on the housing lists but is NAMA holding back the good properties because it wants to flog them off to speculators such as Lone Star, Apollo or Kennedy Wilson, which we have recently discovered are in the process of bidding for or buying up these massive property portfolios? They get the good, quality buildings and NAMA offers the rubbish it cannot flog to these speculators to local authorities. It would be a supreme irony if, on the back of a massive crisis caused by property speculators, we handed over this property to another gang of speculators while tens of thousands of families, who could use those homes, languish on housing lists.

Deputy Jan O'Sullivan: Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan We have no evidence that NAMA is not identifying the suitable properties. I have figures for this part of the world. In Deputy Boyd Barrett's constituency 114 properties were available for consideration and 58 of those have been completed or contracted. In Dublin city there were 247 and 115 have been completed or contracted; in South Dublin 42 were available and 40 have been completed or contracted; in Fingal 56 were available and 44 have been completed or contracted. House prices are going up in these areas so there is no evidence to suggest it is offering only properties where prices are low or cannot be sold to somebody else. They are offering a considerable number in the greater Dublin area, which suggests it is not doing as the Deputy suggests. Some of the banks have properties that might be suitable for social housing and we want to pursue those to identify other units.

Building Regulations Application

 7. Deputy Thomas Pringle Information on Thomas Pringle Zoom on Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan if he has considered the concerns of the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland in respect of the new regulations regarding the inspection of building works at key stages during construction; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [11912/14]

Deputy Thomas Pringle: Information on Thomas Pringle Zoom on Thomas Pringle This question relates to the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland and its concerns about the new building regulations and asks what consideration the Minister has given to these concerns.

Deputy Phil Hogan: Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan I am surprised that Deputy Pringle has taken upon himself to support the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland. Every effort has been made to ensure arrangements have been in place for a successful transition to the new building control arrangements on and from 1 March 2014.

  The new online building control management system, BCMS, has been developed to provide a common platform for clear and consistent administration of building control matters across the local authority sector. Briefing and guidance on the new system has been provided for local authority staff and representatives of the key construction sector professional bodies and the Construction Industry Federation, CIF, in recent weeks.

  The definitive Code of Practice for Inspecting and Certifying Buildings and Works was circulated to industry stakeholders on 7 February 2014. Standard forms of contracts used for both private and public sector projects fall to be revised to reflect the new regulatory environment. The Government construction contracts committee and the key construction professional bodies both report strong progress in advancing this work within their respective sectors. The Government has established an oversight group to ensure no unavoidable delays will occur in relation to critical public infrastructure projects, at a time when construction activity and employment depends significantly on public sector investment. Briefing and guidance is available within the public and private sectors to deal with contractual challenges and procurement issues that will inevitably arise as change takes place.

  The above measures are the key supports necessary to ensure the new regulatory arrangements can work well in practice. Concerns that the new regulations prevent a self-build situation are unfounded, as I have indicated to Deputy Stanley. An owner who intends to self-build will, as before, assume legal responsibility for ensuring that the building or works concerned are compliant and they will be required, as builder, to sign the undertaking by the builder and the certificate of compliance on completion.

  As local authorities and industry now move to full implementation of the new regulatory arrangements, my Department will continue to work with all parties to ensure they understand their obligations and the steps necessary to meet them. I do not intend to defer the regulations as the RIAI advocates.

Deputy Thomas Pringle: Information on Thomas Pringle Zoom on Thomas Pringle I thank the Minister for his response. It is noticeable in this country that we have always been good at introducing regulations but never at enforcing them and have never intended to enforce them. That is part of the reason they were brought in. One of the concerns of the RIAI is there is no independent oversight to support the people carrying out the inspections. The Minister said that he has done this for major infrastructural projects but what about the people who self-build, who, with the best of intentions, employ somebody to oversee their work? There is no oversight of that person. The problem will be lack of enforcement when the regulations are in operation. Does the Minister intend to have any independent oversight of the people in charge of overseeing the construction?

Deputy Phil Hogan: Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan Under the Building Control Act 1990, the professionals were self-regulated and were supposed to do the job for which they signed up, to satisfy everybody, particularly the customer, that everything had been done according to the specifications laid down and the plans lodged.

Deputy Brian Stanley: Information on Brian Stanley Zoom on Brian Stanley That is the problem.

Deputy Phil Hogan: Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan We have changed the regulations because that was not working. We have plenty of examples of no regulation or enforcement. Professional bodies in particular have not stood up to the test of signing off on projects and verifying the job had been done properly on behalf of the customer, rather than just giving an opinion. We will establish a clear chain of responsibility from before the work commences through to completion. We will place a legal obligation on professionals and builders to confirm compliance with the regulations and our comprehensive inspection plan will ensure works are monitored. Nobody could doubt my determination to ensure the era of light touch regulation in the building industry is over.

Deputy Thomas Pringle: Information on Thomas Pringle Zoom on Thomas Pringle How will the Minister enforce all that? He is placing legal responsibilities on people to carry out their jobs competently. That is fair enough but how will he inspect that? Will there be an audit or oversight system to ensure compliance? We had all this in place before and the certification was supposed to make everything work and be right.

Deputy Phil Hogan: Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan We did not have this before.

Deputy Thomas Pringle: Information on Thomas Pringle Zoom on Thomas Pringle It failed because there was no inspection or oversight. That is the problem.

Deputy Phil Hogan: Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan I know Deputy Pringle has a very keen interest in these matters of oversight and inspection. I am sure he has some knowledge of it from his previous employment. I will get the building control authorities on a risk-based approach to inspect the work. I expect the regulations will dramatically improve the end result for many customers. The people in Priory Hall and similar buildings around the country deserve no better than to have a proper system in place that will be policed and enforced. I am determined to do that.

Wind Energy Guidelines

 8. 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 revise the planning regulations covering wind turbines; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11709/14]

Deputy Denis Naughten: Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten Since the last wind turbine regulations were introduced they are no longer being constructed in isolated parts of the country. The turbines have become far bigger. Since then local authorities have made provisions for them, within county development plans and there are several applications in the planning process. Will the Minister clarify the impact this will have on the landscape where the development sites are closer to communities and on the existing proposals of local authorities and planning applications?

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